6 Reasons Why Online Course Creators Should Use Digital Badges

Digital Badges: The New Digital Education Currency
Summary: Digital badges are a force multiplier that’s hard to beat, and few businesses even know they exist. They can become the ultimate tool to help amplify your reach, stand out from the pack, and explode profit margins.

Badges Are The New Digital Education Currency

Before I dive into the 6 reasons you should be using digital badges for your online course, let’s take a crash course on what a digital badge is. At its most fundamental level, a digital badge is the new digital education currency.

On a literal level, a digital badge is the new diploma. It’s packed full of information regarding the organization that issued the badge and what the recipient had to do to earn the badge. It’s the new paper certificate you receive when you complete a course or a certification—a way to validate your skill level and show employers, clients, friends and customers that you have the mastery you claim—certified by a third party.

A digital badge is also a gold star or tangible recognition for achieving a goal. It means you have completed a milestone and finished the course! The next logical question is: Why should online course creators and membership site owners be using digital badges? Truth is digital badges are an extremely powerful tool for the online education industry, yet few people know they even exist! Hence this article.

So, if you have an online course or membership site and are looking for ways to boost student engagement and completion rates, here are 6 reasons why you should implement digital badges into your online business right now.

1. Vaporize Your Competition

Differentiate yourself from your competition by giving students a better return on their investment (ROI).

Think about it this way, when you graduate from high school, you earn the right to a low paying job. Then, as you spend more on education and graduate school, you earn your MBA or Doctorate, and thus you deserve the right to a higher paying job. And then some people spend even more to become an attorney, physician, dentist, etc. and your return on your investment continues to rise.

It’s interesting to see that people feel comfortable going into massive debt to make that calculated Return On Investment choice. In fact, the concept of getting a return on your investment in your education has been around for hundreds of years. However, what I have described is outdated and dominated by large, established institutions.

Today there is a radical shift to communicate what you know by using portable, granular, and evidence-based digital badges to display 21st-century skills and unlock new career and educational opportunities. Educators for the first time have the means to compete with large institutions. They can create similar incentives for their learners to invest in their courses so that they can receive a return on their investment.

Taking that thought a step further...

When a student gets a digital badge from your online course, they immediately have a better return on their investment because now they have something to show others as proof of their skill level!

Here are a few ways a badge helps your students get ahead:

  • With a “certified” skill from your course, they may be exempt from other skill tests or requirements for a job or position.
  • A badge expedites their career progression by proving they have mastered a certain topic and are now ready for a more advanced topic.
  • Badges unlock privileges. They may not even be able to apply for a position or a level in their organization if they haven’t checked the prerequisite boxes.
  • Badges give students credibility with employers and help them land interviews and, ultimately, jobs much easier.

So, work backward from the benefits you are offering to students who gain a badge. Make sure each badge has a purpose and make sure you communicate what levels it unlocks for your students. Communicating and promoting the value of your badges to all your customers is key!

2. Generate An Endless Flow Of Traffic To Your Website

When your students earn a digital badge, and they share it on the internet, be it their LinkedIn profile, email signature or other social media sites, they unconsciously are generating social media impressions for your brand. Simply stated, it’s free viral advertising.

How is it viral you ask? Well, I call this the Viral Social Loop™.

Once the student completes your course or attains a milestone, they are awarded a badge. This badge verifies their skills, interests, and achievements through credible organizations and attaches that information to the badge image file, hard-coding the metadata for future access and review.

In other words, students become a walking, talking broadcast station for your course and services, and that means:

  • You get free leads without spending additional marketing money.
  • You make more money because more people know about it and sign up for your course.
  • With an increase in alumni, your brand gets more credibility.
  • It leads to a “me too!” effect, where others want to earn badges to bolster their social profile.

It’s a win-win for both you and your students.

3. Collect Data And Gain Customer Insights

When you have a digital badge system implemented in your online learning platform, you can collect data and insights about how and where they are used, valued, and consumed. Online badges are more than just a digital “great job” validation. Because they are hosted on an open, online platform, when clicked on you can view the lessons the student completed.

For instance:

  • See where people are spending the most time on your course or membership site
  • See what links they are clicking on and what interests them the most
  • See how long they are staying on each lesson and where they lose interest and leave

The data you capture is the most powerful resource you have to continue optimizing your online learning platform, and it gives you a tool that puts you far ahead of the competition.

4. Boost Learner Engagement

Help your students master the topic instead of focusing on a final grade. Most online courses out there are usually time-based assessments that provide a single, quantitative grade at the end of a lesson. Conversely, digital badges provide a more modular and flexible way of ensuring students actually learn the material and show various levels and combinations of competency and mastery along the way.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that digital badges value the learning process, not just the final “grade” or achievement. They support your students incrementally as they move forward through a learning experience. With badges, you’re helping them memorialize their accomplishments, and that’s a paradigm shift for most people. Most students are so caught up in getting a grade that they don’t really learn or master the material because they run out of time and have to move on or cram just to pass the quiz. And that’s wrong. Digital badges are the opposite of that mentality!

And another fascinating way digital badges help learners master the topic is by allowing them to customize and choose their own learning pathway. Stella Porto, a learning and knowledge management specialist at the Institute for Economic and Social Development (INDES) in the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) in Washington, DC., talks about this at length in her article.

5. Increase Customer Loyalty And Progression

Digital badges are a fantastic way to reward your most loyal customers.

You can:

  • Reward students for finishing a module or for posting a certain number of times on a forum.
  • Reward students that have purchased multiple products.
  • Reward students that have completed extra modules or trainings.

The list goes on, but the idea is that it will build loyalty when they are rewarded for participating. A digital badge does this perfectly and costs you nothing!

In fact, many times companies or businesses can dramatically increase revenue with recognition that isn’t even tied to any special bonuses or discounts. For example, a travel company increased sales by 37% by giving virtual badges to its top customers! And there were no minimal discounts or benefits beyond the simple recognition. Airlines have silver, gold, and platinum levels to recognize customers that are using their service a lot. And these people get some benefits tied to that. So, sometimes linking benefits works as well! The bottom line is when you recognize your best customers it will incentivize others to follow suit, and you’ll see increased interaction and revenue.

TIP: A really cool thing I’ve seen some course owners implement is badge scarcity (i.e., there are only 100 of a certain badge). This incentivizes students to hurry and compete to be one of the few that gets that particular badge. It makes the badge more valuable and special.

6. Motivate Participation And Student Involvement

Recognition is one of the fundamental principles of encouraging participation and engagement. How are you currently motivating your students to participate in your online courses? If you want to promote more comments, questions and interaction with the instructor and other students, getting a reward is a good method. I mentioned this in the point above, but I want to dig a little deeper here.

People love rewards. They aren’t robots without feelings. They want to feel special, recognized and important. And if you can do that for them, their self-confidence will increase and they will be more willing to continue progressing in your online course. So, that leads us to the question: What is the best way to do that? How do you find tangible ways to reward and recognize?

Here are some examples of how you can use digital badges to reward your students:

  • Provide a digital badge for course completion. People love showing off their achievements to the world and adding them to their CV.
  • Offer bonus points for accomplishments. When they reach milestones, they get points. They can then turn in points for Amazon cash, gift cards, etc.
  • Design a virtual training "passport" and encourage participants to earn visas. The more they complete parts of the course, the more visas (or badges) they receive.

A perfect example of these points I’m discussing is TripAdvisor. They issue digital badges to users that leave the most reviews. And what does this do? It makes them leave even more reviews!

Tip: Applying this concept is especially useful when students can view other students’ badges because then badges indicate a status. With online education, this makes sense when the platform is social enough to make badges matter even more.

David Leaser, a senior executive of strategic growth initiatives at IBM, talks a lot about how companies are using digital badges for this purpose.

In Conclusion

By strategically implementing digital badges into your online courses or membership sites, you will see students and learners more engaged, receive far more traffic and attention to your course from viral marketing on social media, and build credibility for your course far faster than you thought possible. So, start thinking today how you can take advantage of this powerful tool and receive the 6 benefits described above for your course and business.

What are your thoughts on companies that use digital badges? Have you seen this implemented by any companies or programs you are involved with?

Originally published at www.clientengagementacademy.com.