In Ontario universities, a transcript reflects a student’s academic history. Depending on the institution, it may include other achievements. The transcript is also meant to provide a reader, for example a potential employer, with a clear understanding of a learner’s abilities. The focus is on presenting academic history and achievement, which will include courses, other assessed activities such as placement and co-op, etc. Not-for-credit activities not linked to an academic course or program may be recorded elsewhere (e.g., co-curricular record).
Micro-credentials offered by institutions that are eligible to be on the student transcript will meet the criteria of the institution’s transcript policy and the
standards of quality assurance that would include development, review, etc. For example, in Ontario “it is widely agreed that a micro-credential is ‘transcriptable’ meaning it will appear on a learner’s college or university transcript and will be deposited to her or his digital wallet or e-portfolio” (Contact North, 2020).
The difference between badges and micro-credentials
Badges and micro-credentials are not the same.
The key difference depends on whether or not the credential is “transcriptable,” meaning it could appear on a traditional college or university transcript. To elaborate:
- Micro-credentials are related to a formally approved or accepted set of standards or competencies.
- Micro-credentials are formally taught by a teacher or mentor who is responsible and accountable for ensuring the student learns and demonstrates the expectation for awarding the micro-credential.
- Micro-credentials may be stackable to achieve a credential recognized by other institutions.
Badges, on the other hand, can be for anything and awarded by anyone. The value is in learning the specific skill or knowledge (Contact North, 2020).
In short, the micro-credential is the course of study and the badge is a representation of success in its learning. Following are some further related definitions to highlight these distinctions.
The comprehensive learner record
Ewan (2016) discusses the importance of the comprehensive learner record in the development of micro-credentials, indicating that the disaggregation of learning will require new ways of recording learning in all its forms—from the official transcript and the co-curricular transcript to competencies and micro-credentials. The comprehensive learner record will incorporate these disparate artifacts in a single record. A digital version of this record would allow the learner to curate and control their credential.
Traditional transcripts are under threat in content (competency, co-curricular elements being added) and format. E-transcripts using blockchain provide for portability, learner control, and the incorporation of metadata. Eduventures identifies the following as reasons institutions are investigating e-transcripting: learner service experience, learner access, cost savings, operational efficiency, and improved security (Lurie, 2019).
Open digital badges
Open digital badges are an interoperable digital representation of competencies and learning achievements that may be made publicly available by the learner. They include metadata to link to the issuing institution and the evaluation criteria and evidence. They are not the same as badges used within courses to motivate learning. Such badges are “closed,” and not available for public sharing on the part of the learner. They remain in a closed system, and they are often associated with participation or completion of an activity as opposed to a credential.
Co-curricular activity recognition
Similar to the closed badge, co-curricular activity is often participation-based where activities support a holistic view of the learner beyond their academic achievements and is recognized distinctly.