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No Guts, No Glory: The Story of Metadata

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If you’ve followed open badges, you’ve undoubtedly seen the iconic graphic originally designed by Kyle Bowen to represent the anatomy of a digital badge. The image shows that under the skin of any badge is a skeleton of data. The “guts” of the badge is the metadata, those endpoints that describe who received the badge, from which issuer, when and for what purpose, among other details.

Alas, not all metadata is created equally.

Imagine you invest your time in some form of training which requires weeks of classroom attendance, several projects and papers, and a final exam. There is true evidence of what you’re capable of doing as a result; you can prove your competencies. You receive a digital badge from the training provider, and it says: “Completed the ABC training course.”

Wait! What good is that?

Does it tell the richness of what went into this experience?

Does it describe the competencies one can reasonably expect as a result of the training?

Does it position those competencies as valued in the industry?

Does it articulate the methods of instruction or assessment, including projects, papers and minimum thresholds for exams?

Skimpy metadata fails both the earner and the issuer.

From the earner’s perspective, skimpy metadata reduces the experience to a one liner. A fully developed badge with rich metadata affords the earner a new vocabulary for discussing and showcasing one’s potential. This is most attractive to those who are reskilling or upskilling. Good metadata might also include real evidence of learning in the form of a work product.

From the issuer’s perspective, skimpy metadata reflects superficially on the organization. The issuer may have missed an opportunity to position itself as a provider of quality learning experiences. Instead of branding the organization as different from competitors, the organization may sound like any other organization offering the same service.

Without quality metadata (the guts), there will not be a return that is beneficial to either the earner or issuer (the glory). The call to action? Take a look at how you are authoring your digital credentials and ensure that you are providing earners and outsiders a full and rich description of the relative value of the achievement, the skills and competencies represented, the full program required, and all assessment methods. Go for the guts and everyone will more readily find the glory.

To learn more about how your organization can benefit from digital credentials, fill out the form below and we’ll be in touch:


Dr. Susan Manning is the Chief Success Strategist at Credly. Susan strategizes with clients on how to design and implement amazing digital credential systems.

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Posted on May 08, 2018