BadgeCert: The story behind our company's inception

by Dr. Ginger Malin, Founder & EVP Business Development of BadgeCert

 

Since we started our company in 2013, BadgeCert has seen significant increase in digital badge platform adoption from some of the most prominent professional associations and training providers in the world, and there has been a steady badge acceptance and share rate among earners as they have come to see badges as a key way to showcase their dedication to moving their careers forward.  We have also seen the adoption of digital badging in a multitude of industries skyrocket over the last few years. As we get ready for our next big platform release, I find myself in a position to reflect on where we started, and how far we have come.

BadgeCert began as more than just a company that offers badging technology—we sought to develop a holistic solution for digital recognition based on years of research regarding the importance of formally recognizing learners along their pathway towards mastery of skills and competencies.

So, in this blog, I wanted to provide the story behind our company’s inception. To do so, I need to tell my story as one of its founders.

I started my career as a High School English teacher working with young adults who were reluctant to trust that school could be a place for them to find success. Working with students who had struggled with learning, I was forced to essentially sink or swim as a teacher- and oftentimes I was barely treading water- but failure was not an option. I learned quickly to create lessons designed for active engagement and I came to understand how essential it was to recognize the skills that my students developed along the way, and as such, I could not simply assign them a final grade as it could not possibly reflect their diligent work or their hard-earned nuanced skills. They needed to have something to validate their ongoing success and burgeoning competencies and knowledge, but unfortunately, schools are just not built that way. A final grade, a transcript- that’s it.  However, I knew that grades could not depict what my students were capable of, and it was not a surprise that they had failed in that environment with a final grade as the only means of representing their success.

After spending several years honing my instructional skills in the high school classroom, I wanted to further my own education and sought to explore methods for motivating and engaging learners. With this in mind, my Ph.D. research focused on teen mother book groups that used literature as a means to help participants consider and connect aspects of the literature to their own lives. The book group environment was inspiring, nurturing, and supportive and provided the young women with the affirmation that was so necessary to help them see themselves as highly capable readers who could in turn provide a literary-rich atmosphere for their children. As a book group leader, I was able to see first-hand that when learners were acknowledged for their growth and capabilities, they become highly motivated and eager to continue their development.

My research informed my work as a Professor of Education- responsible for guiding pre-service and practicing teachers to discover their own ways to design curriculum that would lend itself to forming engaging learning environments for their students. A major part of designing these types of settings had to include ways to recognize K-12 students appropriately for their ongoing skill development. I was always inspired by how the military and cub scouts were able to devise a comprehensive system for encouraging their stakeholders to build on their existing knowledge and skill sets towards mastery by providing a very public way to celebrate ongoing success. Their recipients literally wear their accomplishments as badges on their chests. At the same time, social media was becoming more and more pervasive, and opportunities for learning online were more becoming more widely available. I was very curious about the intersection between the desire of people to share their accomplishments with their networks on social media and learners’ acceptance of embracing online courses as a viable and convenient way to learn.

As it so happened, at the same time I also came across Mozilla Open Badges as an interesting framework for recognizing student learning. To me, this was the perfect storm. I was fascinated about the massive potential of digital badging to become a key currency for recognizing learning pathways. While Open Badges was conceived for K-12 students, I saw even more utility and promise in the professional development space. With this in mind, I decided to take the leap from educator to technology entrepreneur, and in partnership with my husband’s software development company, I applied all of my prior experiences and expertise to develop an end-to-end solution for digital recognition. And thus, BadgeCert was born.

Our platform feature set has grown exponentially from the time we helped our first client issue a digital badge to verify a certification, to a tool for organizations to creatively design micro-credentialing programs that capitalize on their existing knowledge base and content. In the last 8 years, we have grown from educating organizations about why they should adopt digital badges to a tipping point where thousands of organizations have replaced their paper certificates with digital badges. We are fortunate to have helped our clients issue millions of badges to professionals in practically every industry who practice their craft around the world.

As experts in learning, we are in a unique position through our professional services to support our clients to build exceptional learning opportunities for their stakeholders that utilize our digital badging technology to recognize all that they do to professionalize themselves. We view digital badging as far more than just a technology- it is a medium for organizations to creatively and meaningfully provide formal digital acknowledgement of individuals’ commitment to moving their careers forward.

As the CEO of a company that I am so proud to represent, I am truly fortunate to do what I love and love what I do. 

November 1, 2020

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