Certification is a formal confirmation where a credential showing one’s specific knowledge and skills is issued. The credential in this case is known as a certificate. In elearning, a certificate is a document that confirms that a learner has completed training in a certain discipline and has passed all assessments based on predefined standards
Certificates of completion and accomplishment are the most common. For instance, your diploma or degree is a certificate showing the completion of your respective academic program. Certificates provide immediate feedback to users.
Instructional designers and content creators use certificates as part of their learning and development (L&D) strategy. Certificates are offered to users who have completed a specific course. In elearning, certificates are assigned inside a learning management system (LMS).
You must have an LMS with a certificate management feature to achieve this. Fortunately, most LMS systems in the market come with this functionality. It allows you to pull data from many data points. You can also mark a learner’s experience by the date of completion, the grade earned, the time taken for completion, and much more.
The certificates offered by most LMSs are user-friendly and make learning more interactive. They also provide the users with benchmarks of success. An LMS with a certification feature will allow you to customize templates and assign these to specific user fields and courses. Assigning a certificate to a course will enable you to give certifications to all users taking that course.
Certification is a compliance requirement and can be used to leverage uptake. It can also be used to encourage the completion of courses. By providing users with certificates, you give them tangible rewards that can also be used to promote your training programs.
Certification is one of the most common elearning topics. For information on other popular elearning topics visit this page, including LMS Certification.
Types of eLearning Certificates
There is debate on whether all courses deserve a certificate. In some cases, some training might not necessarily require that you issue certificates to users. Nonetheless, issuing certificates is important for these reasons:
- Recognizing a learner for their accomplishment.
- To demonstrate completion of a course to employers and peers.
- To facilitate reimbursements by sponsors.
To add, the type of certificate issued depends on the training objectives that you have set. Below are some examples of certificates:
- Certificate of Completion
This is the most common type. It is usually offered as a downloadable and printable document. It is mostly required for compliance training and longer courses since the learner has invested time and effort in training. Hence, a document to prove such training was done is needed.
A certificate of completion also earns the user professionality, self-discipline, and integrity.
- Certificate of Achievement
A certificate of achievement establishes the achievement of learning objectives or professional skills. It is thus, goal-oriented. For instance, an employee may be offered a certificate of achievement for outstanding service during a certain period of their tenure.
If the course is designed in line with the learning goals, the result is a higher enrollment rate.
- Certificate of Award/Title
This certificate confirms that the learner has the proficiency, capacity, and capability to execute the tasks of a certain title.
Your organization needs to be a member of a professional body that develops standards that define skill-based titles and awards. After membership is granted to your organization, many learners will enroll in your online courses. This is because they want to be associated with an entity that is recognized in a certain professional field.
- Certificate of Credit Transfer
This type of certificate allows the learner to transfer their studies from one institution to another. It confirms the user’s level in terms of the courses successfully completed and where they are at at the time of transfer.
This certificate is mostly issued by educational institutions. It needs to be recognized by an affiliated institution such as a university.
- Social Certificate
This type is issued when the learner wants to share their achievement with peers and potential employers. Examples include certificates issued after completion of software packages or after finishing a course delivered by an industry professional.
The social sharing of a certificate has a marketing benefit. It turns your learners into advocates that market your brand. Some LMS platforms have integrated with LinkedIn’s AddtoProfile program. This allows users to add their certificates to LinkedIn's ‘Certification’ section after successful completion of courses.
By sharing certificates on a professional social network such as LinkedIn, the user’s accomplishments can easily be viewed by peers and future potential employers.
- Verified Certificate
A verified certificate is awarded to learners who have passed an exam that is supervised by a recognized examination body. Such certificates are common in high-tech industries such as IT (Information Technology).
Indeed, for such industries, special knowledge and skills carry a high value in the job market. On the flip side, the consequences of poor qualifications in such industries are quite costly.
Since such exams are supervised and monitored, the learner usually pays a fee. The examinations can be offered at physical sites or through the Internet.
Tips to Create an Effective Certification Program
An online certificate is a mark of excellence and distinction. It also serves as proof that a user is up to date with current rules and regulations, especially, for compliance training courses. Online certifications can also help to distinguish some users from other peers in an organization.
To create certificates that serve all these purposes effectively, here are some tips to follow:
- Research Your Audience
To find out the needs of your learners, research is important. It helps to identify gaps that you can address through your training. For example, before learners can enroll for a course, they can complete some prerequisites. These will help you know what they know, what they need to know, and how you can bridge such knowledge gaps.
You can conduct research using tools such as interviews, surveys, focus groups, and observations.
- Be Aware of the Rules and Regulations
In the case of compliance training, you should be aware of the protocols to be followed. This will help you to avoid extra fees, penalties, and the risk of lawsuits. You can consult a legal professional or a subject matter expert to help you design a course that is compliant.
- State the Benefits and Applications
Learners will actively engage in online training if the benefits of a program are clearly outlined for them. They need to know how the training will help them in real life and how they can apply their knowledge and skills.
Be specific with the benefits and applications. Link every topic to a real-life situation. Also, ensure that your training highlights the main objectives. Moreover, there should be no confusion or ambiguity as to why learners should enroll in a certain course.
- Test Progress to Identify Gaps
You should incorporate assessments into your training to identify learning gaps. Tests will also give learners the chance to demonstrate their knowledge and skills and that they can perform certain tasks.
You can consider giving a pre-assessment to help you compare with other assessments that will be given during and after the training. Pre-assessments are important in gauging how much information is being internalized by the learners.
- Include Stories for Engagement
Stories can create a connection by engaging the learners and making the training lively. You can also incorporate elearning scenarios since they emphasize real-life situations and allow learners to apply what they have learned.
Ensure that your stories and elearning scenarios match with your objectives. Also, make sure that any characters and settings that you use are relatable. For instance, a branching scenario that includes scenes from the workplace will help corporate learners identify more with the training.
- Offer Refresher Courses
Knowledge and skills have a tendency to diminish over time. Therefore, you should include expiry dates on the certificates you offer. This will prompt the learners to refresh information so that they can get updated certificates.
Refresher courses are a perfect way to keep learners updated with information relating to their courses. They are best given out at least once per year. You can alert your learners about refresher courses via email and include links to the training. Such training will then be delivered via virtual training or webinars.
- Create Mobile-Friendly Modules
Creating mobile-friendly content will increase motivation and engagement. This is because learners can access information anywhere, at any time, and on any device. Hence, they won’t need to stick to a strict schedule since they can access the content at their convenience.
Importantly, keep the content brief, digestible, and focus on one concept per module. For instance, you can do 3-minute videos each covering a specific concept.
Other Best Practices
If you are using certification to motivate learners you should also consider the following:
Allow your users to manage their certificates: You should allow your users to manage their certificates without involving an administrator, support personnel, or designer. This gives them more control.
Customize certificates: While designing your certificate templates, include variable fields such as user’s name, course title, date completed, points learned, and so on. Make it as flexible as possible to include much detailed information to suit different learners.
Recertification: Your LMS’s certification feature should be set in a way that it re-enrolls learners to a certain course if their certificates are expiring. You can do so on your LMS by specifying the number of days that a certificate will be valid. Also, automate your LMS to send emails to your learners to inform them of the dates for recertification and other relevant information.
Social sharing: You should choose an LMS that allows your users to share their success. Some platforms will allow your users to share their certificates on LinkedIn or tweet about their completed courses.
According to LinkedIn, users who display their certifications receive six times more profile views than average. Therefore, social sharing helps to spread the word about a person’s achievements.
Besides, social sharing helps to create awareness of your training courses by providing social proof.
Online certification is a great way to reward your learners. It gives your users something tangible to demonstrate their knowledge and skills. Ensure that you choose an LMS platform with certificate management functionality to easily design, create, and issue certificates that your learners can use to display their accomplishments.