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CompTIA Has Boarded the Digital Badging Bandwagon

CompTIA has taken a big leap by moving into digital badging.Given Credly's purchase of Acclaim last year, it's not a stretch to surmise that CompTIA's digital badging program was put on hold while the acquisition's red tape and change management gears were turning in the background. Delays aside, a more interesting question is: How could CompTIA's adoption of digital badges influence the ongoing development of its industry-leading certification program?


Badges Influence Certification Programs?


One aspect of the rising popularity of digital badging is the concept of “micro-credentials.” You can think of micro-credentials as a type of partial credit, recognition of smaller steps towards a larger goal. The idea of micro-credentials is prevalent in how Microsoft has adopted digital badges into its training and certification program.


Microsoft doesn't just award badges based on the completion of one of its certification tracks; the company now offers digital badges at the exam level, allowing candidates to claim a new badge every time they pass any active exam offered by the Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP) program.


This system of micro-credentials offers IT professionals a more timely and user-friendly method for updating their CVs with the most recent achievements from their certification efforts. In a way, Microsoft's adoption of digital badges ended up as a "tail wagging the dog" move, as it has influenced how and when Microsoft provides displayable credentials to certification candidates.


CompTIA's program is different from Microsoft's in that it doesn't offer multiple-exam certifications except for the A+, which consists of two exams. Some industry experts have questioned why CompTIA is still using a two-exam format for the A+ certification. There is far less need for separate "hardware" and "software" exams when the modern enterprise is dominated by unibody chassis ultrabooks and mobile computing devices — both categories of non-vendor-repairable machines.


CompTIA's recent January 2019 refresh of A+ provided an opportunity to finally combine the two exams into one all-encompassing exam, a move which would have made the A+ the same as all of CompTIA's other certs, but CompTIA declined to make this move. CompTIA may now consider offering a digital badge for each of the A+ exams as a strategic incentive to encourage candidates who aren't interested in taking both exams, to at least go for one of them.


Beyond that, there aren't many obvious ways in which digital badging could influence CompTIA's certification process. CompTIA has been moving away from broad foundation-level certifications in favor of narrower knowledge domains such as those found in the PenTest+ (penetration testing) and Cloud+ certifications. It's more likely that CompTIA will go with a “one badge per credential” strategy while continuing to develop new, more specialized certifications.


Digital Badging is Here to Stay


The growing availability of digital badges is a welcome development for IT professionals who want to show off their industry certifications while giving employers an easy way to validate their credentials. Digital badges are more robust than vanilla vendor logos. Perhaps more significantly, digital badging has the potential to influence how training and certification vendors develop their programs to better leverage the technology for the benefit of IT workers across the industry.



Aaron Axline is a freelance technology writer based in Canada.ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Aaron Axline is a freelance technology writer and knowledge management specialist based in Edmonton, Canada. His work has appeared in titles from Que Publishing, and on many tech blogs and websites. His professional writing site is