ASU Digital Credentials Summit Finds New Ways to Empower Lifelong Learning

The empowerment of learners at all stages of life is taking on new shapes. To further that change and connect faculty, more than 250 instructors, learners and workers from across the university came together for the ASU Digital Credentials Summit, hosted by the Learning Futures Collaboratory (LFC). This Summit, held in hour-and-a-half sessions across five days, was dedicated to the further development of digital credentials, a transparent and verifiable way to connect learners, educational providers and employers to represent the full depth and breadth of an individual’s collective educational and life experiences.

Digital credentials go beyond your typical certification or time-intensive degree that sometimes, don’t capture the true qualifications of a learner. In the new model illustrated by the LFC, a qualified credential issuer determines the required tasks for a smaller-scale, though no less important, achievement. These small units can be combined or “stacked” to provide a picture of an individual’s personal learning journey.

Part of the process of digital credential development is installing widespread use and access, one of the key focal points of the Digital Credential Summit. With each of the five days dedicated to specific topics, hosted by experts in the field, that goal was brought one step closer.

Day 1 - Where We’ve Been and Where We’re Going

Representatives from more than ten ASU departments and colleges connected on the first day of the ASU Digital Credential Summit to lay the groundwork for the rest of the week. ASU CIO Lev Gonick first celebrated the incredible work done for initiating digital credentials as a foremost priority. “It’s taking significant effort to congeal 60 projects, and I want to recognize that,” he said.

Then, a three-pronged approach in proliferating digital credentials was identified. First, a rollout in the academic and learning enterprises must be achieved, and while developing a system, or taxonomy, to classify the credentials. Then, those credentials can be connected to future workforce needs. In support of this plan, Kim Merritt, Managing Director for the Learning Enterprise, presented how stackable digital credentials will be used to help all members of the ASU community build coherent, life-long learning journeys through the new Learning Enterprise at ASU.

The session concluded with a micro-presentation from Vice Provost for Academic Innovation and Student Attainment Sukhwant Jhaj, which fittingly included conversation about the micro-courses that can make up a new form of career certificate. By the end of the day, attendees were excited to learn more over the course of the week. One participant wrote, “I’m a newbie in the area, so I’m most excited to learn ‘What are digital credentials and how do they all work?’”

Day 2 - Digital Credential Overview

The biggest questions were asked in earnest on Day 2:

  • What is a digital credential? 

  • How does this all work? 

  • Who can issue? 

  • Who should issue? 

The first two were answered by Allison Hall, Director of Learning Experience Transformation at UTO, and Katrina Fogelson, Instructional Designer at the College of Health Solutions. Then, ASU Libraries E-Learning and Instruction Division Head Lisa Kammerlocher and Manager of Herberger Online Learning Toby Vaughn Kidd took on the topic of issuing. Discussion turned to what digital credential participants wished was on their transcript when starting their careers, which included leadership and other communication skills which aren’t always recognized in traditional credentials.

Day 3 - Credentialing Skills and Experiences

Meredith Toth, Assistant Dean at the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, and Tim McKean, Instructional Designer for Herberger Online, also asked big questions for their presentation on Day 3. What should be credentialed, how that decision is made and who benefits from it guided their discussion. 

Hall was joined by Co-Executive Directors of the LFC, Heather Haseley and Dan Munnerley, to connect lifelong skills with credentials, mapping out a framework that will give learners the agency to demonstrate their competency. In a swap of the previous day’s question, attendees spoke to the skills they wish they could credential for their learners. The term “21st Century Skills” was in use, recognizing the essential, foundational skills that learners need and employers want.

Day 4 - Digital Credential Pilots

Three pairs of presenters defined the theme of Day 4: how different ASU units have planned their own use of digital credentials. Kammerlocher and Libraries peer Julie Allen, Instructional Designer, demonstrated the promotion of learning with co-curricular credentials.

Katrina Fogelson and Mark Fogelson, College of Health Solutions Senior Instructional Designers, followed the single thread to tie learning pathways to program outcomes. And McKean, along with EdPlus Assistant Director of Quality Assurance Kody Stimpson, shared their respective takes on the professional development of faculty; faculty are also lifelong learners, of course. Pilot administrators and other participants discussed the means to qualify credentials, and some creative solutions were discussions and conferences, webinar and training participation, as well as short self-assessments.

Day 5 - University Connections

The final day of the ASU Digital Credential Summit was intended to keep the conversation going, and presenters shared the collaborations that will keep digital credential development a focal point in the new age of digital learning.

Hall, Haseley, Kidd and Munnerley, along with Director of Herberger Online Learning Rowan de Faria and College of Health Solutions Clinical Associate Professor C.R. Macchi, shared the power of “Xplor” to serve as an AI-powered, unified portal for a lifelong learning journey. Michelle Watt, Product Manager of the Trusted Learner Network, explained how the TLN’s use of blockchain to store credentials and empower learner agency connected to the themes of the entire Digital Credential Summit. And Concentric Sky Founder and CEO Wayne Skipper illustrated his company’s Badgr software as a key tool in empowering institutions to issue digital credentials, and by extension, empower students to share their achievements.

Every day of the ASU Digital Credential Summit was capped off with passionate and insightful discussion prompted by the presentations. General conversation about the nature of a digital credential expanded into the definitions of criteria for qualified issuers. The framework for how to connect lifelong skills to credentials was then outlined, creating an agency for learners by which they can take the reins to demonstrate their competency. 

Foundational knowledge and frameworks were not just theoretical, either, because pilot programs are already underway at ASU. The collaboration is happening outside the University as well; for example, ASU is working with Concentric Sky and its Badgr software to establish a digital credentialed future.

The ASU Digital Credential Summit represented a true university-wide collaboration and an exciting development in the promotion of increased student agency. “I’m most excited about the potential benefits for students and the energy across ASU than can make it happen!” an attendee shared at the end.

Join the the #lfc-digital-credential Slack channel to keep up with the conversation and go to to sign up for the digital credentials workstream to help craft the future of digital credentials at ASU.