LearnED is a place to learn about learning—because great learning can lead to great opportunities, and great opportunities can lead you and your family wherever you want to go.

Connecting Learners and Employers With Digital Badges, Sometimes in Unexpected Ways

Photo of a brewing room

Becoming a More Competitive Job Applicant

The fall term at Madison Area Technical College begins later this month in Madison, Wisconsin.


The school's curriculum—aimed at both high school graduates and working adults going back to school—touts "hands-on opportunities" to "put the lessons you learn in class to work right away."

Just a year-and-a-half ago, Madison College debuted an unusual new course offering:

A Craft Brewing Certificate Program.

It covers the basics of brewing, teaches key scientific information and provides hands-on brewing experience and beer flavor evaluation under the supervision of an experienced brewer. ...

You do not need to pursue a certificate to take any of these courses and you do not need to formally enter any program to earn this certificate. You will automatically earn the certificate if you complete these required courses with satisfactory grades within three years. Students must be over 21.

Local brewery Ale Asylum helped develop the course.

When the program began, Kevin Appleton, continuing education craft brewing program director at Madison College, told The Capital Times:

“If you’re a homebrewer and looking to bring up your game, this is perfect,” Appleton said. “We’re also looking for people who want to make a jump into the industry, to give them the skills and knowledge they need.”

'What Are Your Skills Gaps?'

"Madison Area Technical College approached local businesses and asked them 'What are your skill gaps and how can we help fill those gaps?'"says Pete Janzow who works on online badging program delivery with Pearson.

"Local beer brewers said they needed more employees who understood their craft," he says.

That conversation helped launch the Craft Brewing Certification class—a form of digital badge—that's offered to students as a possible "ticket to a future in brewing."

"More and more companies are getting together by industry and talking about skills their employees need," Pete says. "And we're helping learners take advantage of the emerging badging programs to get better jobs."

"In some industries, skill areas are moving faster than the businesses can handle," Pete says. "Old certification models can't keep up."

Learning That Matters to Economies

"In some industries, skill areas are moving faster than the businesses can handle," Pete says. "Old certification models can't keep up."

"So digital badging programs that have now been around for a while are helping students learn these new skills," he says. "And these classes are producing educational opportunities and graduates that matter to local economies."


Creating Badges That Mean Something

Pete says digital badges in internet advertising, digital marketing, and cloud computing are also examples of "non-traditional" badges, created to keep up with fast-moving industries.

"Things are evolving so quickly," Pete says. "And not only are we seeing learners take advantage of these badging programs, we're seeing more and more industries setting up consortiums to define standard skill sets."

"Because anybody can create a digital badge credential and award it to whomever they choose," he says.

"We're involved to make sure that these badges are resume-worthy," Pete says, "so they solve workplace problems."

“We’re involved to make sure that these badges are resume-worthy,” Pete says, “so they solve workplace problems.”

Capella University is now offering digital badges for students completing its National Security Agency (NSA) and Department of Homeland Security designated master's program.

Students completing these degrees use them in roles that include information assurance and security, network defense, and digital forensic specializations.

"Digital badges complement our master's in information assurance and security program," says Bill Dafnis who is Capella's dean of technology, "because they are secure, verifiable, and provide full context of the capabilities our students bring to an employer."

Pete Janzow says it's the latest example of how an online badging program can "connect higher education and employability."