Nate Otto

What credentials will look like in 10 years

Stephanie King

— May 11, 2022

When it comes to the future of emerging credentials, where will we be in 10 years? Nate Otto, VP, Badgr at Concentric Sky (now part of Instructure), enlightened the participants of ShapingEDU’s Spotlight Mini-Summit: Emerging Credentials x Future Employment with five thoughts on the future.

“We speakers and attendees of this Mini-Summit are the leaders of this movement — we’re the vanguard of badges and digital credentials in education,” said Otto. “Each of us has developed hundreds of skills. What percentage of the skills we rely on every day in our work roles are recognized in the form of a digital badge that we hold? If we were to look for a new position today, would we be able to rely on our badges to do so?” Otto said it may be between zero and one percent.

There’s a long way to go between where we are today and the next 10 years if we’re going to be successful, Otto added. Here’s how we’ll get there:

1. Large scale issuers, like Arizona State University, will be awarding 10,000,000+ badges and credentials to recognize skills, competencies and other assessed outcomes.


  • The implementation of Open Badges 3.0 skills assertions.
  • Automation of awards will play a heavy role.
  • Integration of badging into existing sources of assessment outcome data.
  • Proliferation of peer recognition, especially in hard-to-formally-assess (“soft”) skills.

2. Widespread use of common skills and competency frameworks across many issuers.

We’re going to see broad skills re-used in this ecosystem across the divide from issuers to employers, Otto said. The interoperability of credentials drives “network effects” and convergence among issuers and employers on common skill definitions.

3. Learners controlling their own data.

Otto shared that we need to present facets of our identities to communities and services every day, in order to personalize our experiences. Verifiable credentials wallets that present badges to many sites and services — like ASU’s Pocket and Trusted Learner Network — will play a key role. Flagship partnerships for employment use cases will also be important.

4. Automation of badge acceptance at scale.

In addition to automation of issuing, Otto said that we also need to create the pathways and patterns for badges to be accepted by employers and by others for fulfilling certain requirements. “Whether those are skills that fit into a job description or transfer credit use cases, we need to be able to start automating those, relying less on the storytelling ability of badges,” said Otto.

5. Weird and varied services that use badges for things that seem incredibly mundane, offbeat and absurd.

 If we’re successful, Otto suggested that we’re going to see things that we’re not really expecting, in terms of what badges get awarded and why they’re awarded and why they matter in various communities. “ We need to find opportunities for badges to be useful on a day-to-day, week-to-week basis, as part of mediating our experiences in web communities,” said Otto. “We’ll see connection with the broader Web3 movement and the use of badges to present learner controlled aspects of identity in web services and real-world communities.”

So, how will we know if we’re making adequate progress?

“The progress is going to show in the badges that you have in your backpack,” said Otto. “Issue and receive the badges you want to see in the world.”

Otto was the last speaker in our Take Five! Innovation session, from the Spotlight Mini-Summit. Watch his presentation now:


Stephanie King

Stephanie King