The e-learning space is a free-for-all, with many courses sprouting each month on various platforms.
This situation is obvious when it comes to certificates and what they mean for online courses. As more and more people jump on the e-learning bandwagon, accreditation fell by the wayside, giving way to problem-solving and skill-focused solutions.
People want to learn new things and are less interested in formal certification. Adults who are looking for lifelong learning opportunities want practical solutions to their problems. They know that certificates don’t do much for them if the course doesn’t have real-life applications.
At the same time, as a knowledge entrepreneur, you probably know by now that certificates can be an important part of your online course, even if they don’t have official accreditation. They come with many benefits, including:
- Learners getting them. Your learners will like the idea of working towards receiving a certificate as opposed to simply finishing the course, which can be a bit anticlimatic;
- Learners find it useful to demonstrate skills. A certificate can be added to their job portfolios, if relevant. This helps them show potential employers that they’re able to learn independently;
- They need an incentive to finish the course. Learners are more likely to complete the entire course if they know they’ll have something to show for it;
- It legitimizes your online course. A certificate is a way of proving that you’re committed to your learners’ success. You’re essentially vouching for the effectiveness of your content and teaching methods.
Now, you might also think that they’re too much of a hassle since you have to track who did what, decide who gets a certificate, and customize each one with the learner’s name. Indeed, that’s true if you’re not using an up-to-date solution such as a learning management system (LMS).
7 Course certificate features to look for in an LMS
Creating certificates is much easier than you think, and you have many different options to explore. Here are some ideas of what an LMS can do to help you manage and award certificates:
You don’t need any advanced design skills. In fact, a PowerPoint or Canva template can do the job really well.
However, by using an LMS, you can customize certificate fields to match the learner’s name (and even nickname), course name, address, city, country, percentage score, the date when it was awarded, etc.
The best part is that learners can also print them or save them and attach them to a physical or digital portfolio, which comes in handy if they need to add them to their CVs.
Set certificate type
It’s useful to have different types of certificates to reward learners for their progress. You usually have two options:
- award certificate for completing a certain level
- award certificate of completing the entire course
This is great if you have two types of learners: those who want just to achieve certain things, such as arriving at a level of competency in your course. In practice, this translates to completing a more challenging module. Then, they also get a certificate for doing all the coursework at the end.
It’s a more flexible approach and a way to celebrate smaller milestones, not just one big final goal.
Decide what learners need to complete
To get a certificate (for a level or the entire course), learners must hit certain milestones. Of course, it’s up to you what to award and when. Just like other rewards such as badges and points, certificates have different requirements.
It can be as hard or as easy as you want to get to a certain level. For example, some learners don’t want to do the full coursework, so some modules can be optional and not required for completion. In this case, a certificate still recognizes their work without asking them to do what they don’t want or need to.
Choose an expiry date
In some situations, it’s useful for learners to revisit the course. Certificates can expire if you’re operating as a professional association that also offers formal certifications that learners need to renew periodically. For example, fitness instructors and coaching courses often fall into this category.
This is also a good idea if you want to change the content or teach new competencies. It’s a step up from the certificates that most people are used to, but it’s good to know you have this option.
The best part about using a learning platform is that you even have options when it comes to awarding certificates:
Award manually: choose learners from a list and simply assign the certificate to them;
Award automatically: give learners certificates automatically whenever they complete an action in the course or finish it.
There can be instances where you prefer to award certificates manually. For instance, you can create a special certificate to celebrate the first-ever or one-hundredth learner. However, when you have hundreds or thousands of learners, it’s more convenient to let the platform do the job for you.
Certificates can appear on a learner’s profile. In this case, it acts as social proof for others. It’s something that they’ll also want if others have them.
Sure, other rewards such as badges are also there, but badges are more frequent and often awarded because learners have completed the minimum requirements. Certificates are really a step up.
In addition to the motivational factor, learners can easily see their certificates if they’re displayed on their profiles and remember to download or print them for future use.
Reports are always a good idea, whether you want to see progress or how many learners have received a certificate.
This shows you how motivated they are to learn and how many go the extra mile to receive a certificate. Other data that you can obtain is when they have received it, a list with their names, and other information that can help you evaluate the effectiveness of your online course.
For example, if a certain cohort of learners who joined your course due to an email marketing campaign are more likely to get a certificate, you know that you’ve reached something close to your ideal target audience.
Online course certificates have many advantages, whether you offer accredited courses or not. Learners will love to have something to show for their efforts, as long as the process is a pretty smooth one. The last part can be solved with the help of an LMS, which has all the features you need to create, manage and award certificates to your learners.
Ioana believes that learning doesn’t stop when school stops. When she is not writing about learning and ed tech, she can usually be seen reading a book and drinking lots of coffee.