Verified Certificates Survey Results

Last week, we sent out a survey about “verified certificates” by email and blog post. The results we got are shared below. We still have plenty of thinking and discussing to do, but this feedback is really helpful for us and, we hope, interesting to you.

Here is how we introduced the survey:

Saylor Academy provides free digital certificates for successful completion of our courses. These certificates work on an “honor system” in which the person who holds the certificate is presumed to be who they claim to be and to have done the appropriate work to earn the certificate.

Other online course providers such as Coursera and edX provide optional identity-verified certificates, for which the student has taken additional measures to prove their identity and show that the work is their own. Typically, these certificates have a fee.

We are considering providing optional verified certificates (which would have a cost to the student) IN ADDITION TO our standard free course certificates.

Scroll down for the visual results (click on any image to open a full-size version), but here are a few thoughts:

  • Most respondents have never paid for a verified certificate, but a sizable majority have also not earned a free Saylor Academy certificate, either.
  • About 47% would be likely (4) or very likely (5) to pursue verified certificates.
  • About 67% find standard Saylor Academy certificates to be valuable (4) or very valuable (5) — to be expected, perhaps, out of respondents who are probably pursuing Saylor Academy certificates.
  • In terms of comparing the value of certificates, the numbers closely mirror question 3, which asks how likely the respondent would be to pursue a verified certificate. 45% believe a verified certificate to be more valuable than a standard one (cf. 47% who would be likely or very likely to pursue a verified certificate); 31% believe the two kinds of certificates have about the same value (cf. to 27.5% who would be neither likely nor unlikely to pursue a verified certificate); 24% are either not sure how they compare or believe a standard certificate to be of more value (cf. to 25% who would be unlikely (2) or very unlikely (1) to pursue a verified certificate).
  • The ways that people would use a verified certificate skew toward professional and workplace applications and toward digital, with educational applications and paper options coming in 12 percentage points or more behind. The clear winner is listing on a resume or c.v.

We also invited narrative responses and received many; rather than replicate them (out of respect both for respondents and for brevity), we will characterize different flavors of response as follows:

  • Certificates should be kept free entirely (do not create multiple tiers)
  • Optional hard copies should be sent to students
  • Fees should be affordable, perhaps even scaled to location and/or ability to pay
  • Willing to pay a fee and happy to do so
  • Employers not (yet) likely to distinguish between verified and nonverified certificates; they want a demonstration of skill
  • Verified certificates (and perhaps the element of cost) encourage students to stick with the course until the end
  • Clear recognition/acceptance by third parties is important to creating value

The gist seems to be that verified certificates should not be allowed to degrade the value of free certificates; should themselves provide specific value (e.g. partners who accept them, paper copies, etc.); should communicate that value very clearly; should be affordable to all.

What are your thoughts? We would love to hear them!


Verified Certificates Question 1 Verified Certificates Question 2 Verified Certificates Question 3 Verified Certificates Question 4 Verified Certificates Question 5 Verified Certificates Question 6

7 thoughts on “Verified Certificates Survey Results

  1. September 2, 2015

    Cerys Reply

    Would greatly appreciate more opportunities to connect Saylor achievements with more partner programs. Whether college partnerships or license/tech training programs, it may be important to consider what type of certificates those partner programs would respect most. Perhaps input from employers might be beneficial as well. Thanks for creating new ways to learn and achieve.

    • September 3, 2015

      Sean Connor Reply

      Thanks for the feedback! We definitely are working toward and hoping for additional partnerships. It will not be verified certificates that get us these partnerships, I think, but they may play a role in formalizing and extending partnerships. I would hope that our “regular” certificates would generally suffice for partners — as they often do (college credit proctoring requirements excepted). Verified certificates could give potential partners options/ideas that will translate, yes, to greater options for our students.

  2. September 9, 2015

    Kat Reply

    I think the option would be nice to have a hard copy, or maybe if they completed an area of learning. That’s what I always liked to have, a certificate that says I completed all of the Customer Service courses (etc..)

    • September 10, 2015

      Sean Connor Reply

      Hi Kat, thanks for your feedback! Separately from verified certs, we are working toward certificates that would recognize a bundle of courses. Keep an eye out for those!

  3. September 14, 2015

    Negot Seraphin Reply

    First of all, I have never paid for any type of certificates, though I do earn all a bunch of certificate (about 17). All these are Standard Certificates, however they are very valuable to me. According to me, a Verified Certificate is more reliable than a Standard One. I would eagerly like to have not only a simple Verified Certificate but more ever one as a substitute for a formal credential from an accredited program. Thanks!

    • September 23, 2015

      Sean Connor Reply

      Yes, the second part (“one as a substitute for a formal credential from an accredited program”) is something I personally am more excited about!

  4. October 13, 2017

    Zakia Ntelele Reply

    Verified certificate and standard according to me have the same value, because they mean what has been accomplished by students.

    This is amazing really.
    but what I see on verified certificate is signature of director of education of which is not found on standard certificate, and that’s only difference I see
    thanks you are awesome

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