2023 SmartReport Ecosystem Map
9 Min Read

This SmartReport consists of two infographics that show the way data flows through the ecosystem. It demonstrates how digital credentials are issued, how they are shared, how they are consumed, and who the companies and organizations are that make that happen. The blog post below contains important context and definitions to help anyone understand our map of the U.S. digital credential, and learning and employment record ecosystem.

It started with a question: “What does company 'X' do, how do they relate to company 'Y', and why are we meeting with them tomorrow?” After answering that question, the next question was: “Can you help us understand how all of these companies fit together?” This led to a whiteboard session outlining the categories of organizations who contribute to the issuing, sharing, and consumption of digital credentials. After a few iterations it became clear that a diagram on a whiteboard couldn't truly map out all of the complexities--so we set out to create an infographic to organize the types of institutions and companies who are all developing this ecosystem. What took shape was a teaching tool we feel will benefit anyone who is curious about digital credentialing, learning and employment records, and the companies and institutions who are driving these innovations forward. Once we decided to publish, we reached out to twenty digital credentialing experts to gain their feedback on our ecosystem map. Each expert generously provided their time and feedback leading to over one hundred iterations to this report, which we are proud to release to the public.

How do we define the ecosystem this graphic maps? While there are over 100 company logos, this ecosystem is narrowly defined as the organizations who are enabling the issuance, sharing, and consumption of digital credentials, with a particular focus on the below digital credential standards:

  • OpenBadge Standard from 1EdTech
  • Verifiable Credential Standard from W3C
  • Comprehensive Learner Record Standard from 1EdTech
  • Learner and Employment Resume Standard from HR Open Standards (to be released in 2023)

To show how these digital credentials relate to each other within the ecosystem, we put together an additional map that outlines how data flows, which types of organizations issue which types of digital credentials, and how the above data standards are ingested and consumed to ultimately create outcomes for digital credential holders.

How is the SmartReport organized? The report is organized with individuals on the left who are the data creators. It’s important to recognize that digital credentials are owned by individuals, and individuals must remain in control of their data. The first column of logos represents the types of institutions that recognize individual accomplishment, knowledge, skills, abilities, certifications and more, through digital credentialing.  The second column of logos represents the types of organizations that enable credentials to be issued to individuals.  The third column of logos represents the data standards and technologies that enable credentials to be shareable across the ecosystem. The fourth column of logos represents those companies, organizations, and even states that are creating ways for this data to be consumed, enabling digital credentials to be deployed as assets to accomplish specific outcomes. Finally, on the far right, we have the end users who take action on this data, such as employers who may use it to discover, hire and promote people.  

There are two categories of organizations who don’t fit cleanly into this left to right flow of data, but who are critical to the growth and ultimate success of this ecosystem.  Those are the philanthropic organizations who fund research and development, and organizations that play critical roles in further developing and supporting this ecosystem. These organizations are separated from the rest of the SmartReport by a dotted line representing their importance to the industry, while acknowledging they don’t fit neatly into any one column.

This micro-ecosystem is part of a larger Learn to Work and Skill Based Hiring ecosystem.  That’s why some obvious companies, such as LinkedIn, are not present on this report.  LinkedIn is the world’s biggest talent marketplace.  They are not on this SmartReport because you simply cannot add or store any of these data standards to your LinkedIn profile.  You can link to a Credly credential on your LinkedIn profile, but in order for someone to “consume” that information they have to leave LinkedIn to do so.  Similarly, LinkedIn Learning is one of the largest Massive Open Online Course providers, but unlike Coursera they don’t issue an Open Badge to recognize learning on their platform.  I expect that to change in the near future, and as soon as it does they will be added to the report. In my conversations with industry experts, we consistently used this definition of this ecosystem to determine which company logos to add to the SmartReport.

You can download both SmartReport infographics and we encourage you to use them to help explain this industry to people who want to learn about it! We have issued a Creative Commons license to these infographics to encourage that, with the ask that you preserve it in its current form and link to it when you share it.

To complement the infographic we will define each category of the map below, and list the name of each company to help identify any unfamiliar logos.  The logos on this report reflect our collective understanding of the organizations who are materially contributing to the growth and adoption of digital credential standards, and to the vision of a learning and employment record fueled ecosystem that improves the livelihoods of the individuals it serves.  We will issue an update to this report in 2024, and welcome additional feedback.  You can contact our team by emailing info@smartresume.com.

Thank you to our contributors. Their feedback led to over one hundred enhancements to this infographic.

  • Naomi Boyer, Executive Director, Digital Transformation - Education Design Lab
  • Jenna Cohen, Sr. Program Director - ACT
  • Andrew Cunsolo, Product Management - Jobvite
  • Ian Davidson, Chief Growth Officer - iDatafy
  • Deb Everhart, Chief Strategy Officer - Credential Engine
  • Noah Geisel, Micro-Credential Program Manager - University of Colorado
  • Cindy Hill, Ph.D., Principal Industrial/Organizational Psychologist Research - ACT 
  • Brian LaDuca, Executive Director, Institute of Applied Creativity for Transformation - University of Dayton
  • Kymberly Lavigne-Hinkley, Director, Community of Care Ecosystem - Western Governors University
  • Sharon Leu, Executive in Residence - Jobs For The Future
  • Mark Leuba, VP, Product Management - 1EdTech
  • Kelly Page, Ph.D. - Director, Learning & Employment Innovations - Digital Promise
  • Marty Reed, CEO - RANDA Solutions
  • Philipp Schmidt, Director of Digital Learning & Collaboration - MIT Media Lab
  • Michelle Sims, CEO - YUPRO
  • Timothy Summers, Ph.D., Executive Director of Product Development - Digital Trust - Arizona State University
  • Dan Tesfay, Data Analyst in Residence - Education - Kauffman Foundation
  • Dave Wengel, CEO - iDatafy
  • Holly Zanville, Research Professor, Programs on Skills, Credentials & Workforce Policy - George Washington University

Category Definitions

Organizational Issuers:

Post Secondary Education - These are academic, credit based, accredited institutions who recognize learning and student achievement by issuing digital credentials.

Licensing & Professional Associations - These are organizations that advance a particular profession, support the interest of people working in that profession, or certify the expertise of professionals in a specific profession. 

MOOC Platforms - MOOC stands for Massive Open Online Course (providers).  These platforms deliver learning content online to any person who wants to learn. They often serve as an aggregator of course content, and may recognize learning achievement with digital credentials.

Skill Assessment - These organizations do not provide education or training but instead focus on assessing the skills, knowledge or abilities that individuals have obtained and are able to demonstrate. These organizations rigorously assess those competencies and build their reputations on their ability to do so accurately.

Military Pathway Assistance - These organizations help active duty service members and veterans prepare for their transition out of the military into the civilian world, with a focus on helping these individuals understand the skills they have and how they translate into civilian careers. 

Workforce & Skill Development - Workforce Development organizations work to fill specific employer hiring needs by understanding the skills they wish to hire. They then identify people who want to elevate their careers, provide training to those individuals, and provide placement services to match those individuals with their network of employers. Skill Development organizations serve a similar but less end-to-end role in training people about specific skills.

Credential Issuing Enablement:

Learning Management Systems - A LMS is a software application that helps educators administer, track, report, and deliver education to learners. They are an opportune place to provide documentation to learners of their achievements, including digital credentials.

Student Record Systems - Student Record Systems serve as aggregators of student records, and help institutions administer the issuance and verification of student records such as diplomas, degrees, or certificates.

Open Badge Issuing Platforms - These platforms help the organizations who want to issue digital credentials actually create those credentials, provide them to learners, and create a verification component so that learners can own their achievements without relying on the institution to verify those achievements to third parties.

Comprehensive Learner Record Issuers - These platforms help organizations compile a learning record made up of multiple credentials for a single learner, and then issue that record to the learner so they have a comprehensive record of their own achievements. These platforms may also help individuals compile CLRs from multiple institutions enabling an even more comprehensive record.

Verification & Identity Services - Think of a traditional background check company.  Before digitally verifiable credentials these organizations were an employer's best option to verify the authenticity of credentials. Now, some background check companies will issue a digital credential to an individual to show they verified information and stand behind that verification. Identity Services will help individuals verify important information like their age, citizenship, or visa status, and can issue that verification as a digital credential.

Credential Portability:

Technical Standards - These organizations bring together groups of subject matter experts to create data standards that will enable digital credentials to fulfill their purpose.  These data standards enable companies to create digital credentials in a consistent way through adherence to the data standard so they can be passed between platforms and technologies to drive outcomes.

Credential Wallets - Credential wallets provide a consumer application to store and share digital credentials.  Consumers can then aggregate their digital credentials in one place, and share them from the wallet into other applications or directly with other individuals.

Verification Networks - Data utility layers that can be used to share verifiable credentials or any form of digital record. They are often blockchain based and built to support self sovereign identity.  Decentralized in nature, they grow as members join the network.  Members may host blockchain nodes to benefit all participants on the network.

Credential Consumption Enablement:

HR Information Systems/ATSs - Human resources information systems are software platforms that help businesses meet core HR needs, manage and serve their employees and track employee performance and development. Some HRIS systems are beginning to ingest digital credential data to better understand their own workforce.  ATS stands for Applicant Tracking Systems, which help employers manage their hiring process from inbound applications, to tracking applicants through the interview process, to hiring. Some ATS platforms are preparing to ingest digital credential data into their workflow and decisioning due to the potential to better understand candidates/applicants based on the data held within digital credentials.

Talent Marketplaces - Talent Marketplaces aggregate job seekers, help them build talent profiles, and make job seekers discoverable to employers. Talent Marketplaces in this ecosystem enable job seekers to build talent profiles that include digital credentials and the data they hold, enabling richer talent profiles to be created which can power new forms of talent discovery for employers, and create new ways for job seekers to market themselves effectively to employers.

State Talent Marketplaces & Pilots - States can also create talent marketplaces that are built to serve their residents and employers.  These talent marketplaces often involve a consortium of organizations working together to mobilize data from the state government as well as data from state institutions like 2 and 4 year universities and colleges. States may develop longitudinal data systems to create rich data that can be deployed to benefit residents, and may also include online learning and career planning resources as part of their overall strategy.

Pathway & Career Planning - Platforms that help an individual identify their current skills and abilities in order to discover careers their skills enable them to pursue. These platforms also help individuals identify how they can acquire skills over time to prepare to advance down different types of career paths. While many of these tools exist, as of today very few are able to consume digital credential data to provide this type of analysis to individuals.

Ecosystem Enablement:

Ecosystem Funders - Philanthropic organizations that provide funding to other organizations to advance the digital credential and learning and employment record ecosystem to drive more equitable career and learning outcomes for all types of learners and job seekers. These funders serve a critical role in the ecosystem, providing the resources to catalyze new technologies and approaches which need support to become technologically practical and commercially viable.

Ecosystem Support and Development - These organizations are directly supporting the growth of the digital credential and learning and employment ecosystem while also working to make sure it is an equitable ecosystem that will drive positive career and learning outcomes for the individuals who need the most support. These organizations frequently rally support for research and innovation projects that benefit all participants in the ecosystem for the long term.

Category Institutions/Companies (Note - while we have endeavored to be comprehensive, we recognize that we have missed numerous companies in many of these categories who participate in this ecosystem, we have focused on the organizations with the greatest traction and who are making the largest impact)

Post Secondary Education - Arizona State University, Western Governors University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Digital Credential Consortium, University of Arkansas, Technical College System of Georgia, Wichita State, University of Phoenix, University of Central Arkansas, Arkansas State University, Arkansas Technical University, Rasmussen University, Alamo Colleges District, University of Colorado, University of Dayton, Motlow State Community College, Ivy Tech Community College

Licensing & Professional Associations - Project Management Institute, Society of Human Resource Managers, CompTIA 

MOOC Platforms - edX, Udacity, Coursera

Skill Assessment - Manufacturing Skills Institute, Education Design Lab, ACT, Northstar Digital Literacy Assessment, Bioscience Core Skills Institute

Military Pathway Assistance - MilGears, Solutions for Information Design (SOLID)

Workforce & Skill Development - YearUp, HubSpot, Transfr, Facebook Blueprint, The Forge Institute, Goodwill, KC Scholars, Grow with Google, ACT

Learning Management Systems - Instructure, Canvas, Skillsoft

Student Record Systems - National Student Clearinghouse, Parchment

Open Badge Issuing Platforms - Canvas Credentials (a.k.a. Badgr), Credly, Digit.ink, SmartResume, Accredible, Digital Promise, Pocket (From Arizona State), Anthology - Milestone, BadgeList

Comprehensive Learner Record Issuers - RANDA Solutions, Territorium, Helio Campus

Verification & Identity Services - Cisive, Joynd, Yoti, Digital Bazaar

Technical Standards - 1EdTech, HR Open Standards, World Wide Web Consortium, Credential Engine, Postsecondary Electronic Standards Council, Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Office

Credential Wallets - RANDA Solutions, SmartResume, Myhub (from National Student Clearinghouse), Velocity Network Career Wallet, Territorium, Canvas Credentials (a.k.a. Badgr), Digital Credential Consortium, Indiana Achievement Wallet, Pocket, Learncard, Veres, Greenlight

Verification Networks - Velocity Network, Sovrin, BlockCerts, IBM’s Learner Credential Network, Ceramic, Cheqd

HR Information Systems/ATS - Jobvite, ADP, SAP, Workday

Talent Marketplaces - SmartResume, Credly

State Talent Marketplaces & Pilots - Arkansas, Kentucky, Colorado, North Dakota, Indiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Virginia, New Hampshire, Washington

Pathway & Career Planning - Indiana Achievement Wallet, Texas Workforce Commission

Ecosystem Funders - Walmart Foundation, Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Charles Koch Foundation, Strada Education Network, Common Group, Lumina Foundation, Lilly Endowment

Ecosystem Support & Development - Jobs For The Future, National Governors Association, Digital Promise, Credential Engine, WorkCred, Markle, Education Design Lab, Strada Education Network, Competency Based Education Network, Learning Economy Foundation, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, T3 Innovation Network, Digital Credentials Consortium, Trusted Learner Network

Other helpful resources:

Learn & Work Ecosystem Library - a web-based library that collects, curates, and coordinates resources to support the learn-and-work ecosystem.

Creative Commons License - 2023 U.S. Digital Credential/LER Ecosystem SmartReport © 2022 by Ian Davidson is licensed under Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International

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