Founder and COO
The 4 most common types of Online Certificates: Discover the pitfalls, explore the use cases, and download some of our favorite templates for free.
If you ever issued online certificates, you are familiar with their merits.
After receiving the certificate, the recipients of the certificates are proud of their accomplishments. They feel recognized and are enabled to build their CV and even their career around them.
In some cases, their pride takes over and they share their certificates with their network on social media.
Of course, there is no better feedback for the issuer of the certificate. But more than an outstanding feedback, getting a certificate post on social media from your participant also bears a great benefit for your business.
It leads to an automation of recommendations for you. The relevant network of your participants start to become aware of your quality services. They will end up at your door.
But how do you maximize this “social sharing” effect of your online certificates?
There are many factors that influence your certificate sharing rates, such as age, and social background of the recipient. Therefore, it is important to understand the recipients' persona to identify the optimal use case of the certificate.
After helping hundreds of companies to issue certificates that engage participants, we want to help you achieve the same.
We have collected our learnings and prepared a list of the Best Free Certificate Templates for Word:
No surprise here: Universities, schools and other classic education suppliers are old acquaintances of the use of certificates of completion.
Being on that market for so long means that their target audience (students) also have a clear expectation: They know they will get a certificate by the end of the course,because that is how it has always been.
Classic education players who have taken the step to automatize their certification process have played by the following rule: Don't change a winning a team. In practice, we have seen a lot of online certificates that faithfully resemble physical, standardized paper formats.
Attention point: Classic education suppliers rely on their reputation to grow. This implies a certain level of security for the certificates, so that they can be authenticated and validated at any time. If validation is a point of concern for you, find a supplier to host your certificates on a cloud solution, which verifies that all certificates are legitimate, keeping the reputation of the issuer intact.
These classic certificates are commonly uploaded to LinkedIn profiles, but only a small percentage of the students will make a social post about them. A way to increase the chances of each certificate being shared on social media is to make them as interactive as possible for the student. For example, by adding a picture of each student to their certificate. If manual execution is not on your agenda, you can use software such as virtualbadge.io to automate this interactive certificate creation.
Modern might be a broad term here, but it focuses on the growing supply (and demand) of experts, trainers, and coaches on the educational market. According to the International Coaching Federation (ICF), the Coaching market generated more than $2.849 billion U.S. dollars in 2019 and is expected to keep on growing on the following years.
Modern education suppliers have a different relation to their students/clients when compared to Classic education suppliers. The relation built between trainer and trainee is closer, and more personal. This also implies that the intrinsic motivation to share the certificate on social media is innately higher. We have experiences share rates averaging 40% for this use case.
Size matters: Given that most modern educators work on a much smaller scale than classic educators, their authority is also built slower and more focused. Most coaches rely on personal recommendations and word-of-mouth marketing to acquire new clients. This makes their need to turn every satisfied student into a promoter even greater.
Our tip: Turn completion certificates into a unique digital token that recipients can interact with, personalize, and easily share. Add "blank" fields to the certificates you create to allow participants to write down key learnings from the course, or simply give them the option to add personal information like their workspace. Adding these interaction options will make your participants feel more connected to their certificates, which will increase their motivation to share.
Design advice: Differentiate from the classic, paper-resembling certificates. Use the certificates to display your services in a professional way, that is aligned with your design guidelines. By doing that, you are turning each shared certificate into an invitation card for new clients to check your business. The free certificate template follows a simplistic and modern approach.
Using certificates for recognition is such a broad field, that this topic could easily have been split into several smaller subtopics. The reason we did not do it, is that there is one thing in common among all recognition certifications: Incredibly high sharing rates. This use case holds the records for most certificates ever shared on social media, with share rates from 40% up to 80%.
You might be recognizing all the volunteers that worked on the weekend fundraising, or all the participants of that one hackathon, and so on. Automating the process of creating and sharing online certificates makes large scale recognition events simple to implement and to track.
Design tip: Here we see a bit of everything, starting from more classic “paper-feeling” designs to virtual backgrounds with participants profile pictures. Let the event specification guide your decision towards a more classic, or a more modern certification design.
Friend's advice: Recognition certificates are frequently used as marketing tools. That means that the validation and hosting of the certificates might not be key features. If that happens to be your case and you are issuing recognition certificates for the participants of a hackathon, for example, you can save a ton of money, because you do not have to go for expensive hosting services of any supplier.
As an enterprise, issuing certificates to its coworkers is a great employee recognition practice, and a great way to increase employee motivation.
Use cases here also vary a lot: We have seen online certificates being used solely as recognition badges. Examples are plenty! You can have badges being automatically sent to all new employees (with “Welcome to the team!” messages); badges being distributed on internal recognition events (like awarding of top performers); recognition badges being sent out to all employees who have worked in the company for more than 5 years, and so on.
There are countless use cases for recognition certificates in the corporate world, and each company may have its own challenge where Virtual Badges (or online certificates in general) can prove themselves to be useful. A couple of weeks ago, we have seen badges being sent out to all employees of the IT area of a corporation, recognizing them for their efforts on the area, while also indicating (on the badge design itself) that they were hiring. By doing that, they have used the virtual badges to recognize and appreciate their employees and, at the same time, to attract new workers by using word-of-mouth reviews from the current IT staff.
Using internal certificates can also be a very effective way to increase employee engagement with the company's internal academy, and with other professional development courses.
Because the use cases in this category are so diverse, we also see very different share rates for certificates on social media. Ultimately, it is up to companies to assess the best opportunities and recognize their employees on topics that really matter to them. The free certificate template for this use case was utilized for the cosmetics company Provanza.
Design tip: Invest in online certificates that carry the company brand and design guidelines. That way, your employees have a unique certificate that shows their pride in being part of the team.
There are many different use cases for online certificates, and for each of them you can use these free certificate templates for word. The important thing to have in mind is to issue certificates that will make the receivers proud of themselves and proud of what that accomplishment means for their career.
At virtualbadge.io we have automatized the process of issuing online certificates, from designing it to adding unique personalization fields. Whether you are looking for hosted/authenticated certificates or for recognition badges with marketing purposes, there is a plan that fits your needs (and you can always start for free).
Hope you enjoy!
Founder and COO
Apr 28, 2021
Learn how to build a promotional campaign for your online courses and develop a new strategy for social media. We'll give you the 3 steps you need to take, along with free planning templates