How to send verifiable certificates?

What are “verifiable certificates”? And why are they any different than offering simple PDF certificates? Are they the same as copy-proof? And more importantly: When do you need it?

Jun 27, 2022
8 min
|      by
Giovanna Pergher
digital badges education

You have probably heard of verifiable certificates before (they also go by the names copy-proof certificates, verified certificates, or just safe certificates). The idea behind them is quite simple: There is a way to prove (or verify) the legitimacy of the certificate.  

Of course, the verification method can vary. Most verifiable certificates in the market use blockchain technology, cloud validation, or a mix of both.  

In this article we will cover:  

- Why would you need verifiable certificates?  
- What validation types and levels can you choose from?  
- Benefits x Cons of verifiable certificates
- How to send verifiable certificates.

So, let’s get to it!

Why would you need verifiable certificates?

There are plenty of reasons why you should consider offering verifiable certificates. The most common ones are:  

  1. Perceived value and professionality
    To begin with, if you are issuing certificates in a professional or formal industry, it makes sense to offer something that is not easily copiable. The recipients of verified certificates know that the document that they have received has real value and cannot be recreated by a third party in MS Word or in any similar software.  
    The recipients have a document that can have its authenticity verified via a practical QR code validation (which did grow a lot in popularity in the past 2 years). This increased perceived value can function as a strong completion incentive (for online courses) and in more certificates being shared on professional social platforms (e.g. LinkedIn Posts).  
  1. International acceptance for recipients
    Another popular use case for verifiable certificates is solving verification issues with universities and course degrees for international students or ex-pats. When a university in the USA receives a curriculum from an international student, or when an employer reviews the CV of an ex-pat, it can be difficult to tell if the courses and institutions presented in those degrees are legitimate and if those courses were indeed taken.  
    Offering verifiable certificates allows the recipients to add much more value to their CVs in an internationally recognizable way.
  1. Brand protection
    If you are issuing certificates of quality, or awards, it is your brand's name that is guaranteeing the results presented to your recipients in the certificates/badges. Offering verified certificates is the best way to make sure that your brand is not being misused by clients who did not pay for your services.  
  1. Others
    There are a lot of industry-specific reasons why you might have to consider using verifiable certificates due to legal obligations or your own customer compliance departments. In the end, there is almost no use case where an “un-verified” certificate (or a simple PDF certificate built using Word) has similar value to its verified version.

What validation types and levels can you choose from?

There are various levels and types for your verifiable certificates. In this article we will focus on the following:  Validation type: Own domain validation vs Third-party validation Validation level: Validation of issuer; of recipient; or of document;

Validation types: What is the right one for you?

This refers to the location where the validation of the certificates takes place. In other words: Once a certificate is being validated (or has its QR code scanned), the information inside that certificate must be checked, and a response must be given: The certificate is either valid, or it is not.  

And there are two places where this validation process can occur: Directly on your website, or on the website of the technology provider.  

Private label validation

It implies that the certificates issued by your company will redirect back to your website for validation purposes. This means, that there will be a webpage on your website for the purpose of validating the certificates that you issue. All certificates issued by your company will redirect back to that page when scanned, and there, the recipient information will be displayed.

Certificate Validation inside your own Website

Highlight of private label validation:

Your company is the only brand being displayed as the issuer of those certificates, building your authority in that segment. At the same time, you are benefiting from a state-of-the-art validation infrastructure embedded into your website within minutes.

Branded validation

When opting for a branded validationsolution, your company is not the one positioned as the authority behind that certificate. This is how the process looks like: When verifying the certificate, you will be redirected to the webpage of your certificate supplier (Accredible, Credibly, Virtualbadge.io, etc). In that page, the validation process will take place.

Branded validation process tends to be cheaper than private label validation, as the actual price paid for it is the sharing of your brand awareness and authority with another company.

You also have little to no control of the traffic generated by the validation pages of your certificates: Once a user decides to validate a certificate that is private labeled, they willl end up on your website, and you can decide what information to display to that user. You turn those visitors into leads by presenting them a form or inviting them to explore more about the theme.

On the other hand, when a user validated a branded certificate, they will see all updated recipient information and the validation status of that certificate directly on the website of the technology provider (let's use Accredible as an example). You will be able to customize some parts of that page (like adding a link to your website and adding a description about that certificate), but the traffic that is visiting that page is not necessarily going to your website afterwards.

Certificate Validation on the website of your certificate management system

Highlight of branded validation:
It is usually cheaper and faster to kick start when compared to the private label version.

Validation Levels

Validation levels refer to the actual element that is being validated.

To make it clearer:

1. Document validation

In this level, you are verifying that that document was not damaged or altered in any way and that the information in that document is still valid (for example, you can check if a certificate has already expired). Most digital certification suppliers will offer solutions covering this first validation level.

2. Company validation

In this level, you verify the issuer information. This is not directly connected to private validation, although both reach the same goal. In practice, you will see a badge besides the name of the issuer as a “premium partner”, or “verified issuer”

3. Recipient validation

In this level, it is verified that the person who is receiving the certificate has the correct ID. This validation level usually includes ID confirmations and can be done by third-party providers (like online identity checkers). In the case of digital certificates,recipient validation is done by the issuer (meaning that your company is responsible for this part).

Benefits x Cons of Verifiable Certificates

Now that we know what is involved in issuing verifiable certificates, we can easily point out some of its benefits and cons:

Benefits:
- Higher perceived quality and more professionalism for your brand;
- Brand protection via copy-proof;
- Stronger brand authority in your segment;
- You can easily meet the CPE 5-year storage requirement.

Cons:
- More expensive*;
- Needs a certificate management software;

Saying that verifiable certificates are more expensive can easily be a fallacy. At the end of the day, you must identify how much time you would need (or how long it takes you now) to manually create your PDF certificates.

All certificate management software will also automatically generate the certificates for you, customizing all the recipient information and changing any dynamic fields with one click. If you create 10 certificates/year, the manual task is not a big pain. But multiply it by 10 and the manual creation of certificates becomes quite an expensive task.

Where to issue Verifiable Certificates

You can find a series of suppliers in the market, many covering multiple levels and types of certificates validation.

We invite you to try Virtualbadge.io as your digital certificate management software, as it allows you to issue verifiable certificates easily, offers private label, and is data compliant according to the GDPR requirements.

 

* You can find the organisation ID in the URL when you access your LinkedIn Company page as an admin.

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