Diplomas, licenses, certifications, certificates, micro-credentials, badges, and other types of achievement recognition and credentials in education and employment are increasingly being issued in digital formats that require different methods of demonstrating integrity than paper documents. These digital credentials when issued as W3C Verifiable Credentials can be asserted as cryptographically secure, privacy-respecting, machine-verifiable, and interoperable verifiable credentials. This gives individuals access to and control over their achievement data when they need it and throughout their lifetimes. This document outlines user roles in this ecosystem and use cases documented by the Verifiable Credentials for Education Task Force community that describe user needs, user tasks, and technology needs.
This document represents a collection of education, training, and achievements use cases readers should review alongside the Verifiable Credentials Data Model.
The Verifiable Credentials for Education Task Force (Charter) is exploring the use of Verifiable Credentials (VC) that represent formal, informal, and non-formal education, employment, and achievement credentials. This effort attempts to bridge the VC ecosystem to the robust work already done in the education and training data standards space. Work in this task force is based on use cases. The use cases below have been provided by participants in the community and across a diverse education and employment credentialing network. Some use cases will exist but others may be theoretical.
Learning, employment, and achievement claims come in many forms: formal, informal, and non-formal learning, including degrees, diplomas, certifications, micro-credentials, badges, professional qualifications, recognition of prior learning, etc. Many education data standards and international conventions exist to describe these claims (also called descriptive payloads or achievement descriptions). This includes several that are intended to be used for digital credentialing and have their own methods for verification.
Standardization of digital claim technologies makes it possible for many stakeholders to issue, earn, and trust these essential records about their counterparties, without being locked into proprietary platforms ([Verifiable Credentials Use Cases], section 1.1). The challenge in learning, employment, and achievements is to standardize verification while providing a structure for the description payloads to be inserted.
This work provides a way for these claims to be delivered cryptographically verifiably in the control of individuals who are the subjects of the claims giving them immediate access to information about them and the freedom to choose who or what to share this data with.
This document is formatted into four sections to help describe the entities involved, why they could use verifiable credentials, how they could use them, and what is needed by the technologies. User roles describe the types of stakeholders that will be involved with verifiable credentials. The user needs section describes different types of credentials and scenarios of how they could be used. The user tasks section describes the actions of the different stakeholders. The technology needs section describes use cases illustrating what is needed by technologies in this space.
The Verifiable Credentials standard mentions four roles: Subject, Holder, Issuer, and Verifier. Additional roles and details have been added in this document to describe the entities that are participating in education verifiable credentialing ecosystems.
The entity, typically a person such as a student or employee, about whom a claim is issued.
The entity, typically a person such as a student or employee, who may also be the subject of the claim, that can prove control of the verifiable credential containing the claim.
The entity, which could be an organization such as an educationa institution or employer but also could be an individual including the subject or holder, that creates the claim.
A small company issues verifiable credentials to employees for their achievements at the company. These credentials are evaluated internally to support promotions and reviews. Employees may export them to wallets to be used to prove employment history.
A university issues a diploma in the form of a verifiable credential.
An individual endorses the skills of their colleagues.
An app teaching lessons about cooking and cooking safety issues a verifiable credential when quizzes are completed successfully.
A physical therapist candidate passes an exam and is licensed to practice by a licensure body.
A community organization teaches residents of a town how to participate in a recycling program. Upon receipt of a verifiable credential, residents are able to register for recycling pick up at their homes.
The entity that provides the technology. This may be the issuer or it may serve as the agent of trust/proxy on behalf of the issuer. The distinction should be made because decisions about the technology are made by the provider.
A software system that serves as a data repository used to store, manage, protect, share, and present digital credentials and assets. [Universal Wallet 2020]
The entity verifying a claim about a given subject.  This could be an agent representing an employer or an employer.
The entity verifying a claim about a given subject.  These services may be used by a Verifier.
The entity expecting the claim to be verified such as an employer or organization evaluating the content of the claim. This entity may also be the verifier.
Trust registries can be a container or set of containers, services, databases, ledgers etc., that verifiers can use to look up information such as issuer identity & profile information, credential descriptions, and rules associated with credentials. The intent of the registries is to provide a source of information for claims to be verified without contacting the issuer and prevent tracking of verification requests. If issuers serve as registries, then the privacy of the verification may be at risk because then the issuer could become aware of any instance when a credential that they issued is being used.
In education, trust registries and governance are often conflated with accreditation bodies. While accreditation bodies may participate in or even host trust registries, the purposes are different in that accreditation bodies evaluate the educational institution and provide information based on that whereas trust registries in the verifiable credentials context are related to verifiability of credential data specifically not the perceived value of the experiences that the data represents.
A student is issued a verifiable credential for each academic achievement in her post-secondary career including co-curricular activities and her final diploma. She stores the verifiable credentials in a wallet application and presents them to those who request to confirm her experiences.
Sheila completed a MOOC in Introductory Economics from the University of Göttingen. She chose not to take a 'verified/certified track'. The university issued her a verifiable credential indicating merely that she attended the course and the dates of attendance.
A technology company authorizes schools around the world to issue certifications, which indicate that graduates are experts in supporting customers using their products. The certificates must indicate that these certificates were issued with the permission of the parent company, even though the certificates are issued by individual schools.
Sharon completed her fifth marathon. With each marathon, she was recognized with a verifiable credential. For the fifth marathon, she was awarded a credential that allows her to run future marathons without entering a raffle.
Using a verifiable credential, an employer wants to be able to attest to the capabilities of an employee which she describes having obtained while working at her company.
Fawaz wishes to present proof of their enrollment at the University of Wisconsin using a verifiable credential that the university issued to him so as to access a student discount to enter a museum.
Joleen is the registrar of Mega University and, by virtue of her office, is responsible for the integrity, accuracy, and security of academic records. Joleen has been a pioneering registrar in advocating an "extended transcript" that includes not only the standard set of course grades but also adds supplementary information on learner competencies. These might include work experiences and non-educational but marketable skills. Joleen upon the request of her students, Joleen issues a verifiable credential that includes an extended transcript.
A high school wishes to document all the grades that a student has achieved over their high-school lifetime, but also present the summative grade (a GPA) that is based on these grades as a verifiable credential.
A company that provides software development and support services is required by clients to have liability insurance which can be verified by a verifiable credential.
A national retailer uses verifiable credentials to track employee training to facilitate employees' moves from department to department and store to store.
Kev is a member of their neighborhood library which participates in an initiative that connects library members to other libraries and participating museums around the world. Their library card is a verifiable credential stored in the wallet app on their mobile phone. The verifiable credential is co-signed by a digital notary service and also serves as an acceptable form of government ID where Kev lives and gives them access to free public transportation.
Ameilia issues herself a verifiable credential to document her job as a CNA. Amelia’s colleagues issue recommendations in the form of verifiable credentials that support this verifiable credential.
A certification or license awarded for completion of a professional program is often needed to meet government regulations. These types of credentials typically have time-to-live licenses with forced expiry without renewal.
Josephina decided to return to college to finish her bachelors degree. The college she attended evaluated her work experience and determined that skills and knowledge that she attained while working qualified to replace several of the courses required for the degree.
Louisa improved skills related to her role at the company where she works and issues herself a verifiable credential that contains a description of the skills and video evidence demonstrating her mastery of them.
Alma has a list of verifiable credentials in her wallet describing the mastery of skills related to her education, employment, and hobbies. She would like to present only the relevant skills when applying for a new role.
A professor wants to use her school-issued credentials to create assignments for students. A student wants to access their assignments and their grades which are viewable only by the students and the professor.
A professor wants to use her school-issued credentials to create assignments for students. A student wants to access their assignments and their grades which are viewable only by the students and the professor.
Geraldine is a high school student and is using their Open Badges as part of an application to attend university.
Jo has experience working in restaurants and retail. She moves to another state and when she applies for jobs at the restaurants in her new neighborhood, she can provide verifiable proof of previous employment and credentials that describe her mastery of skills.
A teacher uploads certifications, licenses, and test scores in the form of PDFs, Open Badges, and other data formats to a publishing service. On request of the teacher, the service issues a verifiable credential containing the other credentials which the teacher can put in their wallet application.
University A requires all students to supply proof of vaccinations.
Khaled fled a civil war in his home country and resettled in a new host country. In his old country he earned a bachelors degree in software engineering and would like to pursue a masters in his new country.
George is a frequent visitor of the maker lab at his library which has issued him verifiable credentials for his demonstrated experiences in using a soldering iron and the laser printer.
As an employee, Gil wants to provide his employer with proof that he is certified in first aid so that he can be given the role of a designated first aid attendant in the workplace and get a raise.
Nigel is a student at the technical college. He is issued a verifiable digital identity that is accessible using a QR code on his physical student id or from the wallet app on his mobile phone.
It must be possible for any entity to issue a verifiable credential ([Verifiable Credentials Use Cases], section 4.1).
It must be possible for the holder of a verifiable credential to restrict the amount of information exposed in a credential they choose to share. It also must be possible for the holder to limit the duration for which that information is shared ([Verifiable Credentials Use Cases], section 4.2).
It must be possible for a verifier to verify that the credential is an authentic statement of an issuer's claims about the subject. The verifying entity must have the capability to connect the issuer’s identity to its credential identifier and the subject's identity to their identifier as indicated in the credential. The issuer’s verification information, such as its public key, must be discoverable from the credential record and verifiably linked to the issuer. It must be possible to do this in an automated fashion. ([Verifiable Credentials Use Cases], section 4.3)
Additional application-, domain-, or business-specific checks for determining whether the VC fits the intended use. This may have the effect of restricting or relaxing the acceptance of results from previous steps (Verification, Validation, and Veracity).
It must be possible for the holder of a claim to store that claim in one or more credential repositories. It must also be possible for the holder to move a claim among credential repositories, and to do so without requesting a new claim from the claim issuer. ([Verifiable Credentials Use Cases], section 4.4)
It must be possible for a holder to select if and which appropriate credential should be sent to a verifier ([Verifiable Credentials Use Cases], section 4.5).
It must be possible for the issuer of a claim to revoke it, after which it will no longer satisfy verification procedures ([Verifiable Credentials Use Cases], section 4.6).
Verifiable Credentials can expire. It is useful to provide instructions on refreshing the credential for the times when expiration is imminent or has already occurred. The refresh can be performed manually or, with the prior consent of the credential holder, automatically (Verifiable Credential Refresh 2021).
It may be requested that updates be made to a descriptive payload after it has been issued. Edits to the payload such as minor text corrections may not affect meaning but more substantive edits such as changing a description or criteria would affect the meaning. Currently, there is no mechanism to support this except to revoke and reissue when agreed upon by both issuer and subject.
Krystal has been issued several Open Badges to her personal email address. She’d like to put the badges in her VC Wallet and associate those credentials with the DID she creates and controls from that wallet.
Arne was the subject of a VC that described his diploma. He accidentally deleted the private key associated with the DID that is the identity associated with this diploma.
René’s verifiable digital credential is viewable online by those who do not have access to verifiable credentials verifying services. The online view may or may not display the verification status of René’s credential.
Ella is ten years old. Her school issues verifiable records of Ella’s grades and school experiences. Ella’s parents are the holders of Ella’s credentials. When Ella is thirteen the credentials will be transferred to Ella’s wallet.
Ellis’ verifiable student ID contains a photo of them so that when they present the ID, the verifier can compare the photo to Ellis.
The evidence in Nora’s micro-credential is a URL linking to a photo of her and her classmates demonstrating their final project.
Jake is issued an Open Badge and the image representing the verifiable credential is hosted at a URL by the issuing provider.
Atul is issued an Open Badge and the image representing the achievement is hosted by the issuing provider.
Nick is issued a diploma for completing high school. The diploma is a verifiable credential and is embedded in a PDF that may be printed and framed.
University Y’s digital student IDs contain a photo of the student's faces
Professional license contains a printable certificate
Student’s badge contains a photo documenting their final project
Roy’s verifiable digital credential certificate is linked to four other digital credential certificates that were earned in the same training program.
A verifiable credential is issued containing Peter's endorsement and a link to a colleague's verifiable credential containing a self-assertion of their skills.
Jo Jo’s digital badge contains an array of links to files and websites supporting her self-assertion of software development skills.
A student is issued a transcript of the courses she’s taken at various universities. Each university has signed the transcript.
A health organization has authorized many schools to teach a curriculum provided by the organization. Upon completion of a course, every student is issued a credential by the teachers on behalf of the schools. The achievement description of the credential is created by the health organization to correspond with the curriculum that they’ve designed.
Make content more accessible to a wider range of people with disabilities, including accommodations for blindness and low vision, deafness and hearing loss, limited movement, speech disabilities, photosensitivity, and combinations of these, and some accommodation for learning disabilities and cognitive limitations ([Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)], 2.1).
Section 504 states: “No otherwise qualified individual with a disability in the United States . . . shall, solely by reason of her or his disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance . . . ." (Protecting Students With Disabilities)
Section 508 requires that Federal agencies' electronic and information technology is accessible to people with disabilities, including employees and members of the public. (SECTION 508 SURVEYS and REPORTS)
Seondary School questions how much personal information should be containe din a verifiable credential. For example, if they have the parents' permission can they include the student's name, attendance information, address, and grades?
Student would like to confirm that she is an active student without revealing what school she attends.
Walter is using a wallet application on his mobile device that is using a cryptography suite that has demonstratrably insecure ([Verifiable Credentials Use Cases], section 8.1).
See Resource Linking ([Verifiable Credentials Use Cases], section 8.2).
Tracy’s digital credential does not contain a proof and is not digitally signed ([Verifiable Credentials Use Cases], section 8.3).
When recieving verifiable credentials for applications to the university, requests for verifiable presentations containing the credentials are tied to the response ([Verifiable Credentials Use Cases], section 8.4).
University Y issues several verifiable credentials to individuals securely with clear description so that when the individual creates custom presentations of a sub-selection of those credentials, the individual doesn’t misrepresentthe achievements ([Verifiable Credentials Use Cases], section 8.5).
Lisa’s nursing license is set to expire every year so that she must renew and request an updated verifiable credential ([Verifiable Credentials Use Cases], section 8.6).
Charles is advised by the university to enable strong authentication on his mobile device to keep his credentials secure. ([Verifiable Credentials Use Cases], section 8.7).
Hannah has been issued credentials in the language of the country where she attended university and will be sharing these credentials with an institution whose primary language is another country.
Frank’s diploma has been issued as a verifiable credential. Many educational systems worldwide are able to verify and consume this credential because it is aligned with the W3C Verifiable Credentials Specification.
Because of GDPR, Laura’s training certificate credential continues to be verifiable even though the her account and data has been removed from the training platform.
Ian’s education credentials issued in the US are verifiable credentials but the descriptions of his achievements vary from his colleagues outside of the US who have the same education background.
Lucille’s credentials are issued by organizations participating in a trust registry hosted by the government where the institutions are located. Jason’s credentials are issued by organizations participating in a trust registry hosted by an accreditation body.
The use cases in this document have been submitted by members VC-EDU Task Force community and participants at the T3 Innovation Network.