EDSC Accreditation and Quality Label

European Digital Skills Certificate (EDSC) Framework

This section describes the participation of the European IT Certification Institute in implementing the European Digital Skills Certificate (EDSC) Framework in the European Union under regulations of the European Commission.

The European Digital Skills Certificate (EDSC) framework imeplements the Action 9 of the Digital Education Action Plan 2021-2027 of the European Commission by assessing the feasibility of a European digital skills certification accreditation.

Supporting implementation of the Action 9 of the Digital Education Action Plan of the European Commission, the European Commission's Joint Research Center (JRC) has been carrying out a study on the European Digital Skills Certificate (EDSC) to help people have their digital skills easily recognised by employers, training providers. The European IT Certification Institute has participated in this study.

The EDSC is targeting basic digital competencies and hence is primarily based on the European Digital Competence Framework (DigComp).

The goal of the EDSC is to enhance the transparency and mutual recognition of digital skills certifications across Europe, providing a scheme that is complementary to and does not replace existing (regional, national or international) digital skills certification schemes.

European Commission's Feasibility Study Working Group for the European Digital Skills Certificate (EDSC)

The European IT Certification Institute has been a part of the European Commission's Feasibility Study Working Group for the European Digital Skills Certificate (EDSC) accreditation framework (part of the European Digital Education Action Plan). The EDSC Working Group is coordinated by the European Commission's Joint Research Center (JRC). EITCI has contributed to the Thematic Working Groups for Demand, Strategic and Financial Considerations, and Governance, Accreditation and Quality Assurance Considerations, supporting definition of the EDSC framework for issuing European Commission's EDSC Accreditations and Quality Labels for digital skills certification providers.

The study has been aiming at mapping existing digital skills certification schemes in Europe and carrying out gaps, needs and benefits analysis to understand the role and value of EDSC, and how it would support recognition of digital skills in Europe.

The study about the EDSC will include the definition of an agreed set of quality requirements as a basis of this recognition among schemes. It should also encourage individuals to acquire new digital skills. By exploring different scenarios for the certificate, the feasibility study will allow for the selection and analysis of the option that best meets the needs of the different EU stakeholders and that can best guarantee the EU’s goal of mutual recognition.

It will ultimately generate recommendations for fully specifying the EDSC requirements and the actions needed at different levels (from the EU down to certification providers and other stakeholders) to achieve the widest possible mutual recognition.

The EDSC feasibility study is managed by the Joint Research Centre (JRC) of the European Commission on behalf of the European Commission’s EDSC Feasibility Study Task Force lead by DG Employment and Social affairs. The feasibility study consortium is coordinated by NTT Data in partnership with empirica and All Digital.

The specific objectives of this study are to (i) understand what the demand for a potential European Digital Skills Certificate (EDSC) would be, (ii) investigate the gaps between the demand and what is offered by existing digital skills certification schemes, (iii) explore what could be the potential benefits and added value of the EDSC, and (iv) identify the key requirements for an EDSC. It is part of the larger set of consultation activities envisaged by the EDSC feasibility study.

European IT Certification Institute's contribution to the EDSC Feasibility Study

Final phase of the EDSC Feasibility Study EITCI contribution

Revised EDSC operational model

The EDSC is intended as a trusted Quality Label for digital skills certifications that certification providers can apply for on a voluntary basis, to become accredited EDSC providers. This section contains EITCI inputs on the revised EDSC operational model, which includes a list of requirements and recommendations for certification providers. The requirements, in particular, form the basis to assess the eligibility (and compliance) of a given certification provider to acquire the EDSC quality label. The recommendations represent desirable – but not mandatory – elements or conditions.

The set of requirements and recommendations has been built throughout the Study, along a wide range of consultation activities, taking into account the views and perspectives of different stakeholders. Following different iterations, the list has been simplified and revised, to favour clarity and consistency.

Requirements

  • Requirement 1: The content of certificates able to carry the EDSC Quality Label shall be based of DigComp areas, competences and proficiency levels.
  • Requirement 2: The EDSC Quality Label will be assigned to a scheme on the basis of an assessment of the scheme's evaluation process against a set of (to-be-defined) indicative learning outcomes (LOs) of the DigComp Framework to support trust and mutual recognition.
  • Requirement 3: Certificates able to carry the EDSC Quality Label should have a digital format specifying certain agreed standardised fields/meta data. Paper version of certificates could be accepted as far as authenticity validation services measures are provided, in line with the EDSC requirements.
  • Requirement 4: With respect to the validity period of the certificate issued to a person, certificates able to carry the EDSC Quality Label must include the certification date and the related version of DigComp, to allow end-users deciding on the validity of the certification according to their needs. Certificates may, or may not, have a validity period. The EDSC Quality Label must specify (to-be-agreed) mechanisms for mutual recognition across those schemes which define a validity period and others which do not.
  • Requirement 5: Certification providers should provide the required metadata in an official EU language. Users of the certificate should be able to access the metadata in any official EU national language. The EDSC does not include any requirement on the language in which the evaluation is performed.
  • Requirement 6: Certification providers should follow to-be-developed best practice guidelines with respect to assessment, such as fairness, reliability and validity, to support quality, trust and mutual recognition.
  • Requirement 7: Certification providers should comply with (to-be-defined) minimum requirements on fraud prevention and detection measures, including at least authenticity of certificate and certificate holder.
  • Requirement 8: Certification providers should demonstrate that they comply with a set of to-be-defined minimum requirements on accessibility and inclusiveness.

Recommendations

  • Recommendation 1: With respect to interoperability with Europass, it is recommended that the digital format used for issuing certificates is the one of the European Digital Credentials for Learning, which will provide authenticity security mechanisms, provision of authenticity verification measures, and multilingual support for the field names and for some of the data (only for controlled data).
  • Recommendation 2: It is recommended that the certification providers issuing certificates with EDSC Quality Label seek inclusion in NQFs and EQF.
  • Recommendation 3: It is recommended that certification providers include a combination of knowledgebased and performance-based types of questions in their assessments.
  • Recommendation 4: It is recommended that certification include not only knowledge and skills elements but also attitudinal elements of digital competence as described under the DigComp framework, so as to encourage confident, critical, purposeful and value-driven digital skills development certification.

The EDSC in its current form of a public authority accreditation / quality label is a very important and valuable initiative and a great amount of work towards considering its shape was already carried out by the main study project team and by the external experts proposing their inputs.

If the EDSC scope is to be limited only to a particular digital skills structure formulation based on the DigComp framework it may be not sufficiently inclusive and representative. DigComp structure should not be assumed (in terms of a requirement) to be the only proper way to define the digital skills structure under the future EDSC accreditation / quality label framework, as it may introduce a certain bias in this way, already present on the level of the EDSC accreditation framework definition and also misalign with digital skills certification programs candidates’ actual needs and demand (which is one of the most important criteria to be taken into a consideration).

Therefore it is crucial for the value of the framework to not limit the EDSC quality label solely to the DigComp framework, but also include other frameworks which are more applicable practically. It should be noted that majority of candidates seeking to earn certificates that attest certain digital skills and competencies, do not do it just for the achievement itself, but mainly because such certificates support their CVs and job market competitive positions. This is not only limited to IT professionals, as many non-professionals in IT seek to earn their digital skill certificates to support their digital competencies documentation applicable beyond the IT sector (for example in marketing, in management, etc.). From this perspective a somewhat different structure of digital competencies and skills seem more relevant than the defined under the DigComp framework (which on the other hand well addresses problem of measuring general levels of digital skills in the population). Such a more applicable digital skills structure should be addressing particular domains of digital technologies (not only limited to practical applications, but also encompassing important theoretical foundations), such as for example AI, cybersecurity, programming, web development, computer graphics, or even quantum computation, etc. In fact introducing a distinction that such digital skills domains address rather only digital professionals (such as IT engineers, etc.) and not user skills (for people not formally educated in IT and not working in this sector) is also not a very relevant supposition, because currently many certification candidates in programs of particular digital applications (such as for example AI) do not have an IT background, instead wanting to earn a certified digital skillset of a practical meaning and in a particular scope of digital skills to enhance their profiles for activities outside of an IT sector.

Hence the EDSC framework should not to be limited to the DigComp framework alone, but admit also other frameworks (with inputs from stakeholders, experts and certification providers, basing on their experiences and actual knowledge of the certification market and the needs of the candidates and actual demand for various digital certificates that form important and rather objective criteria). In this approach the EDSC framework could be differentiated in regard to different competencies frameworks, encompassing for example EDSC DigComp variant and other variants of digital skills structuring frameworks, defined under the EITC/EITCA framework established in 2008, or under the ECDL/ICDL framework developed by CEPIS. Furthermore the current assumptions for the definition of the EDSC should also include a wider future development of the DigComp framework itself and within an a proper governance model for this process that would be adequate for a common EU framework to be a part of the European Commission's public EDSC accreditation system, i.e. possibly transparent, as well as possibly open and inclusive to inputs from other relevant organizations and experts, beyond the DigComp expert community involved in its development and dissemination.

Additionally the European Digital Skills Certificate EDSC, in its current form, having the role of a quality label or a publicly governed and voluntarily acquired form of an accreditation (being granted in a result of an assessment of a given certification scheme's evaluation against a set of certain criteria, that should be carried out in a possibly objective and unbiased way under a national or under the European Commission's public authority) for the EU market competing digital skills certification schemes is being currently referred to as the certificate itself. EDSC should be be adequately renamed, as the European Digital Skills Accreditation or EDSA to more correctly reflect its purpose, as otherwise it may confuse candidates of certification programs, perceiving EDSC as an actual certificate to be earned to attest digital skills and presumably competing with certification schemes present in the EU market. In regard to the procedure of the further stages of the EDSC framework definition an inclusion of a voting process is needed to more adequately address various possible concepts and to better reflect the actual expert inputs for the policy-makers that will decide about the final shape of the framework, so that it becomes a possibly representative and an inclusive solution, well addressing the structure of the EU market demand for digital skills certification and the competition principles.

The revised expected added value of the EDSC includes

  • Enhancing Standardisation, Transparency and Comparability of digital skills certifications across Europe
  • Assuring accurate recognition of digital skills on the basis of the DigComp framework
  • Supporting vendor neutrality
  • Allowing for the measuring and monitoring of digital skills proficiency levels
  • Fostering the inclusion of individuals at risk of social and/or digital exclusion

Revised EDSC governance model

The revised list of governance functions for the full governance model has been built throughout the Study, along a wide range of consultation activities, taking into account the views and perspectives of different stakeholders. Following different iterations, the list has been simplified and revised, to favour clarity and consistency.

The following governance functions are well suited to ensure an optimal EDSC operation

  • Establishing the technical requirements, including Alignment to DigComp and LOs, meta data requirements, privacy, and security
  • Establishing the accreditation requirements, including requirements on examination and scoring, accessibility, inclusiveness, fraud detection and prevention, and documentation
  • Establishing security requirements, including authenticity validation measures
  • Managing complaints and appeals, i.e. rules and processes for complaints and appeals by CPs about accreditation
  • Monitoring, evaluation and reporting of the EDSC performance, including establishing a monitoring and reporting framework and the KPIs
  • Assessing finance and risk, including the financial elements of EDSC governance

The full governance model is considered the most appropriate for the EDSC. It includes the governance functions listed above, as well as overseeing EDSC operation, checking alignment to curricula and to the common set of (to-be-defined) Learning Outcomes and the basic technical requirements (except for meta data requirements, privacy, and security), etc.

In the proposed full governance model, stakeholder involvement is institutionalised mainly through:

  • the steering body composition, comprised of Member State representatives and EU organsation representatives,
  • the expert groups for consultations, comprised of industry/employer representatives and certification provider, Education & Training representatives, and
  • ad-hoc stakeholder consultations open for any stakeholder input.

Building blocks for the implementation of the EDSC

Key building blocks for the implementation of the EDSC should be understood as the main elements and related actions that are needed to implement the EDSC as a Quality Label across Europe. Identified in the context of previous stakeholder consultation activities, they have been categorised into ‘core building blocks for launching the EDSC Quality Label and ‘accompanying’ building blocks for supporting the roll-out of the EDSC.

  • Core: EDSC governance model in place
  • Core: Finalised EDSC Quality Label requirements
  • Core: Set up of an accreditation system of CPs
  • Accompanying: Supporting policy framework at EU and MS level
  • Accompanying: Clear and identified EDSC demand
  • Accompanying: EDSC-ready certification services
  • Accompanying: Available, accessible, relevant and of quality E&T offer and learning paths towards certification
  • Accompanying: Awareness and communication campaign
  • Accompanying: Mechanism in place for adaptation of the EDSC to evolving digital trends and technologies

A central database or a repository of sharable certification resources (for example properly categorized examination questions database in various formats) is adequate to support the quality assurance and the practical value of the EDSC framework. Such database could be based on the CPs inputs and be gradually expanding, as well as undergoing necessary updates and expert evaluations.

EITCI suggested EDSC staged approach for the roll-out of the EDSC would entail all below iterations (a full stage).

In the first, 'minimum' stage, the European Commission (EC) would provide support material to foster the harmonisation of the certification schemes. This would entail: (i) the design of an indicative set of learning outcomes (LOs) of DigComp and related procedures for updates; (ii) the development of guidelines on the use of (to-be-defined) LOs of DigComp; and (iii) the elaboration of best practice guidelines with respect to assessment, such as fairness, reliability and validity. Furthermore, within this stage, the set of desirable EDSC requirements and recommendations identified as part of the EDSC Feasibility Study would be included as recommendations to prepare future stages of implementation. Accordingly, the alignment to DigComp or EDSC requirements/recommendations would be self-declared. It would be also advisable to foresee a monitoring activity on the developments on the EDSC demand and policy initiatives aimed at promoting the development of digital skills certification to allow the EC to promptly identify additional action to be undertaken. This stage could optionally be accompanied by activities to further understand/steer the demand, for instance, from employers by establishing clear mechanisms for collaboration/consultation. This minimum scenario could be comparable to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) model. Taking the latter into account, support services on alignment to DigComp could also be considered. This stage would need to governance function. Rationale for this stage: unclear demand for an EDSC and limited supportive policy landscape across Member States.

The intermediate, 'light' stage would build on the previous `minumum stages´ and, additionally, will include a basic governance function, which would focus only on providing a seal of compliance on the alignment to the DigComp framework by an expert group. This would require defining the detailed requirements that Certification Providers (CPs) have to comply with in order to obtain the aforementioned seal and establishing a (partial) accreditation process for CPs. As per the previous option, monitoring would also be advised to identify the need for more EC support actions. This stage could be implemented with the lean governance model, presented above. Rationale for this stage: clear expressed demand by CPs, due to the costs related to obtain recognition in each country.

The joint, 'full' stage would include all actions foreseen under Stage 1 and Stage 2. In addition, it will provide a full accreditation process for CPs, and the setup a broader set of governance functions. The implementation of this scenario will be – ideally - accompanied by extensive awareness raising and communication activities, including on the results of the monitoring and evaluation actions performed with the aim of informing stakeholders on the progress of the EDSC initiative. This would be implemented with the full governance model, presented above. Rationale for this stage: clear expressed demand for an EDSC by end-users (e.g. employers, E&T providers, governments, etc.).

The European Digital Skills Certificate EDSC initiative has a potential to become a public European Commission's digital skills accreditation framework that will eventually support further development of the quality of the certification services provided to the candidates in the EU, as well as support competition of the EU based certification schemes against still dominating in this domain US based standards. Public and unbiased accreditation of digital certification services is an important driver for their development beside a simple economic market competition between existing certification providers.

Previous EITCI EDSC Study contributions

The EDSC should be understood as a mechanism aimed at enhancing the transparency and mutual recognition of digital skills certifications in Europe by governments, employers and other stakeholders across the European Union.

It should allow people to indicate their level of digital competence corresponding to the DigComp proficiency levels and encourage individuals to acquire new digital skills. Finally, it should provide a scheme that is complementary to and does not replace existing (national or international) digit al skills certification schemes.

DigComp proposes eight proficiency levels based on a progression of competence acquisition outlined in three different areas: the complexity of the tasks, the autonomy and guidance needed for accomplishing it, and the cognitive domain. These proficiency levels are inspired by the structure and vocabulary of the European Qualification Framework (EQF).

The expected demand for the EDSC across the following actors

  • Employers
  • Career Guidance practicioners
  • Schools (primary to upper secondary education)
  • Vocational Education and Training actors
  • Universities (higher/tiertiary education)

EDSC is relevant for:

  • Professional career progression
  • More effective recruitment
  • Better skills match in recruitment
  • Giving access to education and training courses
  • Getting certificate holders’ skills recognised as academic workload (e.g. ECTS)
  • Encouraging participation in education and training
  • Assuring the quality of digital skills education and training
  • Measuring and monitoring of digital skills (by institution, region, etc.)
  • Enhancing cross-border mobility of workers
  • Enhancing cross-border mobility of students
  • Developing learning pathways for certificate holders

Value of existing digital skills certification schemes

The digital skills certification schemes that already exist in the EU, especially the pan-European frameworks, already offer valuable support for individuals in their employability and careers progression and should be further developed. The European Commission should support the competition of digital skills certification frameworks in the EU market to enhance the overall EU's position in a global competition with the US based schemes. While market competition is an important driver for increasing quality of certification frameworks, independent, impartial and transparent accreditation or quality recognition mechanism governed by the European Commission, perhaps in the form of the EDSC, would be certainly another pillar for the quality.

Involvement of the following categories of stakeholders in the digital skills certification ecosystem

  • Policy makers and public authorities
  • Digital Skills Certification Service providers
  • Digital Skills Education and
  • Training Providers
  • Research services / providers
  • Employment services
  • IT industry enterprises or representative associations
  • Other (non-IT) business, business support and business representative associations
  • Professional associations
  • Social and digital inclusion actors
  • Workers’ and consumers’ representative organisations
  • Quality Assurance Certification & Standardisation Organisations
  • Independent advisors or consultants
  • Academic institutions (universities and higher education organizations)

Academic support is important for further advancement of the quality of digital skills certifications, to enable the frameworks to base on extensive academic experiences in delivering quality formal education and certification (academic institutions often set their own standards in digital means of knowledge examination and testing).

Wider engagement would be beneficial accross all sectors of organizations relevant to digital skills certification.

Barriers to the adoption of a digital skills certificate:

  • Low general awareness of the existence of suitable digital skills certification scheme(s)
  • There is not sufficient demand from employers
  • There is not sufficient demand from education and training providers
  • There are too many possible schemes to choose from
  • The cost of getting a digital skills certificate is too high
  • Insufficient provision of informal education and training leading to certification
  • Insufficient provision of formal education and training leading to certification
  • Digital skills certifications do not fit with the accessibility needs of potential certificate holders
  • Digital skills certifications do not fit with the needs of my stakeholder group

Major barriers for the wider adoption of digital skills certifications are related to access, both in terms of economic means and physical access barriers. The EDSC should support industry standardizing efforts of lowering physical access barriers of digital skills certification while preserving the quality of the certification examinations procedures (regarding assessment of online exams proctored and non-proctored delivery, identity verification means and related processes, which may be supported by advances in AI developments).

The following features of the digital certification schemes need to be strengthened in order to increase their acceptance and adoption

  • Accessibility for vulnerable groups (i.e. fees, schedule, location, material)
  • Cross-border portability for workers Focus on employability of non-IT professionals
  • Vendor neutrality (i.e. not linked to any system or software product)
  • Better adapted to labour market needs
  • Transparency about compliance to any quality standards
  • Employers’ trust in the certificate
  • Modularity of certified competence areas
  • Comparability with other certifications at EU and international level
  • Learning and assessment processes more integrated with formal education systems (school, VET, higher education)
  • Available and/or accessible training offer available and/or accessible assessment centres

There are needed accreditation mechanisms for certification frameworks currently available on the EU level from the European Commission.

Benefits and added value to the existing digital skills certification scheme landscape in Europe from the EDSC

  • Offer EU-wide recognition through a "label"
  • Offer uniform communication / information about the certificate to different stakeholders across the EU, increasing awareness
  • Be a guarantee of a reliable and trusted certificate
  • Inspire trust by offering compliance to security standards/specifications of the assessment process
  • Inspire trust by offering compliance to quality standards of assessment processes across the EU
  • Inspire trust by offering an EU wide reliable accreditation of certification bodies
  • Offer transparent comparability among different certification schemes across the EU
  • Offer a standardised digital version of the certificate
  • Offer a certificate readable in the English language to facilitate recognition across EU countries and actors
  • Offer examinations in different settings (such as: students in schools or in higher education institutions, for citizens and life-long learners in training agencies, public bodies, private industry, third sector, etc.)
  • Offer learning opportunities in different settings (such as: for students in schools or in higher education institutions, for citizens and life-long learners in training agencies, public bodies, private industry, third sector, etc.)
  • Offer an examination available online (for instance with remote proctoring)
  • Be interoperable with existing platforms, tools and systems related to the digital skills certification landscape (such as open badges, Europass, etc.)
  • Be mapped to the 5 DigComp areas in a transparent manner
  • Be mapped to the 21 DigComp competence areas in a transparent manner
  • Be modular, providing separately certification for the 5 competence areas of DigComp
  • Be offered to learners during formal education, from school to university
  • Be recognised and accepted by public employers
  • Be recognised and accepted by private employers
  • Be adaptable to national/regional contexts of Member States
  • Foresee specific mechanisms to enhance accessibility and inclusiveness

To provide benefits and added value to the existing digital skills certification scheme landscape in Europe EDSC should

  • Allow easy registration process (on and offline)
  • Be compliant with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)
  • Be compliant with easy reading
  • Have special schedule offerings (e.g. time extension, flexible schedule)
  • Be available in physically accessible locations
  • Be available in special examination rooms
  • Have free or financially accessible examinations
  • Have free or financially accessible education and training offers

Key aspects and requirements for EDSC

  • Definition and management of requirements for accreditation of certification bodies
  • Governance and operational model of an EDSC certificate at EU level, in terms of organisations and stakeholders involved in its definition, evolution, management of security and quality requirements for certification
  • Definition and management of quality assurance approach, including minimum quality requirements/standards and guidelines of the certification process, that are specified at EU level
  • Quality assurance of the certification processes, based on defined requirements
  • Accreditation and recognition, in terms of national and regional awarding body(ies) based on defined requirements
  • Assessment methodologies/approaches leading to the award of a certificate
  • Test and assessment data and platforms security protocols
  • Accessibility features of and adaptations of assessmet content or delivery
  • Scope and content, in terms of DigComp coverage (DigComp areas, competences within each area, proficiency levels) and level of modularity, as well as criteria for alignment of schemes to DigComp
  • Format and structure of the certificate
  • Authenticity standards, in terms of protocols to protect against fraud at examinee (user authentication), examiner (accreditation, impartiality), or certification body levels (accreditation of certification issuer and authenticity of the certificate)
  • Certificate technical interoperability and portability, in terms of being compatible and exchange information with other national and regional education and training systems
  • Certain degree of adaptability to local contexts, in terms of adjustment to country or region-specific contexts
  • Specifications for the time validity and required updates to care for the evolution of technologies and their impacts
  • Financial sustainability, in terms of implementation, maintenance, and access costs
  • Transparency, in terms of access to relevant information for all interested stakeholders

The form that an EDSC should take may involve

  • A scheme that is complementary to and does not replace existing (national or international) digital skills certification schemes
  • A scheme that should support transparency and comparability among existing national /regional certification schemes
  • A scheme that should support mutual recognition of existing national/regional digital certifications by governments, employers and other stakeholders across the EU
  • A scheme that should allow people to indicate their level of digital competence orresponding to the DigComp proficiency levels

EDSC Accreditation, Governance and Operational Model

  • What process should certification bodies follow in order to be able to issue EDCS compliant certificates, based on EDSC requirements?
  • One which builids on accreditation processes according to EU regulations and following ISO 17024:2012 standards

The governance of the EDSC

If the EDSC is to take the European Commission's officially recognized accreditation standard role for the digital skills certification frameworks providers it should be organized in an impartial model, free of any possible biases that might follow from the competing positions among non-governmental organizations in the EU that work in the field of digital skills.

The secretariat could be established under the European Commission governance to address the impartiality and neutrality criteria of the certification accreditation standard.

The accreditation of the EDSC

The accreditation criteria should be developed by the specialized body designated by the European Commission in a transparent and public procedure engaging existing stakeholders and competing standards. Possible risks of distortion of the market competition principle should be identified and migitated by the design of the standard. The experiences of the digital skills certification frameworks already existing and competing on the EU market should be definitely used and further built on (including examinations contents databases, etc.).

Quality Assurance and Recognition

Which aspects should quality assurance be applied on the EDSC

  • Exam content (Quality of the evaluation items of the test, measures to ensure the fairness of the test, etc.)
  • Organisational (Test delivery process)
  • Assessment (Tests)
  • Certification process
  • Accessibility
  • Personal identification
  • Recertification conditions
  • Examinations retakes conditions

Which actor should assure the quality of the exam content, exam delivery, assessment and the certification process

External QA agents, recognized within an agreed EU-level QA framework for an EDSC with ensuring neutrality and impartiality of accreditation bodies to mitigate any possible conflicts of interests

How should quality assurance of the exam content be achieved

  • Regular external audit
  • Regular internal audit
  • Use of EU-level standardised documentation and reporting
  • Use of national-level standardised documentation and reporting

Assessment methods, usability, security and accessibility

Types of questions that should be asked in assessments accepted by the EDSC

  • Performance-based questions
  • Knowledge-based questions

Assessments accepted by the EDSC be carried out in:

  • EDSC’s compliant assessments shall be available via accredited on-site test-centres (supervision done by a licenced/authorised person,sand, in case it is the trainer/tutor, sufficient proof can be demonstrated that there is impartiality from the trainer/tutor)
  • EDSC’s compliant assessments shall be available via accredited online testing providers

In on-line tests context, the minimum requirements of remote proctoring could include

  • Control of Web cam
  • Control of audio
  • Control of keyboard
  • Browser block
  • On-line simultaneous presence of human invigilator (online remote proctoring)
  • The record of all actions for later processing (recorded proctoring)
  • Remote proctoring should ensure respect of personal data privacy of the test taker, as per the GDPR

How should assessments accepted by the EDSC be made available

  • Computer-based assessment (Desktop)
  • Mobile assessment (i.e. smartphone, tablet)

Assessment techniques considered most effective to ensure accessibility and inclusiveness

  • A quality assurance process that includes a set of inclusiveness requirements for assessment (avoidance of biases in tests, accessibility for people with mobility, visual, audio or cognitive impairments, etc.)
  • Auditing of exam results (to adjust evaluation)
  • Using different assessment methods for different target groups (e.g. Persons with impairments or special needs)

Which specific assessment methods could be put in place to ensure accessibility and inclusiveness

  • Time extension
  • Separate testing rooms
  • Solutions supporting keyboard accessibility
  • Inclusion of subtitles (For assessments including multimedia content)
  • Solutions supporting different audio options (e.g. screen readers)
  • Ensuring clarity and simplicity of the questions

Scope and content

What should be the range of digital skills covered by the EDSC?

  • The EDSC shall certify basic skills for citizens
  • The EDSC shall certify intermediate skills for citizens
  • The EDSC shall certify advanced skills for citizens
  • The EDSC shall certify specialised skills, in collaboration with industry partners

The EDSC should cover the competence areas and digital competences of the DigComp Framework at the level of the 21 competences, with options to assess a sub-set of these of granularity and modularity

Existing certifications demonstrate the extent to which their assessments cover the 5 competence areas and 21 digital competences of DigComp with detailed curricula covering the DigComp competencies.

With respect to DigComp proficiency levels, the EDSC should measure one’s level of digital competences by using:

  • The 8 granular proficiency levels of DigComp
  • The 4 overall proficiency levels, that group the 8 detailed levels in: Foundation (1-2), Intermediate (3-4), Advanced (5-6), Highly specialized (7-8)
  • Both approaches could be implemented, provided an equivalence table, is agreed, and equivalence indicated in the certificate (e.g. “Level 4, equivalent to Intermediate” to facilitate to the reading by the certificate users)

The EDSC is based on the principle of addressing the digital competence of all citizens. In this sense the EDSC should include the highly specialised proficiency levels (7-8) of DigComp.

The EDSC should be grounded on a set of learning outcomes / learning content.

Learning outcomes should specify the level of learning content under EDSC for each competence and proficiency level.

Mechanisms that should be put in place to ensure that the learning outcomes linked to the acquisition of a certificate are compliant with the EDSC should entail verification if the EDSC accredited certification programmes directly covering relevant learning outcomes within their respective curricula.

Format and authenticity

It is not necessary to define a specific format for the EDSC.

The responsibility to issue the certificate is left to a certification body which has been accredited to do so with the use of centralized platforms and referenced digital structures standards.

The main mechanism that should be put in place to verify the authenticity of the EDSC should have the form of a repository managed by accreditation bodies.

The main systems or platforms that the EDSC should foresee interoperability with

  • European Qualification Framework (EQF)
  • European multilingual classification of Skills, Competences and Occupations (ESCO)
  • Europass
  • European micro-credentials
  • Professional platforms (e.g. LinkedIn, Monster)
  • Digital credential/badges platforms (e.g. Credly, Acclaim)
  • European IT Certification framework (EITC)

Once the EDSC is awarded to a user, how should the certificate be stored and/or accessed by interested parties?

  • The certificate data should be stored in a centralised database
  • The certificate wherever stored can be accessed by any interested third party to check its validity

Adaptability and contextualisation

The EDSC should be issued in any of the EU official languages and include a translation to English to support acceptance across EU MS

EDSC should not include requirements for availability of education and training material for learners, teachers and trainers. EDSC should not include requirements for availability of self-assessment tools.

Validity and update

The expiration date of the certificate should depend on a specific scope of the certification digital skills. The expiration of the EDSC accredited certification should only be imposed in case of justified devaluation of the skills and not as means to assure sustainability of the certification framework. It is certainly possible to resign from certification expiration in whole, in a similar way as is a tradition for acedemic degrees and diplomas, which do not expire.

The frequency of update of the content/learning outcomes the EDSC should depend on emerging digital skills needs.

In regard to indicated EDSC workload reference curriculum hours should be included along with ECTS credit points.

The European IT Certification Institute (EITCI), developing and disseminating the European IT Certification (EITC) framework since 2008, strongly supports the European Commission's dedication towards promoting digital skills certification in the EU, increasing quality, transparency and mutual recognition between the competing certification frameworks.

The proposed European Commission's actions in this direction (including establishment of the European Digital Skills Certification framework, EDSC) should be however implemented in an inclusive and balanced manner in regard to risks of possible distortion of digital skills certification market competition in the EU.

There are already established European digital skills certification frameworks and these frameworks should be supported via public funding, as well as have access to the European Commission's endorsed accreditation within a set of impartial and transparent criteria for an official recognition on the EU governance level.

It would certainly be very beneficial to all of the stakeholders, including the certification holders, if the European Commission engaged in setting of some impartial quality standards for the existing digital skills certification schemes in the EU, to support their overall quality (e.g. based on further development of relevant international standards, such as the ISO/IEC 17024 specifying general requirements for bodies operating certification of persons), perhaps by an official European Commission's accreditation framework implementing the proposed EDSC, that would enhance various aspects of certification procedures regarding the knowledge testing and support the mutual recognition between various certification schemes already present in the EU.

The EDSC could be well positioned to undertake this role, but it is important that it would adopt an organizational structure that would ensure impartiality and minimize risks of any potential conflicts of interests, regarding non-governmental organizations working in the field of digital skills in the EU, that were engaged in conceiving of the EDSC framework and that could later be engaged in its management. It's also an important aspect of the EDSC feasibility study itself, to be impartial and inclusive in representing IT and digital skills certification schemes which already exist in the EU.

It should also be noticed that the market competition between various existing digital skills certification frameworks in the EU is one of the crucial drivers of their development (and their international competition versus e.g. the US based digital skills certification schemes, which currently dominate the global market by a high margin), and this competition itself should be supported by the European Commission, as such competition holds a great value for supporting the EU's position on a global market of vendor-neutral digital skills certification frameworks and in consequence also impacts the EU's position on a global market of digital skills education and training.

The EDSC could in principle compete directly with other existing pan-European digital skills certification frameworks by itself, but in such scenario a proper balance and measures should be taken in regard to identification and mitigation of risks regarding the principles of the market competition with presence of a public aid and European Commission's official recognition and endorsement limited to one of the competing schemes only, rather then including certain transparent recognition and accreditation criteria for other digital skills certification schemes already competing in the European Union.

EITCI thus strongly supports the signaled role of the EDSC to be complementary rather than competing with already existing European digital skills certification schemes, avoiding possible distortion of market competition principles in regard to certification schemes already existing in the EU, by designing certain mechanisms for impartial and transparent European Commission's accreditation standard for the EU digital skills certification frameworks supporting their quality level assurance and their recognition. It should be noted that a role of the EDSC to compete with or even replace existing frameworks via selective application of public aid and of official European Commission's endorsement and recognition, could not only pose risks towards distortion of the European market competition, but also negatively impact existing frameworks' certification holders. The existing IT / digital skills certification frameworks providers in the EU should be included in the design and implementation of the European Commission's officially recognized accreditation, sharing their many-years practice experiences and continuing their competition, which will ensure a sustained quality development. Taking these aspects into consideration in an inclusive, impartial and balanced way, the EDSC has a great potential to support development of digital skills in Europe and tackle related digital challenges within the EU's joint efforts.