Q&A with Kate Giovacchini: Advancing Digital Credentialing at ASU's Trusted Learner Network

Kate Giovacchini
Executive Director, Engineering, ASU Enterprise Technology
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When it comes to learning and employment records (LERs) and digital credentialing, creating an expansive, inclusive community is key to adoption and developing opportunities for lifelong learners to thrive. To do that, partnerships are essential.

That’s why the T3 Innovation Network (T3 Network) is proud to have been invited by the Trusted Learner Network (TLN) to co-host the fifth annual TLN Unconference from April 3-4 in Phoenix, AZ. As part of the Unconference programming, attendees will be able to participate in the T3 Network’s Spring Meeting and Opening Reception on Wednesday, April 3 at the Arizona State University (ASU) downtown Phoenix campus.

We connected with Kate Giovacchini, executive director, technology at Arizona State University, to learn more about the TLN and its current major projects, how T3 Network and the TLN are aligned as initiatives, what participants can expect at the Spring Meeting and more.


For those who are unfamiliar with the TLN, can you please share an introduction to the initiative?

The Trusted Learner Network at Arizona State University is our digital credential initiative: as we approached this challenge, we wanted to center trust and agency as key change principles needed to create a paradigm shift toward verifiable credentialing. It consists of three pillars: technology, governance and community.

The technology allows learners to collect, explore and share digital credentials that they have gathered across their lifetimes. The ecosystem is guided by strong governance policies established by our Governing Body to ensure that the learner is always at the center of our decision making. And our community includes digital credential experts and enthusiasts alike who are eager to build this ecosystem to empower learners as they share their educational experiences.

What are some of the big initiatives that the TLN is working on this year?

We’ve been excited about the opportunity to test ASU Pocket, in a beta stage, with our ASU community. We’ve received some great feedback that learners are looking for more credentials and they’re looking for more sharing options. We continue to iterate, refactor, design and improve that experience.

We also accomplished – and continue to work on – bringing the TLN to production readiness and engaging in a lot of interoperability opportunities. We’re working with other services and groups to interoperate our credentials together, and we’re extremely proud to be contributing back to the community in that way, helping to advance digital credentialing.

As we look forward to the upcoming year, two more things that we’ve been working on is the development of our Equity Design Playbook, which will be the guiding principles and questions for our development teams across the entire initiative as we move forward, but also something that we’re looking forward to publishing out as a resource, as well.

Additionally, we continue to advance the work that we’ve been doing with One Trust Lab around TLN Design Patterns. We had a great sneak peek of the TLN Design Patterns at the Badge Summit last year, and we look forward to unveiling the patterns in a bigger way at the upcoming Unconference.

This year, you’ll be hosting the T3 Network’s Spring Meeting in conjunction with the TLN Unconference. Why does it make sense to host the meeting with the Unconference?

Simply put, it makes sense to host the T3 Spring Meeting along with the TLN Unconference because our different initiatives are based on the same underlying principles: building a community and a shared path moving forward, which is critical to create mass adoption.

What excites me about T3 is that their initiative has a different angle and audience: the great work that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation has been doing focuses on the employment and skills-based hiring connection, while TLN tends to be more higher education and education credential focused. Combining our events means that we can create fertile ground for some exciting cross-pollination.

It’s a very natural fit — It’s like chocolate and peanut butter.

What can attendees expect when they register for the TLN Unconference?

When you show up to the Unconference, what we want you to experience is a sense of delight, welcome and familiarity. One of the things we love to do is create a convening space where you can have the conversations that you want to have with people in a way that’s actually discoverable. This allows you to have fortuitous meetings with the folks that you may not have thought to bring into a conversation before.

This is why we create room in our living agenda for Open Space Technology sessions: for attendees to define their own talking points. Conversations at the TLN Unconference are very current and intentional — we are discussing what is top of mind right now by putting the agenda design in the hands of the convening participants.

We also want to make the Unconference fun, a little surprising and give everybody the opportunity to meet up at our reception to have a good time.

T3 Network and the TLN are in alignment on many topics, including fostering a strong network community. What are some of the ways in which participants can get involved as members of the TLN Community? How will the TLN Unconference serve as a culmination of that work?

First, I invite everyone who’s interested in being a member of the TLN Community to join our newsletter for the latest information on TLN projects and events.

Then, one unique way that folks can get involved in the TLN Community is by participating in our Governing Body or Architecture Advisory Committee discussions. That's a great opportunity to address key topics that may not be happening anywhere else – what are the policies and structures we want to bring into the space to honor learners and institutions? How do we navigate the complicated structures of trust we currently operate under, in order to make a more meaningful future?

We have also been successfully executing pilot and partnership work for those who are interested in bringing the TLN or ASU Pocket to their campus/institution/service, so please do reach out to me either at the conference or after for more discussion on that topic!

For many, the digital credentialing ecosystem may feel daunting to address, and both the TLN and T3 Network are focused on demystifying that mindset. What advice would you give to those who are just beginning their journey in this space?

While digital credentialing can be a daunting journey, think of it like a mountain. The peak of the mountain is a future where everybody is in the digital credentialing space, the data is flowing beautifully, and learners are engaging in consent to gain valuable opportunities and insights.

Recognize that there are many trails that can take us up to the top of that mountain. There are technical trails, where a technically minded person can lean in and engage in a community to talk about things like standards, cryptographic proofs that we need to have, interoperable designs, and schemas.

Another set of trails could be following the learner journey if you're heavily engaged in student success. Perhaps you're thinking about admission, retention and completion – you may want to take the institutional policy path.

There are many trails to the summit of this work. Ask yourself, what do I want to achieve? What brings me here? What’s my expertise? Your interest will draw you to the sessions and discussions where you’ll be able to find your people!

About the Authors

Kate Giovacchini
Executive Director, Engineering, ASU Enterprise Technology