Printed certificates may be a nice touch when they are received, but they are difficult to retrieve, the information is not easily shareable, and if I asked you to produce proof of your certification, you would have to travel home and find it. Digitally issuing credentials allows the recipient to share and verify this information much easier that traditional delivery methods. If you are issuing some kind of digital certificate or badge, it’s imperative your members or students can quickly and easily access them online.
The person who completed your course spent a lot of time and energy to become certified or credible, and they did that for a reason. They want to be able to show other people - typically their peers, existing employer, or future employers - that they have legitimately learned something new. The only way your certificate is valid to them is if a third party can quickly and easily verify the credential is real. If it isn’t secure, then they can’t trust the credential, and that means they can’t trust your organization nor your members.
The most effective way to create a lasting good impression of your program is to reward participants immediately upon completion with recognition of their achievement. This does two things - It provides a more seamless experience of your program and organization, and it maximizes the likelihood that he or she will share their achievement with others. You want to reward people when they’re still excited and when the accomplishment is still fresh in their minds. Most paper certificates won’t get into the hands of the recipients for 4-6 weeks after completion, and that’s assuming it’s not lost or damaged in transit and there are no spelling or printing errors. By that time, individuals have either completely forgotten about the program, or have “moved on” and aren't nearly as excited to share their achievement.
There is a lot of competition in the online learning, certification, executive education, and training spaces. Whether you’re providing a free online course to learn a skill like social media marketing or whether you’re issuing a prestigious professional certification, praise from happy students is the gold standard for referrals. You want to make it as easy as possible for people to download and share their certificate, as this can be an effective and inexpensive lead generation tool for your organization.