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Digital Badges

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Digital Badges: Recognizing and Rewarding Education

Brian Rahill

March 8, 2016

For a long time, people have accessed education and gained skills in both formal and informal educational settings. But until recently, there’s been no consistent way to acknowledge or get “credit” for informal education.

We’re excited to tell you about an emerging trend in education that is providing a new way to recognize learning wherever and whenever it happens. The trend is called “badging.” Badging is the process of recognizing and verifying various forms of learning using digital badges. It’s a movement gaining momentum worldwide among educators, adult education programs, students, and professionals.

Digital badges recognize learning

A digital badge is a graphic image awarded to a student or professional after he or she completes a set of classes or masters a set of predefined skills. Digital badges are similar to Girl Scout and Boy Scout badges–in that they recognize a skill or achievement–but they also include a few “extras” for the digital age. First, digital badges are embedded with data, such as who issued the badge, when it was issued, what skills or accomplishments were achieved, and the evidence that the learner demonstrated to acquire those skills. Second, digital badges can be displayed digitally across the web, enabling them to become part of a learner’s online portfolio

Digital badges are compelling because they offer a meaningful way to visually recognize learning through a narrative. Badging is “a new way to capture and communicate what an individual knows and can demonstrate,” cites LINCS (Literacy Information and Communication System). And, whether issued by one organization or many, “badges can build upon each other and be stacked to tell the full story of your skills and achievements,” says Mozilla’s Open Badges website.

Open Badges is free software and an open, international standard used by organizations and institutions to create, issue, and verify digital badges. Open Badges adheres to an international digital standard developed by Mozilla so every badge includes data such as the name of the issuer, student name, verifying evidence, and more.

Digital badges accumulate into a digital portfolio

Over time, students and professionals alike accumulate a digital portfolio of badges that they can:

  • Add to a personal or business website
  • Email to potential employers
  • Attach to a digital signature
  • Add to a LinkedIn profile
  • Include in an online resume
  • Share through social media

Scarborough Public Library Digital BadgeBadging is meaningful to learners of all ages, and offers an exciting opportunity for adult learning programs. In 2015, the Scarborough Public Library in Scarborough, Maine participated in a pilot badge program coordinated by the Maine State of Learning (MSOL). Tom Corbet, Systems Librarian, says, “We focused our efforts on adult learners…we are very interested in promoting this service as a way for adult learners to improve their marketable skills to employers as well as for those just seeking self‐improvement.”

Students become self-motivated by digital badges

Breakwater Enrichment Center Digital BadgeBadges also encourage self-motivation. Another participant in the MSOL pilot program included the Breakwater Enrichment Center. Lou Falank, instructor, said, “The kids are using [badges] as their tool to make themselves better and get better at a skill. I have kids who, instead of playing games at choice time, are going back and trying to redo their work to earn their badges. The self‐motivation because of the badge has been a really neat thing to see. These kids have something to shoot for, not just that they want to earn a badge, but they’re learning the process to gain whatever skill they’re working at.”

CourseStorm has always supported informal learning organizations with our “impossibly simple” online registration system, and we’re excited to play a meaningful role in the digital badge space. We’ll tell you more about that soon! In the meantime, to learn more about digital badges, check out these resources:

Brian Rahill

Brian is a scientist-turned-education technology executive. He has founded and led technology companies for more than 20 years and uses his analytical mind and experimental approach to spur growth in small and medium businesses and start-ups. He is passionate about using technology to enhance access to lifelong learning.

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