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Digital Badges

Digital Badging in Maine: Connecting Curiosity with Credentials

Brian Rahill

August 26, 2016

We thought it’d be fun and informative to update you about a conference our CEO, Brian, attended in Denver, Colorado – all about reimagining systems that make learning that occurs anytime, anyplace, and at any pace count towards college and career readiness.  

In this vein of learning anyplace, you may remember a blog post we published a while back in which we discussed the excitement around digital badging as a new way to recognize and reward education.

In a nutshell, according to LINCS (Literacy Information and Communication System) digital badging “is a new way to capture and communicate what an individual knows and can demonstrate.” And what’s arguably most exciting about the badges themselves is the “digital” part: this means that when earned, the badges can be attached to digital signatures, LinkedIn profiles, shared on social media… the possibilities are endless!

And so, in this post, we’ll be covering how CourseStorm has been supporting digital badge use here in Maine, as well as Brian’s experience at the “Competency-Based Education & Digital Credential Design Convening” in Denver.

Let’s jump in!

Impossibly Simple Course Registration

So, as we asked, how is CourseStorm helping leverage digital badging in Maine?

Perhaps a better question would be, what does CourseStorm do for the education providers who offer badges?

Screen Shot 2016-08-26 at 6.11.42 PMWell, since 2015 CourseStorm has been working with the Maine State of Learning – a project fueled by public and private partnerships across the state of Maine to provide more learning opportunities to Maine citizens of all ages. Created and run by Erin Knight, an education technology executive and entrepreneur who founded the Open Badges movement, MSOL works to connect organizations that offer learning programs and to educate them about digital badging.

So where does CourseStorm fit in? Well since Erin and her team have created this great group of organizations all interested in badging, CourseStorm has built the technology behind it all. For example, Breakwater School in Portland, Maine is an MSOL member, and uses CourseStorm for their online registration. In CourseStorm, Breakwater can now issue digital badges that their students earn.

So, by offering a simple way to register online, and showcasing the breadth of local, informal learning opportunities, CourseStorm is working to bridge the gap between earning badges and registering for classes. First, you can find out what sorts of classes and badges are available by going to Maine State of Learning. Then, you can easily sign up for a class using CourseStorm. Finally, CourseStorm allows the class providers to easily send you the badge once you’ve completed the class.

“The question that CourseStorm hopes to help with,” Brian said, “is when someone is motivated to learn a new skill, and earn a new badge, what are the learning opportunities available to them? In short, how do we connect curiosity with credentials?”

Mozilla Foundation Badging Conference

In this work of connecting curiScreen Shot 2016-08-23 at 5.57.05 PMosity with credentials, Brian traveled to Denver, Colorado for a conference put on by the Mozilla Foundation on July 26th and 27th as part of a Maine cohort.

In addition to the group from Maine, experts from across the county also convened in Denver for the meeting.

The goals?

  1. To reimagine systems that make any time, any place learning count towards college and career readiness;
  2. To think through how to leverage new flexibilities in policy for innovative practices
  3. To brainstorm strategic partners within states and communities; and
  4. To exchange ideas for policies, practices, and systems including those which utilize digital badges/digital credentials.

In addition to these goals, the cohort from Maine focused on a single question: “How can we improve the value of badging in Maine?”

Of course, digital badges are a great technology for students to earn recognition, but to have real value, they need to be recognized by formal educational institutions. The next question was how to go about accomplishing that goal.

Fortunately, a few members of the Maine cohort — Bill Tracy (principal of Bucksport High school, and Ben Brigham (teacher at Shead Lead School) — work directly in high schools in Maine, and saw an opportunity to use the Maine Department of Education’s guiding principles.

These expectations state that graduating high school students in Maine will be: self-directed, lifelong learners, clear and effective communicators, creative and practical problem solvers, responsible and involved citizens, and integrative and informed thinkers.

With these principles in mind, they thought of digital badges, and how badges could be used as evidence that students have satisfied the requirements for each principle.

The hope is to create a model in Maine – using the guiding principles, perhaps – showcasing the potential of digital badging, and that it’s possible for formal education providers to utilize and leverage digital badging to recognize informal learning as satisfying formal education expectations.

And CourseStorm hopes that, as we work to bridge the gap between excitement and enrollment, we can help connect curiosity and credentials in such a way that directly benefit digital badging, informal, and formal education in Maine!

Do you have any questions about this post or about Maine State of Learning or CourseStorm in general? Email us! We always love chatting. 🙂 Thanks, everyone!

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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