Badge it!

I recently blogged about the completion of five Provost’s Challenge Projects. One of them was Digital Badges for Creativity and Critical Thinking. It is a project that demonstrates great potential for assessing student learning and also raises a number of issues that we, as a university, need to discuss. problemsolver

So, what are badges?
The MacArthur Foundation defines digital badges as “an assessment and credentialing mechanism that is housed and managed online. Badges are designed to make visible and validate learning in both formal and informal settings, and hold the potential to help transform where and how learning is valued.” Many universities and other groups have developed badges—some for credit, some not for credit. There are hundreds and hundreds of badges available via open badge platforms such as Mozilla.

PSU’s digital badge project
The purpose of the Web NinjaDigital Badges for Creativity and Critical Thinking was to produce a digital badge system for the university, to create a digital badge curriculum to certify and acknowledge skills attainment for creativity and critical thinking, and deploy this curriculum for a subset of undergraduate students in Community Health. It began with a desire to better align information literacy (IL) with undergraduate courses and curriculum in community health. In conjunction with completion of the project, the project lead, Emily Ford, Librarian; Betty Izumi, Assistant Professor of Community Health; Jost Lottes, Research Associate with the Institute on Aging; and Dawn Richardson, Assistant Professor in School of Community Health recently published a case study article: Ford, E., Lottes, J., Izumi, B., Richardson, D. (2015). Badge it! A Collaborative Learning Outcomes Based Approach to Integrating Information Literacy Badges within Disciplinary CurriculumReference Services Review, 43(1), 31-44.

Lessons learned
Emily, Betty, Jost and Dawn acknowledge that as educators are adopting competency-based approaches, it remains a controversial topic. And even though they developed badges through their Provost Challenge project, they make no argument for or against competency-based education. They position their experience of working on badges as a means of assessing competency in the context of changes taking place in higher education. In their article they do a great job in discussing the pros and cons of developing badges.

They also outline a number of lessons learned—the challenges of the time involved and the decisions that need to be made about curriculum mapping, redesigning course assignments and student assessments, developing content, etc. There is a lot we can learn from their experience, as well as the development of digital badges in the French program in the Department of World Languages and Literatures.

Campus conversations

  • Are we prepared to prioritize the time-intensive nature of curricular redesign?
  • What commitment will the University make to sustain badges now that we have a successful pilot?
  • Will other faculty see value in badges?
  • What is the role of competency-based learning

Call for competency-based learning proposals
There is a Provost’s Challenge on Giving Credit Where Credit is Due. They have an invitation out for faculty members to submit proposals to adapt existing courses to offer “credit for prior learning.” One-page proposal applications are due at 5 p.m. Monday, March 2. Faculty will receive an adaptation stipend. For more information email Project Manager Cornelia Coleman at Application forms are available online.

The Digital Badges for Creativity and Critical Thinking included a cross-disciplinary team of the Urban and Public Affairs Librarian, three faculty members from the School of Community Health, and instructional designers from the Office of Academic Innovation among others.

I would like to see us continue to explore, challenge and assess competency-based learning, badges and other forms of credential learning.


2 thoughts on “Badge it!

  1. Thanks so much, Sona, for your thoughtful post. When I read it I immediately had some questions: How are we to engage in campus wide conversations? Will there be brown bags? Colloquia? Committees? Task forces? Will departments see these ideas as think pieces with which to engage?

    What exactly does a campus conversation that gets us out of our silos look like?


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