What are Badges/Micro-credits?

Badges are a mechanism to award incentives, progress indicators, and micro-credits. Badging draws on longstanding ways learning has been documented in other settings, such as the personal skills and achievement when a Boy or Girl Scout earns a merit badge. The approach is being used in learning environments like the Khan Academy, with promising results — people watch videos on specific subjects and earn new badges by doing so. Mozilla has published an open specification for badging — the Open Badge Initiative (OBI) — that enables providers and users alike to easily display their achievements on the web. Badges can be used as a way to incorporate some of the advantages of game mechanics as participants work through various levels or stages to achieve credentials. While badges are not by any means pervasive in education systems, they appeal to many educators because they are considered to be a credible alternative for measuring knowledge comprehension and skill acquisition in a very granular way, as compared to standard tests, grades, or the venerable credit hour.

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(1) How might this technology be relevant to the educational sector you know best?

  • Within a relatively short period of time some colleagues at my centre will try this out via Blackboard. I must admit I have my reservations. Not that I am against the concept, but if it somehow replaces a full-blown feedback and result in an unreflected persuit of badges amongst students, it might hamper deep learning.- ole ole Oct 9, 2014
  • I'm at a small, liberal arts college called Harvey Mudd College. I don't imagine digital badges replacing the kinds of assessment we already use, but more as a new way to recognize and acknowledge competencies and skills students, faculty and staff gain outside of coursework. I see digital badges as an outgrowth of the electronic portfolio. - Elizabeth_Hodas Elizabeth_Hodas Oct 14, 2014 Yes, I see the same. Digital badges may be a prerequisite for a course to confirm one knows the basic skills required for the course. - michael.lambert michael.lambert Oct 25, 2014
  • A colleague and I are about to embark on a badges brainstorm to develop some to acknowledge staff digital competence. Long term, this might also become acknowledged in staff performance appraisal, given that the university have a staff digital literacy policy, but not a lot in the way of concerted practice yet. Our thinking is that it could be extended to the student digital literacy framework as well. We are thinking of developing a few to trial with colleagues on our education faculty as a relatively low key development. It is quite hard to know who can do what or use for teaching and learning, so this might be one way to facilitae a little more openness and show that it matters. - n.wright n.wright Oct 15, 2014
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  • At CWRU, we have begun investigating and piloting credentialing as a form of professional development.Through a mini grant through the After School Alliance we have collaborated on our first badging pilot certifying youth development professionals. The badging program may have the potential to redefine the entire discipline. http://afterschoolalliance.org/press_archives/Badges_Mini-Grants_NR_FINAL_6-23-14.pdf - brian.yuhnke brian.yuhnke Oct 17, 2014
  • As a network faculty member in the School of Education and Human Development at the University of Colorado Denver, we have begun investigating the idea of using badging/credentialing as a means of bringing students up to speed with certain competencies and expectations for one of our graduate programs. In other words, some courses expect students to have certain technical skills and theory prior to the start of the class. Since our students are corporate instructors, k-12 educators and higher ed professionals, it is impossible for us to expect them to have all the same skills coming into the program. With a badging system in place, we can provide an opportunity for our students to "certify" themselves in the competencies needed for them to ssucceed in the program. This has the potential to be an extremely useful integration of badging / credentialingin higher ed. - brian.yuhnke brian.yuhnke Oct 17, 2014 - helga helga Oct 24, 2014
  • The Carnegie Unit has probably done more to advance, and complicate, higher ed than anything else. Questions of curriculum are controlled by departments with a strong stake in defining requirements in such a way as to discourage credit transfer and to encourage students sticking with the school, college, program and department for all or most of their education. The trouble is, learning doesn't fit into these neat buckets. And I think micro credentials are a way to open that conversation up. Since not all computer science degrees and courses (to chose an example) are not created equally, if we can break down the curricular achievements into documented knowledge, skills, abilities and experiences, then maybe we can describe why. More importantly, maybe then we can talk about meaningful credit-for-credit agreements across a much bigger range of partners (and getting close to a political agenda item to make sure that students can earn credits anywhere and use them toward a degree anywhere). I think calling them badges actually diminishes the power of the idea of breaking open the Carnegie Unit (which is antique at best). On the downside, if we are not careful, then education will be nothing more than measurable outcomes. And most of us in higher ed think that the value of a university experience is more than a list of skills and competencies! - david.thomas david.thomas Oct 21, 2014 - helga helga Oct 24, 2014
  • The whole issue of the grant of micro-credits (via badges or certificates) is certainly gaining in popularity, especially in the vocational and technical sides of higher education. From articles I read, certficiates in the area of coding, programming and CS are becoming more important in gaining employment than the actual degrees! - deborah.cooke deborah.cooke Oct 27, 2014

(2) What themes are missing from the above description that you think are important?

  • In the description badges are mentioned as an 'alternative to' assessment. I think that badges could add to assessment because to earn badges someone has to show that he is worth the badge. At the Scouts the badges are gives for certain achievements as well, and someone looks into those achievements. - e.degroot e.degroot Oct 18, 2014 - helga helga Oct 24, 2014
  • A clear differentiation between badges on single platforms to motivate and engage learners (in terms of gamification) and badges as micro-credits and as part of an open badges infrastructure might be useful. - jochen.robes jochen.robes Oct 20, 2014 - helga helga Oct 24, 2014
  • What's inherent to the administration of badges is the notion of 'performance assessment' which is beginning to gain more popularity as a more accurate measure of true gained knowledge.- deborah.cooke deborah.cooke Oct 27, 2014

(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on higher education?

  • the idea of badges could be an adjunct or stepping stone to further education - I see them as helping people get their feet wet before full-blown dives occur! For badges to be meaningful, they have to be more than the equivalent of a certificate for turning up.
  • Badges are essential to combine formal and informal learning, and in addition (although I would love to know whether there is research to back this up) I think that the motivational aspect of badges, related to what happens in games, could work very well for online learning - e.degroot e.degroot Oct 18, 2014
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  • If you saw some major political effort i nthe area--something linked to federal financial aid--then I think you would see a quick revolution in how we think about how we track and account for higher ed success. If a degree was more than the number of hours spent in a classroom, you would see a rapid expansion of competency-based programs and re-evaluation of degrees at every level of higher ed. But then again, I said "if"- david.thomas david.thomas Oct 21, 2014
  • The conversation around micro-credits, course fees and proficiency measures is still in its nascent stage. Over time, it is hoped that there can be some kind of universal standard for these unique measures of learning, so that a student can transfer these micro-credits from one university to another.- deborah.cooke deborah.cooke Oct 27, 2014

(4) Do you have or know of a project working in this area?

  • We have just begun a small digital badges pilot at Harvey Mudd College to recognize student achievement in the scientific computing workshops given by our Scientific Computing Specialist in specialized software applications such as Matlab and Mathematica, and in high performance computing techniques such as OpenMP. Our intention is that students can use the badges to demonstrate their competency in these areas to faculty and potentially to employers. We'd like to expand into the area of faculty development. - Elizabeth_Hodas Elizabeth_Hodas Oct 14, 2014
  • see my comment earlier- a couple of us are (next week in fact) brainstorming ideas for badges in the Faculty of Education (University of Waikato) for staff as part of their own informal, personal professional development about using digital technologies for teaching and learning purposes - n.wright n.wright Oct 15, 2014
  • I have been keeping a close eye on the extensive badge based graduate program at UC Davis. https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2014/01/03/uc-daviss-groundbreaking-digital-badge-system-new-sustainable-agriculture-program - brian.yuhnke brian.yuhnke Oct 17, 2014
  • At our medical centre we have a spin-off company for online learning (http://www.elevatehealth.eu/) and they will start in the near future with a pilot using badges for participants in courses who help other participants in courses. Even though at Elevate Health they focus on small group teaching and learning, giving rewards for peer-feedback and helping your peers could be useful for larger groups in MOOCs as well. - e.degroot e.degroot Oct 19, 2014
  • This project of the Beuth University of Applied Sciences in Berlin called "Beuth Badges" might be worth having a look:
    http://beuthbadges.wordpress.com/- jochen.robes jochen.robes Oct 20, 2014
  • CU Online at the University of Colorado Denver is working on a badging system for faculty professional development. Since there are no particular standards around faculty development as an activity. we are working on a method to track, account and report micro credentials that faculty can use in tenure and promotion documentation. - david.thomas david.thomas Oct 21, 2014
  • PSU was talking about a new Liberal Arts Citizen program a few weeks ago for valuing skills across the curriculum. http://citizens.la.psu.edu - dicksonk dicksonk Oct 22, 2014

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