Did you know you can automate issuing a digital badge to students? Not everyone does when first considering launching a badging program within their department or college. To achieve the most effective results with your digital badging initiative, it is important to learn from institutions who are leading the way with their own badging program. These 8 best practices have proven to be the most efficient rules of application when developing and executing a digital badging initiative.
1. Transparency is king
Transparency is one of the most vital aspects of a digital badge due to your badge being as valuable as the rigor and substance behind it’s issuance. If a third party cannot verify the work the student needed to gain the badge then it's relevance becomes null. Be very clear in defining your issuance criteria so that those inspecting badges can see that it was no trivial feat to earn the badge. Making the hard work visible is key.
2. Competencies are queen
Although badges can be awarded for myriad reasons, using badges to certify a level of competency that a student has demonstrated is often the most effective means of use. Badges that validate competency skills more than anything provide value to a learner reflecting on their skills, as well as grant them significant advantage in becoming a prime candidate for jobs and internships.
3. Free the badges from the Learning Management System (LMS)
Learning management systems (LMS) are great tools for student-educator communication and the digital organization of academic material and coursework. However, digital badges are tools that are applicable for life beyond the walls of academia. Ensure that badges are not trapped in an LMS, as they do no one any good solely being displayed there. Students need to be able to take their badges with them, for life.
4. Don’t be redundant
One of the ingenuities behind digital badging is their ability to display competency skills with great detail in ways letter grades simply cannot. If you are giving a badge to a student for earning an A, you aren’t adding new or additional value. The student’s transcript already proves that she earned an A. Instead, issue the badge for the competency or skill achieved on the assignment they earned the A for. Let the badge tell the story behind the letter grade.
5. Embrace badge diversity in co-curricular activities
Another innovative aspect of badges is that they can be used to certify competencies and achievements demonstrated in and out of the class. This means that learned skills should not only be confined within academic achievements, but also through noted co-curricular activities. Get creative about weaving badging into student clubs, student success programs, volunteer work, internships, and other co-curricular activities.
6. Automate issuance
We have seen instructors set up crude web forms to collect evidence for evaluation. These forms then flood teachers with email attachments that pile up in their inboxes, rather than organizing artifacts in a database for proper archival and a more streamlined review. These manual “hacks” are not only inconvenient, they completely break down in certain cases such as when badge evidence needs to be evaluated by multiple reviewers or reported on in aggregate.
7. Turn on “Direct-Deposit"
Keeping up with and reflecting on projects is time consuming, especially for students who are already dealing with the stresses of college. To make it easier and increase student engagement, ensure that badges are sent directly to portable, lifelong ePortfolios that do not cost the student money to maintain or access. Don’t make it difficult for students to retrieve or claim badges or have them wonder where to put them, when automation and accessibility is an option.
8. Give students a playbook
As an educator, teaching students is nothing new. Apply that same process when discussing badging and capturing learning artifacts with your students. Give students a playbook for beefing up their ePortfolios, and generating resumes from those portfolios with badges pre-embedded. Teach them how to extract value out of the badges they earned, so reflection and career advantageous use is guaranteed.