While it is important to analyze the history, mechanics, and best practices of digital badges in education, nothing can really provide a complete lesson in implementation like learning from institutions well underway on their own badging initiative.
The University System of Maryland (USM) is an exemplary case study of an institutional system pioneering the use of digital badging in higher education. As part of a broad academic platform, USM’s William E. Kirwan Center for Academic Innovation is leading the Badging Essential Skills for Transfer (B.E.S.T.) initiative, a system-wide, scalable approach to career preparation that improves education-to-employment pathways by maximizing the value of college students’ curricular and co-curricular experiences and more clearly communicating graduates’ career-ready skills to employers.
Through B.E.S.T., the Kirwan Center is addressing three significant challenges that impede students’ successful preparation for a career and subsequent transition into the workplace:
- Employer concerns that college graduates lack career-ready skills needed for workplace success;
- Disconnects across the curricular, co-curricular, and work experiences of our students;
- Career centers with limited ability to engage students one-on-one in the career development process.
B.E.S.T's eight badges are focused on career readiness competencies certified by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE):
Citing an AAC&U commissioned poll, 80% of employers said it would be “fairly”-to-“very useful” for employers to be able to access an electronic portfolio of student's work that summarizes and demonstrates students' attainment of key skills and knowledge areas.
"B.E.S.T. is a scalable approach to career preparation that connects curricular and co-curricular opportunities already available to students, aligns them more intentionally to career-ready skills, and more clearly communicates graduates' achievements in these skill areas to employers through digital badging," explains MJ Bishop, Director of the University System of Maryland William E. Kirwan Center for Academic Innovation.
As of fall 2018, the B.E.S.T initiative will be building badge earning pathways at eight of USM's institutions.