Student Success Blog For Educators


May 23, 2018

Breaking Down the Mechanics of a Digital Badge

In our previous article regarding digital badges, we dissected the history and future of digital badging as an educational technology. To fully understand digital badges and how to optimally utilize them as an institutional asset, however, it is important for us to not only understand what they are, but how they work.


In this article, we will breakdown the mechanics of a digital badge -- how they are authored, issued and displayed -- as well as the function of badging and how they can best be used to service the common goals of your faculty and institution.

Badge Authoring

More than just defining badge levels, though, badge authoring encompasses all visual, syntactic and semantic construction of the badge.

In terms of design, badges may be created using local (desktop or mobile) or web-based graphic design programs. These can include Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop and Vectr, to name a few. There are also online services that offer “point-and-click” badge creation along with access to badge design libraries, including Portfolium, OpenBadges.me and Canva. 

Examples of Badge Issuers

Badge Issuance

As for issuance, badges must go through a issuer for distribution, known as a badge issuer, who acts as an official allocator of badges to individuals as validated by your university faculty. This could include issuers like Badgr and Credly. Badge issuers may simply issue a badge, or go as far as to insert a badge into a recipient's ePortfolio


Badge Earning Pathways

A single badge doesn’t tell the whole student learning story. When combined with a learning pathway, a student can earn badges as they move along any type of curriculum. Instead of one piece of paper awarded at graduation, a student can showcase how they got to that point and the competencies gained along the way. Digital badges simply make it easy to translate those competencies into a public facing skill that is viewable and searchable by employers.


Download eBook → 'Digital Badging In Education:  A Complete Guide for Educators'

Public Badge Detail Page

Digital badges lose their value if they don’t have details attached that communicate to the viewer how it was earned, the skills/competencies it represents, the validity of the issuer, the rubric used to award the badge, and if it is still valid or expired. Each issuer has a badge detail page for the badge that specific learner earned and the ability to validate that badge to ensure it's authentic and current.

So, how do badges circulate in the larger academic and professional ecosystem?

Now, it’s one thing to issue a badge, but that doesn’t mean anything if no one can see it. This is where the significance of sharing comes to play -- and if there’s anything the internet has made unprecedentedly easy, it’s sharing.

Digital Badging in ePortfolio

As a result, a primary agent in housing and sharing badges, along with the evidence and artifacts linked to them, is the fast growing technology of the ePortfolio. ePortfolios are repositories for evidence (work samples, artifacts, projects) and certifications that link to an individual's competencies and achievements.

The growing usage of badges in ePortfolios have proven to play an effective role within the competency marketplace, specifically in its ability to promote discoverability for competency and desired skill-sets among the marketplace actors. With the digital tool, competencies are made discoverable via badges when badge meta-data is indexed by systems such as Portfolium’s TalentMatch platform for recruitment. Competencies are also discoverable when competency badges are embedded in other sources, such as resumes and social media profiles.

What should educators do to get started in badging?

Now that you have the basics down, we can start getting into the nitty gritty: actually implementing badges with your educators and institution.

For a great example of implementation, we can look at the University System of Maryland’s (USM) Spring 2018 Digital Badging Initiative, the latest in a system-wide plan for creating more effective and efficient learning environments through digital credentialing.


Examples of Digital Badges

Establish a set-list of common goals for your badges.

As noted by the USM initiative, the very first step to take is to work together with your institution to design and develop an outline for the goals you want your digital badges to accomplish. Your badging system needs purpose and laying down common goals works to identify them. For the USM institutions, which include over ten campuses, the universal goals to focus on were Collaboration, Communication, Critical Thinking, Globalism, Interculturalism, Leadership, Problem Solving and Professionalism.

Organize and design a timeline-based process.

Laying out deadlines for anything is always hard, but taking a cue from USM's initiative may help. To organize a clear calendar for activation, USM utilized what is known as the Analyze, Design, Develop, Implement and Evaluate (ADDIE) instructional design model. With the model, the institutions were able to inform their processes, show work completed and to be completed, and then list the actions taken during each phase to produce the outcomes in the subsequent step. Included in these steps were the conduction of necessary research, determining badging criteria, choosing a badging platform provider and many others.

Educate your local marketplace actors.

The last (and current) step for the USM Digital Badging Initiative is, of course, actual integration, the step that you will have to take as well to set all your work into motion. As noted by the USM initiative, while the institutions may explore philanthropic interest in supporting the integration with grants, the USM institution must also continue to pilot the constellation of career-ready badges as a proof of concept and work more closely with regional and national employers to help them understand the badges and their role in the recruitment process.


Free Templates → 'Resources for Developing Your Learning Pathways'

As outlined by Brenda Perea, Director of Education and Workforce Solutions at Credly in their Partnering with Employers to Create Workforce-Relevant Credentials field guide, this can be helped achieved utilizing these five strategies rooted in best practices of institutions of higher education around the world:

1. Building A Team of Credential Champions

Bringing together a core group of individuals both inside and outside the institution to focus on creating a new credential ecosystem that harmonizes work internally as well as with employers.

2. Identifying Priority Industries or Employers

Identifying an actionable set of targets—a particular industry or a set of employers - and solve the specific workforce challenges by developing a responsive set of digital credentials.

3. Creating an Onboarding Program

Presenting the new credentials to stakeholders and define the value of those credentials—an approach which directly impacts the adoption of the new credentials.

4. Issuing Credentials

Documenting workforce-relevant achievements with transparency and evidence in a portable, learner-centered medium.

5. Conducting After-Action Reviews

Analyzing what happened, why it happened, and how digital credential initiatives and associated processes can be improved to enable scalability within the institution.

Utilizing these steps (along with reviewing our digital badging initiative checklist and free ebook) ensures that you are another step closer to developing and optimizing your own digital badging initiative for your institution and students campus-wide.


Portfolium - Digital Badging eBook - Download

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