Digital Badges, particularly those that are Open (Mozilla, 2014) are gaining traction as a means of evidencing experiences, achievements and skills acquired as part of learning but which are not otherwise accredited or evidenced. For example, digital badges are specifically encouraged by the new 2014 school computing curriculum (Computing at School and NAACE, 2013). It seems likely that our students will soon be bringing their badges in to higher and further education, with the expectation of adding institutionally ‘endorsed’ badges to their collection. Indeed, some UK institutions have already started offering badges and others are considering the many ways in which they might be used.
However if badges are to be valuable and sustainable, an approach is required that is flexible enough ‘endorse’ non-accredited activity but retains sufficient control to manage issues such as quality, value, rigouressness and institutional reputation. This is a difficult balancing act and informal enquiries through professional higher education networks have revealed a degree of interest but no actual means of addressing this challenge.
The added value that digital badges could bring in terms of helping students to articulate and evidence unaccredited achievements whilst on a programme of study makes it worth grappling with this knotty issue. Therefore we have looked at digital badges primarily as a means of enhancing employability in line with extra and co curricular activities, institutional awards, graduate attributes mappings and other frameworks. These are suitable for inclusion in the Higher Education Achievement Report (HEAR) but are often managed and delivered through a variety of on and off-line systems.
During the session we will present a framework that draws these elements together into a coherent system for recognising non-accredited activities, linking together a range of delivery methods, activities, storage and display systems. This is done with the primary aim of enabling students to provide prospective employers with a richer picture of their achievements.
However this will not be achieved without addressing changes to policy, practice and technology. Of these, technological modifications are the least problematic as they take place in the background and should be largely invisible to the end user. Bigger challenges that will be discussed centre on amendments to policy and practice. For example, explicitly addressing elements of the framework at the programme development stage entails changes in academic regulations, curriculum design documentation and the process itself. All require championing at high level and support from a robust approach to staff support and development until new priorities and ways of working are embedded.