Digital Badges for Professional Development

A continuing series from the University of Calgary’s “Design for Learning” conference on university learning and teaching this week (#ticonf2015 on Twitter). I’m live-blogging my notes, so forgive my typos and omissions.

This morning I’m in a session on Micro-Credentialing and Badges, offered by the Educational Development Unit team: Lin Yu, Patti Dyjur, Kevin Saito (who designed the amazing conference app), and Joni Miltenburg. It has clear links to the project my team and I presented yesterday, on our digital badge system in English 205 (Foundations: Shakespeare).
The focus this morning is more about professional development systems than academic courses like mine, but it lives on a far more sophisticated and integrated system than we managed to jury-rig ourselves. Their FAQ page addresses a lot of initial questions I had about the system.

The three badges that you can earn through the Taylor Institute’s platform are for completing workshops like the Teaching Online Program or the Course Design Program. And happily, it seems that my presentation yesterday earned me a badge for presenting at his conference. Here are all three:
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There are also others issued by others on campus, like the Faculty of Education for their teaching assistants.

There aren’t many studies yet of badges for professional development – the team tihs morning is launching a study now. But it’s clear that with the embedded metadata, badges can encapsulate your professional learning and experience. If you earn an award, go to a conference or seminar, complete a MOOC, or do a guest presentation – whatever you do that designates your knowledge or experience, you can display it to others.

So where would you display badges that you earn? Professional social networks like LinkedIn were one option – though unless I’m mistaken, few academics are using it. The best system is probably Mozilla’s OpenBadges platform, because its ‘Backpack’ feature will work with a range of systems – including LinkedIn.

The fact is that it depends on community acceptance. You can issue all the badges you like, but if they’re not integrated into existing credential systems they won’t really resonate. Right now there are certificates, diplomas, letters of recognition, and a range of other ways to externalize your achievements. But until tenure and promotion committees for academics are prepared to accept badges for tenure applications, they’ll just float in the digital ether.

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