Digital badges also have exploded in popularity this year. Merit is an application that more than 500 colleges and universities now use to validate and promote students’ accomplishments. From making the dean’s list to taking a service-oriented spring break, students are awarded standardized digital badges denoting successes on campus.
The badges, or merits, are then displayed on an individual Merit Page that is easily shared through social media.
Mozilla’s Open Badges project employs a similar digital badging system that can be shared through social media, though one that is less standardized as educators can create their own badges using their own criteria.
This past fall, the WICHE Cooperative for Education Technologies partnered with Mozilla, Blackboard, and Sage Road Solutions to explore the possibilities of digital badges through a massive open online course.
But as Anne Derryberry, one of the course designers, noted in an article for eCampus News, the emergence of digital badges has created key questions for accreditors to address going forward.
“Many postsecondary institutions are considering, even preparing to implement, badges within academic programs and for faculty development,” she wrote. “As these institutions and others contemplating using badges evaluate the suitability of badges for their programs, questions come up about how badges might be encompassed within an institution’s accreditation.”
Unlike degrees, she noted, badges don’t need to represent just mastery. They also can acknowledge skills and abilities that lead up to mastery.
“This granularity supports stackable credentials that allow institutions to take a modular approach to curriculum design, with badges for core competencies providing a cross-curricular foundation,” Derryberry wrote. “These are also the very reasons that badges challenge the way accreditation is currently designed and how it currently functions.”