Are institutions willing to risk adding a distinction, a higher badge designation, one in which the learner must also apply knowledge and skills in a real-world situation, successfully reflect on that experience in a way that proves she knows she is thinking and acting differently, and link this experience to others? Unless competency is examined via reflective practice, which itself must be formally taught and practiced, there is no reliable evidence of the habit of mind that employers seek.

Micro-credentials demonstrate students’ competence
Micro-credentials run the risk of becoming just another system of rewards for the masses for modest tests and assignments. If this happens, digital-badge collections could easily become a less-than-transparent diploma with more frequently awarded parts. If that happens, we will not have gained anything.

Challenges notwithstanding, it is clear that micro-credentials can be innovatively structured and applied, given the stimulus of the open source work of IMS Global and the Open Badge initiatives. Technology innovators and educators are entering a hopeful era in which there will be tools available to shape how educators and their organizations communicate that their students are competent.

The benefits of badging
As higher education institutions and employers wrestle with how to best capture student learning and skills, the benefits of micro-credentialing and digital badging are crystallizing:

How to do micro-credentialing and digital badging the right way #highered
  • Evidence of skills and experience. Badges communicate who issued the badge, the relevant criteria, and what goals and standards are linked. The authenticity is verified.  Platforms that allow the learner to attach additional evidence of their competence will be even more meaningful.
  • Range and depth. No longer limited to common official credentials, badges can build upon one another in a portfolio to tell the full story of a learner’s skills, talents. and accomplishments.
  • Multi-platform portability and accessibility. Open Badges can be imported/exported and displayed in a variety of platforms while still maintaining the useful information stored inside.

Open badging is a key element of an answer to the nagging challenge facing higher education and employers. Badging will help learners view their formal education as part of a lifelong continuum of skills acquisition and documentation.

Higher ed needs to bravely take on the challenge of verifying and documenting academic and co-curricular aspects of student learning in a way that allows employers to seek and find the candidates they need.

About the Author:

Geoff Irvine is the chief executive officer and founder of Chalk & Wire. A career educator, he joyfully spent 22 years as a high school history teacher where he won national and international awards for his pioneering work in the use of technology in the classroom. Reluctantly leaving high school to head the research team that developed what has become CW Pro, Irvine now serves as a thought leader in the industry and steers Chalk & Wire to ever greater heights as a responsive developer of assessment solutions and methods. Most recently, he joined the IMS Global Executive Group to contribute to emerging work in the field of alternative certification and badging (MyMantl).


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