In Colorado, digital badging is on the rise. The Colorado Community College System (CCCS) has built badging initiatives around technical math, advanced manufacturing, and healthcare and the badges are working. In fact, the system currently offers more than 85 badges.
CCCS developed a badge for an advanced manufacturing software program. A company called the CCCS office and said it had trouble finding people that could operate its software. Students shared their badges and within weeks the company filled the open seats.
In Boulder, students who earned horticulture badges received a raise from the city of Boulder Parks & Recreation department.
Here are some of the lessons they’ve learned.
How to develop a strong higher-ed badging initiative
Lesson 1: Start by developing a robust infrastructure.
“Our programs are successful across the state because they offer industry relevance, provide local value, and are learner—not student—centric,” says Mike Macklin, associate provost for workforce partnerships/development for CCCS.
Lesson 2: Bring everyone to the table at the onset.
Start the conversation about the badging initiative with industry. As Macklin says, “The long-term success of the program is in the industry’s adoption of the credentials.”
The CCCS partners with industry as well as the state’s workforce development council, which provides access to sector partnerships throughout the state and allows CCCS to work with a broad number of industry partners representing a specific industry.
“In advanced manufacturing, you go to one sector partnership instead of 25 businesses to understand competencies and skills and see what skills are deficient,” says Macklin.
Lesson 3: Identify the industry’s needs and competencies.
“We work with subject-matter experts including faculty throughout the system, industry experts, and company people and partner them with instructional design experts to align the work-based competencies with academic competencies,” says Dr. Landon Pirius, interim provost and vice president for organizational effectiveness, student affairs, and strategic initiatives for CCCS. Because Colorado has a common course numbering system across all two-year institutions in the state, they can do this alignment easily and give credit for prior learning.
Lesson 4: Determine the best way to assess learning.
Pirius says that when the IMS Global badge standard came out, there was a large emphasis on the ability to submit evidence and that it was a great addition to badge standards. “Today you can submit digital evidence of learning instead of passing a written exam. For example, you could submit a video of you welding and show what it looks like upon completion. There’s a lot of value in that.”
Tips for colleges starting a badging program
- Don’t overanalyze or over think the development of the structure. “I’ve seen a lot get bogged down by over planning,” says Macklin. “Consider rigor being a top priority. Employers want to know that someone can do a particular skill or complete a task when asked. It must have industry relevance.”
- Keep the learner in the center of any development. Both the employer and learner must embrace and pursue the credential, says Macklin. “Sometimes we lost sight of the learner.”
The future of digital badges
Look for badges to be displayed in more creative ways. “We have a gardening program and a landscaper turned his badge into a magnet and put it on his truck,” says Macklin.
In addition, Pirius says there is pressure from software and industry developers to get LinkedIn to more intentionally have a place for badges. Last but not least, as resumes go more electronic, there will be more badging that allows for machine readability.