Learning management system (LMS) giant Blackboard has partnered with the nonprofit Mozilla to introduce a new update to its LMS software that would support the use of digital badges in education.
With the update, students can use Mozilla’s Open Badges Infrastructure to earn digital badges through the Blackboard Learn system and then share those badges across the internet.
The concept is an attempt to recognize achievements and skills that are not always illustrated by a college transcript or degree. A journalism degree, for example, demonstrates graduating from such a program, but may not show a future employer that the graduate excels in using social media to find sources.
Digital badges could help denote achievements in massive open online courses (MOOCs) and other forms of online learning that don’t use traditional means of accreditation.
Think Boy Scout badges, but instead of earning a badge for camping, a student can earn one for leading a group discussion or mastering HTML.
The successful implementation of digital badges relies, of course, on their adoption by educators and employers as an accepted standard for denoting knowledge and skills. Support from a company like Blackboard, whose software is used by more than 9,000 institutions in 60 countries, could nudge the idea closer to the mainstream.
See Page 2 for how students can use digital badges beyond the classroom.
“It’s a very hot topic and I think people are really trying to think about how to make badges relevant for a learner,” said Jessica Finnefrock, senior vice president for product development at Blackboard. “It’s the right time to experiment with it.”
That experiment involves allowing educators to grant badges to students who accomplish certain achievements, whether it’s a singular activity like completing an assignment, or the mastery of an entire concept or course.
With Open Badges, the students can then take those badges anywhere, displaying them online through social media profiles like LinkedIn.
Students can pick and choose which badges they want to display to potential employers, and which they want to just use to denote personal progress.
This fall, Blackboard and Mozilla will offer a six-week MOOC exploring the concept of digital badges, and how they can act as a bridge between higher education and the workplace.
“This is not a tool we think 100 percent of faculty and schools will be using in six months, but many will be,” Finnefrock said. “We’re really looking for those early adopters to help us figure out how this should evolve. What are their students clamoring for as part of their larger identity? How do we manage moving across classroom and work boundaries? There are lots of different places we can take this.”