We’re more convinced than ever that meaningful credentials—ones that capture, develop and assess “soft skills”—will become an important currency for employers and developmental tool for schools and students. Figuring this out in ways that work across the ecosystem is key to supporting experiential and trans-disciplinary learning. Prototyping digital badges across the market for over two and a half years to students, employers, entrepreneurs, and even schools themselves has been fascinating. Georgetown University has awarded the first prototype badges, and students’ reactions tell us about the importance of this work. As we look for a few more schools with whom to partner on these badges, here’s a synopsis of what we’ve learned from these players. If you want to learn more about working with us on building a badge, visit our webpage and join the #BadgingChallenge.


From Students: Badges provide a clear pathway for learning and career aspirations

Students are searching for relevancy in the activities in which they are engaged, but too often the focus is on completing them instead of making meaning of them or reflecting on the experiences. Earning a digital badge can and should provide moments of reflection, which deepens learning and adds internal value to an external facing credential.

Earning a digital badge can be a highly transformative process for students. When the badge is designed so that students intentionally practice and apply the skills the badge represents to their life inside and outside of the classroom, students can develop a new narrative and ways to describe themselves and the skills they bring to the table.

Students can actually appreciate certain types of assessments, in particular those that are actionable and provide ways in which they can further their development. A raw score isn’t as informative or useful to students as a disposition profile. The latter allows the student to see him or herself in a different light and encourages them to consider their strengths, weaknesses and dispositions when interacting with others in various settings.

Mentors matter, which Gallup has identified as critical in recent research on the well being of college students during and beyond college. When mentoring is woven into the digital badge’s earning process, students can have open and honest conversations with a trusted figure, pressure testing assessment results, setting goals for further development, applying learning to the world of work and future career aspirations, etc.

 

From Schools: Universities value the design experience of a badge as an opportunity to transform themselves

The T-Shaped Learner

For universities, the most important utility of a badge has been as a development tool. Universities are finding the biggest value of this design process is the opportunity and mandate to rethink teaching and learning around these skills.

For schools, this means redefining the learning experience for a T-shaped learner, where students develop skills that cut across industries and skills that are industry-specific. For example, a student wanting to become a full-stack developer would develop cross-industry skills like collaboration, critical thinking, and resilience; and industry-specific skills like JavaScript, HTML, and UX/UI.

Thinking about the “T” allows schools to get outside the silos of departments and majors.

From Employers: Badges could dramatically reduce hiring costs and improve hiring outcomes.

With 427,000 resumes posted weekly on Monster.com and job postings attracting an average 250 resumes, employers are faced with two suboptimal choices for evaluating first-round candidates: Weed them out using easy-to-sift yet largely irrelevant criteria like GPA, or spend enormous amounts of time and resources perusing each application.

By giving employers something easy and meaningful to search for, digital badges provide an effective alternative that can save employers time and increase the quality of candidates that advance beyond resume checks.

 

From Everyone: The design criteria for badges must align the needs of students, universities, and employers.

Early in the design process, we vetted five design criteria that all badges must meet, particularly in how they shape their core components of knowledge, assessment, and experience:

Rigorous The badge represents a legitimate credentialing of industry expectations

Transparent The components of a badge are open and clearly defined

Portable The badge is recognized within and across industries, vertically and horizontally

Assessable The badge represents a quantified and/or qualified professional skill

Simplistic However rigorous and complex the process to acquire it, the badge expresses its core components in a communicable credential


What’s Next?

These ideas for shaping and defining badges are critical to ensuring they’re valuable for employers and potential employees. Our next step is to continue to work with a diverse group of universities to design and prototype these badges. Here are some of our current partners:

Georgetown University (Catalyst badge)
George Mason University (Resilience badge)
University of Virginia (Creative Problem Solving badge)
Credly, Checkster, FourSight, Creative Education Foundation,
Gallup, & Connecting Credentials

 

Want to learn more about digital badges?

Visit our page to join the #BadgingChallenge!