Digital badge creation is a tool available in D2L’s Brightspace platform that many designers are still unaware of. In this article, I want to explore:
- What digital badges are
- Whether or not issuing digital badges is right for your organization
- How digital badging works in Brightspace
- Creating an implementation plan
- Moving forward with your digital badging strategy
Before I go any further, I want to emphasize that I am not a badging expert. I have learned in a badging course I took with the International Accreditors for Continuing Education and Training and through my own trial and error.
What Are Badges?
According to Badgr, the platform chosen by Mozilla to inherit the Mozilla Backpack, a digital badge is not simply a visual representation of a learning accomplishment:
Open Badges were originally designed to serve as a common language for describing skills and learning achievements. More than just a pretty picture, Open Badges contain metadata that allow digital badges to serve as independently verifiable digital credentials. Even the code used to verify digital badges is open source. This ability for independent verification of embedded metadata is what makes digital badges suitable to express a wide array of traditional credentials online in a common, machine-readable format.
Course designers can create digital badges and allow learners to export and share them with others. These badges serve as verifiable proof of learning and demonstrate a person’s continued learning in an area of growth and development. The badge image serves as a container for the verifiable metadata that describes the achievement, making Open Badges fully portable and giving badge recipients control over their own records.
To give you an idea of what digital badges look like, here’s a sample badge that has been uploaded to a Badgr Backpack:
What Is the Backpack?
The Badgr Backpack, formerly known as the Mozilla Backpack, is a central place where a learner can curate the digital badges they have earned from multiple sources. Once a badge has been created and issued, learners can move it into their backpack. From there it can be shared, displayed on social media, verified by third-parties, combined into comprehensive learner records, or used to discover new opportunities. Badgr operates data centers in major regions of the world and is free to users everywhere.
Is Badging Right for Your Organization?
There are a variety of factors your organization should consider when exploring badging. Though it is something I’m passionate and excited about, it has to be acknowledged that badging won’t work for every organization, as it may not fit with their mission or goals.
Questions to consider include:
- Do the positives of badging outweigh the negatives?
- Who should be involved in the process?
- What would our badging structure look like?
- What is our goal through digital badge issuance?
In my experience, badges are great for organizations offering training to external learners, as they provide an added value.
Why Would an Organization Issue Badges?
Digital badges are a great way for organizations to show that their employees are continuing to grow and develop. They can be used as a recruiting tool for potential employees as they demonstrate a commitment to developing current employees by allowing them to grow and advance within the organization.
Digital badges are also valuable for organizations that need to show proof of employee training and development. Issuing badges is a great way to demonstrate that employees are continuing their education, and the path they are taking. Issuance can be tracked by the organization through a variety of methods, including individual courses and D2L’s Data Hub.
How Does Badging Work in the Brightspace Platform?
Let’s take a quick look at how badging works inside D2L’s Brightspace. I will provide my own overview, but detailed instructions for creating badges are also available on D2L’s website.
Badges are managed through the Course Awards screen inside the course. This is where the badge is specifically set up for your course or program.
01. When creating a badge, you will want to pay special attention to the “Allow users in this course to send earned awards to a Badgr Backpack” checkbox. This option should only be enabled for badges that meet your guidelines and that you want exported as part of your program. If this option is checked for all badges and certificates, all of them will be exportable. This can lead to “carpet badging”—awarding badges for everything—and the watering down of your badging program.
02. You will be required to enter metadata for the badge. Be as descriptive as possible. Providing detailed metadata can help increase the value of your badges. Don’t take this phase too lightly. You may find it’s best to organize this information ahead of time.
03. You will see several other metadata fields available, including availability, expiration (our organization plans to set badges to expire after three years), and notification prior to expiration (after three years, for example, you can set it so learners will be prompted to renew their badge/designation).
04. In the next screen, you’ll be prompted to upload your badge image or choose one from the Brightspace platform’s library.
05. The issuer name, issuer URL, and contact information need to be entered.
06. If desired, you can award badges automatically. Using release conditions and Intelligent Agents is a great way to automate some of your workload and allow your learning management system to work for you.
07. The final screen is where you enter how many credits are to be awarded, whether the award should be hidden, and any release conditions that were set up to trigger.
08. In the Classlist Awards screen you’ll be able to see anyone who has earned an award in the module or course. If release conditions are not set up for the badge, you can manually issue or revoke badges on this screen.
Create an Implementation Plan
The next natural step is to create an implementation plan! I’ll break this down into six steps.
1. Identify achievements to include in your badging program
For some organizations this may be an easy part of the process, especially if you have a program with a specific level of achievement already in place. Others may need to dedicate more time and resources for this area.
For example, my organization offers around 80 courses, but we do not offer badges for any individual courses. Badges are only offered for four designation programs. Learners must complete a set of courses in order to be issued a badge.
2. Create a structure
If you do not already have a structure, you will want to identify achievements for which it makes sense to award learners. You will want to avoid carpet badging, which is awarding a badge for everything, as it can cheapen the value of your program.
The image displayed below is an example of requirements needed to earn a badge.
3. Create a prototype
Once you have identified the achievements and structure, you will want to create a prototype badge to demonstrate how the process will flow and work out any potential issues.
4. Review the program with leadership to obtain approval, keeping in mind that this will likely include several phases
Each organization will approach the question of involvement differently, as it will depend on its individual missions and goals.
For organizations that offer training for external learners, only members of the training department may be involved. Other organizations may want to include leadership, as badging programs may have an impact on staffing and recruiting.
My organization is currently in a review process in which the communications division is reviewing our badges to make sure they go along with our branding. We will likely go through a similar process with our Legal Division, Designation Program Board, and Executive team as well.
5. Release the program to a pilot group
Once the badging program has been created and has been approved through all the proper channels, you will want to create a small pilot group to whom you can release the program. This allows you to test the program in a controlled manner with a trusted audience, and the feedback will provide valuable insight into adjustments that should be made before the program is released on a larger scale.
6. Release the program to your target learners.
Once recommendations from your pilot group have been considered and implemented, you will be ready to release the program on a wider scale.
Remember that learners may need to be trained on how to use and display their badges. This could involve educating learners on what badges are, providing them with a list of instructions for creating a Badgr profile, and giving them information on how to link their Badgr profile to their LinkedIn and other social media profiles.
Key Takeaway: Start Your Own Badging Journey!
We covered a lot of material in this article. Ultimately, the intent of this piece was to let your organization know digital badging is an option.
I want to encourage you to explore badging for your organization and to use D2L’s Brightspace platform to its fullest capability. There are a lot of cool tools available in Brightspace that can improve the experience for your learners and help you too!
Brandon Smith, CPTD
Instructional Design Manager
National Association of Insurance Commissioners
Brandon Smith is an Instructional Design Manager with the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC). During his 15 years with the NAIC he has worked in multiple areas of the Education & Training Department. With eight years’ experience in Instructional Design, he has helped create a variety of courses and events, from webinars with hundreds of attendees to in-person events and countless online courses. Brandon loves the daily challenges of course design and the opportunities they present.
Brandon received his Bachelor of Arts from Park University and earned the Certified Professional in Talent Development (CPTD) Certification from the Association for Talent Development. As a lifelong learner he has also received various other certifications including that of HTML5 Specialist.
In his spare time, Brandon loves watching his daughters compete in sports, being active outdoors, traveling with his family, reading and recently picked up gardening. Brandon also volunteers with various organizations fighting human trafficking in the Kansas City area.
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