"So, You Want to See My Badges?" Is Now More Than a Movie Line

UC Davis has been a pioneer in many areas – fistulated cows, square tomatoes – but one of the things that is getting a lot of attention from fellow colleges and universities is its new badging system. According to InsideHigherEd.com:

The University of California at Davis is creating what may be higher education’s most promising digital badge system. 

The idea was hatched as the university worked toward the 2011 launch of the sustainable ag major. It’s an ambitious interdisciplinary program, featuring collaboration among eight departments in the university’s College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences as well as the Agricultural Sustainability Institute.

The new curriculum is particularly hands-on, with lots of experiential learning that occurs outside the classroom, such as through internships and fieldwork. Much of that learning isn’t captured by conventional grading.

Badges…describe the learning outcomes and skills students need to successfully complete the major.

Each competency connects to digital badges students can earn for their experiences, skills and knowledge. The badges themselves are graphical representations of an accomplishment – basically the digital version of a felt patch a Boy or Girl Scout might earn.

This fall 20 students experimented with the badging system as part of a senior “capstone” course. Badges are not formally awarded at this point, as the system is still in its testing phase. But…the sustainable agriculture programs plans to expand their use next semester. At some point assessments from faculty members and peers, as well as self-assessments, will be part of a final review process for the awarding of badges.

Students create an online profile where they can display the badges. Each one might be accompanied by detailed information, including a description of the student’s experience, what they learned, photos, diagrams or even assessment scores.

Digital badges are a trendy idea. Many predict the nascent form of credentialing could pose a challenge to higher education. Ideally, badges could give people new ways beyond college credentials to prove what they know and can do.

UC Davis is one of the first traditional institutions to give badging a whirl.

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