Open Badges and University

Seeking contaminations among formal, non formal and informal learning
May 9, 2016

Open Badges are often called digital micro-credentials

  • Digital because they are data contained in a .png file according to an open standard (open as in open source).
  • Credentials, in the English sense of credentials - credentials -qualifications which can ensure trust - since each Badge represents an attribute of the person holding it (something he knows how to do, something belonging to him, a goal achieved) and this attribute is declared by a third party, which issues the Badge and guarantees the qualification.
  • Micro  because the typical agility of digital media and the synthesis encouraged by this specific form orient the use of Badges towards certification of “micro” qualifications, of a much finer grain than those usually certified by educational degrees. Open Badges were designed to make visible competencies which can have an origin or a certification which is external or not central to the formal educational curriculum and which is not therefore given  value inside one's educational degree.

How can these digital micro-credentials interact with the formal curriculum and be used to add value to the university system?

Adding value to extra-curricular activities

Universities do not merely offer students a curriculum leading them to graduation: there are a great many initiatives addressed to students which round off the primary teaching offer: these may be experiences more focused on the labour market, on developing cross-competencies and skills, or aimed at stimulating social interaction and networking. Of course the value students obtain taking part in these initiatives lies mainly in the experience itself: learning, getting to know, testing oneself.

How can one highlight the value of such experience to a third party, to a potential employer, as well? The Open Badge could be an answer.

Incoming acknowledgement of activities carried out by students

The University can decide to evaluate as additional credentials for admission to a certain course or for issuing credits the performance of certain activities, organised by the University itself or carried out externally (for example an English language course with a final exam corresponding to a certain level).

The digital nature of the Badge and the fact that it includes mechanisms for verifying both the identity of the holder and the certified competencies make it an excellent candidate for complete de-materialisation of the reception and assessment of this kind of external degrees. For Italian universities, this scenario is further facilitated by the integration of the Bestr platform with the student office system ESSE3.

Providing potential students with micro study activities and relevant micro-degrees

One possible way to bring students closer to the University is to make available – possibly digitally - “samples” of teaching activity, so students can personally true out, as a sort of general test, what will be their main activity during their university career. 

Associating a moment of verification – also possibly digital – to these activities along with the issue of an Open Badge will make it possible to increase the value perceived by the students, and open up the way to possible recognition in terms of access marks or credits by the University itself or by partner Universities or institutions.

...any other ideas?

These hypotheses come from continuous sharing of ideas among the Bestr team, Universities and educators, but the space for imagining, building, dismantling and rebuilding is still wide open.

How else could Open Badges be useful for Universities?