Open Badges for Degrees at the University of Padova
October 2018: after a test period of 1 year with Badges related to extracurricular activities and cross-curricular skills, the University of Padova will start issuing Open Badges concurrent with the end of the degree courses. Initially only for master’s degree courses – starting with Agricultural Science, Veterinary Science, Economics, Psychology – but the aim is to introduce within 1 year open badges for all University courses.
We talked about it with Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Education, Daniela Mapelli.
What’s the reason behind the decision by the University of Padova to issue Open Badges for degree courses?
Our university is one of the largest and oldest in Europe and for many years it has actively participated in the meetings of European organisations that contribute to defining guidelines and standards for higher education in Europe, such as the European Higher Education Area. One of the objectives for 2020 was to issue the Diploma Supplement to all students: we were already doing it on demand but from 2018 we do it automatically for all graduates.
A document was published in May (EHEA Paris Communiqué, 25 May 2018) that identifies a strategy for pursuing the objectives of the Bologna process: one of the first steps is to enable the automatic recognition of higher education qualifications in all countries. To achieve this goal, it’s necessary to achieve first one of the other objectives set by European universities: the digital certification of all qualifications in a transparent and practical way.
You cannot achieve automatism without digitalisation: it’s for this reason that Open Badges as an open standard are the ideal solution and they will become even more important once they are certified in the Blockchain.
How will university students be affected by this change?
The introduction of the Open Badges follows another innovation of the University of Padova that is implemented as soon as the degree is conferred: the degree is registered online and the student immediately receives the degree certificate: this way it’s much faster and more practical (both for the student and the University) and it saves costs (shipping and storage).
Now, as soon as the Degree Committee Chairman finalises the registration, the students receive immediately on their email account not only the degree certificate but also the Open Badge that they can then download from the platform.
What are the other advantages of Open Badges besides the digitisation of certifications?
First, the Open Badges that we issue through Bestr show the information both in Italian and in English, a great plus for our graduates.
In addition, our Open Badges for degrees contain a good amount of relevant information, they are not a duplicate of the Diploma Supplement but highlight the skills acquired in each degree course: the contents of the Badge are in fact defined by the Head of each Degree Course.
Also, it contains detailed information on the student to understand the value and the scope of their qualifications: the final grade and the average of the marks gained in exams compared to the percentage of the other students in the same course, the title of the thesis and the “keywords” which are partly defined by the Head of the Degree Course for all students and partly by the student as keywords for their thesis.
Are students and teachers involved in this innovation process?
We have not released any official information to the students yet (we only inform them individually as soon as it becomes relevant), but we have involved the students who are members of University Institutions (Academic Senate, Board of Directors, Committees, Groups for the self-evaluation of degree programmes…): at the end of the first year of activities, those who have attended at least 80% of the meetings of their institution obtain the “Student Representation” Open Badge that certifies their participation in the activities of the University and the cross-curricular skills acquired in the context.
Padova is the only university to give formal recognition to student representatives and even more so to do it through Open Badges.
Another example is the “Inclusive peer tutor” Open Badge which attests to the student’s ability to help students with disabilities or learning difficulties to study and participate in university activities in order to create an inclusive university environment.
We are also planning some special activities with school directors first and heads of degree courses later: describing the achievements of a degree course in terms of the skills acquired is an important step in a student’s cultural growth that needs to be particularly considered; especially in anticipation of the big change happening next year when we will start using the blockchain and support it on the platform we are using, Bestr by Cineca.
Before introducing Degree Badges, the University of Padova had already started using other Badges during the past year: is it a progressive process?
Yes, we have gradually introduced new types of Open Badges to cover the three major cases: academic qualifications, curricular skills (e.g., foreign languages, with proficiency recognized in the degree course through ECTS credits), cross-curricular skills that are not the main subject of university education but are still part of a student’s learning pathway in university, for example, cardiovascular reanimation.
With regard to this, we think of education as a lifelong learning activity and so we are the first university to recognise not only the skills of students but also those of teachers. They are encouraged to continuously keep themselves up to date with new teaching techniques and for this reason, they receive the Open Badge for the Teaching4Learning project.