Monday, July 6, 2015

Connecting Students and Teachers with Open Digital Badges

by James Willis, Dan Hickey, and John Foster*

John Foster, Ph.D. (guest blogger) is President/CEO of NOCTI and its subsidiary, Nocti Business Solutions

The Open Badges in Higher Education project is collaborating with a number of entrepreneurs who are expanding into digital badges. Recognizing prior learning assessment (PLA) has been difficult to work into the curricula of numerous programs. This is due to a number of reasons which may include lack of uniformity, difficulty of assessment, and inability to situate prior learning into an existing curriculum. That is not to say, however, that learning hasn't happened. As those who work to connect prior learning, alternative credentialing, and skills assessment can attest, prior learning can provide compelling evidence for learner capability in job and academic skills.

Through the power of evidence, open digital badges help bridge the gap between formalized curricula and prior learning. Perhaps new in the way badges are used across educational opportunities, NOCTI is connecting students and teachers not only during the educational process through its innovative crowdsourcing pilot, but also as a means for NOCTI to connect them after learning, via PLA. This shift in the chronology of learning is important because it also shifts the teacher - student dynamic. Not only does this extend the time of influence of a particular teacher, it also means student motivation can take on new dimensions. This likewise translates into a new kind of meaning-making because it helps provide the student recognition that past learning is important to future success.

As the "largest provider of industry-based credentials and partner industry certifications for career and technical education (CTE) programs across the nation," NOCTI uses "skills badges" to demonstrate proficiency and attainment via its assessments. The NOCTI SkillBadge also comes with a "college credit recommendation report."
NOCTI badge for Home Health Aide
NOCTI Badge for Maintenance Operations
NOCTI badges use a visual presentation that denotes specific characteristics. Note, for example, the "N" in the background (to indicate it was issued by NOCTI) and the images in the foreground. The images at the bottom convey the area of specialization, and the graduation cap at the top indicates the recommendation for college credit. SkillBadges are also color coded: green indicates a pathway assessment and orange indicates achievement of a job ready assessment. NOCTI also has a thorough FAQ sheet to indicate how to claim the badge, how to share it, and how to examine the metadata.

Issuing digital badges for workforce training and professional development is a relatively new initiative. The potential for growth in this sector, coupled with the ability to stay connected with a teacher, is certainly exciting.

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