For those who are unfamiliar with this emerging trend, a digital badge is a hyperlinked icon that signifies an accomplishment or an achievement. Like a traditional badge you might be picturing from your days as a Boy or Girl Scout, a digital badge recognizes and rewards a job well done. Unlike traditional badges, however, digital badges are hyperlinked with data, which can include evidence of the learning that took place and verification of the achievement from the issuing individual or organization. Once earned, a digital badge can easily be shared with admissions committees or potential employers, on professional networks and digital portfolios, with a simple click of the mouse.
The initial design and set up of our site was facilitated by LearningTimes, the developers of BadgeOS. Once it was up and running, however, it has been up to us to manage the site, troubleshoot with students, update plugins, and track down the developers when something isn’t working. By now most of the kinks have been worked out, but as a non-programmer it was a learning process, and a good amount of time is spent troubleshooting and orienting students and faculty to the site. For those interested in creating standalone badges, rather than a full-fledged badging system, Credly provides a simple platform for issuing badges, and even includes a built-in badge-creation tool.
Use of the site is typically initiated via a meeting with a disciplinary faculty member, who is often aiming to incorporate information literacy instruction into their classes as part of UAlbany’s general education requirement. Badging assignments are sometimes assigned as a precursor to a face-to-face library session. This flipped classroom model yields benefits for both the instructor, who gains insight into student understanding, and the students, who have a chance to grapple with core components. The class time is maximized by providing the opportunity to tackle more nuanced or sophisticated elements.
Some instructors might assign a full series of activities, such as the Search Strategizing challenge, while others might select a variety of quests that focus on particular instructional needs, such as the Giving Credit quest, which addresses plagiarism and the Format quest, which encourages students to make distinctions between web-based resources. A group and course page is created for each participating class, and a customized registration handout is provided to instructors to share with their students. While the librarians assist with initial planning and navigation of the site, and will often view student work prior to a library session, teaching faculty are ultimately responsible for reviewing the work of their students and deciding how much credit they want to award for completion of the assignments in the context of the course syllabus. We anticipated that there might be resistance to using the badges in courses because of the need to review students’ work, but have found that this is not the case.
Trudi Jacobson, MLS, MA, is the Head of the Information Literacy Department at the University at Albany Libraries. She was co-chair of the ACRL Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education Task Force. She received the Miriam Dudley Instruction Librarian of the Year award in 2009. Her research involves metaliteracy, including digital badging for metaliteracy abilities. Her latest book, written with Tom Mackey, is Metaliteracy: Reinventing Information Literacies to Empower Learners(ALA Editions, 2014). Previously, they co-edited four volumes on library/faculty information literacy collaborative endeavors. She, along with Kelsey and several colleagues from the University at Albany and SUNY Empire State College, have had two MOOCs running this spring, one on Coursera and one on Canvas.
Kelsey O'Brien is an Information Literacy Librarian at the University at Albany, SUNY. Over the last two years she has been working on developing and implementing the Metaliteracy Badging System and expanding its reach as an OER. She is currently co-facilitating two MOOCs focused on metaliteracy, one of which offered the opportunity for students to earn the Digital Citizen badge. Kelsey has previously worked as a high school Library Media Specialist and a Youth Services Librarian. Her research interests include competency-based learning, creative publication tools and alternative credentialing.