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Live Blogging International Day of Badges: America

The International Day of Badges in Higher Ed focused on American badge systems this afternoon, including three very different (and interesting) implementations, including Kate Radionoff (Madison College, Wisconsin), Mike Goudzwaard and Adam Nemeroff (Dartmouth College), and John Foster (NOCTI).


Madison College, Madison, Wisconsin: Kate Radionoff and Lesley Voigt,
Badges in the south central Wisconsin workforce

Kate started off her presentation explaining that Madison College has been using digital badges since 2012. Currently, they offer 40 indidivdual badges, and have issued over 600 badges (this number continues to grow daily). By June of 2016, they anticipate adding another 40 individual badgesvia their business and industry classes curriculum. Madison College developed rigorous standards for each badge they created, including assessment. Currently, these badges are professional development and not tied to college credit. The platform that they use for badging is Pearson’s Acclaim.

As an example of a badging partnership they have developed, Kate talked about Cleary Building Corporation, who asked Madison College to badge their in-house training and help them develop a way to efficiently track their training. Because Madison College would have their name affiliated with the badge, they first verified the curriclum and made sure it was being assessed to their standard. At the moment, they are currently only badging Cleary’s sales training, and are also in the process of writing a white paper in conjunction with Cleary.

Madison College has been using their system for two years and Kate says they have been very happy with it. They are currently branching out into business and industry classes, and are looking at adding assessment data into the badge system, which they plan to pilot next spring. They are also preparing to badge their certificate programs. Because the current badges are non-credit and not transcripted, they offer a way to provide a digital transcript of the classes offered.

Kate also shared an interesting observation about the indirect marketing benefit that experienced with their badge system. For Kate’s cost-recovery department, that has had a real impact on them, what she referred to as a “happy side effect.”  


Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire: Mike Goudzwaard and Adam Nemeroff,
Badges in OperaX, a Dartmouth MOOC

Mike and Adam rapidly developed and developed their badge system only a week before their six-week MOOC course launched (!). Held on the EdX MOOC platform, their course OperaX teaches students about Italian opera and includes five learning objectives:

  • Trace the history and evolution of Italian opera from Italian operas orgins to the early 20th century. Analyze and explore the various conventions found in Italian opera performances
  • Practice using close musical listening skills while viewing and listening to Italian opera
  • Practice applying musical analysis skills to examine the dramatic purposes of certain musical moments

Adam and Mike designed the course to have three badges with a variety of stackable badges. The breakdown of the badges includes:

  • Composer: Curator, reddit, Recommender, Synthesizer
  • Community: Meetup Lead, Local Global, Connector
  • Opera: Discussion, Hangout

Their badge system was developed using BadgeOS for Wordpress, a free plug-in developed by Credly. While the plug-in is free, Adam and Mike did pay for the leaderboard, an additional feature. They found it was easy to define badges in the platform. Only the main three badges: Community, Composer, and Opera badges can be shared on Credly; the other stackable badges display inside OperaX.

Why develop the badge system? Mike and Adam were looking for student-submitted evidence because at the MOOC level, they wouldn’t have time to go looking for nominations. When a student submits evidence, they click on the stackable badge. At that point it queues up a workflow for Mike or Adam to review. Students can do a text entry, or they can paste it or submit a screenshot. They are excited to see how many students engage and said they will share this information when they have it.

Throughout the MOOC, they have been prompting students with opportunities to earn badges and have been telling them how to do this during Google Hangouts. One of the questions they asked themselves was whether anyone would be interested in badges not tied to grading. They are beginning to recognize names of people who go for every single badge, who are looking to engage socially, and earn all the badges right away.

Ideally, Mike and Adam wanted to find an integrated badging ecosystem within EdX, which wasn’t the case. They did mention that Badgr is in deveopment, which will work with EdX. In design meetings, they discussed whether to dive in and wait for the technology to catch up, and ultimately decided that BadgeOS  gave them the opportunity to rapidly build the system. To read more about their process, visit:

As EdX users may be aware, there are EdX certificates; Mike and Adam did not design an overall or metabadge for their MOOC course because they did not want to confuse it with the certificate, so they kept them separate.

What’s next? They may develop additional OperaX courese featuring French and German opera, and have considered bading other MOOCs at Dartmouth. Looking ahead, when OperaX goes into a self-paced version, they may use the badges to identify people who could serve as moderators or serve in a TA role.


NOCTI, Michigan and online:  John Foster
Badges for Workplace Skills

John’s work is not directy affiliated with a university or college, although NOCTI certain works in and among institutions of higher learning.

NOCTI stands for National Occupational Competency Testing Institute, and they are a 501c3 nonprofit organization that has been around for 50 years, are owned and operated by all 50 states and currently work with both secondary and post-secondary populations. There is a NOCTI business solutions subsidiary that provides services to industry, as well.

Over the years, they have evolved the following services:

  • 1960s: teacher testing. (501c3)
  • 1980s: student testing
  • 1990s: industry pre-employment testing
  • 2000s: industry association certification

NOCTI focuses on technical skill development and assessment, including some soft skills. Their credentials are based on national industry-based standards, and they use a nationally validated process to avoid bias for any particular industry. In addition to approximately 110 of NOCTI’s own credentials, they also partner with organizations and support their credential systems.

John said that NOCTI became interested in digital badges about 4 years ago as a way to recognize competence. He gave the example of an occupation like carpentry, which is a whole endeavor that includes individual competencies.

NOCTI, like many other organizations who have looked at badges, were curious to see if there were motivational aspects. Anecotcal surveys confirmed for them that when badges are tied to a particular assessemnt or credential, badge earners are motivated to share their credentials with  teachers or others in their social networks. When NOCTI surveyed kids, they said they wanted to share their badges with teachers because they were grateful for the skills and competencies they acquired and liked sharing the badge as a way to thank the instructor.

NOCTI built their own platform, which is based on Mozilla’s open badge standards.  Badge earners can sort them into collections (John showed his own collections, which included technical and workplace badges).

John also mentioned the different ways that NOCTI engages in badge issuing, whether through collaboration partnerships (i.e. Association for Career and Tech Educators), or their work with prior learning assessment process.

We spent some time looking at the NOCTI Skill Badge and Locker where earners can store their badges and link them to other sites like LinkedIn, Google +, Twitter, and other social media platforms. A collection can include a lot of different categories, including fun badges, professional development (both public and private), college credit, and an advocacy badge from the Badge Alliance.


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