Redefining Grades, Degrees, and Schools with Badges
A grade says so little about what a student has learned in a class. A GPA says even less. And a degree verifies that a person has been successfully navigated a college program of study but it says very little about the actual skills a person has.
Digital badges however, redefine grading. A course that awards digital badges for verified learning and skills sends students to future classes and careers with proof of what they have learned. A degree based on a collection of badges has a meaning that future schools or employers can access. What people need now and into the future are grades and degrees that better reflect what they know and what they can do. Badges do this.
A digital badge is something you earn by accomplishing something important. Scouts, gamers, and the military give badges (or medals) for skills learned and proven with solid evidence. Like a martial arts belt, you must study and show that you know the skills to an expert who verifies your mastery. You can then move on to master more difficult skills.
In the educational systems of the future, where learning can be done online and through many institutions, badging is the way to go to show off what a person can do and what they have learned.
I am starting the process of moving my courses and my grades to a badge-based system. I’m only at the beginning, but I’m moving there. I hope to move my academy program toward using badges in the future, but I want to work through the issues with my classes first. Maybe in the future my whole school and District can start issuing badges.
I started with a skill most of my media students accomplish, simple video editing. I made the badge first.
Once I had the badge, I needed criteria for earning it. It’s level 1 editing so I just want the students to know the basics. So I created a list of skills and a rubric for earning the badge. I would like to decentralize the issuing of badges so that any teachers in our academy can grant them. Also, the skills and requirements for a badge need to be clear to the earners as well as anyone looking at what the badges signify, like an employer. It’s very important to the badging movement that each badge has requirements that are verified by a qualified person and that badges are backed up with evidence that is available verifying the skills signified by the badge.
Mozilla has created an OpenBadges system where links to evidence and the issuing entity are baked into the graphics format of the badge. This kind of badge is more than just a graphic that anyone can copy and post on their webpage. These badges digitally belong only to the person who earned it and the issuing school. Someone copying and sharing one of these badges is only sharing your credentials, not theirs. I tried to load the OpenBadges software onto our server at school but it’s not working yet. I hope to get it working in the future but I can’t let complicated software stop me.
After looking at quite a few badge systems, I settled on Credly.com. Credly has the features I need. The first great feature is that I could get started for free. With a free account I can do everything I need to do now to create badges, list criteria for badges, link to evidence, and I can also issue the badges in a simple way to my students.
I uploaded my badge design and issued my first badges to a couple of my best students and I also issued it to myself so I could see what it looked like from the earners’ end.
Here’s a look at the Credly account I created:
And to receive the badge I created another Credly account with my personal address. Here is an image of the screen that shows the earned badge.
You can see that each badge comes with a description, criteria for earning the badge, and a link to evidence that supports the badge’s claim.
Next, I am going to introduce my students to badges and how they can earn them. Once I streamline my process of issuing badges I then want to work toward basing my grades off of badges earned rather than assignments, quizzes, and tests. Earning badges can be based on assessments, there’s nothing wrong with that, but grades should be based on learning and verified accomplishments.