5 of your most common questions about badges, answered

Expert Insight

5 of your most common questions about badges, answered

COE leaders demonstrate an interest in flexible-format credentials for future program development efforts. Since 2015, we have had nearly 600 incoming research requests on alternative and short-format credentials. Despite the availability of numerous credentials, many members seek advice on badges.

To help address the most common questions, we’ve gathered five popular requests to learn more about badges.

1. How do badges differ from other alternative credentials?

Badges have two key characteristics that make them different from the larger portfolio of alternative credentials:

  • They focus on singular skills and competencies, such as communication, collaboration, and writing.
  • They primarily exist in a digital format. Badges are meant to be easily shared on digital platforms to display and endorse students’ abilities.

Badges attempt to solve a problem that adults seeking employment or promotion tend to face: The need for short, concrete, and skill-based programs. If a candidate applies for a job and needs a specific skill, they may want to earn a credential that displays mastery of a skill quickly. Once employed, professionals must continuously develop their skills in response to technological advancement. If successful, badges allow professionals to learn a skill quickly and display it on their resume without investing in lengthy or costly degree programs.

2. What are the common structural elements of badges (i.e., cost, time to completion)?

The lack of universal or accepted definition of badges results in a range of structures. Institutions may choose to award badges to articulate the skills gained within existing coursework and therefore award badges at no fee beyond typical tuition rates. Badges offered through university partnerships or vendors may charge a fee, such as the $25 assessment fee to earn a badge through the University Learning Store.

Time to completion also varies depending on the badge provider and skill area, but most take as few as a couple of hours, while others might take a couple of weeks.

3. What are the different kinds of badge formats?

Badges range from standalone offerings that can be purchased by students to those that align with employer needs or are embedded in existing partnerships.

4. Do employers understand the value of badges?

Badges’ ability to communicate skill acquisition remains limited because of the extreme diversity in the badge landscape. Employers recognize traditional degrees, but often do not understand the weight or value of badges. For example, employers recognize the types of courses and the curricular outcomes of an accounting degree, but do not know the type of work that a potential employee put in to an accounting badge. Unfortunately, most employers do not understand the value carried by badges awarded at educational institutions, though badges awarded internally to employees by corporations carry greater value.

Badges achieve greater acceptance with the possibility of concrete skill demonstration. In technology fields for example, a skills test or work sample could prove mastery of interactive website design (a badge awarded by Harper College) or use of IBM Campaign (recognized as the IBM Campaign v9.x-Implementer badge).

5. How challenging will it be to implement badging at my institution?

COE units looking to incorporate badging face challenges with multiple stakeholders prior to implementation.

  • Successful badging often depends on strategic partnerships with employers who maximize the value of badges for students looking to advance or change careers by determining the skills necessary for employment and assisting in badge creation.
  • COE leadership must choose the type of badging that corresponds with their student audiences and curricular offerings. For example, Excelsior College awards badges to students in professional programs to complement the skills learned in their academic courses.
  • Institutions must determine if they need to work with a vendor or external partner to offer badges. Due to the digital nature of most badging, the data behind the badge carries value for the student as it allows them to share the badge in the future. Academic leaders should determine if they have the capacity to develop these types of badges or fund an external partnership.

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