Digital Badging at the University of Michigan

What are Digital Badges?

Digital badges represent a flexible and portable format in which to recognize, display, and transmit a person’s skills, abilities, and knowledge developed through learning experiences that are verified by the judgment of some entity or authority. Combining the physical badges used by organizations such as the Boy / Girl Scouts of America and the virtual achievement badges from computer games and mobile apps, digital badges offer recipients a mechanism through which to display the accomplishment of a wide variety of skill and participation achievements.

Each digital badge contains embedded metadata including details about the criteria, examples of work, and the evaluation process, allowing anyone with Internet access to view and evaluate both the judgment and evidence for each accomplishment, thus increasing the transparency of assessment processes beyond current systems. Digital Badges "make visible and validate learning in both formal and informal settings, and hold the potential to help transform where and how learning is valued" (MacArthur Foundation, 2013 - http://www.macfound.org/programs/digital-badges/)

Our approach

Digital badges present an opportunity to reimagine several aspects of student learning in a residential university context. Digital badges can help provide evidence of prior knowledge, growth in a particular domain, and provide opportunities for previously nebulous or intangible competencies to gain greater clarity. In an initial pilot, this new approach manifested in providing opportunities for undergraduate engineering students to reflect on their co-curricular learning experiences and gain recognition for that particular category (e.g., Leadership) using a standard set of criteria based on Bloom's Taxonomy of Learning Domains. Additional pilots are currently underway across several diverse contexts to explore the range of possible approaches.

The name "Mblem" was chosen by undergraduate students from over 100 nominations. In many ways, the name Mblem is emblematic of the unique learning opportunities available at a premier residential research institution. Mblem truly epitomizes the "Michigan Difference."

Creating, Earning, and Displaying Mblem Digital Badges

Flowchart showing some of the steps towards earning a badge

Creating an Mblem Digital Badge

After thinking through the learning objectives, criteria, approvers, and eventual audience, Michigan departments and programs can create Mblem digital badges utilizing the web interface provided in the Mblem system. In many cases, Mblems are offered in sequences, allowing students to "level-up" as they demonstrate mastery in a given domain (e.g., novice, expert). A community of learners within the department or program is provided access to a designated area of the online system in which to view and apply for Mblem digital badges.

Evidence Gathering and Submission

An individual can apply for a given Mblem digital badge by submitting the required evidence to the approvers who are designated by the program. The evidence may include text, photographs, video, or other forms of participation and reflection .

Earning an Mblem Digital Badge.

The designated approver's (specified staff, faculty, or students) role in the validation process is to compare the stated criteria against the applicant's submitted evidence. If they match, then the badge is awarded. Otherwise, feedback is provided and the applicant is encouraged to revise and resubmit. All awarded Mblem digital badges and the accompanying evidence is viewable to other members of the designated department or program in order to promote community and share the variety of learning opportunities available to the Michigan community.

Displaying an Mblem Digital Badge -The Mozilla Backpack

Digital badges earned within the Mblem system can be directly exported to the Open Badges backpack where badge earners can curate badges from multiple sources into public collections that can be displayed in online venues such as digital resumes, ePortfolios, and social networking websites.