Badges are digital insignia (images) that show you have acquired certain skills or knowledge. From September 2018 to April 2020, Utrecht University will be participating in the Edubadges pilot project, which will examine how badges could be utilised in higher education. The project is coordinated by SURF, in collaboration with 16 other institutions of higher education. Educate-it has brought the pilot to Utrecht University.
Badges are digital insignia (images) that show you have acquired certain skills or knowledge. You can earn a badge after completing a workshop, for example, as proof that you’ve acquired the skills taught in the workshop. Behind a badge is a non-reproducible and un-editable information about the badge’s publisher and the value of the badge; in other words, what the recipient had to do to earn it. That allows an employer to check the badge reference, which makes the system more reliable. The recipient can then share the badges on websites and social media, such as LinkedIn.
‘Edubadges’ is the name for the badges designed by SURF. In order to use the SURF Edubadges, one must first create an eduID. Badge recipients can then use their eduID identity across institutions. Users can therefore continue to use their eduID to request badges even after they graduate or start working at another university, allowing them to continue working on their professional development.
SURF and the participating higher education institutions have sketched out three scenarios in which the badges could be used in Dutch higher education:
- Microcredentialing (accredited education, visible externally)
Microcredentialilng entails dividing education into smaller certifiable units. In this scenario, an institution would issue badges visible externally for elements of an accredited study programme, such as (part of) a course or a minor.
- Badges for informal tutoring and education (non-accredited education, visible externally). In this scenario, educational institutions or market parties could issue badges for non-accredited education, such as MOOCs, membership in the university council, or commercial training courses.
- Badges as game element (accredited or non-accredited education, not visible externally)
In this scenario, only internally visible badges will be issued, for example as an instrument to increase student motivation within a course.
Every higher education institution that participates in the SURF Edubadges pilot will test the use of badges within its own organisation. At Utrecht University, this test is currently being conducted at the Educate-it Academy. The academy is considering whether badges could be issued for the online training courses and workshops that Educate-it offers to Utrecht University lecturers. All of the training courses and workshops are voluntary, and lecturers complete them at their own initiative. So the badges would only be used for informal education.
The main purpose of the pilot is to develop the badge infrastructure and to optimise the technical process for issuing, receiving, and publishing the badges. But a secondary purpose is to determine whether there is a need for the issuing of badges within UU, and if so, how the process could be designed at a larger scale. At the end of the pilot, Educate-it will publish its recommendations on the issue.
At Utrecht University, we are only looking at the use of badges in non-accredited (informal) education. After the pilot, we can carefully examine the option of using badges in accredited (formal) education.
The use of badges in that context would mainly offer added value for microcredentialling, which could help make higher education more flexible. After the pilot, we will examine whether badges could eventually be used for this purpose.