Digital badges: The future of tracking staff development

Allison Miller, eWorks Accredited ConsultantAllison Miller is a member of eWorks’ team of accredited consultants, and a regular contributor to eWorks’ blog. Allison is passionate about providing learners with the knowledge and skills that they need in order to succeed in the world of work. And this means all learners – whether they are straight out of school or adult employees. Today Allison considers the nature of workplace learning and how to provide evidence of this learning.

How do people learn in the workplace?

Highly successful companies know that being a learning organisation is a key factor in helping them face the daily pressures of remaining competitive in an ever changing business world. Using strategies such as developing a shared organisational vision greatly increases the likelihood of their staff working together to achieve a common goal, and thereby contributing to their overall success.

Research (O’Keeffe, 2002) shows, however, that a high percentage of learning in the workplace is incidental through every day problem solving and experimentation, and is less reliant on formal training. Team or shared learning through regular discussions, open communication and shared findings provides even better learning outcomes than traditional education and training.

The 70:20:10 framework of learning

More recently, this learning is talked about as being part of the 70:20:10 framework of learning, and it is fast becoming the preferred way to improve workplace performance (Jennings, 2016).  That is:

  • 70% of workplace learning and development happens through day-to-day tasks, challenges and practice.
  • 20% of workplace learning and development happens when working with others and from observing what others do or have learned.
  • 10% of workplace learning and development happens through structured courses and programs.

While this is a fantastic model and a number of learning and development teams are using it, the problem still lies in capturing and tracking the evidence of people’s learning, whether that be formal, informal or non-formal learning.  This coupled with the fact that formal education and training can quite quickly go out of date. So how can the age-old issue of easily managing and monitoring staff training and development be solved?

Enter the digital badge

A digital badge is an online image which holds important information about a person’s abilities and experiences which can be shared online. Beyond its Boy Scout Badge image, the digital badge’s killer app is its embedded metadata. This metadata holds all of the information about a person’s achievements within the badge itself. It also verifies the issuer of the badge, and if relevant, identifies when the badge ‘expires’ or if ongoing professional development is required, such as for a White Card or CPD.

On issue, the digital badges can be displayed by the receiver in a number of ways, through a digital backpack, in an eportfolio or on a website. This form of digital credentialing has many advantages over traditional paper parchments and academic statements in that they are linked back to the ‘source of truth’ of the issuing organisation, and are very hard to ‘lose’.

digital badgesCredits: Modern Communication by CURSOCH

How can digital badges help to track achievements?

Digital badges are perfect in the workplace to help manage people’s training requirements. Imagine each line manager having a visual dashboard of digital badges which showcases the training and achievements of each staff member, and most importantly, what they haven’t achieved.

As these digital badges evolve, imagine they could change colour to highlight when training was due to be updated or is out of date. These badges also enable staff to display their own training and achievements as part of their digital portfolio / resume.

So who’s using them?

Deakin Digital, subsidiary of Deakin University, are using this form of credentialing to allow people to digitally document the skills they have gained in work and life (Presant, 2016). Once learners have completed a full catalogue of digital credentials they can use their digital badges to gain a unit of study as a pathway to a graduate degree (NMC, 2016).

Allyn Radford, CEO of Deakin Digital, describes this method as moving an organisation’s learning capabilities from being a black box, where you can’t see what’s inside, to that of a glass box, where leaders can see everything that their staff can do (and need to do).

The Australian Institute of Training and Development (AITD) have implemented digital badges to recognise the contribution and achievements of learning and development professionals. Badges are issued to AITD members, to participants of AITD’s events and activities; to people who contribute to the running of AITD, and to the finalists of their Awards program.

Even Samsung has jumped on the bandwagon by issuing digital badges to reward staff for completing product based training.

Is it hard to get started using digital badges?

It’s REALLY easy to get started with digital badges if you are using a learning management system (LMS) such Moodle and Totara, as these systems already have built-in digital badge issuing capability. Partnered with their sister products, Mahara and Totara Social, receivers of the organisational issued digital badges can host them in their own online learning space as an all-encompassing digital badge organisational solution.

The difficulty comes if you would like to design and manage your own badges, and/or embed more sophisticated meta-data, but there is plenty of help around if you would like to go down this path.

Where to next?

First and foremost, it is crucial to consider the importance of being a learning organisation with regard to the success of your business, and how you are managing that now. Is there room for improvement, especially in meeting compliance? If there is, review some of the links in this article and do some of your own research to learn more about digital badges.

Alternatively, contact the eWorks team to discuss how you can use digital badges to track and manage your staff’s development.

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