Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Purdue Passport > Digital Badges Show Students' Skills Along with Degree

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Digital badges, icons that represent academic achievements or skills smaller than a college degree, are an increasingly popular way for universities to acknowledge the breadth of student learning.

Kyle Bowen, director of informatics in Information Technology at Purdue, says badges are an exciting new concept that is being adopted across higher education.
"Badges become a way to recognize learning in all of its forms," Bowen says. "Passport provides a platform for anyone who wants to deliver learning credentials. From creation of the challenge to creating the actual badge image itself, and then a way to display earned badges, it's all built into the platform.
Through their college careers, students gain knowledge and skills that may not be well-represented in their college degrees. A student may have learned practical skills such as knowing how to write HTML code, have earned a prestigious scholarship or served as an officer in a student organization.
Purdue's Passport platform integrates with the popular Mozilla Open Badge Infrastructure, including Mozilla Backpack. This system, developed by the same organization that develops the Firefox Web browser, allows the digital badge to include metadata such as who issued the badge, how it was earned and when it was earned; users display their badges through the Backpack site. Badges are currently in use or in development at institutions such as MIT, Carnegie Mellon, the University of California-Davis and Seton Hall. Organizations outside of higher education are issuing badges, too, including NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, The U.S. departments of Veterans Affairs and Education, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and the movie studio Disney-Pixar.
Purdue's Passport platform consists of two apps: The Passport app allows instructors to set the steps, or challenges, a student must achieve to earn the badge. The app also allows an instructor  or adviser to create a badge by choosing from several templates.
The second part of the platform is Passport Profile. This is an app designed for tablets that allows users to display their badges, both Passport badges as well as badges from their Mozilla Backpack.
Among the first uses of badges at Purdue will be for students who have successfully completed courses through nanoHUB-U, a collection of short courses in nanotechnology offered online to an international audience.
Passport and Passport Profile are two of six classroom apps created by the Purdue Studio project. The apps can be used by instructors or students to enhance the traditional classroom experience.
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