If You Build It, They Will Come: Designing and Implementing an Infrastructure to Support University-wide Digital Badging Initiatives

Concurrent Session 7

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

This presentation shares the both strategies and processes used at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) to construct an internal badging infrastructure to support both academic and co-curricular micro-credentialing initiatives led by both faculty and staff.


Dr. Sherri N. Braxton is the Senior Director of Instructional Technology at UMBC where she is responsible for leading the Division of Information Technology’s (DoIT) strategy for end-user support of instructional technologies including online, hybrid, and traditional, “face-to-face” technologies. With over 20 years of experience in traditional classroom instruction and adult education strategies grounded in instructional design models, she also possesses over 17 years of experience using learning technologies in higher education settings, including the design and facilitation of online and hybrid courses. Dr. Braxton is a dynamic presenter known for her ability to engage audiences and capture their attention, even for highly complex topics. She collaborates with her staff to devise learning opportunities delivered in multiple modes that meet the varied and shifting needs of both UMBC faculty and students. Dr. Braxton is also the DoIT representative on the University System of Maryland (USM) Academic Transformation Advisory Council, a group spearheaded by the William E. Kirwan Center for Academic Innovation. Dr. Braxton has crafted a national presence through her participation in educational technology associations like EDUCAUSE, the Online Learning Consortium (OLC), and the IMS Global Learning Consortium; in addition to presenting at national, regional, and local conferences, she serves as a proposal reviewer, constituent group leader, leadership institute faculty, and both task force leader and working group participant. Dr. Braxton earned a Doctor of Science in Computer Science with Minors in Educational Leadership and Management Science from the George Washington University. She also holds a Master of Science in Computer Science with a Math Minor from North Carolina State University and a Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics with a minor in Computer Science from Wake Forest University.

Extended Abstract

This presentation will provide an overview of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County's (UMBC) approach to implementing a badging architecture that is both integrated into the university portal and interfaces with a third party badging platform. The goal of this session is to present a roadmap for creating a scalable badging infrastructure that advantages custom development, vendor-provided software, and the university's data storage, reporting, and decision support environment. Plans for future improvements will be discussed, and the audience will be given both the opportunity to share strategies and best practices used at their institutions and time for Q&A.

 The University of Maryland, Baltimore County is expanding the capabilities of its portal, myUMBC, to include digital credentials related to both academic and co-curricular achievements. Digital credentials will be used not only to award achievements but also as internal mechanisms for tracking student activities. While some of these credentials, referred to as “badges,” will be visible to and “claimable” by students, others will be used strictly for tracking activity in order to analyze and assess the effectiveness and reach of specific program outcomes.  Through the application of both emerging standards and best practices, we will be exploiting the metadata associated with these credentials in different ways to support the UMBC mission in multiple areas including: tracking the impact of extra-curricular activity participation on graduation rate, time-to-degree, and post-graduation success; and guiding students to participate in activities that will prepare them with the most appropriate co-curricular skills to either build their career-readiness or prepare them for graduate school. Similar tracking strategies can be applied to faculty and staff, such as identifying and tracking workforce skills and training and identifying interests and expertise that can be leveraged in interdisciplinary research projects.

The data associated with these digital credentials will be integrated into REX, UMBC’s reporting and decision support environment for our data warehouse, allowing us to perform studies, correlate data, and perform additional analytics to gain insights into the aforementioned areas. This effort will demonstrate the importance of interoperability between systems in a higher education IT infrastructure to enable the adoption of innovative technologies in support of the institutional mission and goals.

In order to provide these capabilities, additional functionality must be implemented within the university portal. UMBC is creating an internal “badging engine” enabling the creation, definition, and issuing of the badges to students, staff and faculty. Earned badges will be displayed in the user profiles within the portal, and for badges that meet specific criteria, badge earners will have the ability to share them on social media through an integration with a third party badging platform, Credly.

In this presentation, the components of the badging engine will be discussed as well as the administrative and tracking processes associated with earner performance of badge criteria/requirements, storage of badge evidence, and strategies for publicizing the badges and tracking potential badge earner interest.  Lessons learned thus far in the implementation of this system will also be discussed. The presenter will seek best practices used by other institutions represented in the audience and will address audience member questions. Anyone involved in either innovative application of alternative credentialing or interested in implementing a badging/micro-credentialing program should attend. Slides, handouts, and related website links will be provided during the presentation and posted on the conference web site.