Motivate and Reward: A Tale of Two Institutions Implementing Badging for Professional Development

Concurrent Session 5
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Session Materials

Brief Abstract

Two University of Wisconsin System institutions will share their processes for implementing badging programs to motivate and reward faculty and staff for attending professional development sessions, showing mastery of session topics, and sharing what they learned to the campus communities to enhance teaching, communication, and collaboration.


Dr. Nicole Weber is the Assistant Vice President (AVP) of Learning at the Online Learning Consortium (OLC). In this role she works closely with OLC staff and global partners to advance professional development opportunities, continuous improvement efforts, and research in support of quality digital, blended, and online learning. Before joining OLC, she served as the Director of Learning Technology at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater where she led online and blended faculty development efforts, technology training for the digital learning ecosystem, and emerging learning technology exploration and evaluation, collaborating across the institution to support student learning and success. Nicole received her PhD in Urban Education specializing in Social Foundations of Education with an emphasis on designing engaging learning environments in 2012.

Extended Abstract

From K-12 to professional organizations to workforce development, badging is being explored as a way to motivate and acknowledge learning. In higher education, the exploration of badging has origins in the key developments highlighted in the Educause Learning Initiative’s (ELI) 2017 Key Issues in Teaching and Learning, the New Media Consortium’s (NMC) Horizon Report, and in the International Society for Technology in Education’s (ISTE) Standards. ELI recently cited faculty development as their top key issue, which focuses on “empowering and enabling faculty to craft active learning engagements and deploy educational technology to achieve learning objectives.” The New Media Consortium’s Horizon Report conveys important trends for higher education over the next five years being advancing cultures of innovation, incorporating deeper learning approaches, measuring learning, and supporting collaborative learning. As those of us in faculty and staff professional development know, trends for teaching and learning in higher education often impact faculty and staff professional development. Further, many of our K-12 students are learning aspects related to the ISTE Standards (i.e., creativity and innovation; communication and collaboration; research and information fluency; critical thinking, problem-solving, and decision making; digital citizenship; technology operations and concepts) as early as kindergarten. 

The question, then, becomes how do we ensure that our faculty are ready to teach in tech-enhanced, blended, and online learning environments and able to assist in preparing students to be educated citizens and market-ready for their chosen careers? Likewise, how do we enable all staff to have competency in key skills that support them in being 21st-century employees communicating and collaborating seamlessly, no matter the environment (i.e., online, face-to-face). More importantly, how can we motivate and reward participation in professional development, asking faculty and staff to produce artifacts related to competency and share what they have learned to the larger campus, further enabling a community of practice? Both UW–Whitewater and UW–Milwaukee have adopted badging as a strategy to address these professional development needs.

HASTAC defines badges as “a validated indicator of accomplishment, skill, quality, or interest that can be earned in many learning environments.” A badging initiative certainly takes into account these components—accomplishment, skill, quality, and interest—but leaders in this field have indicated that badges and credentialing initiatives are much more than tokens signifying these aspects. Diaz, Finkelstein, and Manning (2015) write that “a badge is rarely an end in itself,” instead “it’s a milestone that leads to another leg of a journey or a key to unlock doors to new opportunities” (p. 2). Leveraging intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, it is imperative to develop a purposeful badging system that supports staff in gaining and enhancing key skills that are meaningful at both the institution and beyond. Furthermore, distributing and tracking badges in a centralized place allows for the development, creation, and extension of a community of practice. 

Join us in exploring the literature and trends in higher education around badging and credentialing before delving into the implementation of badging initiatives at two University of Wisconsin System institutions. Benefits, limitations, and challenges—as well as implementation plans and styles for various audiences related to badging—will be shared. Both institutions will discuss the ways they have leveraged technology (i.e., Credly), utilized existing structures (e.g., professional development workshops), and enhanced offerings (e.g., redesigning workshops to provide evidence of meeting objectives) through this initiative. Specifically, the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee (UWM) Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL) will share how they integrated badging into their faculty development programs for tech-enhanced, blended, and online teaching to encourage involvement and to recognize participants’ skills and contributions to teaching and learning at UWM. In addition, the University of Wisconsin–Whitewater (UWW) Learning Technology Center (LTC) will share how they have adopted badging to motivate and reward both instructional and non-instructional staff to gain 21st century skills in collaboration and communication technology. Additionally, the UWW LTC will discuss their strategy to leverage badging to further enabling their teaching and workplace connection strategies (e.g., to work more efficiently, collaborate easily, communicate in various modes) through personalized learning pathways that ultimately demonstrate technology competency in a way that can be shared inside and outside of the university.


By the end of this session, participants will be able to: 

  • Describe the literature and trends related to using badging for faculty and staff professional development
  • Compare and contrast benefits, limitations, challenges, and different implementation styles for different audiences (i.e., faculty vs. staff)
  • Assess their campus needs, ultimately concluding if badging would fill the gap around those needs

Engagement Strategies

Presenters intend to engage the audience at various points in this interactive session through the utilization of the online polling system, Kahoot. Kahoot has found a great use in conference presentations as a way for facilitators to actively and quickly engage participants through competitive gaming. Additionally, participants will be asked to discuss in small groups and share out to the larger group how they are using badging on their campuses, creating space for connections and community around badging at the conference.

Session Plan  (45 minutes)

  1. Introductions and What Does the Literature Say? (15 minutes)
  2. UW-Milwaukee (10 minutes): Focus on faculty development for tech-enhanced, blended, and online courses 
  3. UW-Whitewater (10 minutes): Focus on technology training for all staff, enabling a 21st century skill-ready workforce
  4. Lessons Learned (5 minutes)
  5. Question and Answer (5 minutes)