“Every adventure requires a first step”: Initiating digital badging programs at two very different highered institutions

Concurrent Session 2

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

Instituiton A and Institution B are two very different higher education institutions; yet, there are very interesting similarities and differences in their approaches to starting digital badging programs.This session will provide a glimpse into both experiences and recommendations for starting a program at your institution.


Dr. Sherri Braxton currently serves as the inaugural Senior Director for Digital Innovation at Bowdoin College. She not only partners with stakeholders throughout the college while leading efforts to identify, prioritize, and pursue other opportunities for digital innovation, but she also lead efforts to partner and collaborate with peers and other institutions on these digital learning initiatives. Prior to joining Bowdoin College, Dr. Braxton served as Senior Director of Instructional Technology at UMBC where she was 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 years of experience using learning technologies in higher education settings, including the design and facilitation of online and hybrid courses. Dr. Braxton also served a 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 an EDUCAUSE proposal reviewer, Instructional Technology Constituent Group leader, and Learning Technology Leadership Program faculty. Dr. Braxton has also served as both task force leader and working group participant for IMS on initiatives related to digital credentialing and badges. Before joining UMBC, she served as the Director of Course Redesign at Bowie State University (BSU) for 3 years overseeing its first USM Course Redesign activities and representing BSU on the USM Academic Transformation Advisory Council. Prior to this position, as the Director of Distance Education within the Johns Hopkins University Engineering for Professionals Program, Dr. Braxton led the online development team in the design and implementation of courses while continuing to support the existing online programs, partnerships, and traditional classroom faculty engaged in supplementing their traditional courses with an online component. She served as the subject matter expert in the area of distance education and worked with faculty, chairs, and senior management to ensure quality was at the forefront of their online offerings, leading the program through their first Quality Matters course reviews and certifications. Prior to that role, she served as a Senior Instructional Designer to the program. As a Collegiate Associate Professor at the University of Maryland University College in the Computer Information Technology Program, Dr. Braxton served as a lead faculty for the Common Exam Initiative, participated in the Common Syllabus Initiative and was actively involved in the Cross-Curricular Initiative, acting as a technology consultant to other disciplines in the university to ensure those disciplines effectively implemented technology-enabled instructional activities. Dr. Braxton has also previously served as a Distance Learning Subject Matter Expert, Program Manager, Training Manager and Principal Consultant within the government sector for a defense contractor overseeing the design, development and execution of traditional/platform-based, web-based, hybrid, mobile and computer-based training and education initiatives including the implementation of formative and summative assessment and certification strategies.  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. In her spare time, Dr. Braxton is a Certified Registered Riding Instructor at the Therapeutic and Recreational Riding Center in Glenwood, MD.

Extended Abstract

The Institution A and Institution B are two very different higher education institutions. Institution A is a large, public,  Research 1 institution with over 13,000 undergraduate students.  Institution B is a small, private, liberal arts college with just over 1,700 undergraduate students. Both institutions have a reputation for quality, scholarship and innovation in teaching and learning. Undergraduate students leave these institutions well positioned to pursue careers in their chosen fields. But both institutions have recognized and acknowledged that the degrees and associated transcripts from their programs of study do not paint the complete picture of the learning and skills that these students have acquired during their time on campus. Many of these undocumented competencies are commonly referred to as 21st century skills; these include, but are not limited to, the following skill areas: oral and written communication, critical thinking, teamwork, creativity, problem solving, collaboration, perseverance, information literacy, technology skills and digital literacy, global awareness, social responsibility, and civic literacy. These are consistent with the National Association of Colleges and Employers’ (NACE) career ready competencies which also include skills like equity & inclusion, leadership and professionalism.  And students at both institutions are gaining these competencies across both curricular and co-curricular experiences. In order to capture this lost information to present a more comprehensive record of graduates’ learning while at the institution, both Institution A and Institution B have started digital badging programs. 

The badges earned in these programs complement the traditional record of learning, the transcript, by adding a level of transparency into specific learning outcomes achieved in courses in the curricular space and giving voice to the many skills gained by students through their co-curricular experiences.  As a result, these badging initiatives lay the groundwork for the implementation of a Comprehensive Learner Record, or CLR, in which learners can curate and share all of their achieved credentials, including those beyond their current degree pursuits, as part of their lifelong learning journey. Institution A has begun the process of implementing a CLR and will share insights on their progress thus far. 

During this session, the presenters will share their experiences starting these various initiatives and will highlight the similarities and differences in their approaches. They will provide background on what digital badges are and the value they bring to students, the institution, and to potential employers. They will outline and describe the processes, people, and other resources involved including the roles and responsibilities of instructional and technology support staff. They will share their lessons learned and make recommendations for starting a similar program at your institution.

 The presenters will use the following methods to infuse interactivity into the session for participant engagement: 

  • A Jamboard,  or similar technology, will be used to allow participants to share their challenges, opportunities and solutions 
  • Interactive polls will be introduced during specific areas of the presentation to interject participant experiences 

        Upon completion of this session, participants will be able to: 

  • Identify key steps in starting a digital badging initiative
  • Describe what is meant by a comprehensive learner record (CLR)
  • Compare and contrast challenges and opportunities associated with strategic transformation at small and large highered institutions
  • Identify key campus stakeholders to include in the strategic planning and execution of a digital badging program