Steven Olson and Daniel Stotz are part of a small team of professors and staff at the Coles College of Business at Kennesaw State University that has earned the nickname “The Beatles” for their work on a new digital badge program for students and executives.
For much of the last six months, they’ve been holed up rock-band style in a studio, designing and shooting multimedia videos (the multi-media director’s nickname is “Ringo”), writing scripts and doing voice-overs as they designed a customized badge in business innovation that students can earn via an online gaming platform.
Each digital badge program will have an extensive to-do list: four levels, 16 quests, 12 to-do tasks and 112 learning challenges, says Olson, an associate professor at Coles and executive director of the Center of innovation Excellence. “Almost every business school now probably has this on the drawing board as part of their future product strategy, but aren’t talking about it yet,” he adds. “There are just a few schools starting to move in this direction. We are kind of seizing the moment.”
THE RISE OF THE MICRO-CREDENTIAL
The team’s hard work in this burgeoning field will pay off on Jan. 11th with the release of their first digital badge in Understanding Business Innovation. That badge will be followed up by the release in 2016 of more than a dozen sophisticated digital badges on topics as varied as customer service excellence and leadership.
Coles will be the first business school in the Atlantic area to launch a digital badge program of this scope and size, says Stotz, Coles’ director of online executive education. The badges are geared towards executive education students, but will also be made available to the university’s student population, including BBAs and MBA students. “We are finding that people of all ages will like this gamified way of learning, but we especially think our undergraduate students will take to it,” Stotz says.
Digital badges are a micro-credential that allows students to display a badge icon on networking profiles, social media sites and personal webpages. They can also be showcased on any digital badge “backpack” such as Mozilla Open Source. The badges, which are earned via online software programs and can be customized to the specific needs of individual schools, demonstrate that students have mastered specific skills and acquired knowledge in specialized areas. Employers can click on the badge, see what entity issued it and understand what was required of the student in order to earn it.
A WAY TO DIFFERENTIATE YOURSELF
Universities across the country, and business schools in particular are starting to embrace the digital badge movement because they see it as a way to help students differentiate themselves in an increasingly competitive job market, and clearly demonstrate they’ve mastered competencies that can often be hard to display on a conventional resume.
This academic year, innovative digital badge programs are popping up at a growing number of schools, from Kennesaw’s Coles College to Stony Brook University on Long Island, with many designing badges with business students in mind. Other schools, such as the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin and the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University, are starting to explore how to incorporate digital badges to their current offerings. Even individual professors at business schools are toying with their syllabus in order to incorporate earning badges as part of the classroom experience.
For example, Kelly Richmond Pope, an associate professor in accounting at DePaul University’s School of Accountancy and Management Information Systems, will be introducing an ethical decision-making digital badge for the first time this month in her graduate-level forensic accounting class and her undergraduate managerial accounting class. Students who pursue the badge will learn about ethics by perusing a series of TEDx talks, watching videos of real-life stories of white-collar whistleblowers and performing rigorous self-assessments.
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