Several years back, our team at Utah State University took over the professional development programs for our university, including an annual teaching conference, a seminar series, and a new faculty orientation. We believed that our professional development programs were valuable for our faculty and staff, but it didn’t feel like the coursework was well connected. There had to be a better way.
Digital Badges as a Transformational Strategy
One challenge we initially faced was moving away from one-off workshops that we knew from the literature tended to have a limited impact on changing teaching practice. Instead, we sought to create a culture of teaching excellence that centered on reflective practice and ongoing improvement.
After considering our options, we recognized the value of using digital badges as a strategy for transforming what we could provide while creating opportunities for individualized professional development. Leveraging this strategy would also allow us to bundle our professional development offerings into a stackable and meaningful professional learning journey.
Introducing the ETE10 Pathway
The ETE10 Pathway we created included three tiers of badges (engage, implement, and contribute) to account for various activities and participation levels. For participants, progress towards one or more goals can be a challenge to track, but the Badgr Pathways feature helped our team provide a straightforward solution. Through the Pathways tool, learners could visualize how their individual, personalized choices would influence their progress along relevant learning paths. The Pathways tool also made it easy for the implementation team to group and stack different achievement types, resulting in a cumulative credential with more significant meaning.
While giving our learners the ability to earn badges for their efforts was important, our team wanted to ensure that we were also building a community of practice. This vision applied to the university’s events and professional learning experiences and applied to the assessment of submitted reflections - to create a space for ongoing discourse.
Connecting the Dots in Canvas
Using the Badgr for Canvas integration, we connected each of the badges offered via Canvas course assignments and connected those awards with participants’ reflections. Our team also utilized Canvas’s native commenting features to engage participants in back and forth revisions and improvements to the professional development coursework.
Ultimately, using the Canvas integration with Badgr Pathways, our team provided multiple entry points for instructors to design their own professional learning pathways and submit their reflections using text entry or short videos. My team’s biggest takeaway has been our ability to model the instructional and assessment strategies that we have been advocating for on behalf of our instructors - to provide to their students (choice, flexibility, relevant learning, etc.) by structuring our digital badging program to provide the same opportunities for our instructors.
When we first started on this digital badging journey, we started small, but we’ve continued to iterate over the years to be responsive to the needs of our learners, and that has made all the difference for us in designing and launching a successful program at Utah State University.
-  Thurston, T. N., & Schneider, K. (2019). Structuring personalized faculty development programming with autonomy: Support and micro-credentials. In A. Elçi, L. Beith, & A. Elçi (Eds.), Handbook of research on faculty development for digital teaching and learning (pp. 140-159). Hershey, PA: IGI Global.