If credibility of universities in credentialing declines, can alternative institutions such as badging recognize skills and knowledge in broader T-shaped people?
Both students and postsecondary institutions are increasingly embracing the ideal of the “T-shaped” graduate, who combines deep “vertical” knowledge in a particular domain with a broad set of “horizontal” skills: teamwork, communications, facility with data and technology, an appreciation of diverse cultures, advanced literacy skills, and so on.
This kind of shift is readily visible on campuses across the country. [….]
The trick, however, is how to recognize and validate the skills and abilities that emerge from these diverse learning experiences. How can students demonstrate the value-added from extra activities? And how can employers separate the wheat from the chaff if grade-point averages alone don’t tell them what they need to know?
Traditionally, of course, students have relied on the resume to describe their skills, profiling work and other experience that they hope will set them apart from the pack. But the resume is a distinctly analog tool in our digital age – a flat file in an era of linked data sets. While it’s still an indispensable calling card, it doesn’t allow students to present the richness of their experiences or draw attention to concrete products. And because it lacks external validation, it’s inevitably subject to doubt – even more so as the diversity of student experience broadens. Was that trip to southeast Asia a vital learning experience? What kinds of skills really emerged from that summer leadership program? Did that volunteer internship with a local not-for-profit provide a meaningful foray into independent research and analysis?
Enter the “co-curricular transcript,” which allows postsecondary institutions to recognize student learning beyond the classroom – everything from involvement in student government and varsity sports, to international exchanges or internships. An increasing number of institutions now provide these alongside academic records, giving students and prospective employers an officially-sanctioned record of achievement beyond just courses and GPAs. It’s a significant advance, but still limited in the story it can tell. A list of co-curricular activities can’t capture the nuance of individual students’ experiences, and given the complexity of assessing learning outcomes, the transcripts necessarily focus on inputs – numbers of seminars, teams, or hours spent on particular activities.
There is another, complementary approach, and interestingly it’s one that has its roots in young people’s own increasingly digital world. Thinkers like Cathy Davidson of Duke University have drawn inspiration from the world of on-line gaming, where communities of gamers award digital “badges” to recognize particular achievements by players. Davidson and others in the Humanities, Arts, Science and Technology Advanced Collaboratory (HASTAC – pronounced “haystack” – which held its annual conference at York University in Toronto last week) have been experimenting with the use of similar “badges” to recognize learning experiences and outcomes, both for students and for adult learners.
The beauty of the model is the way it democratizes credentialing. Skills and experiences are validated – but that validation involves a diversity of expert groups, institutions and communities, mirroring the kind of diverse learning environment students are embracing. And because the model is inherently digital, it holds out the promise of a rich, multilayered record of results and achievements, with links to video, audio and text resources.
Ditch the resume and pick up a badge, they’re not just for Boy Scouts | Brent Herbert-Copley | May 1, 2013 | The Globe and Mail at http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/education/ditch-the-resume-and-pick-up-a-badge-theyre-not-just-for-boy-scouts/article11639205.