Durham College

Project Description

The primary goals of the project were as follows:

  • To test the perceived value of badges among students taking professional development courses (status: completed).
  • To test the perceived value among employers of badges related to professional development (status: limited completion).

Our original vision of the project was to grant badges for the following courses:

  • Medical Cannabis Fundamentals for Business Professionals (two-day in-class and concurrent synchronous online course).
  • Advancing Your Negotiation Skills (five-hour synchronous online course).

We had hoped to also issue badges for two other courses: Handling Office Conflict and Giving and Receiving Feedback (both of which were five-hour synchronous online courses), but neither course ran due to inadequate enrolment levels. Had these courses run successfully, we had a milestone badge available for students who completed both the Advancing Your Negotiation Skills and the Handling Office Conflict and Feedback courses. However, this badge was not awarded because two of the three courses did not run despite offering them multiple times.

Overall, we consider the project a success. In total, 403 badges were issued to students in the cannabis course, 269 of which were accepted (67%). For the negotiation skills course, 42 badges were issued, 30 of which were accepted (71%). Student surveys provided anecdotal feedback indicating that badges were considered valuable (even though quite a few students initially said they were not sure what badges were). Anecdotal employer feedback indicated that seeing a badge included on a LinkedIn site or resumé gave credibility to the job applicant.

Badging Team Description

The dean of the School of Continuing Education led the badging project throughout its duration. Instructors who delivered the courses were provided with information about what badges were and the process through which students would receive them. (This was important because it was the instructors who communicated directly with the student recipients.) The dean and instructors communicated both verbally and via email. Students were told about the badges during their courses (i.e., verbally). Of course, they received their badges via emails that included detailed instructions on how to load them into LinkedIn.

Anecdotal feedback from employers was gathered during a Program Advisory Committee (PAC) meeting on the cannabis industry in July 2018. Industry members were very enthusiastic about the approach of badging courses and strongly urged that future courses be badged as well. We have subsequently decided to badge all six courses in the new Cannabis Industry Specialization program, so that if students decide to take only a few courses in the program, they will still have something to show prospective employers.

Badging System Structure

Medical Cannabis Fundamentals for Business Professionals

Criteria

Recipients of this badge successfully completed an intensive two-day course (attended either in-class or synchronously online) on medical cannabis in Canada. Through the course, the badge recipients developed familiarity with the history and emerging trends relating to medical cannabis in Canada, established an understanding of key industry terminology, examined various ethical and clinical concepts, gained a basic understanding of cannabis cultivation and quality controls, learned about insurance as it relates to the industry, acquired insights into customer/patient issues, and explored industry-related marketing and communication principles.

Assessment

In order to earn this badge, students had to attend both days of a two-day course, complete all in-class learning activities, and pass two written quizzes. Instructors kept attendance records as well as checklists of activity participation and copies of the completed quizzes to confirm that students had passed.

Advancing Your Negotiation Skills

Criteria

Recipients of this badge actively participated in all five one-hour course sessions (delivered synchronously each day). After each session, the recipients submitted work that demonstrated their ability to apply their learning to an actual negotiation situation. The specific competencies demonstrated by the recipients in this courses included relationship building, communication, influencing, and planning.

Assessment

In order to assess these competencies, participants were required to prepare and submit the following work to the instructor after each one-hour session:

  • Module 1: Identify a real-world upcoming negotiation to be used for the application of course learning. Identify the top three skills/tips/strategies to be implemented based on learning from session 1.
  • Module 2: Complete the Needs and Interests Inventory (as it relates to the real-world negotiation selected after Module 1). Identify the toughest questions and power types expected in the negotiation. Identity someone who can assist in a role-play negotiation.
  • Module 3: Complete the planning worksheet for both sides of a negotiation case study (case provided by the instructor). Complete a Negotiation and Collaboration Worksheet for the real-world negotiation.
  • Module 4: Conduct the role-play negotiation and report back on results. Complete the Solution Choice Design Worksheet for the real-world negotiation.
  • Module 5: Complete the Negotiation Self-Assessment Sheet to identify strengths and areas for continued development.

Participants had to submit all of the above pieces of work for review by the instructor (who provided follow-up feedback at the individual level) in order to qualify for the badge. There are quite a few instances in which the instructor provided feedback that required an individual to rethink and resubmit their work for a given module in order to demonstrate a given competency. It is also important to note that not every student fulfilled the requirements to receive a badge. Missing even one piece of work or one session meant that the individual did not receive a badge for the course.

User Experience

In total (and excluding badges issued during our testing phase), we issued 445 badges under this project. Given that 299 students actually accessed their badges, it would be appropriate to say that this was the number of students using the platform. In addition, four other people used the platform on an administrative basis (i.e., issuing badges). The cannabis course ran at least monthly (more recently, twice per month), so the platform was typically accessed at least several times each month.

The most significant technical issues related to students having difficulty following instructions on how to retrieve their badges. We provided clear documentation on how to do this, but because there were numerous steps involved, some individuals simply gave up and did not bother to retrieve their badges.

Overall, the platform was relatively easy to use for those handling administrative tasks. When they did run into problems, they asked the dean for help. If the dean could not solve the problem, the issue was escalated to CanCred. Generally, problems were resolved in a timely manner (although, having an online chat function to get immediate assistance would have been valuable).

Value

Paper-based surveys were conducted with the students in the cannabis course. Unfortunately, due to severe resource constraints, those results have not been tabulated electronically. The dean reviews each set of course surveys personally and has spoken directly with approximately 50 students to ask about their perceptions of the badges, so she has a very good understanding of how students feel about them. It is her knowledge that has been reflected in this report.

Challenges

It will be very important to begin using the endorsement feature of badging as soon as possible, as this recognition from employers will have a significant effect on student perceptions on the value of badging.

It is unlikely that badging for academic purposes will be adopted in the Durham College schools outside Continuing Education because the other academic schools run full-time post-secondary programs in which successful completions are marked with diplomas. However, there has been some preliminary discussion about the possibility of introducing badging to recognize faculty accomplishments. It is likely that Continuing Education will pilot this when it introduces quarterly synchronous professional development sessions. This will serve as yet another pilot because it will give us an indication of how receptive faculty might be to the use of badges to recognize their developmental activities at a broader level across the college.

Future Plans

In the upcoming PAC meeting on the cannabis industry, members will be asked if they would be willing to endorse the cannabis course (soon to be courses). We will continue to monitor acceptance rates of our badges to ensure that the financial investment required to continue offering them is worthwhile.

Lessons Learned

Lessons Learned

  • Communication with students to explain the value of badges is essential. This is not something that needs to be done once, but rather, it needs to be discussed at least several times during a course, beginning at the outset.
  • Badging is best used with short courses, rather than longer courses that are part of a larger credential. Students are very keen to receive some type of recognition for finishing a single course, and badges are an excellent solution for this.
  • Do not underestimate the amount of administrative work needed to issue the badges. While the process itself is not difficult, a resource is required after a course is completed to compile information on attendance, quiz completions, etc. to confirm that a given individual is eligible to receive a badge, and to manually enter email addresses into CanCred Factory. Support must also be available for a least a week following a given course to answer student questions about their badges.