Digital badges promote information literacy skills in remote learning settings

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pennsylvania — Digital badges are a way for Penn State students to earn recognition for skills and knowledge gained through self-paced achievement. In today’s virtual and socially distanced learning environments, these micro-certificates – including a series of badges offered by Penn State University Libraries — provide a concrete way for students to demonstrate proof of their learning to instructors and potential employers.

Through the University Libraries Digital Badge Programteachers can partner with libraries to offer badges on 10 Different Information Literacy Topics for their students to win.

“We work with professors to assign our badges to their courses and encourage their students to participate,” said Emily Rimland, information literacy librarian and library learning technology coordinator, who leads the digital badge program. “Instructors see the value in helping students understand academic research skills and receiving proof of their knowledge.”

Since 2013, when the digital badge program was set up, the Libraries have issued more than 9,200 badges in 152 course sections. Professors work with their students to help them complete the requirements, which are then assessed by one of 16 librarians from four campuses who serve as assessors.

“Now that many courses are delivered remotely, it’s a great option for professors to add deep information literacy skills to lessons in a way that can be done virtually,” Rimland said.

For those who remember earning badges as a Boy Scout or Girl Scout, digital badges provide micro-certification for discrete skills in the same way. Each badge has three to six steps required for completion, which serve to expand students’ understanding of a subject in three ways: (1) break down big, daunting concepts into small, practical tasks; (2) combine elements of games to tap into learner motivation; and (3) translate recognizable elements of in-person learning into an online environment.

Students complete most of the required steps by writing written responses to questions about the content they have learned. The badge is issued after a librarian evaluates the student’s answers to verify that he understands the subject. Entrants can then post the badges on personal websites, online resumes, and social media platforms, such as LinkedIn, to share their accomplishments.

“Presenting these skills in a non-traditional way gives badge holders another topic to discuss in job interviews,” Rimland said. “Many companies and organizations place a high value on digital badge programs for professional development and lifelong learning for employees.”

The badges cover a variety of skills that support academic success for all students, such as citations, academic integrity, and web credibility assessment.

“The badges present learning opportunities that help students improve their skills and build their confidence,” Rimland concluded. “They also introduce a new way of teaching into the curriculum, to the benefit of professors and librarians.”

Professors who would like more information about integrating the University Libraries’ digital Information Literacy Badges into their course content should contact Rimland at [email protected].

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