At the end of January, the California Academy of Sciences completed a series of internal consultations among a diverse group of staff from various departments on the question of digital badging. To conclude our work, we drafted an internal set of recommendations, which we passed along to our Online Learning task force for further consideration and action.
While I can not share the entire contents of the internal document, I’m happy to share the broad outline of what we focused on.
Initial Audiences for Digital Badges
There are many potential audiences or badge recipients that the Academy could focus on. In our view, audiences that we already have extended engagements with offer the most promise, at least in the initial phases of a digital badging system. Key audiences that fit this criterion include our volunteer corps, members of our youth community and our members.
Opportunities to Badge
We considered different topic areas and subjects where digital badges might be helpful. We identified three large categories that we might want to develop badges for in the next couple of years:
- Specific Science Content: This might be connected to specific Academy exhibits or Academy research priorities.
- Civic Engagement: Badges might be associated with specific actions in the world we would like people to engage in.
- Specific Skills: Some examples are science engagement techniques, citizen science approaches, NGSS practices, and skills associated with workforce development.
Partnerships or Going Solo
Given the large number of existing digital badging and learning management systems already in existence, we recommended not developing our own custom digital badge system. Instead we should use an existing digital badging system, certainly for an initial pilot project and probably beyond.
In addition, several of the badges that we develop would be most effective if done in partnership with other science and educational institutions, particularly those focused on civic engagement. The Community STEM Digital Badges Project and Hive connected learning networks might be great places to start.
Benefits of Digital Badges
Some key aspects of badging that we are most interested in are:
- To measure our impact on different audiences in more powerful and nuanced ways
- To build stronger communities among our stakeholders
- To deepen the engagement of stakeholders in the mission of the Academy
Given these recommendations above, we suggest as a next step that the Academy consider piloting a badging system in the near future.