J. Meriläinen

Lahti University of Applied Sciences (FINLAND)
A digital badge is an online representation of a skill you’ve earned. Open Badge is an open standard developed by the Mozilla Foundation to recognize, validate and demonstrate learning, especially informal learning. An open badge is a digital image with linked metadata. Open badges are digital credentials, created and issued by organizations such as schools, vocational organizations, companies and employers for their students, members, staff, clients or partners. Lahti University of Applied Sciences (LUAS) has piloted the open badge concept from autumn semester 2014 as a new way of acknowledging the informal learning of students and staff.

Students have been actively involved in designing the open badge concept. A graphic design student has designed the templates for the digital images and IT students have made requirement specification and comparisons of different open badge management systems. Students doing their studies in LUAS M.Idea media center are involved in launching the Open Badge concept to students. By this student-centered approach we aim to create student ownership of the open badge concept as a new way of recognizing and illustrating learning and skills.

The first Open Badge awarded by LUAS is the ‘Career Planning’ -badge awarded to international students who participated in the mentoring programme developed in Get employed! -project. Get employed! -project aimed at supporting the employability of international degree students studying at LUAS. The students developed valuable competence which otherwise did not fit clearly into existing studies or certificates. The open badge was a possibility to recognize and validate this learning. The mentoring programme developed student’s competence in job search, gained knowledge of Finnish working life and professional networks and developed communication competence with work life mentors. An understanding of student’s own strengths and development needs increased which affect career aims in Finland. Using Open Badges allows schools to recognize achievements that were previously outside the scope of their formal credentialing schemes. Open badges can complement an existing credential structure by recognizing learning that students develop through connecting experiences in formal courses, internships, work experience, and personal pursuits. Open badges can be used as a tool to help students in describing and illustrating their learning and skills.

LUAS is also piloting open badges as a way of recognizing and validating staff competence in strategically important areas of expertise and new, innovative initiatives. For example teachers who have created Creative Commons licensed open learning material for other teachers to use, receive a badge for developing open educational materials and familiarizing themselves with Creative Commons. Open badges can be used to encourage pedagogical innovations and promote skills and competencies valuable to the organization.