Published: 25 May 2016

Digital open badges for and by students: Exploring participatory research

The department of Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) in collaboration with the Library’s learning development staff have carried out participatory research as part of TEL’s ongoing digital badges project. A digital badge is a visual representation of a skill or achievement which can be collected and then shared with different audiences.

A team of five students, who are part of Surrey’s top achievers recognised and supported (STARS) programme, has been involved in the development and analysis of digital badges. Numerous topics were discussed in depth during four student-led focus groups. Some of the main themes which have been explored are:

  • The motivation to use badges
  • Their accreditation
  • The evidence required to earn them
  • Their graphic design

Additionally, the results obtained from the focus groups were deepened by an online survey which was completed by 242 STARS students.

The initial reaction to the digital badges programme was a positive one as numerous students have voluntarily engaged with it despite the lack of prior advertising.

The students’ feedback revealed that they would use digital badges to build both their personal and professional identity. They have easily linked their potential use to STARS workshops, activities carried out as part of a student society, part-time jobs, and coursework or group projects.

Also, some of the students acknowledged that digital badges could make it easier for them to be reflexive during and before interviews. They argued that earning the badges could encourage them to analyse their learning journey and make it easier to keep track of their personal and professional development.

The first series of badges will be piloted towards the end of June as this year’s STARS cohort will receive them for attending STARS events.

While it is still too early to draw any conclusions, using digital badging as a reward and acknowledgement system shows promising signs as the concept was keenly embraced by the interviewed students.

Please contact us if you would like to get involved in the Digital Open Badges project.

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