Digital badge programs offer education on-demand, à la carte

Digital badge programs offered by Colorado State University Online are changing the way people learn new skills. They’re also creating a new model for the way the University delivers educational programs. So what exactly are digital badge programs?


The ‘unbundling’ of education

“It’s education à la carte,” said Mike Macklin, Director of Professional and Non-Credit Programs at CSU Online. Macklin has been key to the development of the online programs, which are growing in number. “We’re ‘unbundling’ the traditional course model, and breaking it into smaller, bite-sized modules. This gives people more flexibility in picking and choosing the skills they want to learn,” he said. Badge programs are developed alongside CSU faculty and staff, as well as a growing number of external community partners.

The programs also provide the flexibility to learn on any schedule. “Badge programs are available online, on-demand,” Macklin said. “People can register and immediately begin learning, or complete the modules whenever it’s convenient.” Although modules generally take one or two weeks to complete, learners have up to six months to complete them.

Skills illustrated

The reason they are called “digital badge programs” is because for each module successfully completed, learners earn a digital badge that can be placed on their resume, website, e-portfolio, and social media pages. “Digital badges literally illustrate the skills people have learned,” Macklin said. This makes it easier for employers, clients, or other interested parties to see what skills one possesses.

To ensure credibility, digital badges link to Mozilla Backpack — an open-source platform where digital badges issued by any entity can be stored. There, one can find more details of skills learned in order to earn the badge, and see that the badge was issued by Colorado State University.

Badge programs currently offered

A handful of digital badge programs are available now, but staff at CSU Online are actively developing new programs alongside University faculty and community partners. Programs currently offered include:

Arts-Based Leadership Entrepreneurial (ABLE) Fellows
Originating from the LEAP Institute for the Arts, the ABLE Fellows program guides participants through the most vital aspects of running a successful 501(c)3 organization.

CSU Extension Certified Gardener
Based on the Colorado Master GardenerSM curriculum, this program features gardening technique modules led by CSU extension agents.

Crucial Business Management Skills for the 21st Century
Offering training in areas such as personal branding, strategic planning, and stress management, this program applies to a wide variety of professionals looking to grow their management skills.

Foundations of 3D Printing
Led by a CSU mechanical engineering professor, this program teaches the basic principles and processes involved with 3D printing.

Goodwill Industries of Denver’s Essential Soft Skills for Employment
This program helps develop soft skills — such as communication, teamwork, and conflict resolution — to help people successfully get jobs and stay employed.

Course – LinkedIn: Building a Robust LinkedIn Profile
In the first available course for an upcoming new program, learn how LinkedIn can help you broaden your professional network, conduct career searches, and create a professional online image.

More information

Learn more about digital badge programs here.