About Colorado State University:

Colorado State University (CSU) is a public research university located in Fort Collins, Colorado. The current enrollment is approximately 30,700 students, including resident and non-resident instruction students. CSU has approximately 1,540 faculty in eight colleges and 55 academic departments. Bachelor's degrees are offered in 65 fields of study, with Master's degrees in 55 fields, and doctoral degrees in 40 fields of study, in addition to a professional degree in veterinary medicine.

Overview:

Michael Macklin, Director of New Product Development, Colorado State University Online

michael.macklin@colostate.edu,

http://www.online.colostate.edu/badges/

CSULogic was developed through an innovative public/private partnership with RelevanceLogic, Inc. This software allows for automation of badge delivery and integration with existing systems while remaining agnostic to learning management systems and student information systems. This architecture allows for deployment across sectors and industries outside of CSU as licensable software. The platform leverages proprietary big-data and content analysis tools that will allow CSU to keep curriculum relevant and responsive to learner needs by creating a feedback loop to evaluate and refine an existing curriculum. This functionality has been one of the most innovative elements of CSU’s digital badge work and is critical to the long term sustainability of badges. More importantly, CSULogic will support an expanded reach and propel badges into other networks and applications.

Software Features:

Intelligent Content
This particular element of the software is the arguably the most innovative. Using a proprietary content analysis engine CSU is able to pull data from social sources, courses, and badge interactions which allow CSU to evaluate and modify courses along with increasing their ability to build courses relevant to potential learner needs.

Badge Management Solution
The badge management solution has three core functions: badge development, badge awarding, and badge communications. Badge development is designed for system administrators to develop badges, manage users, and associate relationships between the two. Badge awarding and communication helps learners know where they are in the process of earning a badge and provide multiple avenues for interacting with badges that they have earned or are in the process of earning.

Future Development
A social media driven learning community will be created to allow select badge users to contribute, find, and share content. The interaction with this environment will help drive the intelligent content engine which, in turn, will provide opportunities for course modification and new course development.


Setting:

• Goal 1: Develop standards, hierarchy, and a robust development roadmap for future components to enhance the learning ecosystem
• Goal 2: Develop courses and ensure course quality through rigorous assessment, course evaluation, and sound instructional design
• Goal 3: Mobilize the non-consumer of extension curriculum by increasing access to traditionally face-to-face programming

Goal 1: CSU’s badge strategy, which was used to drive the development of CSULogic, reflects a critical distinction from other badging initiatives. While some badging ecosystems award badges merely for participation, CSU’s badge taxonomy includes Trek, Quest and Mastery badges. Badges are designed to be available to learners on-demand.

Goal 2: To lend credibility to the earning of a badge, a student must receive 80% or higher on all assessments. TILT’s team of instruction and technology designers collaborated with faculty to develop courses in a way that allowed learners to interact with the curriculum at their own pace while incentivizing progression by only allowing badges to be issued if assessment requirements were achieved. This approach of high-quality and rigorous course material and a sound badging ecosystem shaped the overall badge strategy at CSU and ultimately will help frame the direction of future work.

Goal 3: When creating CSULogic, there was an intentional focus on the learner lifecycle that creates a relationship with the process of earning the badge. Learners can be in a dropped, criteria not met, earned, awarded, and in-progress status. Current demographics from the pilot represents students from 12% of the states, and 23% of counties from the state of Colorado.

Learning Recognized:

The CSULogic Badge Management Solution supports competency-based learning for our students. Our first application of this innovative system, the CSU Extension Certified Gardener (ECG) Program, allows us to pursue our traditional extension mission among a widely dispersed population without sacrificing educational quality. Our students can now access modularized courses at their own pace and within a pricing structure that allows them to pay only for what they want to learn.

In 2012, Colorado State University (CSU) committed to piloting a digital badge program that would allow online programming to reach a broader audience. Focused on quality instructional design, modality, access, and affordability, CSU’s digital badge strategy is rooted in its land-grant mission of providing access to world-class education and research even for those not able to travel to its physical campus. Addressing this call, CSU Online worked with CSU Extension to convert the face-to-face, semester-based curriculum of the Colorado Master Gardener Program to fully-badged delivery.

CSULogic allowed us to unbundle the Certified Master Gardener curriculum, transforming it into an on-demand, competency-based, mastery-driven program that retains the quality of the traditional courses that serve as its foundation. The ECG program exposes learners to the latest gardening techniques, allowing them to become authorities who can in turn share their gardening expertise. By reimagining its delivery through the CSULogic Badge Management System, the ECG program is more responsive to learner needs. Through its badging structure, students are able to take individual courses, bundle courses, or complete the full program, all while earning digital badges to signal their attainment of content knowledge and skills. The CSULogic Badge Management System has allowed us to expand Extension’s offerings to a new population of learners. It has also laid the foundation for several additional programs that are currently in development.

Assessments:

To execute its badge strategy, CSU Online evaluated existing solutions and considered the potential and limitations. Our goals included: 

(1) developing university-wide standards for digital badges while maintaining compliance with Mozilla’s Open Badge Infrastructure (OBI); (2) inventing and deploying a software application that leverages private big-data analytics, badge management, and social networks; and (3) partnering with The Institute for Teaching and Learning (TILT) at CSU to ensure pedagogical soundness through the development of practical, but meaningful learning objectives that are tied to assessments within the course.

Our assessment measures included (1) pre/post-tests, (2) discussion boards, (3) lab assignments (completed in the field and often requiring an applied component), (4) quizzes, and (5) a mastery exam. These assessments were modified, adapted, and created based on activities that would have traditionally taken place in a face-to-face workshop or course.

Key considerations included the intentional instructional design alterations required to ensure the development of a granular and unbundled version of traditional course work. Our digital badge courses needed to (1) allow access to curricula that was neither place nor date bound, (2) provide opportunity for learners to gain mastery of a subject through assessment and evaluation, and (3) increase learner engagement with peers and instructors. Courses in the program range from one- to three-weeks in length with the expectation that learners spend a minimum of five hours per week engaging with content, assessments, peers, and instructors.


Challenges:

After researching available options, and defining needs to execute the badge strategy, CSU prioritized the following steps: developing University-wide standards for digital badges while maintaining compliance with Mozilla’s OBI for all badges issued; inventing and developing a one-of-a-kind software application that leverages private big-data analytics, badge management, and social networks; and partnering with The Institute for Teaching and Learning (TILT) at CSU to ensure pedagogical soundness and the development of practical, but meaningful learning objectives that are tied to the assessments within the course. Assessments include: optional pre/post-tests, guided discussion boards, lab assignments (to be completed in the field and most often require a hands-on component), quizzes, and a mastery exam. These assessments were modified, adapted, and created based on activities that would have traditionally taken place in a face-to-face workshop or course.


One of the largest considerations CSU recognized was that in order to make a granular and unbundled version of a traditional course work, there had to be intentional instructional design alterations. Digital badge courses needed to allow for access to curriculum that was not place or date bound, provided opportunity for learners to gain mastery of a subject through assessment and evaluation, and increased learner engagement in the online classroom with peers and instructors. Courses in the program range from one to three weeks in length with the expectation that learners spend a minimum of five hours per week engaging with the content, assessments, peers, and instructors.


Next Steps:

Although it is generally difficult to move into any emerging market, it has been an extremely rewarding experience to know that this project is helping to advance teaching and learning at CSU. Through digital badges, CSU has a way to connect learning objectives, skills, and competencies to K-12/higher education/trade and industries on a shared platform with standards. With a project that is mobilizing many partners across multiple sectors, it is important to focus on coalition and consensus building. The long-term success of digital badges lies in the ability of those involved in projects like these to set aside institutional differences and focus on the larger good of providing access to education in new ways to address changes in learners and generations to come.

Even with a limited range of data to date and a continually changing environment, the ECG program can be considered an emerging success. Enrollments continue to trend upward and badges as a whole are increasing in adoption (based on interaction with badges in CSULogic summer 2014 versus fall 2014). Next steps in the strategy include expanding the portfolio of offerings and working with K-12, higher education partners, private industry, and government to increase options for learners to pursue. We feel there is an opportunity, utilizing the CSULogic platform, to scale-up operations, generate revenue and facilitate access for large numbers of learners from across the world providing them just-in-time education from a multitude of educational providers.