Badges: Credentialing Information Literacy

At the November 4 ICOP meeting, Mandy Havert led the discussion entitled “Credentialing Information Literacy: What is it? Why should we consider it? What difference will it make?”

There is a trend in different fields and occupations towards awarding badges or certification for certain recommended training. At the University of Notre Dame, some badges or are in the process of being developed to recognize work in digital learning (MOOCs) and educational excellence (Kaneb). Badging creates both credibility to the training and also provides beneficial recognition of accomplishments for recipients’ CVs. But the badging should have some sort of authority behind it to be useful.

Steven Bell discussed this issue for library instruction in the Library Journal article, “Credentialing to Establish the Library’s Presence.” He states that the graduating students’ transcripts do little to describe their skill in desired research and communication competencies. With a recognized credentialing system, students could earn badges for participating in essential workshops that would then be a seen as a valuable asset in graduate education or the job market.

Victoria Raish and Emily Rimland, in their article “Employer Perceptions of Critical Information Literacy Skills and Digital Badges” in the upcoming January 2016 issue of College & Research Libraries, take a closer look at digital badges for information literacy competencies and employers’ perceptions of these skills. They conducted a survey of employers and the results showed that these skills are highly valued and employers believe that these badges might be a better indication of the students’ true skills.

After this short review of the badging concept, we started our conversation with an attempt to answer the question “What is Essential?” a topic which is also in discussion at the Graduate School for the Professional Development team. We have discussed the difficulties in offering workshops only to find that students are signing up but not showing up. Perhaps we are reaching a saturation level of workshops and students are having difficulty discerning which are essential. There is also somewhat of a disconnect for librarians, who see themselves more as being “embedded” within classes, rather than offering separate classes.

We did feel that badges should be elective, not required. This would make their attainment more meaningful, demonstrating an extra effort to acquire higher level skills by the students who receive them. We thought the Pot of Gold tutorial could be one “badgeable” activity. Here is a list of sessions that were identified as “Essential” in the course of our discussion. This list is by no means complete.

  • Literature Review
    • Research Method
    • Discipline Based
  • Citation and Research Management
    • Citing sources correctly with your discipline’s style
    • Avoiding plagiarism using your style
    • Understanding that some form of management is better than none and none are perfect
  • Digital Information Literacy Services
    • University of Houston has a rubric that is excellent for this (L. Morgan)
    • Annotated bibliography
    • Evaluating resources
      • Credibility
      • Data evaluation and interpretation

We also discussed other academic institutions that are trying a badging system for their library instruction, in particular the University of Central Florida. As part of a pilot project, UCF students are awarded digital badges for the completion of any of UCF’s Information Literacy Modules. Students must score 80% or higher on each module quiz to receive the badge. Other institutions are trying the badging system, including University at Albany, Portland State University, and others.

We concluded that this sort of system would be interesting to investigate and helpful to implement, but more research would need to be done.