Teaching and Learning

Must-attend sessions at the 2022 IMS Digital Credentials Summit

Planning your agenda for this year’s IMS Digital Credentialing Summit? Take the guesswork out of the best way to spend your time with this list of must-attend sessions curated by digital badging pioneer and Badgr Director of Digital Credentialing Strategies Sheryl Grant.

Jan 27, 2022

The countdown has begun

This year the 2022 IMS Digital Credentials Summit is in Atlanta, Georgia, from Feb. 28–March 3, with virtual and in-person sessions. The Digital Credentials Summit has become one of those premium credentialing events that draws together trail-blazing practitioners and thought leaders under one roof, and it’s exciting to see both familiar and new faces in this year’s line-up.

Reflecting on 12 years of Open Badges innovation in the context of this summit, it’s remarkable to see how topics about digital credentialing are shifting, which ones have remained evergreen and which new ones have taken root.

What’s caught my attention

Among the 2022 Digital Credential Summit sessions, I’m impressed by the degree of nuance and depth emerging from complex cross- and inter-institutional design work and the partnerships they’ve engaged to enrich their digital credentialing programs.

Seen from behind, a young man wearing a hoodie and backpack stares ahead at anonymous badges representing skills and opportunities.

And, as anyone who has launched a digital credentialing program knows, new technologies can introduce complicated operational practices that must be integrated (some might say shoe-horned) into existing systems. Looking at these session descriptions, there is no shortage of ingenuity in the methods people use to smooth out unavoidable friction and set their programs up for long-term sustainability.

Program sustainability comes into focus

It’s heartening, too, to recognize that thought leaders in the field are beginning to talk in greater detail about program sustainability after years focused on pilots and exploratory work.

In 2011, when my colleagues at HASTAC, Mozilla and the MacArthur Foundation were focused on field-building efforts, there were so many discussions about what the ecosystem would need in order to flourish.

Many of those pieces have unfolded and many are embedded in these speaker sessions — not just the change management pieces, but also the interoperable parts and the open standards that make a digital credentialing ecosystem possible.

Open standards are key

IMS Global is a standards-based organization, so this reflection on upcoming sessions is an appropriate place as anywhere to underscore how integral open standards are to the digital credentialing community (and the internet). It’s easy to overlook the significance of open standards, but they’re sort of like the roads and traffic rules and patterns we follow to reach our destination — not as glamorous as the destination, perhaps, but critical to the journey nonetheless.

Two hands come together to grasp an anonymous badge representing skills and opportunities.

What brings us together at IMS Global’s Digital Credentialing Summit is the shared use of interoperable standards, not just with Open Badges v2.1 but with badging-adjacent standards like the Comprehensive Learner Record (CLR) and Competencies and Academic Standards Exchange (CASE).

Contributing to standards work is a point of pride for my team at Badgr. To a person, we share an unwavering commitment individually and collectively in the health and well-being of the digital credentialing ecosystem, whether it’s being lead authors on the OB v2.0 specification (and now OB v3.0) or transitioning Mozilla’s Open Badges Backpack to the Open Badges Backpack 2.0, which is connected to and maintained by Badgr.

Part of contributing to standards work means drafting use cases early on in the authoring process to help envision how people and organizations might engage one another through the technology. Attending speaker sessions and hearing stories about successful programs built on the back of open standards makes attending the conference so much more than the sum of its parts.

Here are the sessions I’m marking as fan favorites:

Top 7 must-attend sessions for the 2022 IMS Digital Credentials Summit:

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Paving the Pathways to Opportunity with Skills and Digital Credentials

  • Darin Hobbs, Director of Academic Records, Credentials & Career, WGU
  • Kacey Thorne, Director, Skills Architecture; Sarah DeMark, Vice Provost, Workforce Intelligence and Credential Integrity, WGU
  • Joshua Heyman, Senior Curriculum Systems Manager, Southern New Hampshire University

The need for upskilling and reskilling is real — but so is the complexity of the range of solutions emerging. The Open Skills Network (OSN) is a coalition of employers, educational institutions, military and other stakeholders dedicated to advancing — and clarifying and simplifying — the world of skills. The OSN was founded to reduce costs, increase benefits and improve the overall quality of skills data translation, management and publication by education institutions and employers using open standards, open-source tools and shared best practices.

We will share progress to date of the OSN towards these goals, including exciting outcomes, impact and learnings of the spring 2021 OSN pilot projects resulting in the first published open skills libraries, which are currently available for use. We will also discuss the OSN’s vision to scale and proliferate the adoption of open skills and engage workshop participants in discussion about how to get involved.

We will also explore real world open skills use cases from WGU and SNHU and how they are using competency-based, skills-driven curriculum and digital badging to provide more agency and mobility for learners. We will explore how these institutions have leveraged OSMT, Credential Engine, CASE, CLR and Badgr to create pathways and digital credentials for students.

Why attend?

The Open Skills Network came together as a coalition at breakneck speed and the way WGU and SNHU have integrated open skills libraries into the rest of their digital credentialing ecosystem makes this a must-attend session. In partnership with WGU, Concentric Sky/Badgr designed the Open Skills Management Tool (OSMT), which is freely available for anyone to use, layering in another piece to make skills-based learning and hiring a reality.

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Recognizing Alternative Learning Opportunities with Badging

  • Beth Apodaca, Director, Instructional Design, New Mexico State University
  • Andrew Sedillo, Instructional Design, Lead, New Mexico State University

We will present information on how New Mexico State University entered the alternative learning environment, moving towards prior learning credit as professional development beyond the academic credit. Through the implementation of a new learning management system, NMSU On-Demand, we have begun to offer non-credit courses in a variety of areas. Additionally, we are collaborating with Badgr to align the learning experiences with online digital credentials. As this is new territory for our institution, we want to share our experiences as well as get feedback from others who have taken this route toward their professional development offerings in higher education.

Why is it a must-attend?

Prior learning credit and professional development are two areas that get a lot of attention in the digital credentials space. Hearing how New Mexico State University approaches prior learning credit for professionals adds even more dimension to a hot topic.

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Knocking Down Silos: An Institutional Micro-credentialing Approach

  • Ana Baida, Executive Director of the Department of Career Planning and Development, Kennesaw State University
  • Krysta Fry, Director, Career Advising and Planning, Kennesaw State University
  • Anissa Lokey-Vega, Assistant Vice President for Curriculum and Academic Innovations, Kennesaw State University
  • Raven Malliett, Curriculum Design Coordinator, Kennesaw State University

Kennesaw State University had several unrelated badging efforts happening across campus in their own silos. These micro-credentials varied greatly in quality, rigor and intent. In 2020, a cross-campus committee representing offices of curriculum, career development, professional education, digital learning, technology services and the registrar set out to design an institutional micro-credentialing initiative that maximized flexibility while ensuring credential integrity and workforce value. This presentation will share the design process, key decisions, design characteristics and lessons learned. The presenters will expound on how this initiative, which allows faculty and staff to propose and award micro-credentials to students, faculty, staff and community members, is framed using a custom taxonomy. The presenters will share this taxonomy showing how it is designed to document and incentivize a wide variety of workforce skill demonstrations and campus engagements. The presenters will discuss the next goals for the initiative and invite input and discussion from attendees, especially those who are further into the implementation of their own micro-credential initiatives.

Why attend?

We’re seeing interesting approaches to operationalizing campus-wide micro-credentialing systems and Kennesaw’s example points to an emerging conundrum: How do you coordinate grassroots programs to optimize credentialing programs for flexibility and maximize value? These two aspects of credential design can sometimes seem to be at odds.

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Empowering Learners Through Skills and Digital Credentials

  • Darin Hobbs, Director of Academic Records, Credentials & Career, WGU
  • Kacey Thorne, Director, Skills Architecture, WGU

Learners today face unsettling economic realities. They need powerful, novel approaches from higher education leaders. At Western Governors University, we are accelerating skills-based education and hiring in order to give learners flexibility, address equity gaps and ensure that every graduate is equipped to thrive. Our approach allows us to better serve students and power partnerships with employers and workforce development systems.

During this session, we will share our experience designing, developing and deploying the Western Governors University Achievement Wallet. We will share learnings across our entire journey including the development of our skills library, how we used our newly available skills data to ensure our curriculum is aligned to the most market-relevant skills and how we have empowered our learners to communicate the value of their skills, talent and experiences to employers.

Why attend?

We’re starting to hear a lot about digital wallets, not just for learning credentials but for other forms of identity like vaccination passports and driver’s licenses. There’s a lot of variability in how people are defining wallets, so attend this session to either start building up or adding to your knowledge base and learn how WGU is defining theirs.

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Making Skills Transparent Through a Unified Micro-Credential Framework

  • Claire Sullivan, Assistant Vice Chancellor for Innovation in Digital Badges and Micro-Credentials, University of Maine System
  • Laura Wilson, 4-H Science Professional, University of Maine Cooperative Extension

The University of Maine System developed a unified micro-credential framework to recognize the knowledge and skills learners develop in courses and programs. Each UMS micro-credential consists of three levels and a stacked macro-badge. Micro-badges are developed to verify granular skills. We are developing a statewide micro-credential ecosystem to aid in career aspirations and workforce development. UMaine’s Cooperative Extension is an important collaborator in this initiative. With locations in 16 county offices, farms, 4-H learning centers, Extension is in a unique position to offer highly valued, competency-based micro-credentials for multiple audiences across the state. Extension conducts the state’s most successful out-of-school youth educational program through 4-H and aids the $3.9 billion food-based economy through various training programs. During the pandemic, Extension developed the first-ever virtual Seafood HACCP training in the world. During the pilot phase, twelve micro-credentials were developed, four of which were developed by Extension. These include Aquaculture and Food Safety (industry), 4-H STEM Ambassadors (UMS) and 4-H Outdoor Leadership (youth). Several others are under development. In this session, we will discuss the collaboration and the impact of the micro-credentials on the adult learner, youth, as well as the state. The audience will learn what has worked well and some of the challenges we face.

Why attend?

Unification is a strong theme currently coming out of the digital credentialing space, and the University of Maine is a leader to watch as they begin to expand their cross-system programs. Plus, 4-H was an early collaborator in the micro-credentialing space and the organization has always represented a strong use case for digital credentials. It’s exciting to see these two partners find a way to align micro-credentials with shared goals for the state.

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Stories of Scale: Micro-credential Strategies Revisited

  • Luke Dowden, Chief Online Learning Officer / Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Success, Alamo Colleges District
  • Amber O’Casey, Instructional Designer, Alamo Colleges District

Community colleges are on the front lines of micro-credentialing — pursuing strategies to stack skills-based training and other forms of alternate credentials into degree programs. In this panel discussion, leaders from large community college systems share what they are learning, thinking about and working on. Each is partnering with a growing list of local, regional and national organizations to offer digital badges as proof of prior learning. Each is exploring, designing and creating alternative pathways into the colleges for workers who want a non-credit credential to reskill or upskill.

Why attend?

Alamo Colleges uses micro-pathways to demonstrate to learners what each individual micro-credential means in terms of clear value in the workforce. Their commitment to employer-initiated and validated micro-credentials and visualized pathways makes this session a must-attend, not only to hear what they’ve been doing but to learn what they have planned next.

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Learning Pathways for Students

  • Rich Copeland, Supervisor of Teacher Quality, Georgia Virtual

Georgia Virtual has issued badges to faculty and staff since 2013. Starting fall 2021, we have finally started issuing digital credentials to K-12 students. In a pilot project to implement personalized learning strategies into our 9th grade core curriculum, we started with biology and built specific pathways to assist students in understanding the progression of the course as they make decisions about assessment types. We also built a pathway to illustrate how the tasks in the course met the state standards. This presentation will explore the development of projects from the integration of Badgr Pro into the Canvas LMS to how the learning data can be utilized by the student and by educators in other classes.

Why attend?

We’ve always known that professional development for teachers could lead to a culture change in K-12 and Georgia is demonstrating what this looks like. The depth of knowledge about system design and change management makes this a must-attend event, especially when it comes to how visualized pathways and learning data impact teachers and learners.

Dr. Sheryl Grant, a woman with her hair pulled back, looks at the camera. She wears earrings and eyeglasses with rectangular frames.

About the author

Sheryl Grant, PhD is director of digital credentialing strategies at Badgr where she is responsible for the research, design and delivery of strategic planning and expertise in support of complex, multi-year digital credentialing programs.

Dr. Grant is among the change agents who helped build the field of micro-credentials and spearheaded the Open Badges movement 12 years ago with Mozilla, the MacArthur Foundation and HASTAC. She has published articles, blogs, book chapters and the book What Counts as Learning: Open Digital Badges for New Opportunities, an early response to designing badge systems grounded in actual practice.

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