The ‘gamification’ of education

How can student records most accurately reflect student learning?--That’s the question driving the pilot Comprehensive Student Records (CSR) project funded by a grant from Lumina Foundation and spearheaded by AACRAO and NASPA: Student Affairs Professionals in Higher Education.

The project is focused on developing comprehensive student records that document evidence of student learning and achievement beyond traditional course names, credits, and grades. The current project includes twelve higher education institutions* – two- and four-year, public and private – that are already developing records that display learning outcomes, use competency-based education approaches to education and/or document co-curricular experiences.

AACRAO is publishing a series of institutional profiles about each model record, the campus-wide collaboration required to enact change, and the goals each model is designed to achieve. Each of the institutions involved in the pilot project serves a different student population. LaGuardia Community College, featured below, is located in New York City and serves almost 50,000 students (approximately 20,000 degree-seeking) from more than 150 different countries, speaking over 125 native languages.

 

Today’s students are accustomed to doing everything online. That’s why LaGuardia Community College has developed a comprehensive record—a digital badging project—that works the way students of the 21st century think.

“This technology is where students are,” said Michael A. Baston, Vice President for the Division of Student Affairs and Associate Provost at LaGuardia. “Next fall, we will enroll a new generation of students—the “centennials.” These students will be even more tech-savvy then the millennials we’re serving presently. They’ve grown up with concept of earning badges—look at Pokemon Go.”

LaGuardia’s dynamic, user-friendly and shareable student record not only documents student competencies, it also aims to keep students committed to college through a sense of participation, advancement and community. The goal was, in part, to recognize student learning that takes place beyond the classroom, and to define and measure these skills.

“It’s all about the ‘gamification of life,’” Baston said. “Students work to earn higher levels of achievement which can be shared more broadly than a traditional transcript.”

The Career Readiness pilot

The Career Readiness Digital Badging project began last year. The pilot project, involving 31 Federal Work Study students, identified six competencies in high demand in the workforce for which students could earn stackable “mini-badges.” Modeled after the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) competencies, the skills include:

  • Critical thinking and problem solving
  • Oral and written communication
  • Teamwork and collaboration
  • Information technology application
  • Leadership
  • Professionalism and work ethic

In these modules, students do tasks such as resume-writing, interviewing, and developing an ePortfolio and LinkedIn profile. They’re also recognized for participating in student clubs and mentoring sessions.

Trained staff evaluate the students’ work with a rubric. After the student achieves sufficient points in a given competency, the badge owner sends an email with an opt-in code that the student can use to accept the badge on their profile at laguardia.credly.com. Students can also add other evidence (resume, video, photographs, reflections, etc.) to the sharable profile.

Expanding the project

Building on the success of the Career Readiness Badge, LaGuardia has added three more main badges.

  1. Ambassador Badge, for students in the President's Society, which fosters college ambassadors who attend networking, college, and cultural events and participate in activities such as dining etiquette, dress for success, and mock interviews.
  2. E-portfolio Badge, for students to create high-level portfolios that are then published on the website as examples for other students. These students attend workshops and are provided free lab time to create their portfolios.
  3. Service Learning Badge, for students involved in the Environmental Student Club, a co-curricular program designed to strengthen connections to STEM majors through a series of service and experiential learning. Students earn a badge by attending two of three Environmental Student Club field trips.

Each program includes about 30 students. Student learning and reflection for all programs is captured in the college's e-portfolio system.

“We’d like to begin badging in other areas, such as student government and dean’s list,” Baston said. “The Lumina project has helped us to advance our thinking and put it into practice.”

A common cause

“In higher education, we’re thinking about alternative ways to capture and share what students are learning outside of the classroom,” said Baston. “It’s important to recognize the skills students are acquiring in this way, in all areas of their development.”

It really is a paradigm shift, so, to be effective, the commitment must be school-wide.

“First, you need committed leadership,” Baston said. “It requires coordinated change—new ways of looking at processes, the development of rubrics, and getting buy-in from employers, faculty and students.”

According to Baston, institutions have every tangible reason to use a strategy like this.

“Not only does it help provide evidence that students are making progress, it also helps students feel connected to college,” Baston added. “It’s a retention strategy that helps students maintain momentum, clarify their aspirations and solidify their commitment to stay on the right path and complete the curriculum.”

 

* The twelve institutions are as follows:

Borough of Manhattan Community College

Brandman University

Dillard University

Elon University

Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis

LaGuardia Community College

Stanford University

University of Central Oklahoma

University of Houston-Downtown

University of Maryland University College

University of South Carolina

University of Wisconsin – Extension and Wisconsin Colleges