The Direct Network

Badging: The Next Level

Posted by Carrie Watkins on Sep 28, 2015 6:00:00 AM
Topics: Higher Ed, mbs direct, K-12, professional development
MBS Direct created an internal training program last year for members of our Client Services team. For completing various courses, milestones and generally being awesome, employees earned badges and points. We launched the program because we wanted to step up our internal training options and give employees choice and transparency in what training they did and when they did it.

You can read more about that thought process here. While badging and microcredentialing is starting to gain traction in K-12 and Higher Education, it took a little bit to win over our Account Managers.

Despite the initial quizzical looks and comments about failing out of cub scouts, the badge print-outs started showing up on cubicle walls. I started getting questions about specific information on a particularly hard quiz. And everyone started sharing gushing emails from schools about going above and beyond, just to earn the coveted Big Deal badge.Big Deal badge replaced the You Rock badge

This month, we rolled out Level 2. A new set of requirements. New quizzes, courses and ways to step out of their comfort zone. Here are some of the things our Client Services team can earn badges for:

  • Proving they know the Service Center, Course Director and the VitalSource® platforms inside and out so they can lead training on these with our partner schools
  • Doing a five to ten minute presentation to their peers on a topic of their choice to get better at public speaking and creating engaging presentations
  • Take a business or education-related course through a MOOC platform such as Coursera or edX. Because learning never stops.
  • Take a quiz about and build a course pack using eText Builder so they understand the process and can help schools use this tool.
  • When a school goes out of their way to write us and compliment an account manager for doing something above and beyond.

As with any new endeavor, we’re doing a few things differently this time around. Badging was a good choice for rolling out new professional development, but there were a few bumps. Here are a few things we learned:

Choice is essential.

Each member of our team is different. While there were a few things we required from everyone, the majority of the points earned toward the badging goal came from a variety of options that the individual could choose. Especially with the Never Stop Learning badge, we had pre-approved courses on writing, time management and Excel, but also left it open for employees to go out and find other interesting courses. For this year, we knew we needed to expand that circle and give even more options. We added 11 badges, bringing the total number to 25. And even within the badges, many provide choice. For the presentation badge, they choose the topic. For the Role Play badge, they choose the scenario. For the course pack badge, they choose the theme of the material. The badge points they have to earn increased this year, but so did the options they have to pick from.

Motivation comes in many forms.

While we hoped that there would be interest in these learning opportunities for the sake of learning, we knew there would have to be other carrots involved. We did have some team members who were excited about the professional growth opportunities and some who were just in it because their manager wanted them to complete the requirements. What I was fascinated by, though, was the interest in displaying the paper badges. There were several times when I was a little slow getting those distributed, and people would ask about them. Having a physical representation that their co-workers could see, in addition to the digital badge through Credly, was a big motivator for many of our account managers.

Give more time than you think they need.

This was mostly a learning curve for the account managers, but it required tweaking on our end as administrators of the program. We started the badging program late last fall, but didn’t really push out all requirements until late spring. Everything had to be completed by the end of August to be eligible for the carrots. As partner schools, you know our busiest time is when schools are submitting their booklists and when bookstores open. For some, the badging requirements added stress to an already stressful time. For round two, we were able to launch the new badges in September and the program finishes in June, extending the time they had to complete the requirements and leaving July and August completely training free. Hopefully this will shift the focus away from just getting it done and towards curiosity and learning.

Professional development is key for any industry, and the badging system has given us a fun way to promote personal and professional growth. We’re able to reward the team not only for getting out of their comfort zones, but also for becoming better at their jobs. If you haven’t already, check out your Account Manager’s page to see which badges they have earned. You can also check out our page on Credly, where WrayLynn Williams and Eric Dunn are leading the pack with 20 badges each.

Let your Account Manager know if you think we should come up with a badge for our partner schools!


About Carrie Watkins

Carrie is a former digital consultant for MBS Direct, who specialized in traveling around the country to learn about new products and services MBS Direct can provide to partner schools and bringing those ideas back into the office to work on with the digital solutions team.

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