Lightning Talks

Michelle Thompson, Emma Ronney (Kaplan International Pathways)
Christopher J Macallister (University of Sunderland in London)

Tuesday, April 4, 2023 11:00 AM - 11:45 AM

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Session Outline

Using digital badges to help our teachers to support students in developing their graduate attributes

Michelle Thompson, Emma Ronney (Kaplan International Pathways)

Over the last decade there has been a significant rise in research into the use of digital badges in higher education and other industries. Digital badges can be used to gamify learning environments and act as a micro-credential which visually illustrates the development of a skill area. Research has shown that digital badges can increase student motivation to engage with module content (Dowling-Hetherington & Glowatz, 2017), and allow students to showcase transferable skills (Gibson et al., 2013) to employers on social media sites (Leaser et al.,2020).

At Kaplan International Pathways we have introduced a suite of over one hundred digital badges on our Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). These badges act as non-credit bearing micro credentials that students achieve for developing core skills. The purpose of their introduction was to increase motivation and engagement in our curriculum content by gamifying our students’ learning environment, whilst, crucially, raising students' awareness of key employability skills linked to our overall graduate attributes. Our students can both earn badges through self-directed activities and be awarded by a teacher. The achievement of these badges is then used by learning advisors to guide students to recognise and further develop their employability skills and graduate attributes. Currently, over 9000 badges have been achieved by our students in the initial 5 month period since we launched.

Our presentation will explain our design methodology and the challenges we faced during the creation of the badges where we used a co-design approach with college staff, students, branding and EDI teams. The steps we took during these stages were vital in ensuring our badges were appropriate aesthetically and were diverse and inclusive, both in terms of imagery and in the way and which students were encouraged to engage with the badges.

We will discuss how we have implemented the digital badges on our VLE. This includes the various ways our students can earn badges, as part of their module studies and through our Career Focus employability offer where students can develop their skills, knowledge and behaviours to help prepare them for the future.

Emphasising the vital role undertaken by our colleges’ teaching staff to use the digital badges to raise awareness of the graduate attributes and employability skills, we will critically reflect on how successful this has been, both in terms of staff engagement and student engagement with these key areas of the curriculum.

Focusing on quantitative data and feedback from our students, we will discuss how our students have engaged with the digital badges, whilst considering our ongoing analysis of the impact the digital badges may be having on our students and their motivation to develop their graduate attributes.


Identity and Community in the Liminal World of the Personal Tutor: welcome to the multiverse!

Christopher J Macallister (University of Sunderland in London)

In contemporary HE student identity and student community have become issues that are seen as central to the student experience. The success or failure of the contemporary learning experience is about far more than the 'classic' lecture-seminar/workshop moment. The learning experience today includes a diverse range of services and roles committed to enhancing the student's pedagogical environment. These include: academic skills tutors, English for academic purposes lecturers, library services, digital coaches, and of course the personal tutor role...

In this 'mixed' learning economy the development of a coherent and meaningful personal tutor identity is not something that can be taken for granted. The personal tutor can struggle with a liminal identity. However, how can we expect a truly coherent and meaningful student identity and sense of community to develop if the educators' identity remains in question? A successful HE learning environment is one where learners and educators co-create a shared social world. Thus, a scenario where one side of the equation is out of alignment will undermine the success of the whole pedagogical endeavour.

This paper will argue that the development of a coherent and meaningful personal tutor identity is a core challenge that Universities need to meet; especially in the context of a 'multiverse' of educator identities. This can only be met if HE leaders and their teams take a 'reflexive turn' and unpack their worlds. The paper will draw upon an autoethnographic approach reflecting on the presenter's experiences in 2022 - 2023 as the leader of an Academic Development Centre. This Centre encompasses the 'multiverse' of educator roles and identities set out earlier. Personal reflection will be combined with data from interviews with colleagues, and communication excerpts. Recent literature from the discipline of English for Academic Purposes will be drawn upon as an example of a very successful 'reflexive turn' in another applied field of practice. The paper will ultimately argue that personal tutor role is a communitarian one; its identity is ultimately constructed through its relationship to other educational roles in the multiverse.


This session addresses the following competencies of the UKAT Professional Framework for Advising and Tutoring
C1 - Core values of academic advising and tutoring
C2 - Theory relevant to academic advising and tutoring
C3 - Academic advising and tutoring approaches and strategies
I5 - The characteristics, needs, and experiences of major and emerging student populations
I7 - Data and information technology applicable to tutoring
R3 - Motivate, encourage, and support students to recognize their potential, meet challenges, and respect individuality