The Role, Implementation and Impact of Digital Open Badges on a Civil Engineering Degree

Gibbons, Wayne (2020). The Role, Implementation and Impact of Digital Open Badges on a Civil Engineering Degree. EdD thesis The Open University.



The Civil Engineering degree at the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT) has experienced lower than average first-year retention. Management at the GMIT has highlighted the role of teaching staff in increasing retention.

This study evaluates an intervention intended to increase student engagement and motivation (two factors affecting retention) on the Computer Aided Design (CAD) module. This involved mapping the skills and behaviours required to succeed in the module to a set of digital open badges. Such badges have been shown to influence student engagement and motivation in other settings.

This case study involved an interpretive enquiry using mixed-methods (surveys, learning journals and semi-structured interviews) over two phases. Phase 1 evaluated the perceptions towards digital open badges from key stakeholders: students, lecturers, institute management and an employer. This informed the design of the digital open badge scheme, the implementation and impact of which became the focus of Phase 2.

The findings suggest that stakeholders are positive towards digital open badges. The type of motivation did not change; students showed a high tendency towards intrinsic motivation throughout. However, the level of motivation due to interest/enjoyment significantly increased. Students value digital open badges for confidence-building, peer-learning, incentivising attendance and creating links to employability. The employer values digital open badges for identifying candidates with desirable traits and preparedness for continual professional development. Institute management values digital open badges for encouraging peer-learning and attendance at classes.

The implication of the findings is that digital open badges influence student engagement and motivation through building confidence and incentivising attendance. Stakeholders have recognised positive aspects, and there is an indication that digital open badges can play an important role in enhancing student employability. A case is made for using digital open badges in other modules on the programme and more broadly within the department and other institutes.

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