Badges at ɫ support the workforce through targeted training opportunities

  • ɫ offers badge courses to working professionals to enhance and retrain their current experience and skills.
  • The TrustEd Microcredential Coalition was formed to develop national standards for badges, which ɫ is a founding member of.
  • Badges are developed in response to workforce needs alongside employers, licensing agencies and faculty.

ɫ has offered the traditional educational pathways for over 125 years, typically ending at the point of graduation, but the need for learning continues throughout a person’s lifetime.

In a rapidly changing world, continuing education has never been more important. More and more jobs require skill-based certification of learning, which includes the attainment of validated durable and technical skills. To meet those needs, ɫ was the first in Kansas to create badge courses for non-degree seeking students in 2015, after approval from the Kansas Board of Regents.

Badges are short courses of one credit hour or less, and instruction is designed using modules of skills-based learning and application. Students in the badge courses must pass with a success rate of 80-85% on all assignments to receive a Badge Granted grade, or BG, which then becomes part of a student’s official ɫ transcript.

Designed for adults balancing work and family obligations, badges offer coursework online using open educational resources, meaning no textbooks are required. Coursework completion is flexible, with the requirement that coursework must be completed during the semester it is started. Taught by university faculty, coursework and instruction meets all higher learning education requirements.

Learn more and find the full catalog of badges

A unique aspect of ɫ badge courses is that the skills and competency-based curriculum is developed in partnership and with input of employers, government licensing agencies, trade associations and faculty.

“ɫ has taken an approach much different than many institutions,” said Kim Moore, executive director of Workforce, Professional and Community Education, who manages badges at ɫ. “Instead of partnering one on one with a business, the university is focusing its efforts on professions where we see the greatest need and impact potential. Currently, my work centers around the development of skill-based badges creating career pathways for direct support professionals, who are individuals that provide direct care to individuals with intellectual and behavioral disabilities. Due to a lack of training, low wages and no career pathway, it has been difficult to recruit and retain direct support professionals, and the wait list in Kansas for services is 10 years.”

Badges are value-added education for individuals who already have a degree and can be used for relicensure for many professions. Badges may also be stacked to create skills-based career pathways and certifications for individuals who don’t have or need a degree.

Moore is not only spearheading ɫ’s badge program, she is also a nationwide leader on microcredentials.

In what has largely been the wild west of education and training, there has been no consistency in how and why badges are awarded and no way to track and validate their integrity and value, Moore says. Anyone could award a badge for any reason, and employers could never be sure any documented meaningful learning occurred.

In response, Wichita State has become a leader in the development of national standards related to badges and digital credentials as a founding member of the TrustEd Microcredential Coalition through 1EdTech, a community of leaders from across education sectors and edtech suppliers to build an ecosystem to help learners. The microcredential metadata framework was released from the coalition to set recommended data requirements for microcredentials.

“When someone says they have a badge, what does that even mean?” Moore said. “We really don’t know because there hasn’t been a way to validate and verify what learning occurred. That’s why there is the TrustEd Microcredential Coalition, because we are trying to make sure that standards are met, metadata is acquired and that learning can be validated.”

An advantage badges have over traditional coursework and degrees is their flexibility. Badges can quickly adapt, morph or be created to meet the needs of employers and professionals.

One such badge that is currently under development, for launch in 2025, is the Aging Care Professional (ACP) Badge, which aims to complement health care professionals’ education in the field of aging populations.

“It’s us as a community saying, ‘but they need to know this stuff, too,’” said Robert Miller — lecturer in the Department Public Health Sciences in the College of Health Professions — who is currently helping develop the ACP badge. “It can come alongside health care professionals, and they can say, ‘I’m a CNA or newly vetted nurse with my license, but I want more experience in dealing with the aging population.’ They now have something that they can add to their education to get additional skills to be successful.”

When deciding on what badges to offer next, Moore looks to the workforce to see the common concerns employers have and where ɫ can help fill in the gaps. Once a workforce need has been identified, a team is put together to develop a badge — with insight from faculty, employers and Moore’s office — that meets those needs.

“It’s all about skills and competencies,” Moore said. “It’s not about grades. It’s about if you can master a skill and become competent and be able to apply that learning in an employment setting, which makes them different than other types of education.”

Matt Fletcher — executive director at InterHab, a Kansas-based trade association that represents service providers for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities — is one of the workforce partners who helped develop the Direct Support Professional Badges offered at ɫ, which aim to provide foundational skills to those working in the intellectual and developmental disabilities field.

“There’s a number of reasons why badges are very important, and I would argue critical, for our workforce,” Fletcher said. “The intellectual and developmental disabilities system has grown and been developed organically in response to the needs of individuals and communities, but one of the challenges with that is we never took the time to formally create a means by which we develop the workforce. So courses, like those offered from ɫ, give us foundational elements that are needed to begin professionalizing our workforce.”

Fletcher also underscored the benefit of having the badges offered online, allowing professionals from across the state to access the professional development opportunities offered even while they work full time.

Moore is not only spearheading ɫ’s badge program, she is also a nationwide leader on microcredentials, who was recently elected to 1EdTech’s board of directors in early 2024 and received a 2022 Leadership Award for higher education leadership from 1EdTech.

“We can have a great impact if, in my opinion, we focus on professions and not individual businesses, so that’s where I’ve been focusing my efforts,” Moore said. “How can I make a difference within our state and within our community? How can I benefit the people who live here and those that hire them? I am fortunate to be able to focus on such meaningful work that impacts and improves the lives of the state’s most vulnerable populations while providing individuals in low-wage jobs with a career pathway to a better future.”

About ɫ

ɫ is Kansas' only urban public research university, enrolling more than 23,000 students between its main campus and ɫ Tech, including students from every state in the U.S. and more than 100 countries. Wichita State and ɫ Tech are recognized for being student centered and innovation driven.

Located in the largest city in the state with one of the highest concentrations in the United States of jobs involving science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), ɫ provides uniquely distinctive and innovative pathways of applied learning, applied research and career opportunities for all of our students.

The Innovation Campus, which is a physical extension of the ɫ main campus, is one of the nation’s largest and fastest-growing research/innovation parks, encompassing over 120 acres and is home to a number of global companies and organizations.

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