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Badging the Residential Leadership Award

This week saw the launch of an exciting Open Badges project I’ve been working on with colleagues from York St John’s Accommodation and Staff Development Services.
The project involves aligning open badges to a new Residential Leadership Award for Residential Support Assistants (RSAs). RSAs are managed by the Accommodation team and are appointed to York St John residences every year to help provide a safe, supportive and inclusive living environment. They are generally second and third year students and aware of the challenges facing students who may be living away from home for the first time. Amy Norris (Student Residences Officer) is keen to steer the focus of their role from reprimanding fellow students towards a more pastoral position – providing a point of first contact for welfare and security issues, and signposting students to other services if appropriate. Amy approached the Staff Development Service about providing some training and development to underpin this change of approach. Staff Development, in turn, brought me on board to discuss the possibility of aligning Open Badges to RSAs’ training and to the skills and experiences the role encompasses. The RSA role is one of responsibility, leadership and teamwork, and the University is keen to acknowledge these students’ contributions to life in the Residences and enable them to articulate their achievements in the future.
The result? The York St John Residential Leadership Award.
A collection of five Open Badges have been designed to recognise the skills, values and achievements RSAs should develop over the course of their year-long role. These are a commitment to:

  • collaborating with the Residences and wider University community by contributing to a University campaign;
  • valuing people‘s diversity and encouraging inclusivity;
  • leading their own personal development and leading fellow residents and RSAs by initiating a University campaign, event or issue promotion.
  • contributing their ideas, energy and skills to the residences team and understanding their value in a team.
  • and of course, delivering great support to students in their residence.

RLA badges
The five individual open badge images contributing to the Residential Leadership Award.

Collaborating in the Community Badge
Each badge builds up to achieving the Residential Leadership Award.

The RSAs can earn as many of the badges they want to in whatever order like, as and when they meet the criteria. With each badge they earn, they are building their own pathway to the final badge, the overall Residential Leadership Award.
Residential Leadership Award Badge
The final Residential Leadership Award open badge image

We have a developed a Moodle site to communicate all information about the award: what each badge means for the earner; what criteria do they need to meet to earn each badge; how do they apply for the badges; and what can they do with them afterward. There is also a section to house any resources from training events which are compulsory requirements for some badges.
Below is an example of the Valuing People section of the Moodle site (Scroll through the images to see the full page):

Up to now, we have been trialling Open Badge issuing via Moodle and Credly, in conjunction with the Mozilla Open Badges Backpack. The RSA badges, however, will be issued using Open Badge Factory and students will be encouraged to store, display and share them in its partner platform, the free Open Badge Passport. I encountered the Factory and Passport at the ePIC: ePortfolios, Open Badges and Identity conference recently, and you can read more about my impressions of both on my Day 1 UCISA bursary blog post. Amongst other positives, this approach enables badges to be easily applied for with supporting evidence, and the evidence reviewed by the Residences Officer. It also allows for the creation of milestone badges such as this (where several badges culminate in an overall award or badge). As it’s a new system for us, being trialled on a new award, there may well be hiccups but we’re off to a good start! The badges were positively received by the RSAs at the launch of the award this week and we’re looking forward to seeing how they progress over the year. We’ll keep you informed!
Are you thinking about ways to encourage engagement with or recognise students’ contribution to co-curricular activities? Could open badges work for you?
Let us know your thoughts in the comments below or get in touch via tel@yorksj.ac.uk if you’d like to discuss a specific project. 


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