The way we learn is changing, according to Kyle Bowen, director of informatics at Purdue University — and it might just come in the form of computer icons.

“It is increasingly important to recognize learning in all of its forms,” said Bowen in a Webinar Jan 7. Digital badges, the central focus of Bowen’s talk, are much like badges that gamers earn on Xbox Live for various achievements. These digital badges are earned by individuals and can be kept in an online "backpack" that can then be showcased to potential employers, Bowen said.

The main idea behind the badges is to represent what went into receiving a credential. “Grades don’t contain information about how the grade was achieved,” said Bowen. “An open or digital badge provides a visual symbol of learning that can be analyzed to see what went into earning that badge.”

According to Bowen, this is a supplementary instruction tool and not a replacement for college credit.

Bowen discussed Passport at Purdue, the university’s test pilot program for digital badges, and how Purdue students are supplementing college credits with these badges.

The program, which is not open-source software, is still in the beta testing stage, Bowen said. It provides goal-specific learning through the completion of explicit tasks and is currently only available to Purdue students.

“This is a mobile reinterpretation of the leather portfolio at the job fair,” Bowen said. “Students can take this and show it to potential employers on their iPad and show them what they’ve achieved.”