When Kelly Newlon joined WSU’s Office of International Programs as director of Global Learning in December 2019, no one could foresee her scramble less than three months later to direct 300 students studying abroad to return home immediately from multiple countries.

Nor could anyone predict international travel – and global learning – would be shut down for more than a year.

Determined not to be “dream crushers,” Newlon and the Global Learning team worked together virtually for months to bring the world to students stuck at home.

“We wanted to create a program where our grounded students could learn and thrive without being able to travel.”

The result: Global Cougs Digital Badges.

Through the Digital Badges program, all WSU students have a path to develop six global competencies based on standard values for education abroad – global self-awareness, perspective taking, cultural diversity, personal and social responsibility, understanding global systems and knowledge application. As they progress through each badge experience, the students complete a pre-assessment based on the badge they are pursuing; attend a core workshop; complete three experiences, which can include attending webinars, watching videos, completing assignments and reading books; complete a post-assessment; and write a thoughtful reflection that addresses the major themes of the badge’s global competency. Once the badge requirements are fulfilled, the student may apply for a certificate of completion for that competency, which Global Learning will issue and then verify for future employers of the WSU student participants. Since the program’s introduction in fall semester 2020, 39 students have tendered 63 applications; 13 badges have been awarded to date.

Illustration of six digital badges.
Through the Digital Badges program, all WSU students have a path to develop six global competencies based on standard values for education abroad.

WSU’s program is gaining recognition in high places. The Global Learning team has been asked to present the program in sessions with Forum for Education Abroad (an international meeting), Washington State Council of Presidents, and Peace Corps Prep regional and national advising meetings.

When in-person travel resumes, the badges will become part of the education abroad pre-departure experience and also remain available to WSU students who cannot travel. In some quarters on campus, badges are being incorporated into curriculum requirements.

More information can be found on the International Programs’ website.