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CSU offers skills-based digital badge program

March 12, 2014

With the launch of the Colorado State University Extension Certified Gardener badge program, open for registration now, CSU has broken ground in noncredit, skills-based digital badges.

The Certified Gardener program leverages the expertise of CSU Extension specialist and assistant professor, David Whiting, whose interests focus on consumer horticulture, including home gardening education.

The program

Certified Gardener badges allow the University to offer Extension curriculum, a valuable state resource, as an affordable noncredit option through CSU OnlinePlus. Based on the Colorado Master Gardener curriculum, courses are available as individual badges on particular subjects, bundles of badges in certain disciplines, or the full program known as the Certified Gardener Mastery Badge.

Badges are offered in areas such as diagnostics and pest management, trees and shrubs, fruits and vegetables, soils, pruning, weeds, lawn care, water wise landscape design, irrigation management and more.

Badges illustrate expertise

The badge concept is relatively new to higher education, although it has been around as long as the United States Army and Boy Scouts of America. The Certified Gardener program is one of the first at Colorado State University to utilize digital badges as a way to represent competencies and skills learned by the student. Badges are awarded to students taking courses within a badged curriculum, and allow them to share expertise with potential employers, clients, and community members to establish credibility and visually show practical competencies and a level of mastery in a subject.

The driver behind Colorado State’s introduction of badging programs is industry. Today’s employers are looking for a specifically skilled workforce, and CSU’s innovative, non-credit digital badges provide a means for people to meet that demand.

How badges work

"CSU’s entry into the realm of digital skills-based badges gives students options to tailor their educational journey like never before, “effectively accommodating a new kind of student,” said Lou Swanson, CSU vice president of engagement “Working with our private sector partner, RelevanceLogic, Inc., CSU Extension and OnlinePlus have unbundled our Master Gardner curriculum to create an affordable, noncredit program that allows students to focus on only topics that are important to them,” Swanson explained.

“The CSU Extension Certified Gardener program is designed to expand the outreach and engagement mission of Colorado State University by providing access to University expertise in an exciting new platform,” explained Swanson. “Incorporating digital badges into a proven noncredit curriculum allows students to choose their own path of education, differentiate their skills, and market those skills to people they choose,” he said.

While based in Colorado, these badges are applicable to anyone with access to a computer and an interest in gardening-related topics.

Learn more

Learn more about the badging system and the CSU Extension Certified Gardener program online or contact Whitney Bonner, student engagement coordinator for the Certified Gardener program, via email or phone at (970) 492-4711.


OnlinePlus has more than 45 years of experience delivering online and distance education. We support the University's land-grant mission of expanding access to education by connecting students who cannot or choose not to come to campus with Colorado State's renowned faculty, research, and academic curricula, delivering high-quality, in-demand degrees and courses with the convenience and innovation that today's students need.

CSU OnlinePlus is a division of the Office of Engagement, which strengthens CSU’s ability to achieve excellence in the areas of teaching and learning, retention and graduation, admissions and access, and engagement and service and assists communities through engagement, scientific discovery, and regional research.

Learn more about OnlinePlus online or call (970) 491-5288.

Contact: Amy Jo Miller
Phone: (970) 491-2277