“We don’t need no stinkin’ badges.” Or, do we?
by Vince Cyboran, Ed.D. Associate Professor, Graduate Program in Training and Development Roosevelt University
Much like the enigmatic emblems on Scout uniforms, “digital badges” are among the latest efforts for documenting skill competencies in individuals. Mixed with an updateable–and up-to-date–portfolio, professional certification(s), and a wisely chosen graduate degree, badges supposedly signify not only the ability to “do,” but to “do well.” And, like the Scouts’ merit badges, digital badges must be earned.
What is a badge? According to a 2012 article in the Chronicle of Higher Education: “the MacArthur Foundation says it’s “a validated indicator of accomplishment, skill, quality or interest.” Got it? Please keep reading anyway.
Who are awarding badges? The usual suspects–including Microsoft and Adobe–award a variety of badges through their elaborate formal and informal learning programs and partnerships. Even institutions of higher education are jumping on the badge bandwagon. As universities and colleges struggle to re-establish their relevance and accountability, they are wisely reclaiming their place in the world by championing lifelong learning and awarding credit(s) for experiential learning. Two examples of digital badgers are the University of California at Davis (UC-Davis) and Concordia University (several locations).
Where are digital badges displayed? The not-so-simple answer is anywhere that we share information about ourselves, particularly our “professional” selves. If you go the ‘open badges’ route from Mozilla, you would proudly display them on your ‘badge backpack.’ Of course, you could include them on your LinkedIn profile. And, for specific instructions on how to do this, you could consult the Open Badges Blog on Tumblr.
What benefits do digital badges provide? At a minimum:
- Badges are portable. They travel with individuals as they move through their careers and lives.
- Badges are an institution- and organization-free. They can be earned through formal and informal learning environments.
While it’s too soon to tell whether digital badges are here to stay, they have certainly gained traction amongst the learnarati. It is clear that all professionals in the field of Organizational Learning and Development must be able to speak “badge.” For more information about digital badges, please check the links in the References and Resources section of this post.
But why badges and why now? In the wise words of Craig Mindrum of Accenture, “The late twentieth century was the era of knowledge work and knowledge workers. The first part of the twenty-first century will be about ‘value work’ and ‘value workers.’” Can ‘value badges’ be far behind?
What experiences have you had with badges? Do you think they are or will become relevant?
References and Resources
Bull, B. You Can Now Earn a Master’s Degree in #EdTech Through Competency-Based Digital Badges: http://etale.org/main/2014/09/07/you-can-now-earn-a-masters-degree-in-edtech-through-competency-based-digital-badges/?subscribe=success#blog_subscription-5
Carey, K. (2012). A Future Full of Badges.
Chronicle of Higher Education. http://chronicle.com/article/A-Future-Full-of-Badges/131455/
How to Display Badges on LinkedIn Profiles: http://openbadges.tumblr.com/post/55809369771/how-to-display-your-open-badges-on-your-linkedin
Microsoft Partners in Learning Badge System: http://dml4.dmlcompetition.net/fastapps.dev.hri.uci.edu/files/1089/files/Microsoft%20Partners%20in%20Learning%20Badge%20System-Final-0915.pdf
Mindrum, C., p. 171, in Vanthournout, D. (2006). Return on Learning: Training for High Performance at Accenture. Chicago: Agate.
Open Badges: http://openbadges.org/about/
Pearson Learning Solutions. Exploring Badges: A New Method to Recognize Professional Credentials. (Webinar recording; 56 minutes): http://www.pearsonlearningsolutions.com/webinars/
Pwc (2014). 17th. Annual Global CEO Survey: https://www.pwc.com/gx/en/hr-management-services/publications/assets/ceosurvey-talent-challenge.pdf