I am new to the idea of earning badges online so my commentary and thoughts are basic and not yet well developed. However, I am not new to the idea of earning badges. When I was in the military, I earned badges for jumping out of airplanes and proficiency with a variety of weapons from several countries. It was an icon/graphic that instantly told others about your skills. In that regard, I can see the benefit for earning badges in the educational system.
While I understand the need to display specialized abilities and don’t question the validity of that need, there is another aspect that I question. What is the value in me earning a badge that tells others I am a great listener? Wouldn’t my employer know if I was a good listener by the work I produced at my job? Is this the new version of everyone getting a trophy for doing the intrinsic part of the job that is expected?
ADDITIONAL THOUGHT: Could the badge system be an attempt to graphically display the resume much like how smart phones transitioned from the text-based, menu-driven Blackberry to the graphically-displayed, app-driven iPhone (which looks like badges to me)?
Lifelong learning badges create an interesting educational situation where credentials can be gained without a traditional degree structure. There has always been a system of certificates for specialized training, and as an electronic off-shoot of that system, I can see why badges might be appealing since they can also emphasize soft skills that are not usually specified in a traditional transcript. “[A] badge would carry more cachet than simply listing volunteer work on a résumé” (Young, 2012), and learners can show that they are interested in professional development and improvement through self-motivated learning. If badges are used much like the endorsement system on LinkedIn where your connections can vouch for your skills, then it makes sense as something that could be of value to employers and job hunters, but like the LinkedIn system, it only works if people use it and if the people making hiring decisions trust that the credential is valid.
Validity could be a big issue since there is little to no oversight of the relatively new education system. When setting up a badge for learners, the developer has to think about the ramifications of his or her assessment techniques, and while “there is usually some kind of assessment of that learning so that claims about learning can be substantiated by evidence” (Itow & Hickey, 2013), there is no set method to ensure validity and reliability of learning gains. Employers would either have to check out each individual badge or just trust that it means what it says it means and does what it says it does. I don’t know if many HR reps would go to the trouble. Until there is a greater guarantee of usefulness, I wonder if the end result is meaningful. Personally, I think any learning is potentially meaningful for the learner, but that doesn’t mean that anyone else is going to care.
One positive that could potentially come out of wider use of a badge system of learning is that it goes a long way toward validating how people are already learning through personal networks. Any calls for it to completely replace traditional learning models are misguided, but it can acknowledge “that because of the connections we can now make on the web, there is as much potential (if not more) for meaningful learning to occur in the interactions between people online than in their face to face places” (Richardson, 2011). I’ve made many friendships and professional collaborations with people I only know online, and I take offense when people say that those relationships aren’t as important as other face to face interactions. Badges could be a way to make tangible the learning accomplishments that take place in more informal, self-motivated educational environments.
Itow, R. & Hickey, D. (2013). Design principles for assessing learning with digital badges. HASTAC. Retrieved from http://hastac.org/blogs/rcitow/2013/05/30/design-principles-assessing-learning-digital-badges
In his article, Young addresses many concerns with the concept and implementation of badge systems. From the perspective of managing open learning courses with massive enrolment, I can understand the use of badges by the Khan Academy, MIT OpenCourseWare project, etc., to keep the huge class going. The example of Catherine Lacey (Level 40 Hero on OpenStudy) is an interesting one because this kind of badge acknowledges volunteer hours in a specific context which is meaningful and relevant when she applies for a teaching position.
Fundamentally, badges are all about perception, so it’s difficult to predict whether the key players—employers and job applicants—will click the like button on the concept (Young, 2012)
When we spend money and time to learn and earn a degree it is ultimately for the purpose of showing selected prospective employers that we are capable of adding value to their organization / institution. What better way than to show with an e-portfolio from which they can drill down to details they need as evidence of our capability.
I believe the future of badges and how one shows proof of learning (college diploma or alternative) will be influenced by large employers (federal, state, MNCs). “We have to question the tyranny of the degree,” says David Wiley, and as “hundreds of educational institutions, traditional and non-traditional, have flocked to a $2-million grant program run in coordination with the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, seeking financial support to experiment with the educational-badge platform” – change is inevitable in how we present our credentials.
A few things stood out to me while piecing through the readings this week. The idea of badges is one that “we can’t ignore” as Young states; however, it would need to become widely recognized and accepted in order for it to be successful.
“All badges could seem more flash than substance, like the flair worn by the waitress in the movie Office Space”. Would having badges be equivalent to a degree/certificate/etc.? Are individuals trying to earn these badges just to say that they have them? Or to better their education? Are they earning badges that will help them down the path they are going? Will badges be recognized by businesses? Some may not bother with it. I find myself asking many questions about the effectiveness and worth of badges. I believe this quote nicely sums up my opinion.. “Fundamentally, badges are all about perception, so it’s difficult to predict whether the key players employers and job applicants will click the like button on the concept”.
The concept of badges was new to me in the context of earning badges for learning. The parallel concept of that to the Boy Scouts seemed like a very interesting approach to learning today. The positive factors of using the badge system seems to be an increase in motivation to learn as well as the more specific interest-based learning experience it creates for the learner. However, are these truly the best way to achieve a positive learning environment today?
If employers start to base hiring expectations off of badges instead of degrees, I can see how a competitive job market, that is out there, turns into a bigger one. Would learners still be obtaining badges for the sake of wanting to learn more about that skill or would it be to beat out their rival in the same field that they are researching and looking for a career in? Essentially, you would still be learning the information but the motivational influence and the personal connections to the learning could be hindered in an environment where each person is trying to one-up the other.
Another area that made me question the badge approach to learning is the concept of who creates and awards the badges. The varying levels of badge creation should carry weight. Having any old university hand out a badge versus an accredited university should be taken into consideration. Also, if badges are allowed to be created by employers, would these rank equal to the badges earned from students studying the same content at other institutions?
The motivational factor behind the badges does provide for a great gain in education. Allowing learners to earn badges for what they are interested in and for providing more skill specific learning is a wonderful benefit to this approach; however, I believe it would still be achieved even in there was no badge system. If a learner is truly motivated to learn about something, they will create the environment in which to do so. The learner will create their own learning network of people who can help them achieve their desired goal or who can work alongside of them in obtaining a similar goal. The teacher’s role then turns to facilitator and coach in this case which is what was described by Richardson.
Overall, I believe that a student’s self-motivation ranks a lot higher than personal achievement badges that are rewarded for learning. I know personally that the badge system of learning did not work for me because I am a Girl Scout drop-out!