Badges for Learning?

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!


4 thoughts on “Badges for Learning?

  1. Phil

    @Marie – re: … If employers start to base hiring expectations off of badges instead of degrees, … That’s an important to concern to think about. However, most of what I’ve read to-date doesn’t see it as one replacing the other, but that badges (in their ideal form anyway), are more of a complement to existing educational structures. The interest in badges can also be traced to theories related to “competency based learning” in the late 80s where, as you might guess, is generally concerned with measuring specific skills or skill-like outcomes. Inside Higher Ed has a nice post on the topic and, of course, a general Google search will give you lots more if you’re interested.

  2. Melissa Glenn

    Girl Scout drop out here too, and when I think back to those days, I think back to checking off (and having someone initial) certain criteria. I wasn’t as interested in learning something as I was with finding the quickest way to finish what I had to do to get the badge. I know, so wrong! Could this type of checking off the boxes system lead some to cheat their way to get a badge? Like Shelby brought up in her comment, it seems like someone (an accreditation agency?) would need to closely monitor that what the person is claiming to have done is actually true. I have seen that instead of what is listed on a resume, what is used for choosing candidates for employment are references and a well done interview. So, unless an employer knows the institution granting the badge, I’m not sure how important it would be in choosing a particular candidate.

  3. Shelby Nelson

    Speaking as a girl-scout drop out as well….I really enjoyed reading your blog post this week- I especially liked your section talking about badges created by employers- You ask, “Would these rank equal to the badges earned from students studying the same content at other institutions?” This is a great point and leads me to think… I guess that would depend on whoever you are “displaying” your badges for… and how would they know what the person did to earn the badge? How would they even know it was that person who earned the badge?

  4. Rachel H Tan

    To find an answer to your question ‘who creates and awards the badges,” I found that “NASA, Disney-Pixar, 4H, and DigitalMe have developed badges for the Open Badges project. The ability to issue badges was integrated into TotaraLMS for the 2.4 release and Moodle for the 2.5 release. Mozilla has additionally stated that PBS, P2PU, Intel and the US Department of Education all plan to issue badges through the Open Badges project” – with NASA and DOE involvement, the use of badges might get somewhere.


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