Wednesday, June 13, 2012

7 Things You Should Know About ... Badges

1. What is it?

Badges are digital tokens that appear as icons or logos on a  web page or other online venue. Awarded by institutions, organizations, groups, or individuals,  badges signify accomplishments such as completion of a project, mastery of a skill, or marks of  experience. [snip] As records of achievement, badges can recognize the  completion of projects within a traditional college program or acknowledge experience gained through community efforts, online learning venues, or work-related projects.

2. How does it work?

Details vary from one grantor to the next, but one path for badges is provided by the Mozilla Open Badge Infrastructure  (OBI) specification. Using this model, a learner fulfills the issuer specific criteria to earn the badge by attending classes, passing an exam or review, or completing other activities. A grantor verifies that the specifications have been met and awards the badge, maintaining a record of it with attendant metadata. [snip]. The earner pushes the badge into a “backpack,” a portfolio-style server account, where this award is stored alongside badges from other grantors. This badge repository might be the Mozilla-hosted  Badge Backpack, or it might be a backpack hosted by any provider using the OBI specifications. [snip].

3. Who’s doing it?

Numerous groups, organizations, community projects, and web entities currently issue badges. The Khan Academy,  for example, off ers a lengthy web page of them, such as an “Atomic Clockwork” badge, which requires a student to watch videos or hone a skill for each of 30 consecutive days. On the web at large, badges often provide participants with an opportunity to prove themselves, as with the Google News program. [snip].

Badges in higher education have gained currency among early adopters. One such eff ort is the award-winning badge system developed at the University of California, Davis. [snip]. Badges also play a part in  edX, an online learning eff ort sponsored jointly by MIT and Harvard University. Both institutions will off er online courses free via edX with “certificates” (badges) available for a modest fee to those who complete the coursework. [snip] Institutions of higher education interested in a turnkey badge system can turn to companies like BadgeStack, which offers a standards-based custom badge structure that can interoperate with an LMS and is compliant with the Mozilla Open Badge standard. [snip].

4. Why is it significant?

Badges represent a di fferent approach to credentials, one that places the focus on individual students and their learning accomplishments. Individuals can control their badges by choosing where to earn them ... ..  [snip]. A collection of badges can function as a distributed portfolio that may eventually be accessible from a variety of social media sites, such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and Google Plus. [snip].

5.  What are the downsides?

Many details remain for badges to be broadly accepted as legitimate indicators of education, skill, or experience, and it is too early to say whether employers will come to view them as trusted credentials. Acceptance depends, at least in part, on the level of quality control for these awards. [snip]. The reputation and the accreditation of colleges and universities give value to the degrees they confer and the records they hold in trust. By contrast, it can be di fficult to establish the value of a badge awarded by an unknown or unaccredited source. Moreover, the rate at which online entities appear, disappear, and are purchased by others creates a fragile structure upon which  to build trust.

6. Where is it going?

As badge systems become more broadly adopted, a host  of issuers and endorsers will emerge. Ongoing work will be done to validate badges to ensure those who earned, issued, and endorsed them are who they claim to be. [snip].

7. What are the implications for teaching and  learning?

Badges could represent an opportunity for higher education to rethink what is of value and recognize achievements that could be codified but currently are not. As an adjunct to institutionally supported learning, badges might provide a new avenue for continuing education. They support lifelong learning, not just through traditional academic or formalized learning pathways but also the kind of knowledge that comes from personal initiative and investigation. [snip]. Whatever the future holds for these awards, it is clear badges o ffer an opportunity to reevaluate credentials, expanding their role by making otherwise hidden accomplishments visible.

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