EDUC 8342 Module 2 Assignment: Digital Badges: An Emerging Technology

The many societal implications of Digital Badges in Education by Linette Rasheed

What are digital badges? Digital badges are badges awarded to individuals in recognition of their accomplishments. More importantly, the metadata stored on digital badges inform potential employers or college administrators of the credentials that represent the skills, interests, and achievements earned by an individual, all housed on one small badge. Moving beyond other credentials such as a curriculum vitae, resume’, even a school transcript, digital badges can store information about criteria completed in order to obtain the badge, in addition to projects, workshops, etc. In essence, digital badges present a total picture of an individual not simply the end result.

Rallying for digital badges, many contend that digital badges as a form of assessment provide unique insight into a learner’s talent, a perspective much clearer than a grade of “A” or “B” or a cumulative GPA of 3.5. The Alliance for Excellent Education as well as the Mozilla Foundation contend that “digital badges offer students the opportunity to pave their own learning pathways and allow employers to verify necessary workforce skills” (http://all4ed.org). On the other hand, as reported in EDUCAUSE, one of the pitfalls of digital badges is whether or not the education, skills, and accomplishments reported can be viewed as trusted credentials. The infographic below illustrates how digital badges work.digital badges infographic

The digital badge is not new, simply an evolution of another technology. It is a form of technology that has progressed from the gaming industry into academia. When applied to the four laws of media developed by Marshall and Eric McLuhan (1988), the social consequences of digital badges make the swoop into academia evident. First, as an emerging technology, digital badges enhance access to information needed by companies for prospective employees globally, raising the level of competition and access to the most qualified. In higher education specifically, colleges have access to more than an applicant’s transcript of classes taken and grades received.

What digital badges do that is new that was not capable before is that it houses data of applicants’ credentials in one place. Education Sector Policy Director Kevin Carey, an independent think tank in Washington explained that “The store of human capital will be more broadly and accurately represented by credentials that are useful in a mobile, interconnected world. Separating the credentialing and teaching functions of higher education allows organizations to specialize in one or the other” (http://chronicle.com/article/A-Future-Full-of-Badges/131455/). No longer will transcripts, letters of recommendation, employee verification, etc., sent from various entities be needed. Fulfilling McLuhan’s (1988) second law, the social consequences of digital badges make obsolete all printed credentials. As such, digital badges replace the verification process inherent in most printed credentials. The notion of digital badges is catching on because of the social implications embedded in McLuhan (1988) third law which answers what does the technology rekindles from the past. Digital badges retrieve from the past a time-honored tradition of awarding badges in merit, honor, and proficiency, dating back to the early 1900s from Boy Scouts of America.  As for the future of digital badges, the technology may then set the stage for McLuhan’s (1988) fourth law, its own demise, being replaced by other forms of technology that effectively measure all that a student has learned, both in formal and informal education. Thornburg (2014f) contended that this can happen when people are communicating globally, over time it sets the stage for future technology, even when that technology can not be identified. Today we may not be able to identify what digital badges reverse, but we can be sure that in the world of educational technology, reversal is imminent. The need to find new and creative ways to help students learn more effectively, and measure their mastery in skills, concepts, and knowledge makes it so.Digital Badges Tetrad

For more information on Digital badges, visit:

http://all4ed.org/reports-factsheets/expanding-education-and-workforce-opportunities-through-digital-

Or visit my blog at: https://eshread.wordpress.com

References

The Alliance. (2013). Expanding education and workforce opportunities through digital badges.

Retrieved from http://all4ed.org/reports-factsheets/expanding-education-and-workforce-

opportunities-through-digital-badges/

Carey, K. (2012). A future full of badges. The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Retrieved December 21, 2015 from

http://chronicle.com/article/A-Future-Full-of-Badges/131455/

Knight, E. (2013). Open badging. EDUCAUSE review41(2), 16. Retrieved from

http://er.educause.edu/articles/2013/10/open-badging

Laureate Education (Producer). (2014f). David Thornburg: McLuhan’s Tetrad [Video file].

Baltimore, MD: Author.

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6 thoughts on “EDUC 8342 Module 2 Assignment: Digital Badges: An Emerging Technology

  1. Hi Linette,
    Thank you for this very informative post. I like the infographic a lot :).
    Do you think digital badges will find their place in higher education? I see how it can be done for professional development activities even now, but not sure whether and when a digital transcripts can substitute for a pencil and paper one.
    Lena

    • Hi Lena:
      There seems to be apprehension about the use of digital badges in higher ed. So much is driven from course grades and GPAs. I’m not sure. Perhaps, some of the money committed by MacArthur and Mozilla will make its way in the form of grant money to colleges and universities in order for them to tap into it, and implement a type of pilot program. The outcome of programs such as these may signal what direction higher ed takes. I do believe a trial run, from a prestigious institution using digital badges, over a period of time, with empirical data that support positive findings, may carry a lot of weight toward adoption.

  2. Hello Lena,

    I love the concept of digital badges, but I think making the transition out of academia and into the workplace will be hard for many non digitally affluent companies (thinking small-mid sized). For how will the hiring managers consume these badges? Or cross reference them? What are your thoughts?

    • Hi Stephen. Much of the literature I’ve come across (see the references) indicates the reception in the workplace is a little more accepting than higher ed. While the literature does not speak specifically to smaller nondigital environments, I certainly see your point. In my perspective, nondigital companies in this environment (21st century) of any size may not be around too long. I’m also wondering how a nondigital company rises to status of affluent. Just a thought. By the way, this is Linette’s blog not Lena

      • Sorry Linette! I saw read the other commenters replies and must have confused myself!

        I agree that staying affluent would be key in upwardly mobile businesses, but I also think that a large portion of business that have endorsed badges, like mozilla, are from the tech sector, so it would seem natural. It will be interesting to see how we measure human capital in the next 10 years.

        Sincerely,
        Stephen

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