Forget flying cars and hover boards – imagine a new ecosystem of learning where your own informal learning experiences receive the same recognition as formal degrees and qualifications. Digital badges are taking us one step closer to this reality.
Think of all the ways we currently learn outside of formal education:
- Learning a new skill at work
- Taking an online course
- Interacting and participating in online communities
- Creating and sharing content on social media
- Self-research and implementation of an idea
Now think, how much do we have to show for it?
Whether it is for a hobby, a career, or personal growth, we are constantly developing our skills and improving our understanding.
Learning is an ongoing experience and occurs in many different ways.
Online courses and communities have made it possible for more people to take part in learning opportunities daily and beyond the formal structures of a degree, on a smaller scale, targeting specific skill development.
Yet, no system had been established to validate these experiences and make them visible.
Researchers at Mozilla and the MacArthur Foundation in 2010 saw a bigger issue; if non-traditional learning and development pathways could not be recognised, then how could learners outside of academic education use their experiences to participate in career attainment, advancement and transition?
They, led by Erin Knight, conceived a new and innovative system where learners could receive digital tokens or badges for their accomplishments. These badges could be verified by industry leaders, attached to their online identity and used to support their job prospects. They called this system Open Badges and thus, the Open Badges movement was born.
After a wave of support, research grants and competitions to create this new system, Mozilla launched Open Badges 1.0 in 2013.
In the same year, a number of organisations, cultural and educational institutions used Open Badges to create a verifiable network of learning. The Open Badges system also received support from President Bill Clinton who announced at the Clinton Global Initiative a Commitment to Action to expand access to this system and thus, improve the futures of two million students and US workers.
In 2014, the Badge Alliance was formed. Business and education partners alike put their hand up to enhance the badges community and develop a standard across all organisations and cross-sectors.
In 2015, major corporations like Pearson, IBM and Microsoft jumped on board to adopt Open Badges, providing confirmation that the demand for badges was strong.
Today, millions of Open Badges have been issued to over hundreds and thousands of learners. IMS Global Consortium, the world leader in educational and learning technology, now leads the effort to advance this system towards mainstream adoption. Badges 2.0 is in progress.
So, how do digital badges work?
Badges are a graphical representation of a skill or competency.
They can be created and issued by industry leaders and awarded to signify that a person has met the criteria and demonstrated competency upon assessment.
Badges can be stored in your own Mozilla Backpack and shared to create a virtual portfolio that highlights learner’s unique pathways, passions and skills.
Why are digital badges the future for learning?
- Learning is verifiable
Each badge displayed through the Open Badges framework contain metadata that cannot be erased. This metadata tells us the issuer of the badge, the recipient, the criteria that needed to be met and when it was issued. This makes each issued badge unique.
- Learning is visible
Unlike formal certificates of merit, which give little information on the skills and competencies attained, anyone can see the skills and interests you have to offer. No more guesswork involved!
- Learning is recognised
Those hours you spent researching and creating your own content can now be recognised and valued by employers, colleagues and collaborators.
- Learning is encouraged
Digital badges provide new impetus to seek self-directed, interests-based learning opportunities beyond formal education. Digital badges can have a positive effect on motivation as learners can receive merit for their work and these can aid a learner’s sense of belonging and identity.
What do you think about digital badges? Would you use them in your course?