ERIC Number: EJ972721
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2012-Jan-8
Reference Count: 0
"Badges" Earned Online Pose Challenge to Traditional College Diplomas
Young, Jeffrey R.
Chronicle of Higher Education, Jan 2012
The spread of a seemingly playful alternative to traditional diplomas, inspired by Boy Scout achievement patches and video-game power-ups, suggests that the standard certification system no longer works in today's fast-changing job market. Educational upstarts across the Web are adopting systems of "badges" to certify skills and abilities. Traditional colleges and universities are considering badges and other alternative credentials as well. In December the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) announced that it will create MITx, a self-service learning system in which students can take online tests and earn certificates after watching free course materials posted by the university. MIT also has an arrangement with a company called OpenStudy, which runs online study groups, to give online badges to students who give consistently useful answers in discussion forums set up around the free lecture materials the university has long posted as part of its OpenCourseWare project. But the biggest push for badges is coming from industry and education reformers, rather than from traditional educational institutions. Mozilla, the group that develops the popular Firefox Web browser, is designing a framework to let anyone with a Web page--colleges, companies, or even individuals--issue education badges designed to prevent forgeries and give potential employers details about the distinctions at the click of a mouse. Employers might prefer a world of badges to the current system. After all, traditional college diplomas look elegant when hung on the wall, but they contain very little detail about what the recipient learned. Students using Mozilla's proposed badge system might display dozens or even hundreds of merit badges on their online resumes detailing what they studied. And students could start showing off the badges as they earn them, rather than waiting four years to earn a diploma. The idea is already well established in some computer-programming jobs, with Microsoft and other companies developing certification programs to let employees show they have mastered certain computer systems. Some observers see a darker side, though, charging that badges turn all learning into a commodity, and thus cheapen the difficult challenge of mastering something new. Rather than dive into an assignment out of curiosity, many students might focus on an endless pursuit of badges.
Descriptors: Credentials, Certification, Educational Attainment, Alternative Assessment, Vocational Evaluation, Online Courses, Online Vendors, Information Science Education, Traditionalism
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Adult Education; Higher Education
Authoring Institution: N/A