Digital Badges are the New Skill Indicators

The digital age is taking over and the old methods of education are being out competed. The old method is degrees and diplomas. More recently in the 90s and later we started getting into certificates. Now we have badges.

The following video defines badges as an indicator of accomplishment, skill, ability, quality or interest. They are a tangible version of the idea of a milestone. They can be used on a resume, in an application, or as a conversation point. Digitized badges also have the ability to interact with automated systems. They can be used to automatically grant opportunities or identify interests and other important information. The video is from and is specifically relevant to the Mozilla conception of badges, but the principles here apply to all badges whether Mozilla’s or not:

Badges have long been around in the game world and have also been called achievements. Using badges has come alongside the rise of social media as the two are naturally synergistic. Using badges has been called gamification. Some badges matter and some don’t, but the trend as a whole does. It allows for an instantly verifiable, meaningful, more resistant to manipulation and more detailed resume.

Let me give you an example of how a badge works. Khan academy awards badges for successful completion of courses. The badges accrue on a Khan Academy Profile page which can be shared with others, showing the collection of badges you have gained. You can mention the profile page across social media or on a resume in order to describe things you have learned. You can mention specific badges for specific skills as well. Treehouse awards badges which are simply certificate equivalents for completion of courses including test satisfaction and completion of work tests. These badges directly represent learning new programming and web development skills in this case.

Games also often badges. Some of these badges are useful and others not so much. Many of these I wouldn’t put on a resume. Kongregate is one example of a site with that feature, and Valve’s Steam uses this feature as well. Yet there are useful for social reasons as a computer can realize which badges you have, gauge your interests and skill level, find people who are a near match and make recommendations for a multi-player game or other such things.

One big mover in the badge realm is Mozilla Open Badges. Open Badges is an open source, distributed and unified method of creating and distributing badges. Using this I could have a single profile that I share, like a LinkedIn page, which shows the collection of badges I have gotten from around the web rather than just from a particular website.

Here is a list of organizations which participate in the Mozilla style Open Badge…Keep in mind that Open Badges are not the only kind of badges that matter!

You can then use these badges as prerequisites for entry to courses and other such things. I could create a diploma system based on a system of badges! Anyone can create badges therefore the identity of the issuing body is as important, if not more important, than the identity of the recipient. I could create a badge that says that I slayed a dragon, became president of the US, own Bank of America, and have the recipe for KFC’s chicken. Is this true? No! Therefore the issuing body becomes extremely important as you can see.


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