By Michael Swanson
- Digital Badges are gaining momentum as a credential recognising learning and skills, but do graduates with degrees awarded at University need to consider earning badges as well?
Digital (or Open) Badges comprise an Image with a backbone of embedded metadata that record who earned it, who issued it and for what; they are intended to be a means to record and reward (Credentialise) knowledge, abilities and skills; they offer the flexibility to recognise learning that occurs outside mainstream formal education.
The Mozilla Foundation, creators of the Firefox web browser, developed the Open Badge Infrastructure (OBI), rules that suggest how badges are built and how they work; but there is no owner of digital badging and no policing authority. Any Organisation or Individual can issue a digital badge to any other.
So how do they have value? The value is built into the design of the badge itself, each badge links back to the Issuer and criteria that led to it being earned, in this way a recruiter (for example an Employer or a University) can follow a trail that highlights who issued the badge and determine for themselves if it has worth to them. It is (or will be) the reputation of the badge issuer and the criteria against which the badge was earned that underpin the badge’s value .
The badge holder can display their badges on the web in Mozilla’s Backpack or on a social media site or their own blog and so choose who is able to see what badges. There are issuing and display tools from other providers as well such as Moodle, Credly and Purdue University who have developed “Passport” a badge display app for tablet devices.
The majority of people attending University do so to attain a degree that will hopefully lead to employment, but do traditional degrees provide evidence of learning to meet that goal? The CBI in collaboration with NUS in a report titled “Working towards your future: Making the most of your time in higher education” list the following skills sought by employers :
•Business and customer awareness
•Communication and literacy,
•Application of numeracy
•Application of information technology .
Graduates should consider if their degrees (earned or prospective) meet these requirements and provide evidence for employers that they have them. The author’s own degrees have no indication in their titles nor module breakdown that he has any specific competency in many of the above skills; and it is left to the job seeker to prove at interview that they can provide these abilities to an employer.
A spokesperson for the CBI said "these skills can be gained not just by coursework, but by a whole host of other methods, such as participating in societies, volunteering and doing work experience." and that “..universities need to explain these skills better and make sure they embed them in teaching."
Digital Badges can be issued to explicitly recognise these skills and demonstrate to the prospective employer where and how they were gained and thereby provide a competitive edge to the jobseeker who can tailor their earned badge display to show badges that meet the advertised employment criteria.
Professor Ian Glover of Sheffield Hallam University undertook research into the potential of Digital Badges in Higher Education and has stated, “There is growing recognition from universities and employers of the importance of learning and personal development that happens outside the formal curriculum. Open Badges are a way for students and graduates to evidence their own unique set of skills and experience, whether it is directly from their studies or other activities in which they are involved.”
With graduates facing higher University fees and wanting to enter employment rapidly following graduation, Digital Badges offer a further enhancement to a C.V demonstrating much sought after skills and abilities not otherwise evidenced; the graduate who has Digital Credentials for these skills may have an advantage over those who do not, depending of course on the credibility that employers give to these new credentials.
Links to further information
1. http://openbadges.org/ - Mozilla's Open Badges project
2. http://www.itap.purdue.edu/studio//passport/ - Purdue University's Passport
3. http://www.digitalme.co.uk/ - Badge the UK