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Why Digital Badges are All the Craze

There tends to be (as with any new trend) a mixed bag of reviews. Digital badges are the future. Digital badges are overrated. Digital badges are awesome. Digital badges are just okay. Digital Badges are...

Digital Badges

First, let's start with the basics. What is a digital badge? A few definitions of digital badges are listed below:

  • "Open Badges communicate skills and achievements by providing a visual representation of your accomplishments packed with verifiable data and evidence" as stated by Mozilla Backpack.

  • "Digital badges, which recognize achievement on a smaller scale than typical academic credentials..." as stated on U.S. News & World Report's article on Online Courses Experiment with Digital Badges.

  • "Digital badges are visual representation of a stackable skill set — a powerful micro credentialing tool for identifying and validating the rich array of people's skills, knowledge, accomplishments, and competencies" as stated on Purdue University's Learning Design and Technology webpage.

For those who are brand new to the term, I always tell people digital badges are a quick way for a person to show documentation they are proficient in a skill or knowledge base. For example, someone may say they know how to use Excel. Great! I'm looking for an employee who has extensive experience using pivot charts and working with large scale data. I interview all applicants and they all say they have experience with big data and pivot charts and so on and so forth. Before I even interview the applicants, I see one who has a digital badge in Excel. By looking at the badge, I see in the requirements the applicant had to upload documentation showing their own work creating and using pivot charts in Excel. Great! I no longer need to take their word on it and trust that they can use Excel in the way I'm looking for.

Below is a sample image of the requirements of earning a digital badge.

Instructions for earning a digital badge for Animoto

So, why are these digital badges all the craze right now? Here are my opinions on the topic:

  1. Many academic programs focus on the history or theories around a certain field of study. Digital badges can help supplement a student's academic program by providing a specific skill set a learner needs for their own professional development.

  2. Each learner's educational path is different. Some learners have the time and resources to fully take advantage of a academic program. Some learners only have time for quick training opportunities in their crazy life schedule. So on and so forth... Therefore, in some situations focusing on one digital badge or one specific topic at a time is in the best interest of the learner.

  3. For those learners who start an academic program but need to leave for whatever reason, they can take those digital badges with them showing what they learned (without having earned the full degree).

  4. Digital badges can help a person explore a topic they may be interested in but are not yet fully committed to joining the field or workforce professionally.

  5. Digital badges can be updated more quickly than a typical academic course. In most universities, a new course may take up to a year before it is formally approved to be on the academic schedule of courses. A digital badge can be created at any time making sure those interested in the topic can stay current with the new and latest trends in the field.

  6. Digital badges can help a person market themselves (much like you can do with endorsements on LinkedIn).

How do you feel about digital badges? Have you earned any? Do you see the value? I'd love to have a conversation about this ever-growing trend!

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