Monday, October 10, 2011

Badges 101 Webinar Follow-up

Last Thursday I presented on a Badges 101 webinar run by HASTAC. The goal was to give some foundational information and answer questions about badges in general. It was well attended - over 200 attended and more weighed in with questions. 

You can see the recording here:

We were only able to address a handful of questions during the webinar since time was running out, but we are all currently weighing in on the great questions that came in and will be continually posting our responses via the HASTAC Badges forums. There were a few that caught my attention and I wanted to answer here as well:

Isn’t grade just another form of a badge I can post A,B,C,D, F on fridge, The internet just makes fridge bigger?

I love this question. The internet as a big fridge just makes me smile. But it is also a really good question. Are badges the same as grades? Aren’t we just reinventing the same system? I think this is exactly what we should avoid. Grades are a very limited and in many cases, ineffective system. A grade is abstract and often tells very little about what was behind the grade. Even for those situations where the criteria differentiating an A from a B is clearly defined, once removed from that experience, the grade loses all of that information. Even just looking at the system - 5 grades - imposed on everything regardless of what is being taught/learned, feels irrelevant and artificial. And then there is normalizing and grade inflation… 

A driving principle behind the badge work is that we will use badges to capture a wide, granular range of learning so that the skill, competency, achievement, etc. is explicitly expressed through the badge, and of course that badge carries with it all of the information needed to understand the badge, including the criteria/assessment behind the badge and potentially even a link to the learner’s work as evidence (an optional piece of metadata). Thus badges move us away from a standardized, artificial system and start to lay the foundation for an authentic, personalized system that captures and continues to communicate the learning and skill development that occurred. 

And returning to the fridge metaphor - in my childhood, only the papers, quizzes or homework that got the A made the fridge. Regardless of the work, when my parents saw an A, they implicitly knew what that meant and knew how my work compared to others’. Badges sets us up for a different, more personalized system where learners can collect badges for a wide range of skills and achievements. Badges can represent unique and individualized pathways of learning. It becomes less about comparisons to other learners, and more about personal interests and accomplishments. It becomes less about the rating and more about the work itself. This makes some people nervous - how will we make sense of it all if we don’t have the standardization? It will be a different system, that’s for sure. But what gets me excited is that it opens up the opportunity for so much more authenticity, flexibility and recognition. A learner’s collection of badges could be on that fridge but instead of just a few papers with A’s, and it would represent a much more complete picture or narrative around that learners achievements, strengths, interest and skills. 

Seems like the success of badges at least partly depends on educating employers and the public about their value?

Yes, there will certainly be a learning curve. We are starting something new here so it can’t be expected that HR departments are going to suddenly know what to make of badges on digital resumes or applications. But that said, we have talked to a bunch of employers and hiring managers and many are open to the idea, and beyond that, almost all (if not all) recognize a need for a new system. They are looking for a way to get more contextual information on applicants, including the evasive social or softer skills that are so important and relevant to employers and success as an employee. Badges can offer a way to present more granular and comprehensive information about a person, and that information is more than just something flat listed on a resume but instead is linked to information about criteria and evidence to validate the badge. So while, yes, as with any new system, there will need to be some initial education around badges, the potential is so huge that I don’t anticipate it will take much to tip folks in favor of a the new approach. But we’ll see!

There is a follow-up Badges 101 webinar on October 17th at 2pm ET so if you missed that one, or still have more questions - check that one out. Also, for questions specific to the competition details and instructions, check out this webinar tomorrow (10/11) at 3pm ET



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