Digital Badges & the Workforce Development Revolution

We’ve posted before about the potential for digital badges to revolutionize workforce development.  A few days ago, the New York Times had a concise overview of what digital badges are and how they might revolutionize workforce development:

One of the most important functions of college degrees is signaling knowledge and skill to potential employers. Yet degrees and certificates often do a poor job of communicating detailed information about graduates. Grade inflation has steadily obscured the meaning of G.P.A.’s, and there’s no easy way to know what someone who got, for example, an A-minus in Econ 206 actually learned. A badge, on the other hand, is supposed to indicate specific knowledge and skills. . . .

. . . . Carnegie Mellon has developed online courses in robotics and computer science in which students are awarded badges as they reach learning milestones — one for teaching robots to move and another for manipulating robot motion sensors — ultimately leading to a final badge certifying their overall robot programming skills. It’s similar to the process used in video games. Players accumulate enough points to achieve higher levels and thus the opportunity to undertake new, more challenging quests.

As our previous post indicated, the Mozilla Foundation is working with the MacArthur Foundation to develop a universal system through which digital badges can be shared across the web.  The goal is to create a universal system that documents skill attainment in a variety of fields that would be recognized by employers, schools, accrediting organizations, etc.  As you can imagine, the implications for workforce development, particularly for nontraditional learners, are substantial.

You can read the Times overview here.  A working paper on universal digital badges published by the Mozilla Foundation can be downloaded here.  Mozilla’s site for open badges is here.

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