Badges or Flair?

I have been really interested in the “badges” for online learning since I learned of the concept early in this semester.  It is a really interesting concept I even have a page dedicated to open courseware initiatives and badges –

I think I’m probably one of the first Udacity dropouts.  I signed up for the create a search engine course and made it through the first week, then I quit working on it.  Not because I didn’t understand the concepts – actually I surprised myself and got it right away.  But mostly because I’m taking 4 courses this semester and just don’t have the time necessary to dedicate myself to really learning the concepts.

I think MITx is a great initiative.  For someone looking to polish up their skills or learn something new it is a great program.  The fact that you can earn a certificate of completion is also a great concept.  The first course is Circuits & Electronics.  The requirements: “In order to succeed in this course, you must have taken an AP level physics course in electricity and magnetism. You must know basic calculus and linear algebra and have some background in differential equations.” (Circuits & Electronics, 2012)  According to the FAQ page for MITx, while MIT offers open course material for nearly all MIT classes, MITx will not offer courses on the same scale. (What is MITx?, 2011)   So at this point – I don’t think MITx is a site for the “rest of us” just yet – or maybe just me, that’s way too much advanced math for this math hater.

With all of that said, I don’t see open universities replacing traditional universities.  Companies are looking for more education these days – not less.  You need a bachelor’s degree for jobs that used to require high school.  Jobs that used to require a bachelor’s degree now require a master’s, in some cases.  As an example, it’s not enough to have bachelors in human resources or a related field.  Now you have to take a PHR or SPHR certification to prove you know what you’re doing, and you can only take those tests after you’ve been a salaried employee for 2 years.  I don’t see earning online badges replacing those highly sought after credentials.

I can see the online badges complimenting degree programs, but not replacing them.  I’m currently taking Dreamweaver and CSS trainings from  When I complete the programs I am eligible for a certificate of completion.  I plan to add these “badges” to my online portfolio site.  Potential employers can see the extra courses/trainings I have completed in addition to earning my degree.  It may give me an edge over the competition, it may not – it’s too soon to tell.  What I think it tells employers though is that I seek learning opportunities.

The world of teaching and learning is changing that much I’ve learned over the last 9 weeks.  I can see teachers bringing in the opportunities for earning badges into their curriculum.  I mentioned before the 3D GameLab developed by Boise State University.  It is an online, quest-based platform that launches in closed beta this August with a three-week, FULLY ONLINE summer camp for educators who want to engage in and design quest-based learning tied to curriculum standards.  (3D GameLab, 2012)  This is something that really interests me and is a platform that I can see teachers using in the future.  I have students motivated and I can see bringing the “badges” into K-12 learning environment.

I see the biggest challenges of open learning to be the push back from those that value and honor the time tradition of traditional learning.  I read an interesting blog post from – How to earn your Skeptic “badge” – it offers an interesting perspective.   I think the badge initiative is really new and just how far it might go is yet to be determined.  The opportunities for open learning are that people who just want to learn something new without the money or time concerns can take an open course to learn a new skill.

Works Cited

(2012, March). Retrieved March 13, 2012, from 3D GameLab:

Circuits & Electronics. (2012). Retrieved March 14, 2012, from MITx:

What is MITx? (2011, December 19). Retrieved March 13, 2012, from MITnews:


One thought on “Badges or Flair?

  1. I have been wondering about badges too. Can they be more than falir? Maybe they will gain currency and legitimacy if the meaning is trustworthy and simple. Employers won;t look hard at things they don’t trust. I don’t think it means that there won’t be a place for noncollegiate currency of some sort. The trustworthy validation of those extra trainings wouold be useful. I do agree that degrees are not likely to dissapear anytime soon.

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