The value of badges

Digital Badges in Education

The editors of Digital Badges in Education: Trends, Issues, and Cases take their turn with Chapter 11 (‘In the Eye of the Beholder: Value of Digital Badges’). They open with the familiar trope of this being a time of ‘rapid change’ and the need for self-directed learning, before arguing that digital badges are useful for a number of reasons, as they:

  • are “versatile and make comprehensive digital information quickly accessible to earners and users of the badge system”
  • “offer badge earners finer granularity in representing their knowledge and achievements than do traditional diplomas and certificates”
  • allow learners to “have a more complete way to document achievements to those consumers who want to know about their skill set” (e.g. employers / admissions officers)

Taking a cue from the music industry, Muilenburg and Berge explain how ‘unbundling’ songs from albums has given consumers more freedom and choice, but led to “the overall revenue of song purchases to drop 50 percent”. They quote Craig (2015) who says that the equivalent of the album for universities is the college degree. Badges can serve as way to help unbundle college degrees, but have value that is “relative to their purpose and to the perspective of the stakeholder being served”. In other words, they are more subjective and context-sensitive than ‘blunt’ and chunky credentials such as college degrees.

The authors argue that there are three main purposes of a badge system:

  1. “to act as an incentive to learners to engage in positive learning behaviors”
  2. “to map progress in learning and foster discovery”
  3. “to signal completion and learning of an achievement with a credential that holds value”

They continue to make some straightforward points about badge pathways and audience, before sharing this table:

Value priorities of badges from different perspectives 

The incorrect spelling of ‘lesser’ and use of questionalbe use of shading in a greyscale book aside, I’m not sure of how much value this table provides. It seems somewhat arbitrary, and the authors even seem to contradict themselves:

The point here is not that the relative levels of importance show in Table 11.1 are the same for all badges in all badging systems. A badge has a particular profile and that profile changes depending upon the particular stakeholder’s role and the motives that the individual stakeholder has for the badge.

So what’s the point of including it? Baffling. If found this chapter of very little value.