You say ‘rigor’, I say ‘preserving the status quo’

Digital Badges in Education

The third chapter of Digital Badges in Education: Trends, Issues, and Cases is ‘The Case for Rigor in Open Badges’ by Richard E. West and Daniel L. Randall. The last section of the chapter includes recommendations of ‘key principles’ for Open Badges going forward:

We offer the following as key principles:

  • Badges should be awarded through rigorous assessment processes and thus carry weight and represent real achievement and learning.
  • Badges should have value outside of the learning environment and have signalling power to other persons about the learner’s skill and knowledge.
  • While we do believe gamification can be a positive thing in education, badges should do more than be points or check marks.
  • Badge providers should use rigorous assessment practices to truly authenticate what a learner knows against clear and measurable criteria.
  • Badge providers would likely benefit from collaborating together to build brands that will grow the credibility and acceptance of the badges being issued.

To my mind, this whole chapter is the ivory tower equivalent of, “if all you’ve got is a hammer, everything begins to look a lot like a nail.” I don’t think the authors understand how completely different a system based on badges could be, and have focused on what would be on the lowest tier of Puentadura’s SAMR model. What they are advocating is merely substituting badges for a system we’ve already got. Such an approach is tokenistic and, I would argue, lacks imagination.