Audrey Watters: How Will Mozilla's Open Badges Project Affect Higher Ed?
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Mozilla is responsible for the design of the technical infrastructure of the badge ecosystem. This means, no surprise coming from Mozilla, that the technology is open-source (documentation, source code). In the organization's words, the infrastructure is "designed to support a broad range of different badge issuers, and allow any user to earn badges across different issuers, web sites and experiences, then combine them into a single collection tied to their identity. This collection of badges can then be shared out to various audiences across the web, resulting in real-world results like jobs or formal credit."
Of course, making an open source and openly accessible system like this flies in the face of the proprietary systems that currently control those "real-world results like jobs or formal credit" -- namely, universities. The proposed Open Badges Project challenges not just certification, but also assessment. What does it mean that anyone can issue any sort of badge? Does a badge offer a better representation of skills or competencies than having a formal degree? If so, when? Will these badges be meaningful -- to students, to schools, to employers? Will they be accepted? If so, by whom?
The timing of the Open Badges Project coincides with our asking serious questions about the cost and the value of a college degree, and even though there are critiques about badges as "gamification," there are certainly lots of interested parties in the development of the idea -- the Department of Education, for example, and the Department of Labor.