A hierarchy of digital badges – Level 2 Work skills

In my last post on this topic, I discussed why I think it helps to identify different types of digital badges and looked at more formal badges that are linked directly to accredited qualifications.

The next level of badges I’d say would be those that denote particular skills or knowledge in the badge-holder without necessarily having the same degree of accountability or rigour in the evidence gathering process.

These badges should certainly still be designed around specific, well defined capabilities/competencies that a badge issuer needs to evaluate but by disconnecting this level of badges from formal institutional systems and processes, we can support a wider range of badge issuers and support more flexible and responsive badge programs operating in much shorter time-frames.

Two particular examples of these kinds of badges spring to mind.

The Insignia Project at the Australian National University (ANU), driven by Dr Inger Mewburn, Dr Kim Blackmore, Dr Katie Freund and Emily Rutherford (all people I know and respect) was created last year to explore the use of Open Badges in Research Education. It ties to ANU’s “compulsory, yet non credit bearing, research integrity course.”

So here we have a training program that is designed to equip students with vital skills that should serve them throughout their studies and into careers in academia but which isn’t considered a part of formal study. The skills addressed by these badges include Research Integrity, Library Searching and the use of Endnote, valuable additions to a CV but not necessarily something that you would receive a qualification for.

Similarly, the Mozilla Foundation has a huge open access education program designed to teach people web development skills. The Webmaker project covers skills including html, javascript, web development and digital literacy and offers badges both to people developing these skills and to those teaching them.

The conditions for these badges are fairly clearly set out and they would certainly enhance the online presence of someone that you might be looking for with these skills – whether for work or collaboration.

Neither of these projects tie to formal qualifications but depending on the provider / badge issuer, it’s easy to see that these may hold more value to badge readers that accredited ones.  This is clearly a question of validity and credibility, which is one of the greatest issues with digital badges and one deserving its own discussion.