Thoughts on open badges

A couple of weeks ago I attended a few sessions on open badges at the JISC RSC Yorkshire & Humber Online Conference. My motivation was to find out a little more about them and how they’re currently being used, especially in higher education.

One of the key takeaways for me was from Doug Belshaw‘s session, Using Open Badges to credential knowledge and skills in your organisation. This was the distinction between a digital badge and an open badge:

Digital badges vs open badges A lot of the concerns about using badges that came out in the sessions I attended were about what learners thought of them. Are they understood and/or valued as credentials of learning? Are they just seen as gimmicks? And if so, might they be seen to devalue to learning experience? I think these questions are particularly prevalent in HE. Is this really something we need to worry about?

In my previous job I attended Staff Student Liaison Committees in the business school as a representative of the library. At one, a group of postgraduate students were giving feedback on careers workshops they had attended. Their feedback was positive, the workshops were valuable in preparing them for their job search and in giving them additional skills not developed in the academic programme. But there was one thing missing… a certificate. It wasn’t enough to be able to say they had attended, they wanted to be able to show it.

I hadn’t thought about the connection to open badges until now. What the students wanted was to be able to display a recognition for EVERYTHING they had done at university, alongside their formal qualifications, on their CV or in a job application. Surely open badges provide a great way to do this in the digital world. Had I stayed in a post where I was creating extra-curricula skills programmes, like Warwick’s Digital Tools for Researchers, I would have loved to explore the application of open badges as credentials for this kind of activity.