When Mozilla introduced Open Badges in 2011 as a way to recognize learning and achievement, it ignited a paradigm shift in credentialing in higher education and beyond. Unlike conventional credentials, open badges can contain specific information in a structured format that is assertable and machine readable. These characteristics allow the information to circulate freely on the Internet. But the digital transformation of the learning and achievement assertion, as with any new technology, imposes a new set of challenges that require time to resolve. The credibility of the digital credentials was at heart of this problem.
Open Badge Endorsement
Most of the readers are already familiar with the concept of endorsement for skills. This feature was introduced by LinkedIn back in 2012, allowing users to endorse each other. Of course, many users find LinkedIn endorsement requests annoying and question the value of the resulting endorsements. It took LinkedIn a substantial amount of time and effort to develop a system that makes such endorsement more credible using enhancements in their computer algorithms. It has taken some time, but recruiters and employers can now evaluate the quality of these endorsements by examining the broadness and deepness of the connections.
Endorsement of open badges works in a similar way. Endorsement makes open badges more informative, credible, searchable and trackable. These characteristics allow individuals or organizations who issue badges to add endorsements by other parties to establish to their credibility and trustworthiness across different communities. As with LinkedIn endorsement, it take time and investment for these new features to become widely embraced by various stakeholders.
Endorsement makes open badges more informative, credible, searchable and trackable.
Existing Models of Endorsement in Education
Most schools and universities are endorsed via external accrediting bodies. These organizations charge a substantial fee to conduct site visits, review the extensive information that schools gather, and guide continuing improvement. Many professional educational programs have additional specialized accreditation from their corresponding professional associations. Accreditors look at every aspect of a program, including leadership, instructors, courses, assignments,and student work. While classic accreditation effectively contributes to the enhancement of the quality of education, as it serves as a comprehensive endorsement of everything that ends upon a transcript, it is not without some shortcomings. It basically overlooks the actual student work before it is graded.
Open Badges Endorsement: A New Proposition
In key respects, Open Badges were intended to disrupt the existing accreditation model, by shifting the accreditation from the core to the edges; thus, allowing the recognition of more granular and less formal competencies, a consumer of these new credentials (e.g., an employer, professional association, admissions officer, peer) could examine the evidence in the badge and reach his or her own conclusion about whether that evidence supports the claims made by the badge.
The story doesn’t end here, as Open Badges introduces further disruption, because the digital nature and portability allow each badge to have a life of its own and to generate more meaning and insights as it flows on social networks.
While classic accreditation effectively contributes to the enhancement of the quality of education, as it serves as a comprehensive endorsement of everything that ends upon a transcript, it is not without some shortcomings. It basically overlooks the actual student work before it is graded.
Where Does Endorsement Lead?
Endorsement is a game changer for how badges are used, understood, and trusted, because it shifts the focus on the learning and achievement from the core of the system to its edges, by allowing third-party organizations to publicly indicate which badges are aligned with their values —those that are the most meaningful and useful to them. It adds a new metadata component to the Open Badges standard and defines the structure for rich,well-defined endorsement information and criteria such as alignment with standards. While it is very difficult today to predict where Open Badge endorsement will take us, the new layer of trust is likely to have a lasting impact on education, personal achievement and professional growth.