How to make OpenBadges Relevant and Useful — A Brief Rant

Going from “Badges, we don’t need no stinking badges” to “Yay! Awesome universal learning credentials”

Anyone can issue badges for anything. Aren’t degrees and diplomas basically mega-badges — representing a whole instead of the parts. Having more granularity might be advantageous in that we can now have more frequent feedback of achievements, keeping the student motivated throughout the learning process. Extra credits has made some great points about gamifying education using points that are counted upwards rather than downwards, levels, skills:

But what about the information overload? What do 100 different badges together mean? Doesn’t it make the job of assessing an individual’s knowledge and skills difficult? If there is no connection between the badges, we are just increasing commodification of learning without adding any real value to the game- 100 badges instead of 1 diploma. Does the joy and ability gained in learning need any of those artificial formalities? Gamification applied without proper thinking can degrade the system. People in such systems are geared towards the mentality of gaming the system to get more points than to absorb the knowledge and skills for their inherent powers. “Badges, we don’t need no stinking badges”.

Instead, what we can do is construct some form of an “Open Knowledge & Skills Graph” that will act as a set of moulds to create badges. A node on this graph can be two-part, i.e. it could have one or both of these basic components:

(1) a WHAT? component— one element from the finite set of knowledge and skills topics, and

(2) a HOW? component — one element from the finite set of the manner and proficiency of acquiring these knowledge and skills.

Any number of WHAT? and HOW? components can be combined and connected in infinite ways to create any number of learning objectives, programs, assessments and credentials.

This will make the corresponding credential (say, OpenBadges) somewhat like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, only much more flexible, so you are not making just one picture, but an infinitely many pictures. A do-it-yourself personalised and customized degree for your unique background and objectives.

Moreover, badges should be meaningful in real life and be relevant and understandable to almost everyone. Also, flexible and transformable like the cool transformer bots from those movies! They could be like parts of robotics kits that alone don’t do all that much, but when fit together become powerful and functional in unexpected ways. Besides, you can always go back and repair a part (revise, recall, relearn), augment an existing robot with newer parts (build upon existing knowledge and skills), or transform the arrangement to create a different robot altogether (apply knowledge and skills for problem-solving). Credentials that stack, combine and transform will allow for a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. Emergent phenomenon — emergent credentials — emergent learning!

This form of universal, open, stackable, transformable credentials (and their underlying corresponding learning objectives, programs and assessments) can then be extended to assessing random clusters in population or collaborative groups or any other sort of entity (person, team, company, university) so that problems can be solved together and efficiently by forming optimal teams of problem-solvers. It’s a possibility about knowledge, skills, learning and collaboration that is fractal and exponential (or factorial) in nature!

So, let’s make these “awesome Open Universal Learning Credentials” together, to be able to solve all the other problems together more easily and efficiently!

Further Reading

The Untitled Universal Taxonomy of Learning: A taxonomy to direct your learning, life and find meaning. Also useful for learners and educators to chalk out modular educational/learning programs for attaining specific goals, assessing progress and awarding credentials.

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Applied Philosophy and Sociology | Ideas are meant to be free and open, so all writings here are Public Domain Dedications — No Rights Reserved

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