Digital Badge Credentials + the Future of Pathways

Credentials Pathways Just Got Real!

When it comes to Teaching & Learning, there are limitless Pathways to getting to where we need to go. Photo credit: “Pathway” by jev55 is licensed under CC BY-NC

There’s a lot of excitement right now in the world of Digital Badge Credentials, from Credly’s recent acquisition of Acclaim, to the upcoming 2018 Badge Summit (which I’m organizing) to the catalyst for this post, Concentric Sky’s announcement about Badgr Pathways.

This new Pathways tool is the first example I’ve seen that takes this important concept out of idea land and presents it in real-world-actually-exists-and-can-be-applied-today land.

Some Background

There are a lot of exciting ideas around unbundling learning, taking granular level competencies and presenting them as Stackable Credentials that can be pieced together in myriad ways to access, construct and complete Learning Pathways that are ultimately credentialed in ways that are meaningful to Learners/Earners and valued and trusted by Consumers (usually schools and employers). Concentric Sky’s announcement is playing in this sandbox.

An imperfect (but hopefully helpful) analogy

Imagine going to an open food court. All of the venders offer packaged meal deals but none meets your unique eating needs. You decide to unbundle the meal and create your own culinary pathway to a full stomach.

You order gyoza from Panda Express, a pizza slice from Sbarro, a smoothie from Jamba Juice, a cookie from Auntie Anne’s and an unexpected but appetizing-looking salad from the *magazine shop. In unbundling the meal and reconstructing it, you have stacked together items from disparate providers to make a meal that is right for you and your needs.

*It’s worth pointing out that though the magazine shop is not a restaurant or place we historically think of as a purveyor of nutritional goodness, in this case it meets your needs.

This food analogy is kind of like the possibilities that this is making into realities for Pathways to credential learning and achieving.

Why this strikes me as a BIG DEAL

There is some inspirational Learning Pathways work happening in a number of spaces, perhaps most notably in the community college and other higher ed efforts to identify the individual competencies of given courses and offer learners competency-level credentials that can either be used to communicate specific skill sets to employers (who are more interested in said skill than in the overall course) or stacked together in order to work toward course credit without necessarily taking the full class for every course.

This announcement takes things to another level that I think is a pretty big deal: for the first time (of which I’m aware), we are offered the potential to not only unbundle summative learning and stack it back together into the Pathways that meet users’ needs, but we can do so by piecing together credentials from disparate issuers.

In short, we are entering a new moment for Digital Badge Credentials in which stakeholders are finally getting to see the “OPEN” in Open Badges.

Credentials are openly searchable, openly portable and, because they are liberated from institutional ownership, open for earners to own them and use as they see fit. Going back to the imperfect analogy, an individual now has an accessible and simple way to create their own personalized meal from multiple restaurants.

Example of Badgr Pathways, borrowed from the Concentric Sky blog post that announced Pathways, 4/20/18.

For example…

Imagine a rural school district wants to ensure that the professional development in its Teacher Induction program is personalized to meet individual teacher needs. The Director of Professional Learning (who is also Superintendent, bus driver, janitor, nurse, basketball coach and AP Science Teacher) lacks the resources to offer this level of personalization to the 2.5 new teachers each year.

Historically, this already underserved learning community would be out of luck. But today is a new day. Badgr’s Pathways (and future competitors that are sure to soon emerge) offer potential for a solution that is a vast improvement on the current situation and is sustainable from a resources perspective.

The Director of Professional Learning could sit down with the Inductees, say an Elementary School Teacher and a Spanish Teacher, and co-construct learning pathways [see diagram] that will meet their individual needs. They search for and discover Open Badges that are from a variety of issuers and earned on a variety of issuing platforms. Together, they build an Elementary Induction Pathway and a World Languages Induction Pathway. These Pathways will be available to be duplicated or modified for future Inductees.

The Future

In some ways, this begins to feel like a The Future is Now moment. A more humble take is that we have arrived at an amazing new iceberg that we knew was there but hadn’t yet beholden. And as exciting as it is to see it with our own eyes, we know that time will likely reveal that what is currently visible is just the tip of said iceberg and that the more we learn and probe and question, the more we’ll realize that we’re just getting started with the discovery of possibilities.

What are YOUR thoughts, impressions and questions about this new announcement? As always, your own reflections and even pushback are appreciated as response posts. If you like this, please click the applause as it will help others discover it. Thanks for reading and I look forward to connecting!

Disclosure: This post is entirely my own idea and I’m receiving no compensation or considerations for it. I try to be a Community Organizer in the world of Digital Badge Credentials, and I therefore believe it’s important for me to be transparent and I hope to avoid even the appearance of impropriety. Thus this over share: Concentric Sky CEO Wayne Skipper and I had a call about a session he will be part of at the 2018 Badge Summit and during the call he gave me a 1:1 deep dive on the new tool a few days before their official announcement. Nate Otto (of Concentric Sky/Badgr) and I have had a number of public collaborations, none of which have involved exchanges of money or anything of monetary value, unless you think one of should be getting paid for our amazing Spotify playlists. To my knowledge, everything I’ve described about Badgr Pathways is part of their free service. In short, I think what they’ve put out there is super cool and a big deal and I wanted to share my thoughts about it and there’s no quid pro quo happening that influenced what you’re reading. Thanks for reading!