Tag Archives: Digital Badges

Do online badges give a more realistic appraisal than grades?

21 Oct

Moi discussed free online universities in Can free online universities change the higher education model?

Beckie Supiano and Elyse Ashburn have written With New Lists, Federal Government Moves to Help Consumers and Prod Colleges to Limit Price Increases in the Chronicle of Higher Education about the U.S. Department of Education’s new site about college costs. As college becomes more unaffordable for more and more people, they are looking at alternatives to college.

Jon Marcus reports in the Washington Post article, Online course start-ups offer virtually free college:

An emerging group of entrepreneurs with influential backing is seeking to lower the cost of higher education from as much as tens of thousands of dollars a year to nearly nothing.

These new arrivals are harnessing the Internet to offer online courses, which isn’t new. But their classes are free, or almost free. Most traditional universities have refused to award academic credit for such online studies.

Now the start-ups are discovering a way around that monopoly, by inventing credentials that “graduates” can take directly to employers instead of university degrees.

If I were the universities, I might be a little nervous,” said Alana Harrington, director of Saylor.
, a nonprofit organization based in the District. Established by entrepreneur Michael Saylor, it offers 200 free online college courses in 12 majors.

Another nonprofit initiative is Peer-to-Peer University, based in California. Known as P2PU, it offers free online courses and is supported by the Hewlett Foundation and Mozilla, the company behind the Firefox Web browser.

A third is University of the People, also based in California, which offers more than 40 online courses. It charges students a one-time $10 to $50 application fee. Among its backers is the Clinton Global Initiative.

The content these providers supply comes from top universities, including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of California at Berkeley, Tufts University and the University of Michigan. Those are among about 250 institutions worldwide that have put a collective 15,000 courses online in what has become known as the open-courseware movement.

The universities aim to widen access to course content for prospective students and others. At MIT, a pioneer of open courseware, half of incoming freshmen report that they’ve looked at MIT online courses and a third say it influenced their decision to go there.


The New York Times reported about the online education trend in the article, Online Enterprises Gain Foothold as Path to a College Degree http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/25/education/25future.html?_r=1&emc=eta1

Often these online ventures will offer a certificate or badge to show completion of a course of study. Education Portal defines the difference between a certificate and diploma:

Certificate Overview

A certificate is earned by a student after taking a series of courses relating to a subject. Students often earn certificates to get a step ahead in the professional field of their interest and certificates may be offered in similar programs as degrees. For instance, there are certificates in business, literature and technical programs. In some technical programs, a certificate may be required.

There are also graduate certificates, often taken either alone or alongside a graduate degree program. In some programs, the student may use his or her electives to fulfill a certificate in order to make him or herself more desirable to a potential employer.

Certificate programs taken alone are similar to associate’s degree programs. However, they take less time because core academic programs are not required.

Diploma Overview

Diplomas are similar to certificates but often earned at clinical schools. For instance, a diploma of nursing is offered as an option besides an associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree. This diploma program is only offered at hospitals with specialty programs that provide training. A diploma often takes two years and involves as much clinical work as classroom.

Degree Overview

An academic degree can be earned at many levels, including associate’s, which takes two years, bachelor’s, which takes four years, master’s, which is two years beyond a bachelor’s degree, and doctoral, which is several years beyond a master’s degree.

A degree program differs from certificates and diploma programs in that it often requires the student to take core courses to support a more rounded education. For instance, at many universities, those earning their bachelor’s degree are required to take English, math, science, philosophy and history. Earning a degree also opens up many more potential doors to the student than would a certificate or diploma. Many careers require that the student has earned at least a bachelor’s degree; several career options require more than this. http://education-portal.com/articles/What_is_the_Difference_Between_a_Certificate_Diploma_and_Degree.html

Some online universities are awarding badges. Lynn O’Shaughnessy reports in the U.S. News article, Digital Badges Could Significantly Impact Higher Education. http://www.usnews.com/education/blogs/the-college-solution/2011/10/04/digital-badges-could-significantly-impact-higher-education                                                                                                                      https://drwilda.com/2012/01/23/can-free-online-universities-change-the-higher-education-model/

There is increasing pressure on colleges to look at ways of containing college costs.

Jeffrey R. Young has written an interesting Chronicle of Higher Education article, Grades Out, Badges In:

Grades are broken. Students grub for them, pick classes where good ones come easily, and otherwise hustle to win the highest scores for the least learning. As a result, college grades are inflated to the point of meaninglessness—especially to employers who want to know which diploma-holder is best qualified for their jobs.

That’s a viewpoint driving experiments in education badges. Offered mostly by online start-ups, the badges are modeled on the brightly colored patches on Boy Scout uniforms but are inspired primarily by video games: Just as most video games offer ways for players to “level up” frequently, to keep them excited, most education-badge projects involve rewarding achievements more fine-tuned than passing (or acing) a course. In a remedial math course, for instance, a badge might be awarded for mastering a concept, whether “surface area” or “median and mode.” Or badges might certify soft skills not usually measured at all in college courses, like teamwork or asking good questions.

So what if colleges replaced grades with badges?Erin Knight, leader of an education-badge project run by the Mozilla Foundation that provides a platform for students to display such badges on their Web sites, argues that grades shift students’ goals from learning to earning, because the stakes are so high when the result of an entire course is reduced to a single letter.

“If you tell people in a class to blog because they’re going to get a grade for it, they will do that,” she said in a recent interview in The Chronicle’s technology podcast. “But the types of interaction and participation you’re going to see are going to be very different than if it’s organic and people feel like they’re a community of learners and really want to contribute and have their own voice.”

One key benefit of education badges could simply be communicating what happens in the classroom in a more employer-friendly form…

employers do end up hitting the “like” button on badges, they may challenge the need for traditional college degrees altogether. If a student can sew enough patches on his or her online résumé from courses at a variety of institutions, why stay at one place for four years just to get a certificate suitable for framing? http://chronicle.com/article/Grades-Out-Badges-In/135056/?cid=at&utm_source=at&utm_medium=en

With any education opportunity the prospective student and their family must do their homework and weigh the pros and cons of the institution with with the student’s goals and objectives. In answer to the question of whether online college is a threat to traditional bricks and mortar universities, it depends. The market will answer that question because many students do not attend college to receive a liberal arts education, but to increase employment opportunities. If the market accepts badges and certificates, then colleges may be forced to look at the costs associated with a traditional college degree.


Study: What skills are needed for ’21st-century learning?’ https://drwilda.com/2012/07/11/study-what-skills-are-needed-for-21st-century-learning/

Online K-12 education as a cash cow for ‘Wall Street’ https://drwilda.com/2011/11/21/online-k-12-education-as-a-cash-cow-for-wall-street/

Critical thinking is an essential trait of an educated person https://drwilda.wordpress.com/2012/01/22/critical-thinking-is-an-essential-trait-of-an-educated-person/

Producing employable liberal arts grads                              https://drwilda.com/2012/04/01/producing-employable-liberal-arts-grads/

Borrowing from work: Schools teach career mapping https://drwilda.com/2012/03/24/borrowing-from-work-schools-teach-career-mapping/

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