After 18 months in the darkness of beta world, Mozilla’s Open Badges project stepped out into the light recently with the unveiling of Open Badges 1.0.
But will the concept of organizations bestowing their own virtual endorsements for the mastery of skills hold up to critical examination from a world that, even in an information economy, demands most of its skilled workers hold a framed degree?
The list of more than 600 badge-creating and -designing partners would suggest so. Especially when that list includes names familiar even to digital-phobes, like the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, multiple branches of the Smithsonian, NASA, and Disney-Pixar.
Yet even Erin Knight, the Mozilla Foundation’s senior director of learning, concedes it may be a while before badges resonate the same as a resume to an admissions or recruiting office, even if badges have the potential to be more authentic and certifiable.
“I don’t see badges replacing degrees as something that is going to happen tomorrow,” Knight says. “But I see it as more incremental.”
The idea behind Mozilla’s project, Knight says, is to create a common currency of how badges are structured and discussed. While Mozilla can’t — nor does it want to — control the quality of the elements required for badges listed within its project, it does require every badge to provide authentication for the organization issuing the badge and for the user receiving it, as well as a link to the criteria needed to earn it and the evidence of the learner meeting that criteria.
But the first incremental step to fostering a public understanding of what badges can offer may not be a top-down, widespread knowledge of the anatomy of a badge. Instead, judging by the stories of a few of Mozilla’s early partners, it may be local organizations explaining and publicizing their badge system to partner organizations they trust.