27th February 2013
The spread of a seemingly playful alternative to traditional diplomas, inspired by Boy Scout achievement patches and video-game power-ups, suggests that the standard certification system no longer works in today’s fast-changing job market.
Educational upstarts across the Web are adopting systems of “badges” to certify skills and abilities. If scouting focuses on outdoorsy skills like tying knots, these badges denote areas employers might look for, like mentorship or digital video editing. Many of the new digital badges are easy to attain—intentionally so—to keep students motivated, while others signal mastery of fine-grained skills that are not formally recognized in a traditional classroom.
I think this is a great idea. Establish ‘merit badges’ for specific skills, and establish various educational ‘ranks’ — perhaps even ‘degrees’ — based on specified numbers and types of badges. We could do a lot worse than emulate the Boy Scouts.