Digital Badges as Learning Credentials

Digital badging is a new credentialing technology that has the potential of serving diverse youths and promote equity and social inclusion.  Digital badges are designed to make visible and verifiable learning that happens everywhere. From schools to communities, from the workplace to the Internet, youths are gaining skills in a learning ecosystem that expands across contexts. Digital badges provide evidence about the competences and skills that youths are developing as they participate in a variety of learning experiences. Those credentials can later be used to get employment and educational opportunities.

The initiative Open Badges, for instance, has promoted the use of  digital badges by allowing anyone to issue, earn, and display badges on the web. Promoting open technical technical standards, Open Badges has led the popularization of digital badges and provided tools for designing and issuing this type of credential.

Although this technology can be leveraged for helping marginalized youth access educational and economic opportunities, it deployment can be challenging. Its implementation requires orchestrating multiple institutions and stakeholders,  building and mobilizing a network, and maintaining a complex ecosystem of earners, issuers, and employers. Lack of information, trust, and interoperability can create major barriers for realizing the potential of digital badges.

One strategy to overcome the challenges of implementing digital badging is to map the learning ecosystem.  Surveying and interviewing the earners (youths), issuers (formal and informal education institutions), and employers (firms or other organizations)  can help to identify the different needs participants have. Furthermore, it can be useful for making visible the complexity of the ecosystem and the different relationships that exists between organizations, institutions, learners, educators, and employers.

Given the complexity of the learning and credentialing ecosystem, it would be key to partner with several institutions and to promote network building across sectors. From after-school programs to city governments, from startups to community organizations, from libraries to maker spaces, it is key to build a network where the digital badges can be exchanged, validated, and trusted.

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