Mozilla recently unveiled a project that they have been working on for over a year and a half called Open Badges. The concept is built around people being able to gain recognition for skills that they earn on the web, anywhere on the web. Ideally an individual will be able to acquire virtually any skill on any site. Right now we see the concept of badges being deployed on social media sites such as Foursquare or on enterprise social software applications such as Yammer but Mozilla is looking to take this one step further.
I always use my brother as an example. He’s turning 21 this year and although he’s going to school for business he was able to build a career for himself as a videographer and photographer for free by watching Youtube videos, joining discussions, and getting access to other relevant resources through social media and the web. Now, he has no formal training or degree in these areas yet is very good at what he does and has recently amassed the equivalent of a little studio including top-notch cameras, green-screens, and lights. Open Badges from Mozilla seeks to take these type of skills and assign badges around them to signify a legitimate form of expertise. They are taking the concept beyond the common of idea of badges as fun or rewarding incentives and putting some structure around it. The goal is ultimately to have a single place (what Mozilla calls your “Backpack”) where you can display your badges, which again, you can earn from anywhere on the web.
The Providence After School Alliance has already taken this as far as issuing badges to students who complete a semester, these badges are then going to be visible on college transcripts.
The reason this is so relevant today is because we have access to a virtually unlimited database of information and people which means we can learn just about anything and acquire skills in just about anything. Today however, there is no way for us to recognized for these skills that we acquire. Think about new college graduates that are going to apply for jobs. They are judged on a resume which shows what they studied in school even though their arsenal of skills may be much broader. Open course ware is becoming a recent phenomenon and some of the world’s top educational institutions are making their course material available for free and even offering certificates of completion for some of them. One of the interesting things about Open Badges is that it not only allows you to showcase your digital badges but also badges you might earn in the real-world. You have the option to manually upload a “badge” to your “backpack” to showcase your skills.
Open Badges is still very much in the early stages of development but the direction they are going in is quite interesting and you can expect integration with collaborative platforms such as Jive, Yammer, Chatter, and others in the future. This is very interesting as far as “the future of work” is concerned and impacts several areas:
- How employers view and hire employees, moving beyond the resume and looking at other skills which may have previously been non-credentialed (yet still very real and applicable)
- Evolves badges from oftentimes being thought of as more fun and whimsical to having more serious business value
- Encouraging learning at all ages of anyone and everyone that has a web-connection
- Challenges the value, necessity, and cost of a traditional educational institution
- Creates a new type of educational and skill currency
- Merges personal and professional skills by allowing you to bring in your badges into your existing work environment (or it will in the future)
Here are a few examples taken from the KQED write-up of this announcement.
- NASA is working on launching badges in robotics and in the STEM fields to be earned through working with NASA content and used to identify candidates for internships and jobs.
- The Manufacturing Institute is developing a badge to be earned by current workers and students to demonstrate skills necessary to succeed in an advanced manufacturing job or internship.
- The Intel Society for Science and the Public is developing badges to affirm and evaluate scientific research and tie it to professional and academic skills.
- Carnegie Mellon is developing badges that will eventually be issued on a curricular path that terminates in certifications recognized by computer science and STEM industries.
- Badges for Vets is creating a series of badges that will help offer civilian-applicable credentials for professional skills learned through military training.
It’s still very early in development with the first version jut launching a few weeks ago but it has a lot of potential, especially when considering the platform that Mozilla has. I’m very much looking forward to see where this is going to go in the next few years.