March 18th, 2012
the Course: ePortfolios’ Value for Credentialing
talk of badges now assumes they are ways for people to not go to college and
still get a job and advance their careers. No where does anyone I know of
talk about badges within a formal learning environment through assimilation
within an eportfolio.
support an alternate teaching-learning paradigm. This much we know.
This paradigm applies not only to the course, but to a course of study in a
major, to the whole college career and beyond. Understanding the value of
an eportfolio in a course requires one lens, but to understand the eportfolio
at the enterprise level requires a different lens.
the course is over, if all that students take away from an eportfolio-based
learning experience is a grade as validation of their work, the values of
eportfolio can seem transient – valuable during the course but not
beyond. Grades as a sole measure no longer convey the information about a
person that we once thought they did.
in the eportfolio world say that having the evidence behind a grade
makes a big difference, but if the world ignores the evidence, the eportfolio
work can seem meaningless in terms of advancing in the world.
and credentialing methods and values, in the end, largely determine how
students learn. What determines the grade also determines the
pedagogy. How do we build hooks or entry points to the eportfolio
evidence beyond the presentational Web page?
Move Toward Badges
now entering the assessment and credentialing arena is the badge. Badges
are the latest head-nodding hot concept: say the word "badges” at a
conference this month, next month, and possibly the month after, and people
will nod. Sure, we know what badges are and even have a good feeling
about badges because the term is associated with the scouts or clubs or games –
activities we choose to participate in, often as young people.
are badges and how can badges serve in higher education and how, in particular,
do they fit within an eportfolio-based learning design?
have always been physical badges, something you sew onto a uniform perhaps,
validated by a paper certificate, or a military ribbon, or a badge you receive
through gaming or in the world of programming. Importantly, badges result
from demonstrating ability for a specific skill or a skill level, and,
often are granted by peers. See also "micro-credentialing:”
Foundation, HASTAC ("haystack”;see http://hastac.org/blogs/mres/2012/02/27/still-badge-skeptic
for the latest HASTAC discussion on badges), and the McArthur
Foundation joined in an effort to create a national digital badge
infrastructure to serve as an independent credentialing mechanism for
learning. See also a blog by David Wiley of BYU: http://opencontent.org/blog/archives/1996
-- posted in late 2011, not 1996.
is scary stuff for administrators in the academy: higher education
institutions no longer own the knowledge of our culture. With loss of the
millennial monopoly on knowledge, higher education institutions are vulnerable
to schemas for alternate credentialing. If badges gain as much credence
as a diploma for getting a job, or even more credence, since a badge is more
directly related to a specific skill, higher education is in trouble.
notice a very important stipulation that all discussion of badges
involves: badges are outside of academia. I think this is
the worst way to think of badges. Badges work best and can be implemented
now with eportfolios, and they will add value to eportfolios.
Badges Can Work Inside Academia
system in higher education now: no matter the achievement, only a letter
grade results. Letter grades are the least informative assessment
possible. Letter grades say nothing of the specific ability or skill or
skill level they symbolize. A student can get an "A” for writing a short
narrative paper in an introductory course or for senior-level field work spread
over many weeks. It is an undifferentiated, non-specific,
teacher-generated abstraction. To compensate for what has been lost by
the nihilistic grading system, instructors then have to write letters of
recommendation in a mostly futile attempt – often years later – to create
meaning for the grade she or he recorded for that student.
have caught people’s attention because they address the vague abstractness of
grading: they relate to a specific skill and are generated by
peers. At the very least, badges would add concreteness to abstract
grades. Within an academic setting, badges could then be validated by the
then, perform a similar function as electronic portfolios: they add evidence
for assessment, another data point to fill out the picture of learners’
outside of academia will face the challenge of getting validated by
recognizable experts. Academia may have lost its millennial monopoly on
knowledge but it has not lost its experts. Badges, then, may not
challenge academic credentialing directly as an outside alternative, despite
the efforts of The McArthur Foundation, HASTAC and Mozilla. But, within
academia, they may challenge the teacher-centered abstract process of academic
the Badge Movement Good for the ePortfolio Community?
also challenge the eportfolio community. Will badges supersede the need
and the eportfolio community advocate evidence-based learning but employers say
they don’t have time to read the evidence. Perhaps our community has yet
to make the process of using evidence clear. Interestingly, the
concept of badges may help to do so.
an online or PDF resume that includes links to pertinent eportfolio evidence
but also refers to peer-generated badges for "Collaborative Project Skills,”
"Editing Biology Lab Reports to Publishable Quality,” "CSS Web design Within
Collaborative Projects,” or "Distributable Peer Review Expression for Complex
Projects” and other micro-skills. Badges are perhaps the necessary
palpable and intuitive bridge needed for eportfolio advocates and practitioners
to carry the day.
community faces the challenge of comprehensibility: eportfolios serve so
many purposes it’s not clear they serve any purpose. The badge, on the
contrary, is intuitive. Not only that, badges may be the actual missing
link in the eportfolio cosmos. They are a marker of a particular slice of
the evidence/data in the eportfolio. They are a shorthand way of
summarizing a "report” from eportfolio data.
need to consider how we can incorporate badges into eportfolios. I do
know that some or all eportfolio providers are considering badges and how they
can be technically incorporated.
a danger faces badges: if they are granted by teachers, and lose their
peer-review aspect, they lose most of their power and usefulness. If they
become a badge for passing a course, then they become just an alternative
through incorporating badges, academia has the opportunity to extend the
concept of peer-review to undergraduate and graduate students. Faculty
engage in peer-review throughout their career, on tenure committees, on
editorial boards of scholarly journals, on scholarly conference program
committees, as reviewers of new scholarly books or articles, and so on.
Peer-review is familiar ground as it reigns supreme among faculty.
now, badges provide an avenue to open peer-review to students. Using
badges as a mechanism for peer-review at the undergraduate level would be in
step with other efforts to involve undergraduate students in research -- not
made-up, "as if” research, but research into openly-contested problems in a
have the means to design undergraduate learning along more authentic
lines. At major research universities, faculty are creating
digitally-enabled ways to engage undergraduates in advanced research through
visualization and simulation – understanding the principles of physics, for
example, in more concrete, manipulable ways despite the fact they may not be
able to use the advanced formulas of physics.
same impulse is leading many academics to involve undergraduates in the processes
of developing knowledge. Peer review is at the center of developing knowledge
and badges are a way for undergraduates to be recognized for achievement in
knowledge development. Being published or making a presentation at a
conference may be beyond the abilities of undergraduates, but receiving a
peer-generated badge is not.
McArthur Foundation – HASTAC – Mozilla Foundation initiative is just
underway. I think we as the eportfolio community have a stake in this
initiative. Let’s have conversations regarding badges and discover how
the eportfolio community can incorporate badges.
more reading about badges, go to an article that Randall Rode at Yale
University pointed me to at digital pedagog:
AAEEBL Annual Conference registration
is now open. Boston July 16-19.
US Regional Conference in Providence is this coming Friday, March
23, at Johnson & Wales Harborside Campus.