I had a conversation with a colleague this week about adaptive learning systems and we drifted into talking about tools like the Khan Academy. That free online tutorials provider offers as an incentive "badges" to students for progress. I don't if many educators believe that getting an image icon that says you are a "Great Listener" because you watched 30 minutes of videos is actually "motivating" to students.
Collecting a certain number of those badges along with badges for passing standardized tests on the site, can earn you something like a "Master of Trigonometry."
Do you add that badge to your resume or application?
An article from the Chronicle.com points to these badges as being a new consideration for more traditional colleges and universities. They reference MIT's recent MITx learning system. Not unlike Khan Academy, students use self-paced online materials, take online tests and earn certificates. MIT also is teaming with OpenStudy, which runs online study groups, to give online badges to students.
To older readers, those badges might evoke scout achievement patches and for younger readers it will seem to follow videogame feedback incentives like power-ups.
Are we seeing the end of "standard" certifications and diplomas? Not yet, but as I have written before here, when the job market starts to accept new learning systems as training, schools had better be ready to respond.
If you follow the scouting and videogame models, we know that achieving milestones - some easy, some difficult - and getting regular and almost instantaneous feedback IS motivating. Are your students AS motivated by an "A" on a paper or even an "A" in the course?