I have been hearing about badges for showing learning progress for years, but I don't think they have yet to make significant inroads in education.They are often included in discussions of lifelong learning, MOOCs and alternative education. It is not surprising that they are part of discussion on the gamification of courses and education.

When I first heard about them at a conference, they were compared to the badges in Boy and Girl Scouting. You earn badges by mastering a specific set of skills. But the better comparison is to video gaming where they have long been used as a way to mark achievement. Called a badge or trophy, badge, stamp, medal or challenge, in many games they mark the achievement of a "meta-goal" that is outside the confines of the game environment and architecture. You may "unlock" an achievement, but that guarantee winning the game or even future achievement.

In education, or more accurately "learning," badges are being seen as one way to open up new pathways for learning. For MOOCs and other lifelong learning opportunities, badges are a way for learner who are not necessarily going to college to show achievement, competence and progress.

This year the MacArthur Foundation showcased winners of its Badges for Lifelong Learning competition who had been awarded $2 million worth of development grants last year.

This summer the city of Chicago announced that badging would be a key component of its Summer of Learning program, which is being called the largest citywide learning campaign in the country.

The Mozilla Foundation has been developing and testing its Open Badges Infrastructure for about two years. We know the Mozilla Foundation more as the maker of the Firefox web browser, but their efforts are often pointed to as something that could have a big impact on the acceptance of digital badging. They have focused a lot of their efforts at K-12 education because educators at that level have proved to be open to badging.

HASTAC (Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Advanced Collaboratory) administered the MacArthur competition which focused on digital badges which was cosponsored by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Mozilla Foundation. Almost a hundred competitors entered and they were given resources for the development of badge-related content by Intel, Microsoft, NASA, the US Department of Veterans Affairs, and the 4-H Council, among others.

Employers are interested in badges as a way to rate potential employees and a way to mark professional learning/development for active employees.

As with MOOCs, the key to badge success will be the acceptance of a standardized, certified badge system by employers and schools as a credentials for advancement.

We're not there yet, but Dr. Bernard Bull blogged this month about an online master’s degree in educational technology that is built around competency-based digital badges. He writes about the degree that:

"As of August 2014, Concordia University Wisconsin is offering the first (to the best of my knowledge). That means that you earn your master’s degree along with a series of digital badges, each of which represent new knowledge and skill that you are developing as you work through the courses and program. This also means that you are gaining new micro-credentials (digital badges) even before you finish a full course. These are credentials that you can display online as evidence of your growing competence and perhaps your qualification for a new position for your current employer, or evidence of your skill for that future dream job."

Oregon State U To Offer MOOC for K-12 Educators

Oregon State University (OSU) will launch a massive open online course (MOOC) for K-12 educators this fall in partnership with Stanford University and the Oregon Department of Education.

The course, "Supporting English Language Learners under New Standards," will begin on October 1 and run for eight weeks. According to the university, it's intended to help K-12 teachers support English language learners, and it will focus on how English language learners construct claims supported by evidence, which is a key practice in both the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and English Language Proficiency (ELP) Standards.

The course is open to teachers from around the world but may be of particular interest to those from the 11-state ELPA21 consortium, which is developing an assessment system based on the ELP Standards...


Starbucks Scholarships and Nanodegrees

Starbucks got a lot of attention this past week for their new scholarship partnership with Arizona State University. More details have come out about the limits of the financial contribution Starbucks is making and what discount ASU Online is providing.

ASU is joining with Starbucks to offer an extraordinary new program, called the Starbucks College Acheivement Plan (CAP), to all of their full- and part-time partners of every brand, who are employed within the United States, the chance to finish a bachelor’s degree with full tuition coverage through ASU’s top-ranked degree program, delivered online.

It sounds like a good thing for Starbucks employees, but I think the real story is that this is a fully online program. Participating CAP students will be offered the same curricula as ASU online students, which is the same content taught on campus by the same faculty.

Obviously, using one school online is simpler than allowing students to pick local colleges or connecting with community colleges in every state. But we know that online learning is not a good fit for every student. I wonder if Starbucks or ASU is planning on any screening or prior assessments for students to see if online work is a good fit?

Udacity, the MOOC provider, has worked with industry partners to produce courses. They have announced that a partnerships with AT&T, and an initial funding from AT&T Aspire of more than $1.5 million, launched nanodegrees. Those are compact, flexible, and job-focused credentials that are stackable throughout a career. Students in a nanodegree program select hands-on courses by industry, a capstone project, and career guidance. You can get a nanodegree and earn new ones throughout your career.

Harvard Online

2 Harvard Business School 036

The question posed in a NY Times article recently was "Should Harvard Business School enter the business of online education, and, if so, how?" I was surprised that they had not done online education already. Then again, it is Harvard - old and solid and, like many a university going back a decade or two, wondering if going online weakens the brand.

I don't really know that many universities that haven't gone online to some degree, and all of them first considered what the effect would be on their reputation and on their on-campus education. Then again, you don't want to risk being left behind either.

The elite Harvard Business School seems to be trying to have it both ways. They have a new type of credential called the Credential of Readiness, or CORe, which students can take online.

Harvard has been doing MOOCs with edX, so is this really a big risk? Maybe.

The article references Clayton Christensen whose 1997 book, The Innovator's Dilemmaand The Innovative University: Changing the DNA of Higher Education from the Inside Out both got him a lot of attention. There were many articles about “disruptive innovation” and this latest article says that rival business schools (Stanford and the Wharton School) have been doing that with their massive open online courses. Offering MOOCs, free of charge to anyone, anywhere in the world doesn't seem to have destroyed their programs.

How do you place a value on having one of your professors reaching a million students? Does it dilute the value or make it grow?

Christensen's advice to Harvard is “Do it cheap and simple. Get it out there.”  But cheap and simple had never been the Harvard Business School way.

This week they launch HBX which doesn't compete with their MBA, but is a "pre-M.B.A."

"When we set out to create HBX, our mission was simple: To use technology to enhance our potential to educate leaders who make a difference in the world. We started with 100 plus years of experience in business education. We then sprinkled in every technological tool we had at our disposal. Finally, we mixed in the most critical ingredient of all, what we consider to be our secret sauce: our very own faculty, people who have spent their lives in passionate pursuit of excellence in teaching and learning.

With HBX, you'll discover that the digital learning tools are a means to an end. That doesn't mean we haven't tried to deploy these tools in a creative and ambitious way; on the contrary, we've poured hours into the conception of these learning instruments. However, the real focus has been on creating a learning experience that brings business education to life. At HBX, we believe that education should be cerebral, yes, but it should also be riveting, kinetic, social, and mind-bending. It should be a series of unanticipated discoveries that change your capacity to navigate the world. "