“We started from a very simple problem,” Mathews said in an interview. “Often colleges and universities were looking for more effective ways to get people to care about things going on campus. A student may end up with a degree after four years, but there needed to be a way of showing what happens when students are still at college. Parents hear about the price of tuition or a bunch of parking tickets, but not a lot else until their child graduates.”

From there, Merit grew to include letting potential employers know about individual student accomplishments as well as parents. And they’re not alone in this space.

Mozilla’s Open Badges project employs a similar digital badging system that can be shared through social media, though one that is less standardized as educators can create their own badges using their own criteria.

“They know their communities best,” Mozilla explains on its Wiki.

Merits’ badges, on the other hand, mirror more real-world, on-campus achievements that can be compared across its 1.5 million students.

Then there’s Degreed, a platform that lets users create a profile that tracks informal and formal learning from more than 4 million courses, 4,500 universities, and essentially any massive open online course (MOOC) provided through edX, Coursera, and Udacity. The profile functions like an alternative degree not strictly bound by what was taught in the classroom.

“The degree is no longer an adequate reflection of your real education,” the service declares on its website.


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