Perspectives of badges

According to the report’s authors, there are three main ways to view badges:

As a motivator for behavior: A great example of this is in gamification of learning. Badges are often used in games to motivate a player to continue with the game and develop skills; the inherent assumption being that an external indicator, such as a badge, can act as a motivator to encourage individuals to participate or pursue tasks. The main obstacle in badges for motivation, say the authors, is in looking at different types of students, since students with different prior motivation levels, knowledge levels, and performance records may be more or less willing to be motivated by badges, as well as the types of badges.

As a pedagogical tool: Open badges have the ability to promote teaching and learning, especially in helping students “visualize the learning path of content and activities,” says the report, “…serving as a series of guideposts towards understanding…However, the process of learning also requires human action such as knowledgeable others actively guiding or scaffolding the process for novices in ways that a digital artifact alone cannot achieve.”

As a signal or credential: Badges also have the potential to be an alternative or supplement to traditional credentials such as diplomas, explain the authors, especially with students who are disenfranchised with traditional schooling or face unequal access to higher-ed. The main obstacle in this perspective is the lack of acceptance by business and industry of these credentials as degree alternatives, since “the use of badges thus far has occurred largely outside of the bounds of formal schooling, with lower economic or social stakes attached to them,” notes the report. However, badges have a great opportunity to be used for showcasing finer-grained skills as a supplement to the traditional degree.

Concepts of the open movement

Open production: The ability to create freely available and openly-licensed software that could be shared over the internet. This model allows numerous people to continually modify, improve upon, and build products. However, not everyone can understand how to produce open content, and institutions should not assume that “learners are capable of fully leveraging open resources for their own purposes,” emphasize the authors.

Open access: This concept relates mostly to copyright and licensing, in that open access allows for widespread access to information through flexible copyright and licensing agreements (i.e. open source).

Open appropriation: The freedom to appropriate materials for one’s own purposes, which includes the ideal of freedom to interpret an artifact, modify it, and then create a new conceptualization and use for that artifact. The hindrance with open appropriation lies in student and faculty ability to utilize open content for appropriation, due to a lack of coherence in content, and not all learners being self-directed and fully able to benefit from open resources.

Based on these six perspectives and concepts, the report’s authors developed a framework of nine key questions to consider for those interested in using or designing badges…

(Next page: 9 questions in the framework)

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