Going beyond a degree with digital badges, social media

Digital badges have proven a divisive topic in higher ed.

When LinkedIn, the social network for professionals, announced last week that it was adding pages for universities and lowering the age requirement to allow teenagers on the site, the decision was met with an equal mix of excitement and trepidation from technologists and educators.

But one of the most negative appraisals came from Colin Mathews, the chief executive officer of a platform called Merit.

“I admire LinkedIn,” Mathews wrote in a blog post. “But their recently announced University Pages are going to be a bust because they’re designed to solve LinkedIn’s business model problems, not problems that universities or students have.”

Of course, Mathews does have some stake in the success or failure of LinkedIn’s new plan to connect students with colleges through an online presence. Merit has been quietly trying to do just that for four years.

While not a social network itself, Merit is an application that  more than 500 colleges and universities now use to validate and promote students’ accomplishments. From making the dean’s list to taking a service-oriented spring break, students are awarded standardized digital badges denoting successes on campus.

The badges, or merits, are then displayed on an individual Merit Page that is easily shared through social media.

See Page 2 for how similar projects are trying to find new ways to denote learning.

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