Digital badge adoption: earner's perceived educational value
Digital badges are simple tools that have the potential to change the current system of credentialing, creating methods to recognize diverse learning pathways and offer opportunities for both learners and the institutions or entities that offer them. The digital badge movement is still very new, yet is growing as a method to document and communicate what an individual knows or can do. Digital badges highlight skills of the earner, who then displays the badge for someone to view, and can validate anything from mastering a skill to completion of a certain course or documenting the acquirement of a special professional experience. Digital badges have high potential to drive growth for entities that sell education as they have powerful visual potential through the badge itself and that they be displayed across multiple digital sites to large audiences such as LinkedIn.
An earner’s motivation to participate in courses that offer digital badges and display the badge earned can drive growth for entities offering those courses or events. Current formal knowledge and skill achievement programs with recognition for degrees via a paper certificate exists through colleges, universities and some type of job related programs for those outside of school such as a Professional Project Manager certification. The output of these offerings is to get a diploma or certificate which can be displayed in a frame and/or with a line item on a resume recognizing the achievement. So if the earner valued these certificates, they either place the certificate in a frame or display it for all to see; they would add the certification as line item to their resume to share with potential employers; or if applicable, so note them on some other type of shareable medium such as a business card. This is true as well for many companies, businesses or formal certification programs outside of the official education model. Due to the growth of technology, the Internet, social media and portable electronic devices that are with people 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 365 days a year, people are learning and sharing information about themselves in many different ways.
As technology evolves so do the uses. There is a need for recognition of skill and knowledge achievements beyond public, private and higher education. Due to technology advancements, digital badges are a method of recognizing the knowledge and skills a learner currently has or acquires above and beyond formal institutionalized education and outside of a paper-based attendance or certificate completion. Because digital badges are still fairly new, it is important to research the awareness, value, and perceived benefits of digital badges by the earner as they are the ones who will seek to attain and ultimately display them. This will in turn guide the development of programs with digital badges through their areas of interest and create critical mass for those programs offering them.
There are three parties engaged in the transaction of a digital badge: earner, this is the person who can earn and choose to display the digital badge; issuer, this the person who has tied all the credentials to the badge and offers it to the earner; and observer, this is the person who looks at the badge displayed or offered digitally by the earner. The purpose of this study is to understand the earner’s awareness of digital badges, their interest in digital badges and the courses that offer them, and the perceived value of a digital badge and courses that offer digital badges.
The current study included one hundred twelve (112) participants completing an initial online survey that gathered characteristics of the learner and ratings on their knowledge awareness, perceived value of digital badges and of courses with digital badges, perceived value of displaying a digital badge and the type of badges they would be interested to earn. A secondary survey was then conducted furthering the initial survey to better understand the value an earner placed on a course with a digital badge and what are the biggest concerns or curiosities of digital badges.
The results of the study showed that the earner who is one third of a badge transaction, with the issuer and observer making up the other two-thirds, is interested in digital badges and educational courses that offer them, do see them as valuable to have, display and earn, and do find educational courses that offer them as valuable.