Results of the Extreme Networks Digital Badge Survey
Since our last blog on digital badges, the topic has only gotten hotter. The Chronicle of Higher Education has asserted that badges can “act as a transcript, CV, and work portfolio all rolled together into one cool digital package. Even beyond that, badges can structure the process of education itself. Compared with the new open badge systems, the standard college transcript looks like a sad and archaic thing.”
In his HBR article, The Degree Is Doomed, Michael Staton stated, “The value of paper degrees will inevitably decline when employers avail themselves of more efficient and holistic ways for applicants to demonstrate aptitude and skill. Employers have never before had such easy access to specific and current information pertaining to a candidates’ potential.”
Our survey confirms both of these views. Over 60% of the 1900 people who responded believe that digital badges will either entirely replace diplomas and course certificates or be used in combination with them. As expected, the top three values of digital badges are: recognition of specific knowledge/skills (43%), display of achievement (44%), and motivation (45%).
With the cost and value of higher education coming under scrutiny, it may be time to consider unbundling the campus experience. As Stanton points out, the university product today includes “courses, academic research, credentials, housing, food, athletic programs, job placement, extracurricular activities, the arts, study abroad, social life, even rock-climbing walls and European-style bistros.”
Many universities are already offering unbundled online courses. As this expands, digital badges can provide the means to certify student accomplishments. The badges give employers easy access to trusted current and specific information on candidates’ knowledge, skills, and experience.
We reported in the first blog of this series that unemployment in the US was 6.7%, and 4 million jobs were unfilled. Although unemployment has now dropped to 6.1%, the number of unfilled jobs has increased to 4.7 million. According to the survey, only 38% of organizations use or plan to use digital badges. The sooner digital badges overcome this low usage rate and become mainstream, the sooner we’ll be able to match up more workers to those vacant positions.
Of those organizations not planning to use digital badges, our survey found that 34% don’t yet fully understand the concept and 44% do not have the resources to implement them. The biggest concern, stated by 46%, is that digital badging is not yet widely recognized. Another issue may be the name “badge”. To test this, UC Davis is referring to their badges as “skill qualifications” (SQs) to have more career relevance and professional positioning.
There are many positive signs for digital badges; over 14,000 independent organizations are already issuing badges, and hiring companies like Google are placing special value on badges signifying high level skills and achievement, such as the yellow badge awarded by Topcoder. Yet, as an indicator that digital badges are still emerging, Gartner places open microcredential exostructure (their name for digital badges) at the very leading edge of the educational technology hype cycle, but view the Open Badge Initiative as a major advance for the concept.
The Future of Digital Badges
Based on our survey, the future of digital badges looks rosy. The majority (66%) believe that digital badges have a positive impact and 65% believe that digital badging will grow in the future. The current uses include professional or internal training (70%), to indicate certification (49%), and to recognize achievement and competitive motivation or gamification (40%).
Figure 1 shows the steps to take to get started with digital badges at your organization. It’s important that the badges be certifiable, shareable, and for real accomplishments.
By the way, contrary to popular opinion, in The Treasure of Sierra Madre, Gold Hat did not say, “We don’t need no stinkin’ badges.” Here’s the actual line.
For more on topic digital badges, read these blogs in the series.