I’ve been thinking a lot about digital badges lately. And I have some questions.

Are they good? Bad? A fad?

I guess my questions boil down to: what is their value?

Compared to traditional means of showing academic achievement, digital badges have their place. Transcripts and parchments show your grades or your degree, but they don’t show exactly what you’ve learned – digital badges can do that.

Badges show that you’ve completed a course and have gained the skills denoted by that badge. Think about Scouts and how they earn badges for completing tasks or meeting goals. It’s pretty much the same with digital badges; I’ve done it, here’s the proof.

I recently earned badges through a MOOC and they show that I successfully completed each course. module. You can look at the topics covered in each module and see what I learned.

I was more motivated for this course than I would be normally because I really wanted those badges, although I took the course just for fun. There were quizzes and grades, but badges were new to me and I wanted them. I don’t know if this reinforces the ‘gamification of learning’ argument or not, but that’s what happened in my case.

Badges are now widely available and are still making inroads in the education and training industries. Professionals who want to upgrade or learn new skills without the commitment of going back to school, can showcase their new skills with the inclusion of the digital badges on their portfolio.

“The vision is to create a structure of alternative credentials that students could acquire relatively quickly and inexpensively that will also be immediately useful from an employment perspective,” said David Schejbal, of the University of Wisconsin-Extension in an article at www.universitybusiness.com.

But not everyone is a fan, let’s talk about the drawbacks for a minute.

What about standards for badges? There aren’t really any at this point and that may come into play against them.

“Of course, the more valuable something becomes, the more vulnerable it is to fraud. The badge system is designed to be “open.” Anyone can create a badge. How will employers know which to trust?” Kevin Carey asks in The New York Times.

There are those who might not take these seriously and look upon them as just a game or a digital gimmick. Others say that since they can be awarded for pretty much anything they don’t have any weight or academic relevance.

I hope this has been a learning experience, sorry no badge though.

Where do you stand? Pro or con?