Along the way to writing an academic chapter, I’ve uncovered lots of valuable ideas. The next several months of blogs will be a less than academic look at the public promise of microcredentials and digital badges.
In mid-March, I presented a short meeting briefing, Discover the Power Behind the Badge, to sixty or so people attending the March Certification Network Group (CNG) event in Washington, DC. (Go to the TIfPI home page where you can download a copy of the presentation). The purpose of this presentation was to open a dialog with CNG members about the difference between digital badges, microcredentials, and certifications. Essentially, we discussed six key points:
- Digital badges are images that represent the credential. They are marketing collateral for the organization and the badge earner. Whether the credential represented is a microcredential, certification, certificate, degree or accreditation depends on the processes behind the credential and its purpose. “A badge is just an icon” was the theme of the dialog.
- Digital badges have information embedded in them. One layer of information exists in the graphical, visual nature of an icon (a badge with an airplane on it is presumed to be related to airplanes). Additional information links the icon to a cloud website displaying an individual’s portfolio of icons. That website also shows specific information about the terms of the credential, the individual’s relationship to it (active vs inactive, for example), what was done to achieve the credential, and who sponsors it. This meta-data provides the after-market value to employer, recruiters, and other interested parties. (See my portfolio as an example of how badges work. Click on the ribbon shaped badges to see the data related to each.)
- Microcredentials are actually well known and respected tools for the credentialing trade, as well as education. We know how to create them and use them. We use them with youth programs, in the military and para-military (think sheriff’s badge), in juried shows (arts shows, county fairs, athletic competitions and more), and in business via access badges an other paraphernalia that provide recognition and status (flight attendant pin vs pilot’s captain’s hat, stagehand shirt, etc.) Each has standards and specific meanings based on those standards. We know how microcredentialing works
- Microcredentials are focused on specific aspects of the field, rather than the entire field.
- If we were to create an approach to the CPA, today, we would probably start with areas like Small Business Accounts Receivable, Small Business Accounts Payable, Small Business Inventory, Small Business Taxes, Small Business Audits, and then do similar ones for mid-sized businesses, start-ups, internationals, etc. There might be additional credentials in import/export, contracts, compensation, etc.
- Microcredentials tend to be performance-based requiring microcredential holders to demonstrate skills in specific ways.
- Microcredentials have built in relationships to other microcredentials and credentials. Such relationships might include required completion order (mastery) or not (patchwork self-selection), advancement through leveling up.
- That CPA alternative idea might have a Certified Small Business Accountant that is an intermediate step to the Certified Public Accountant.
- There may be endorsements added to certain levels create things like the Certified Small Business Accountant specializing in imports/exports or in contracts or in compensation.
I truly enjoyed the presentation and ensuing discussion, because we actually got into a multi-directional dialog in order to work through some of the credentialing field’s scrambled perceptions about microcredentialing and badging. Getting a room of sixty some professionals to talk and question each other is a bit of challenge. Once talking, though, they really got into the dialog. That was great fun.
I will be giving a similar but different present in a 75-minute education session at the San Antonio ISPI conference, THE Performance Improvement Conference, on April 29th. This one is Digital Badges Validate 21st Instructional Design Skills has two co-presenters from TIfPI, Andrea Moore and SiatMoy Chong, Ph.D. We will be discussing the practice analysis that The Institute for Performance Improvement (TIfPI) did on instructional designers and the ensuing microcredential certifications for IDs. Join me at the conference and come to this session, Weds morning.
Now, to get focused on book chapters.
Coming next week… Digitally promised: Just what do digital badges promise their public?