Wednesday, 23 April 2014

The use of Badges in On-line Learning

Disclaimer: I like to game on Facebook.  I'm not a true gamer by conventional definition.  I play app games, Facebook and occasionally, the Sims.

The "Game-ification" of Education.  Sounds a little weird but it is a reality.

As a Gen X'r, I grew up with a computer in the home.  As a I mentioned, I play some games on-line.  I was a Girl Guide.  I am goal oriented.  For someone like me, Badges are AWESOME!!  I am constantly trying to find new learning opportunities.  I truly believe that if I haven't learned something new today then my day has been wasted.  I could cure Cancer, create World Peace and end Hunger, but if I didn't learn something new that day, it would have been wasted.  OK, I'm not quite that bad but almost.  But I digress.

Badges are a great way of identifying new skills and learning opportunities without having to go through a formal learning program.  It isn't a Certificate or Diploma or Degree to hang on the wall, but these are still representations of valuable skills one has learned or tasks one has completed.  I think there is great value in this process and I hope it is one that sticks.  I've included a link to Mozilla's wiki on Badges.  You should definitely check it out!

If you think back to your childhood, how exciting was it when you got a sticker or a stamp on a test or assignment?  How about when you learned to boil an egg and got your Cooking badge in Guides or Scouts?  When something you worked hard on was publicly acknowledged?

When, as an adult, was the last time your hard work was acknowledged publicly?

For me, it was yesterday when I earned not one but three (3) badges in my #BlendKit2014 course.  Am I excited?  You bet!  Did I share it on LinkedIn?  Yep, at least one!


This no (or low) cost award generates excitement in the learner.  Makes them want to do more to earn more.  A lot of groups and websites now offer badges to add to your credentials.

Imagine being a student.  For every time you do your assigned reading (and comment on it electronically), complete an assignment, write a test, submit a project, improve a grade, whatever, you got a badge.  After so many in each category, you got a certificate or a badge that you want to show off.  Something you could add to your resume.

What if you were a student who didn't love to learn or didn't think school was cool?  What if changing your learning environment from a classroom with a teacher talking at you to an on-line environment with goals and rewards, videos, links and interactive chat sessions was a better option?  Maybe a blended environment, where you could learn asynchronistically (OK, I hate big words that mean nothing to the rest of us means learn on your own versus synchronous learning which is learning with a group) for the content and then in a class for the context.  Web 2.0 is all about making life and learning easier...

As an employee, what if you were awarded a badge each time you had a customer compliment, missed 0 days of work in a given time period, met your sales target, took a course, passed your WHMIS exam (again), worked safely and accident free for a given time period?  How would you feel?  What if it eventually became acceptable and expected to include in your resume a link to your backpack with all of your "real life" credentials?

I have learned first hand how much adults like to be recognized for training.  At a previous employer, I taught many product classes.  I maintained a board with names and courses in the staff lounge.  As a person took a class, they received a pin or sticker on the grid to indicate its completion.  On many a lunch hour did I pop into the lunch room to hear the excited whispers of "Did you see how many pins I earned this month?".  This enthusiasm drove their desire to learn more - and heaven forbid if their friend had more classes than them!!  It didn't matter if the person was 18 or 58, they all loved the recognition of what they had done and what they could offer.

In my next career, whatever it may be, I hope the employer will consider using the Open Badges program to offer acknowledgement for a job well done or a course taken to their employees.