Educational badges: Are we rebranding certifications?

I have been reading a lot about educational badges lately, mostly in the MOOC literature (and articles surrounding MOOCs). What I cannot figure out is why these badges are anything new that we haven’t had forever. They are simply just certifications/certificates. Why are these so great? I am not sure. Just to let you know where I am coming from, when I worked at Booz Allen, we could go into their online course database and take a skillsoft computer based training course on 100s (to 1000s) of different topics. At the completion of each course you got a certificate. You could then show you took these at the end of the year when you were going up for promotion and raises – yes the corporate world gives raises unlike education:( Anyway, this was 2003. This sounds almost exactly like the badges that people are getting for taking MOOCs. Additionally, if I want to learn a skill, like Adobe Flash, Microsoft OS, Apple OS, Java, project management, quality control etc, I would probably take a certification course and get the certification. If badges do become more popular then certifications does that mean Adobe will now offer a Flash badge instead of a Flash certification? I guess I just do not see a difference and would rather see education improved, not terminology rebranding the same thing that is already offered. If you are curious how companies will respond to badges, look at how they respond to certificates – there is a small place on my resume where I mention some certificates I have – its at the end unless its a prominent one from a respected university or professional organization. Maybe I am wrong and people will view these differently but until that happens, I would wager this is the value of the badge system.

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