creative commons licensed ( BY-NC-SA ) flickr photo shared by Pedro Vezini

I intend not to discuss the merits/demons of badging systems. My main response on weighing such questions always slide down to “It Depends”.

But to me badging, nanodegreeing, calculating massive course dropouts remains overweighted on one side of the system.

This has been mulling in the cranium for a while (often best where ideas are left to fade away) but came again to mind reading Heather’s post How do We Define Success in an Open Course?

To me, the definition is always for the provider. Success is the success on the entity that offers the course. And of course (to be alliteratively not so clever, Wilbur) if you run courses, you want to know how well you are doing. No argument.

And recognizing that people sign up for free no risk courses for different reasons is a relief. Do we end of metricizinging the collections of Collectors?

All these are things that an institution, organization provides you. You are badged. You are degreed. You are acknowledged as a Top All Rounder with a certificate or a chip or a blue ribbon. Maybe a cup of Starbucks coffee.

All the things we wish to chart, measure– completion, success etc seem largely to serve the provider.

The language here takes me back to perhaps one of the key lessons I learned from my PhD advisor when I was in Geology (and before I DROPPED OUT hah). Sue Kieffer was an eminent researcher, scientist, educator, she dealt with a lot of shit working in an overly male-dominated field.

For me, she really brought home the importance of clear writing. When we co-authored a paper, she really hone on on the differences between passive and active voice in writing.

Academics love passive voice. It sound lofty.

It was discovered in field relationships that the topographic conditions were primary in the disruption of the flow at the constriction. Lab experiments were developed to replicate similar dynamics.

The passive voice is detached, removed, distant. This is a bit of an over simplified rewording, and a rushed example:

In Bandelier, we observed a narrow canyon that disrupted the flow. In the lab we built a scale model.

The thing is, when you move to active voice, first of all, you enter the scenario. I think the smart people call it “Agency”. And it says that you did things.

For the learner, the student, all of the things that organizations hope to measure for themselves and you, are done passively (not the whole process, the credentialing). Done to you. Given to you.

What is missing, to me, is an emphasis on what learners do to assert their own credentials, achievments. Yes, I can collect my badges in my backpack, and have my nanodegrees populate my LinkedIn Profile, but if that is all I plan to show the world for what I can do…. well seems not really much. And its all what other people say about me. Where is my voice?

And this is the reason I’ve long harped on the notion of blogging as narrating my work, and why those of us involved with or at least big fans of UMWs Domain of Ones Own. It’s giving learners an open, portable platform that they can use to actively assert what they can do, how they can think.

Badges and degrees say “This is What XXXXXX xxxxx says I can do”.

Your own digital space says, “And here you can actually see what I can do” (and the way I think) (and what inspires me) (and the way I exist as a human being) (and even if I like cats thats ok).

And hold the phone Batman, the tendency is to go all binary- It’s Online vs Face to face! It’s LMS vs WordPress! It’s Real World vs Virtual World! Truthfully, as humans, we are much more analog, meaning we exist on a spectrum.

So their is room for BOTH systems that give credentials, badges, certificates of something that ought to be complementary with platforms we manage ourselves to assert who we are, what we can do.

Yet the latter is almost never part of the equation, because it is something that does not fit into easily measurable metrics and charts. It’s not easy. Messy. “Oh it’s too complicated” “I don’t have time”. It’s more like the letters Jonathan Rees yearns for.

To be badged or to badge yourself? It’s not a question. It’s an answer.


creative commons licensed ( BY-NC-ND ) flickr photo shared by patries71

Profile Picture for Alan Levine aka CogDog
An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.


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