Badges: identify talent and brand by association

Leigh BlackallCurrent issues, Featured, Industry and experience, Micro credentialling, Pathways, Project partners, Project types, Research and innovation, School of Media and Communication, Solution development, Strategic alignment4 Comments

Brownie and a cub compare badges. Photo by Paul Hourigan on Wikimedia Commons

Here’s the summary of our longer paper. Please see the full paper (linked and embedded below) for references and discussion supporting this summary:

In 2015 we used RMIT University’s Graduate Futures Careers Fund to pilot badges as a possible way to improve the employment prospects of graduates from the Advertising Degree. Through iterative action research we developed, tested and reviewed: infrastructural support for badges; teacher, student and practitioner understanding of badge concepts and value and; what appropriate and meaningful implementation of badges might look like in the advertising industry. Despite the difficulties that other Australian educational institutions have found when trying to implement badges, we’ve identified three areas of value for badging in the domains of advertising education and practice specifically:

  1. Badges can highlight an individual’s talent and experience where formal accreditation does not, such as in co and extracurricular activities, work experience and peer relations and esteem
  2. Badges carry a form of ‘brand-by-association’ both for the issuer and the receiver, and that value intersects with notions of online identity management
  3. Badges present opportunities for unique methods of advertising, and these methods are potentially new content to be taught in the advertising program

The technology and infrastructure that presently facilitates badging remains precarious, disjointed and competitive. Institutional, teacher/student and industry/practitioner awareness and understanding of the use and value of badges remains low to nonexistent. The developing fields of ‘big data’, ‘artificial intelligence’, ‘blockchain’ and ‘online identity management’ are likely to displace the current value propositions of badges. More consideration around the notion of brand-by-association and identity management is needed – for example, institution-branded badges can highlight a person’s recent-graduate status, possibly at the expense of their work experience or specific skill sets. This can have a negative impact on employability in the advertising sector, where crude levels of professional ability are still used.

We therefore make the general recommendation that RMIT University not move into badges until an open standard format is reliably and more widely supported; until people can effectively incorporate badges into their identity management; and until wider understanding of the value of badges exists – especially in the idea of brand by association. We instead recommend that a range of niche experiments be conducted, each addressing these initial ideas and areas of concern, but from different discipline perspectives. From these experiments, a stronger understanding can be developed in the institution, and across its relevant industry partners, to help ensure better impact at a university wide implementation.

Link to report on Google docs

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4 Comments on “Badges: identify talent and brand by association”

  1. “Despite the difficulties that other Australian educational institutions have found when trying to implement badges”

    Hi Leigh, can you point me in the direction of these difficulties? Cheers, Mark

  2. “The technology and infrastructure that presently facilitates badging remains precarious, disjointed and competitive.”

    Hi Leigh, Could you elaborate? What’s happened to the Open Badges Infrastructure? Tx Mark

  3. “until people can effectively incorporate badges into their identity management”

    Can’t they do this now?

  4. Hello Mark, sorry for the absence of reply. I was sure I replied, but see that I have not.

    The answers to your questions are in the expanded paper, specifically:

    The problems that other Australian universities have experienced was mentioned in the section called “Background” and footnote 4 offers a citation. Karen and I also spoke with people from ANU and Deaken to get some insight into perspectives on those initiatives, but their comments were not published for citation.

    The precariousness of the technology that has supported badging to date, OBI, went into some uncertainty at the time of this project, with Mozilla letting their support come into question and leaders in the community forking their interests. See our mention of this the Background again, footnotes 5 and 6.

    When we tested ways of displaying badges, we resolved on Credly, Backpack and LinkedIn in an earlier conceptual approach. While it is possible to display Credly in LinkedIn the same way you embed media from other channels, it was not to a depth and detail we thought satisfactory. We didn’t go as far as registering as an issuer in LinkedIn, because this would be counter to the concept of student generated badges we were resolving on. Additionally, LinkedIn is sitting on its own system of badging that will no doubt compete with Credly and other OBI-based systems if they were to decide to emphasise it. Our speculation around the longer term relevance of badges, coupled with the precarity around the OBI and probably competition to it, as well as developing ideas in Blockchain and AI, lead us to reduce the importance we placed on technical processes for displaying badges from and in current systems.

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