So How, Exactly, Will Learning Be Assessed?

It is true that I flunked out of Girl Scouts long before I could get a vest like this.

I am trying to understand badges. Given my background with Prior Learning Assessment programs and other forms of experiential learning, I totally get the idea conceptually. (Hey – I know a few boy and girl scouts too! They’ve earned badges for things they learned and could do too, right?)

Apparently, with a badge:

You can get credit for learning outside of school, on the web, or from work and life experience.

So it sounds like some sort of technologically-mediated PLA, except the credit you earn is is not college credit. There is some other currency here, though what value it will hold remains to be seen.  It seems to me that there’s great potential here, as this article explains. What with the rising costs of higher education and access issues, and the learning opportunities presented with new technologies, combined with learning one can obtain through experience (hopefully with some expert guidance and reflection), this might be something quite worthwhile.  I can see it now: Post a few badges onto your robust ePortfolio and your avatar may actually scream: Hire Me!

But here’s what I don’t get — where is the “quality control?” (Ack – I hate that term applied to learning, but I think it’s a legitimate question).  My burning question with all of this is:

So, how, exactly, will learning be assessed?

Of course I ask this question of my faculty colleagues in higher education too — it’s certainly not a question specific to badges. I am honestly trying to figure it out!

Here is some information about assessment and badges, according to the Badge FAQs (a wiki, so what I’ve copied in blue will likely change soon):

Who can issue badges?
Badges can be created, defined and issued by a number of sources, including:

  • Traditional educational institutions (e.g., x, y or z)
  • Professional bodies (e.g. doctors, engineers, accountants)
  • International credential assessment agencies
  • Non formal, community learning organizations (e.g. Adult Basic Education, Literacy, Employability)
  • Communities of practice (e.g., open education projects, peer learners, or the individual learners themselves)
  • After-school programs and learning networks.
  • Online courses and open courseware initiatives.
  • Companies/organizations that employ people

How will the value of the badges be authenticated? In this system, a digital badge is more than just an image – it is essentially a collection of metadata that fully explains the badge and includes information such as the issuer, issue date, criteria for earning the badge, expiration if needed, the learner work or evidence behind the badge, etc. So the badge acts as a gateway or conversation starter, but the bulk of the information is in that metadata and it can act as an informal validation system itself.

And this is what the Mozilla and P2PU badge pilot project will address regarding assessment specifically (also from the FAQs):


The pilot will explore a range of assessment types, including:

  • peer assessment
  • self-assessment
  • portfolio assessment
  • stealth assessment
  • The Javascript badge assessment, for example, will require learners to submit work that demonstrates competency. Peers will then rate the work against a predefined rubric and set of criteria. Once the rating reaches a particular threshold, the badge will be issued.
  • The Accessibility badge will require experience designing or developing for challenged users or accessibility technologies, plus a blog post with reflection and analysis of the experience. A group of accessibility gurus within the community will then assess the work and issue badges accordingly.
  • Other badges may be aligned directly with courses, with course organizers able to assess work and issue badges.

And more:

How does assessment work?

  • For badges to hold real value and carry the weight of more traditional grades or degrees, assessment and quality is critical.
  • Badges can contain multiple levels of assessment, depending on the use case, community or intended audience
    • some will require distinct pre-defined assessment exercises and success criteria
    • others may be loosely defined and require learner reflection or peer recommendations.
  • Hard skills may require standard or more rigid rubrics to compare learner work against.
  • Softer skills can be more fluid and require more open and social assessments like peer reviews or endorsements.
  • For certification badges, intended for audiences like hiring managers, admission boards, more rigorous assessments can be required
  • For badges intended to simply build community or reward behaviors, simple assessments may be enough

How can badges provide greater flexibility and innovation in assessment?
Badges can help:

  • drive innovation around new types of assessments (e.g., x or y)
  • provide more personalized assessments for learners (e.g., x or y)
  • move beyond out of date or irrelevant testing practices (e.g., x or y)

For example:

  • Asynchronous assessment. Instead of being required to take an exam at a pre-determined time, for example, learners can seek out the assessment on their own time.
  • “Stealth assessment.” Assessment and awarding badges can happen automatically and provide immediate feedback. [Need a half sentence summary of what “stealth assessment is.]
  • Portfolio assessment. Work samples, projects and other artifacts the learner has produced or been involved in can demonstrate skills and competencies.
  • Multiple assessors or group assessment. In traditional classrooms, an individual instructor generally does most of the assessing. An open badge system can support assessment from multiple contexts, including course organizers, peers, or learners themselves. This flexible and networked nature could mean that there are multiple paths or assessment options for earning a badge, making the system more flexible, ensuring that the needs of each learner are met and limiting the learning path constraints.

I  think this is all very exciting. But I’ll need to keep learning about this badge idea and seeing where and how it goes because my jury is still out. But hey – maybe I can earn a badge for learning about badges. Then I can get an outfit for my avatar that looks something like this:

Just like I say about earning a college degree, maybe it’s never to late to earn a badge!