Badge newcomers ask wonderful questions. There is something to be said for paying keen attention to the questions, comments, and ideas of people new to digital badges. That was the case with a session that I attended at the 2015 US Distance Learning Association Conference. The session was entitled, Creative Credentials: The Power of CBE and Digital Badges; a solid and well-done presentation and introduction to badges. Near the end, a gentleman in the audience shared that, from his perspective, there seemed to be two types of badges. There are badges that an organization or entity creates and issues. There there are badges that an individual can create and issue to him/herself. A presenter rightly responded by explaining that the standard approach to badges is the former. In fact badge issuing services are typically set up with the idea that one person/organization is issuing a badge to a different person; although it is indeed possible for one person to issue a badge to him/herself, granted there are two accounts…representing two different roles.
When I heard this question from the person in the crowd, I was compelled to pull up a new window and start writing this post. Realize it or not, this attendee asked a brilliant question, one that hacks the common thoughts about how badges work, but one that also offers us a chance to think about badges in a more novel way. In fact, his question fist nicely into the broader conversation about the democratization of credentials. Can you imagine a context or time when self-designed and self-issued badges gained broader acceptance and external value? While that does not seem to be the direction of many in the badge community, I see this as a valuable perspective. Yes, the credibility of the issuer plays an important role for many as they think about how they might grow as a more acceptable form of credentialing currency.
The idea of someone self-issuing a credential also sparks concerns about deception and credibility. I can’t, for example, take a class from myself and then give myself a grade at the University where I work. We usually divide the role of instructor and student, learner and the role that assesses/verifies. Nonetheless, what would it look like to blur these lines? Can you think of contexts where this might have merit, where it might gain a measure of acceptance? I welcome your thoughts in the comment area, on Twitter, or wherever else you opt to extend the conversation.