Why I Stopped Writing About Open Badges

Someone asked me recently why I stopped writing about digital badges. I decided to write this article as a public response to the question, just in case others were wondering the same thing. In fact, responding in writing allows me to do something that I probably would not do if we were chatting about this over a cup of coffee. I will give seven different answers. Each one is true, but you will see some tension between the answers. That is only proper given the persistent tension that goes on in my mind as I continue to reflect on badges and the related themes. So, why did I stop writing about digital badges? Here are my seven replies, depending upon the day and context of the conversation.

Answer #1

I did not stop writing about badges. It is just that I was writing two to three articles a month about badges from 2013 through the first months of 2016. Then things slowed down. However, if you look at my articles over the last six months, you will still find that word “badge” show up.

Answer #2

When the work around digital badges was as an earlier stage, there was not much written about them. As such, as I learned and reflected on the affordances and limitations of badges, I posted those as rough draft thoughts for others to read and consider as well. From 2013 to the end of 2016, I wrote over a hundred articles exploring the benefits, limitations, and possibilities of digital badges. Only, along the way, I found myself most interested in some of the related themes. People who frequent my blog might not see the word “badge” as often, but some of the associated concepts certainly persist in my work. I continue to think a great deal about:

  • the benefits and downsides of different ways to go about documenting evidence of learning,
  • the possibility of turning evidence of learning into a key data point for building meaningful connections between people and resources,
  • the democratization of education (including associated credentials),
  • the distinction between learning gateways and learning pathways and the role of credentials,
  • badges as one of many ways to create a credential associated with evidence of learning,
  • the way in which many of us in formal education create narrow definitions for terms, so much so that this often leads us to miss important and broader relationships (as I see happening around research on portfolios right now),
  • the ways in which people build connections and create opportunities through informal and “undocumented learning”,
  • the way in which alternative credentials are persistently inhibited by underlying efforts to maintain the status quo (…and likely to maintain job security. I do not think that much of this is conscious.),
  • the future of work,
  • the “risk” or “dangers” that come with the spread of centralized credentialing and documenting learning,
  • the continued growth of grassroots and democratic learning communities, and
  • the extent to which many of us (including myself) crave and willingly submit to traditional pathways for learning and obtaining credentials respected by employers and others in society.

These are incredibly rough draft thoughts in many cases, and there are some controversial elements to all of them. In fact, there are some strong judgements in there that call for serious reflection and vetting before sharing even my earlist musings. I have an outline for a potential future book on some of these themes (but I am not committed to it yet), and I was recently in conversation with a couple of academic publishers about turning this into a formal research/writing project, but I am still counting the cost. To do this well, I would need to find a way to devote 4-6 hours a day on it for at least six months. I’ve prioritized other projects for the remaining two and a half months of my sabbatical, and I will likely not be pursue this unless I have a publishing partner secured in advance. Plus, once I step into my full-time administrative responsibilities again, I do not know if I will have the energy to do this well.

Answer #3

My work has always been most appreciated in the stage of helping people imagine the benefits, limitations, and possibilities, and then converting those into some practical scenarios. In some ways, now is the time for more technical conversations and applied projects. That work fascinates me but I am not in a position to do much with that right now.

More specifically, for badges to go to the next level, there needs to be some major developments on the badge display and sharing side of things. Major corporate leaders in the social media and networking arena are the ones who have almost all the power right now. They each have corporate priorities that do not necessarily bode well for the open part of badges or badges in general.

At the same time, the mixing of badges, big data, and artificial intelligence is not happening in any significant way yet. Plenty of people are thinking and talking about this, and they are likely in a better position to lead that conversation right now. Perhaps that will change in the future.

Answer #4

Early on, I found opportunity to use digital badges as part of a new type of competency-based graduate degree, and that program continues. So, I could justify my time and research because it related to specific projects and possibilities. However, the badges have honestly not ended up being the most significant part of the project. It was the building of a massive collection of authentic projects by each student that turned out to be most most valuable part of the experiment. The badges still have many promising applications, but now that we have our model in place, it is going well, and badges are a useful (but not critical) part of the project, I do not have an immediate usage scenarios in my workplace to try out new ideas with badges.

Answer #5

While there have been some great events where people gathered to extend the work and thought around badges, I am rarely a part of those conversations at this stage either because I am unable to attend due to scheduling conflicts or because I am not invited. As much as I saw and continue to see the democratizing promise of badges, this is increasingly a matter for a smaller and select group of people, and the others whom they choose to involve. There are wonderful exceptions to this, especially some significant pockets on the K-12 level.

Answer #6

I think about badges every day, or at least the broader themes related to alternative credentials, documenting learning and accomplishments across a broad away of learning pathways, and subtle signs that formal learning organisations may be losing the battle to maintain their monopoly on opportunity generated through academic credentials. Yet, I am more conflicted than ever, and the issue is far more complicated to me. It requires much more careful, deliberate, in-depth thinking at this stage. So, this is not a time to produce a couple of articles a week or even a month.

Answer #7

Some of my other recent writing projects and the theme of my sabbatical called for me to set credentials aside for a time, at least as a major theme in my scholarship. I am in the process of re-evaluating and establishing my writing and scholarship priorities for the next couple of years. I already have a couple of commitments, and I expect one strand to be focused upon the future of learning and recognition, especially as it relates to impending changes in society and the workforce due to artificial intelligence, big data, informal and grassroots learning communities, robotics, cyborg studies, and other developments. As such, badges represent a piece of my work, but they are not the main topic.

I suppose there are some commonalities among my seven answers, but you can also see that I am still working this out in my mind. Regardless, I can at least say that I have no intention of abandoning my thought and work around badges. Using the analogy of a photograph, open badges are not the focal point in the picture, but they still make up an important and notable feature in the overall image.

Eight Challenges for the Future of Education, Credentials and Recognition

The 2016 EPIC conference just ended last week, and I walked away with:

  • forty pages of notes,
  • new friends and colleagues,
  • and swirling thoughts about the role and possibility of open recognition systems.

I might even have a new book project coming out of this experience, but I’ll share more about that later.

It was an honor to be one of the early keynotes for the event. I was given the topic of “the future of education,” so I worked from that to come up with the title, “Exploring Futures of Credentials & Education: A Case for Missional Innovation.” Drawing from some of my work on innovation in education, I juxtaposed a series of sometimes competing concepts for our consideration.

When I write and talk about the future, I don’t do it as the sort of futurist who claims to be able to predict what will happen with certainty. Instead, I look at past trends, highlight potential futures, and give those of us in the present opportunity to consider how each of us will contribute to creating one of those futures.

What is clear to me is what Blaschke and Hase wrote in 2016, that “We are in an age of knowledge and skill emancipation” (p. 25). The Internet and way in which it helped us imagine the possibly for life and learning in a connected age, frees and extends knowledge, learning, skill acquisition and much more. This doesn’t make existing learning organizations obsolete, but it does challenge their claim to have a “corner on the education market.”

Instead, and as I’ve written about before, we are at a time in which there are multiple roads that one might travel on a learning journey. There is still the stable degree drive, completing a series of courses and requirements at a formal school, leaving with a valued credential, and hopefully some learning as well. Yet, there is also continuing education court, a road that is widening as more organizations and groups are creating free, inexpensive, open or alternative ways of learning (as evidenced by the popular example of the emerging coding bootcamps, MOOCs, open education resources, and more). Along with that, thanks to the digital world, we have self-directed street. The person with competence and confidence to learn independently has ample resources to do so. Now we are also seeing greater interest in and effort to connect these three roads, allowing one’s learning journey to shift from one road to the next. Yet, we’ve not historically had ways to recognize the learning that happens across these three streets. Our recognition and credentials remain stuck to one of the streets in most case. All of this begins to change as we embrace the power and possibility of open badges and, more broadly, strategies for open recognition.

And so, in such a context, we have some decisions to make. There are tensions that we are wise to consider, eight of which I shared in my keynote, and I will briefly revisit here. I don’t contend that one must win or defeat the other. Sometimes, even often, the tension is good. Paradox and tension is something to be understood, not always something to be eradicated. Of course, as you will see in my forthcoming comments, I do see wisdom in giving greater emphasis to one over the other in a given time and context.

Pathways Versus Gateways

Gateways are about checks, balances, control, accountability, and quality. They are part of what formal learning organizations promise to the public. If a University issues a medical degree to a person who is completely unqualified to practice medicine, then that credential and the issuing entity will eventually lose the trust of the public. It will cease to benefit anyone. This is the perspective that defends the importance of gateways in the modern education ecosystem. At the same time, gateways are not always just about this public trust. Sometimes policies, rules, and systems become gateways that limit or restrict people who are indeed qualified. We create rules that restrict and inhibit. We even take pride in this, noting that we are weeding out the unqualified. Yet, there is no question that there are usually multiple pathways to learning something or achieving mastery in a given domain. The question is whether we are willing to help create a modern learning ecosystem where we can recognize learning from multiple pathways, maintaining a commitment to a public trust without unnecessarily restricting the aspiring learner.

Protecting Corporate, Educational and Government Control Versus Protecting Public Interest and Individual Rights

Ideally, corporations, educational institutions and government agencies are protecting the public interest and individual rights. Yet, we would be naive to assume that this is always the case. In fact, the nature of organizational operations is that they sometimes go against such ends unintentionally. Or, there are personal and organizational interests that compete with other interests for people outside of those organizations. It is no surprise that these formal organizations and the people within them will often have self-preservation as one among other priorities.

Yet, some of the potential challenges and opportunities of this age, especially when it comes to open learning and open recognition, will clash with the interest of these organizations and institutions. If corporate interest dominates, there is a good chance that the next generation of open badges will be about securing financial benefits for these corporate stakeholders. If educational institution’s interest dominate, then there is a good chance that these institutions will be set up and defended as the sole or preferred means by which learning is properly recognized, even though there are countless individuals whose access and opportunity may be diminished by such an effort. If government control dominates, there are likely to be policies that restrict promising innovations in open learning and open recognition, not intentionally, but simply because these entities have narrower priorities and measures by which they are making their decisions. As an example, consider the incredible restrictions to innovation in the modern United States higher education system because of policies intended to protect the government’s massive investment in the financial aid program.

A balance, in my view, is not acceptable. This tension should lean toward public interest and individual rights while acknowledging the needs and interest of these organizations. Yet, this calls for a visionary and missional approach to the matter. We must collectively remain committed to the larger view and greater purpose, namely increased access and opportunity.

Competency as Static Versus Competency as Dynamic

When it comes to both credentials and recognition, this is an interesting contrast. When you graduate with a degree, and many perceive that degree as evidence of your competence in a given area, you maintain that degree for life, even if your competence diminishes or disappears altogether. You can put it on a resume. You can use it to open doors of opportunity. Yet, not all credentials or forms of recognition work that way. Some credentials expire or require ongoing verification that you do indeed have the knowledge and skills that you once had.

We are working from a flawed view of learning if we think that competency is something that you earn and own for life as if it were a tangible object. Competency grows and shrinks. It strengthens and weakens. This is an important tension for us to remember as we think about the role of recognition and credentials today.

Summative Credentialing Versus Formative Credentialing

We don’t typically use the terms “formative” and “summative” in reference to credentialing, but I contend that they allow us to look at recognition and credentials in important ways. As I so often say, formative is the check up at the doctor, and summative is the autopsy. The former is about checks and progress while the latter is about a final judgement or assessment. Yet, who is to say that credentials and recognition must always be summative? As with the static versus dynamic contrast, we can also begin to think about what it would look like to create and use forms of recognition and credentials that represent where you are at the moment, but adapting and changing as you grow and develop. Innovations around learning analytics and big data have potential to help us bring such musings into reality.

Credentialism Versus Matchmaking

Credentialsim is credentials at their worst. It is when credentials are used to restrict access and opportunity, intentionally or unintentionally. A credential is required for access to some opportunity in society when, in actuality, it may not be necessary. We are wise to remain vigilant in avoiding this persistent risk with our use of credentials. Yet, and again drawing from the developments around learning analytics and big data, we may be entering a future where credentialism can be reduced as more of a matchmaking understanding can gain traction.

Imagine an online reputation system that includes a collection of credentials and various forms of recognition (including endorsement and artifacts that provide evidence of your accomplishments and expertise). Now imagine systems that can mine that data, mine the data of other people and organizations, and help you connect with those people and organizations that might be a good fit. Such an innovation could transform the way that we think about talent searches and connecting with people and groups. It certainly has its risks and limitations too, but I offer this as a possible future, one that could also increase access and opportunity while diminishing credentialism.

Portfolio as a Collection of Credentials & Artifacts Versus Portfolio as a Dynamic Personal Narrative

When I learn about how learning organizations today are using portfolios, they are quite often attached to standards in a program. Or, they might be used as a place for personal reflection about one’s learning. Yet, there is that other outward facing side of portfolios, using them to show your work to the world and hopefully connecting with people and organizations. Imagine a portfolio system where your lifelong and lifewide learning story is being told and updated persistently. Tied to the matchmaking idea that I just explained, this would establish rich data by which we can do some impressive matchmaking, both technologically and serendipitously.

Standardize or Personalize

I used the well-known cartoon to point out this tension. There is a lineup of animals. There is a bird, monkey, penguin, elephant, goldfish, seal, and a dog. Then there is a man sitting behind a desk saying, “For a fair selection everybody has to take the same exam: please climb that tree.” The question is whether the future of learning and recognition will reflect or challenge that cartoon. Standardization plays an important role in society and certain contexts, but it is not without its limitations. Personalization is the same. Yet, this is where the vision and mission comes into play. What drives the extent to which we go toward one or the other has to do with how we answer the question about what is best for the public interest and individual rights? Our answers will differ, but any promising future of education, credentials, and recognition will remember these tensions.

Learner as Pupil/Patient/Customer Versus Learning as Co-creator

As I explain in my book, What Really Matters: Ten Critical Issues in Contemporary Education, Kathryn Church is an inspiration to me. She was a mental health professional who found herself a patient in a mental health facility. She had the truly unique perspective of looking at the experience through both of these lenses and published an incredible piece of scholarship about it called Forbidden Narratives: Critical Autobiography as Social Science. Her work challenged the clean separation of researcher and subject as she was both.

In a similar way, we are in an era that has growing interest in student voice and student agency as a way of nurturing voice and agency throughout life. We see significant attention to movements like user-centered design and empathetic design, approaches that are rooted in a deep understanding of the users. Alongside both of these, we know that collaboration is an increasingly critical skill in the 21st century landscape. These are finding their way into education as well, challenging us to consider how we might adjust from education as something done to students to education as something that is done with students. This extends from the learning to the credentials, recognition and representation of that learning.

As I mentioned in my keynote, technology and innovation always brings with it affordances and limitations, benefits and downsides. All of these potential futures of education and recognition are the same. There will always be winners and losers, different ones depending upon the context and technology. Yet, if we are committed to creating a learning and recognition ecosystem that increases access and opportunity, I contend that these are the types of considerations that warrant our time and attention.

Want to Display Your Digital Badges? Here are Some Options.

Updated on 4/1/2017

In 2014 I created an article about the services that exist to issue open badges. There are many examples of how groups are issuing badges. There are, however, fewer interesting examples of how people are actually displaying their badges or using badges as part of their online identity. That is the purpose of this article. The only exception is that, instead of my collecting and reviewing the list of display services/options, I thought I would experiment with inviting the larger badge community to share their ideas. As such, the bottom of this article includes a simple form for you to suggest a service to be added. As services are submitted, I will add them to the list below (which starts with none). Let’s see if we can crowdsource a near-exhaustive list. Please note that many of the services mentioned in the badge issuing article also provide a means of displaying badges, but I will hold off on adding those, as it would be great to get a description of each service from people who either run the service or have used it a great deal and know it well.

Scroll down (below the form) to see verified submissions.

Name of the Badge Display Service / Option: Open Badge Factory

Name of the person submitting and connection with the service (founder, user, etc.): Don Presant

Website of the service (if relevant): http://openbadgefactory.com

Description (please consider any description that would help readers understand its role/function/benefits/limitations.): Open Badge Passport is a free, easy to use service, where you can receive and store your Open Badges safely and share them with whomever you like and wherever you like.

Your free Passport account is a secure place for you to:

• Accept and upload Open Badges from any service that supports the Mozilla Open Badge standard

• Store and manage your badges for future use

• Display your badges on Pages, or “micro-portfolios” with other files and multimedia content

• Share your badges on social media such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook

Name of the Badge Display Service / Option: Badgr

Name of the person submitting and connection with the service (founder, user, etc.): Nate Otto (director of this software project at Concentric Sky)

Website of the service (if relevant): https://badgr.io

Description (please consider any description that would help readers understand its role/function/benefits/limitations.): Badgr is a backpack service that allows users to create collections of earned Open Badges issued to any of their verified email addresses. Users may generate a share URL for a collection and use that to spread the word over email, social media, or in job applications. Badgr also provides HTML iFrame embed code for badge earners who wish to embed their collections directly onto their blog or website.

Name of Service: Bestr

Website of the Service (if still active): http://www.bestr.it

Description of Service (or any information about why it is no longer active…if you have that information): Bestr is the first Italian badging platform developed by CINECA, the leading consortium of Univerisities (73) and the Ministry of Education and Research.

It is a portal that connects learners to Employers and Learning providers based on Open Badges

Name of Service: Makeawaves

Website of the Service (if still active): https://www.makewav.es/

Description of Service (or any information about why it is no longer active…if you have that information):

Makewaves is the safe social learning platform for children to share what they make, challenge themselves with Missions and show their achievements with badges. Helping young people realise their full potential, by surfacing, capturing and communicating their growing skills. For Young People (Makers) Young people can take part in fun learning missions created by Teachers and high profile partners and earn rewards for their work. We make it safe to share blogs, videos and photos with friends, family and the Makewaves community. For Teachers (Publishers) Transform your curriculum with Makewaves badges. We give you the control you need to deliver and manage learning online. Track progress, give feedback and support students of all levels. Easily capture learning across formal and informal settings via web, mobile or tablets. Partners (we call you Mission Makers) Organisations can create Missions at a national scale and enable teachers to engage with your topic and issue awards on your behalf. For Parents/Carers Parents/carers can be assured their child is part of a secure moderated community. They can follow their child’s learning journey, provide encouragement and receive updates from the school to their mobile.

Name of Service: Open Badge Academy

Website of the Service (if still active): https://www.openbadgeacademy.com/

Description of Service (or any information about why it is no longer active…if you have that information):

Today, learning happens everywhere. Yet, we still struggle to capture valuable learning that takes place outside of formal settings. We need a new way to help people capture and communicate all of their talents and use them to transition into new opportunities. Open Badge Academy is a complete solution that makes recognising lifelong learning simple. Organisations create academies to launch open badges Use badges to recognise learning, validate skills and build capabilities Track and demonstrate the impact of your programme Learners use badges to build a richer picture of themselves Evidence badges on the move via mobile Share your profile to stand out from the crowd Professionals verify skills using endorsements Experts, educators and peers provide evidence based endorsements of badges Connect with the people who matter to you.

Name of Service: Accredible

Website of the Service (if still active): https://www.accredible.com/

Description of Service (or any information about why it is no longer active…if you have that information):

This platform allows the creation and management of Open Badges and Digital Certificates. Issuers can create, manage and deliver credentials to recipients via email and view detailed reports on recipient engagement, views, shares and website referrals.

Name of Service: CanCred Passport

Website of the Service (if still active): http://www.cancred.ca/

Description of Service (or any information about why it is no longer active…if you have that information):

CanCred Passport is a free, easy to use home in the cloud for Open Badge eCredentials that you earn for yourself. CanCred Passport is the default destination for badges issued by CanCred Factory, but will store and display all Open Badges that comply with the Mozilla standard. Passport is completely open in both directions: users can also export their badges to Mozilla Backpack and display them on social media such as LinkedIn. Another key feature of CanCred Passport is that users can publish their badges on an unlimited number of Pages, complete with additional text, files such as resumes and even embedded video. This means each Page can become its own goal-driven mini-ePortfolio, powered by the authentic evidence of Open Badges.

Name of Service: Open Badge Passport

Website of the Service (if still active): https://openbadgepassport.com/

Description of Service (or any information about why it is no longer active…if you have that information):

Open Badge Passport is a free, easy to use service, where you can receive and store your Open Badges safely and share them with whomever you like and wherever you like. Your free Passport account is a secure place for you to: • Accept and upload Open Badges from any service that supports the Mozilla Open Badge standard • Store and manage your badges for future use • Display your badges on Pages, or “micro-portfolios” with other files and multimedia content • Share your badges on social media such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook

6 Factors Impacting Micro-credential Adoption

Will we see an increase in micro-credential adoption? Micro-credentials and open badges continue to gain attention as experiments persist, expand and even move from pilot to full implementation. Yet, a broader adoption of these newer credentials requires progress on many fronts. I see six factors (among many others) as playing a significant role right now. While there are certainly other important factors, these represent common elements that impact the extent to which almost any new technologies reach widespread adoption.

Technology Maturity / Gestation

Badges as we know them have gained traction as a result of the initial and developing open badge infrastructure. Technologies for creating, issuing, displaying and tracking badges continue to develop as well. While there are several leading companies/organizations with regard to these and other developments, the ongoing maturation of these associated technologies prepare badges for more widespread adoption.

User Experience

Most people remain unclear about how to use these newer credentials. How do you build and issue them? If you receive one, what do you do with it? The user experience will need to be significant but simple to gain traction.

Infrastructure

Credentials fit as part of a larger ecosystem. Credentials must be documented, issued, tracked, shared, displayed, and more. While early efforts with badges take much of this into account, we have an expansive and existing infrastructure for formal credentials like diplomas. For example, existing student information systems for traditional K-12 and higher education institutions and the associated systems for transcripts are a fundamental part of modern credentials. Current and future initiatives focused upon accommodating badges in those systems will expand their reach.

At the same time, some are concerned that such a development will reduce open badges from being a potentially disruptive innovation to a simple sustaining innovation. Badges have the potential power for democratizing credentials, but building systems where they reside within otherwise authoritarian technologies like student information systems might reduce their impact in other areas.

Some argue that the greatest potential for badges is empowering more people and groups with the ability to issue valued credentials. It is not yet clear whether efforts to integrate badges into existing systems will reduce the disruption or amplify it. Regardless, there is little question that such an effort will speed adoption, especially amid organizations committed to competency-based education.

Regulation

Right now there is a federal financial aid program in the United States that is associated with some certificates as well as diploma from accredited schools (on the higher education level). Many regulations are placed on organizations that participate in the federal financial aid program. Persistent restraints through the Department of Education and federal regulations combined with various accrediting agencies (national, regional, and program/profession/discipline-specific) have the power to minimize the spread and impact of badges. At the same time, there is the possibility that these restrictions will speed the growth of micro-credentials and digital badges through people and organizations that function outside the reach of those regulatory agencies.

Impact on Organization’s Strategic Goals

To what extent can micro-credentials and digital badges find a valued role within existing formal learning organizations? To what extent do they risk diminishing an organization’s ability to reach strategic goals? Historically, formal learning organizations, even those deeply committed to student learning, have been tempted to lobby for that which protects the institution’s viability, growth, and influence. The extent to which these new credentials are seen as doing that will likely impact their adoption.

Allow me to give an example from a setting that is less known to many readers, the role of seminary education among various Christian denominations. Denominations ordain future ministers in a myriad of ways. It is possible to become an ordained minister in one denomination without earning a diploma of any sort. They must simply show that they are indeed ready, called and/or qualified. In other denominations, they have seen fit to require anything ranging from a formal associate’s degree to a three or four-year master of divinity degree.

Even when faced with a critical shortage of ministers in some denominations, there is modest to extreme resistance to exploring alternate routes to becoming a minister. When those routes are adopted, they are sometimes perceived as having a lesser or secondary status. In the end, it is about maintaining the viability of formal learning organizations than the overall well-being of the denomination. They would rather have fewer church workers and fewer people gaining spiritual care through local congregations than to compromise their existing system.

Yet, with micro-credentials and open badges, the traditional issuers of valued credentials are not the only organizations involved. There are new education companies, community organizations, companies hiring people based upon their credentials, and government agencies. Each of these continue to grapple with whether or how new forms of credentials will amplify their goals and interests. Their deliberation will impact the extent to which new forms of credentials reach widespread adoption.

This need not be adoption across organizations. As we see with early experiments, as long as a credential has adequate value within a organization or organizations in a given industry, newer credentials can gain traction and broader acceptance.

Symbolic Meaning

What does it mean to be a college graduate and earn a diploma? There is status associated with it. The college experience and credential each has cultural meaning. Even in instances where a college degree is not needed to achieve one’s personal goals, people are still often encouraged to finish college. College graduation has been equated with part of the American Dream, hence the focus upon getting more people through college to address access, opportunity and equity. Competence is not the cultural priority in many segments of society (although it most certainly is in others). Does it matter more that you are a competent teacher or that you are a credentialed one? What about for doctors, lawyers, nurses, network engineers, computer scientists, geologists, plumbers, electricians, general contractors, actors, authors, professional athletes, park rangers, and sales managers?

Many people are confused by such questions because the symbolic meaning is so strong, or they have failed to consider that competence and a traditional credential are separable. Reflecting on this small selection of professions shows that there are diverse answers related to competence versus credential questions. We might argue that these are not or need not be separate. Can’t you be competent and credentialed? Yes, but which credential will we require, or will we allow for multiple credentials as acceptable in a given profession?

The symbolic meaning associated with traditional credentials is strong. Yet, only 6-7% of of adults in the world have a college degree. This means that over 90% of the world may well be prime candidates for new credentials and that they may well be more open to alternate forms of credentials.

Technology adoption is determined by many inter-related factors. It is not as simple as walking through this list of six items, addressing them, and watching the adoption take place. This is why many of the most promising and potentially beneficial technologies do not gain widespread adoption.