The Mozilla foundation just released version 1.0 of their Open Badges project. This is a significant event I believe because people’s skills are becoming more diverse. In my opinion just having a degree doesn’t really tell you that much anymore. For example, at my university we often send out grads out with a portfolio of their work because many employers in the entertainment field want to see samples of what you are capable of.
The other reason I like the concept of badges is it follows my Theory of Disaggregation. This states that up till now society’s resources have been organized on physical proximity. With the advent of the Information Economy resources are now being split up and reassembled into new structures based on information context. If my theory holds then the entity called a university should start to be split up into smaller units that then reform into new structures personalized to the students. One of the big reasons universities have resisted this force is because of their near monopoly on credentialing. In many field you have to have a degree regardless if you can actually do the work. The problem with a degree is it is too blunt of an instrument. We need to break up (or disaggregate) the concept of a degree into hundreds of smaller pieces. Badges provides a frame work to do this.
Here’s a story about this from Engadget.
Here’s a previous blog post about what higher education might look like without degrees.