Do we need those “stinking badges”?

Maybe you are familiar with idea of badging. Foursquare uses badging as a gaming tool – go to certain businesses with a defined frequency and you can “unlock” badges. For example you can become the “mayor” of a business by checking in through foursquare so many times. Some badges are quirky and fun like the “Last Degree” badge given to the first person to check into the North Pole. Tech conventions like SXSW use badges to engage attendees at events.

Badging goes back further than foursquare though. Considered the specialization of badges in scouting. Scouts are awarded badges for learning a skill (first aid, camping, lifesaving) or for personal development and leadership (family life, personal management).

Even further than that, the military uses badges to show rank and special honors.

But, now the idea “badging” is entering the education and business worlds. I posted earlier this semester about MIT’s annoucement of its open courseware platform – MITx. While programs like MITx offer free education they don’t offer a formal degree to students. One of the proposed “alternative credentialing” for these types of programs is badging. Badging would be the “proof” to employers that a student passed or mastered a program or skill.

The question is – will employers see value in these badges? What is their worth? Will the business model be a disrupter?

And will/how will badges be introduced in the business world? Admittedly, I know very little on this subject but I think it’s and interesting discussion and I believe in some industries that this type of system is already in place. Will business industries begin to use badging as a form of continuing education? For example, could there be professional badging system for specialized skills in social media marketing? SEO/analytics?

“Open Badges for Lifelong Learning” discusses Mozilla’s Open Badges project, and outlines some interesting ideas around the value of badges including motivation, identity building, community building, and promoting innovation.

The framework for this system includes:

  • defining the badges
  • measuring/assessing the badge skills
  • creating the infrastructure that supports the badge earning experience


What is Mozilla’s Open Badges project? (2011). Retrieved April 28 from:


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