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Open Badges: A better way to track skills and accomplishments

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By David Leaser

According to Harvard Business Review, the triumph of the online educational revolution will depend not on course content, quality or participation but on the ability to measure and assess real learning and skills acquisition in virtual environments. No easy task, considering a person may have developed knowledge and skills from a number of disparate and disconnected places.

But now, a solution to assess and aggregate real learning, at the “nano level”, has arisen out of an unlikely source: Gaming. Online gaming has been measuring and assessing accomplishments for years. The mechanism? Badging.

The benefits to business

And now it has cross over to the corporate world. Based on the digital badge concept, Mozilla developed an Open Badges standard which provides the rigor and verification organizations need to recognize and validate real achievements. Where a “digital badge” can represent your skills, an “Open Badge” contains hard-coded metadata which is tied back a proven achievement.

Badging as a concept is not new. It’s has been around since the earliest days of the Boys and Girls Scouts, where they have been used to set goals, motivate behaviors, represent achievements and communicate success.

Now, organizations see value in open badges as a way to assess the talents of their employees and determine the best fit for new hires. Organizations like the MacArthur Foundation, NASA, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and companies like IBM, see how badging can develop talent pools and provide insight, at the nano level, into the skills a candidate has. Or should have.

How does it work?

An Open Badge is a digital emblem which symbolizes skills and achievements. When a person achieves something (takes a class, completes an assessment or demonstrates a skill), the badge issuer sends the badge earner a link to a digital badge which can be stored securely in an electronic badge wallet. The badge contains metadata with skills tags and accomplishments and is tethered to the badge issuer to validate and verify achievement. The badge can be easily and automatically shared on social sites, like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter to broadcast the achievement.

Everybody wins with Open Badges

Badges provide significant benefits for the badge issuer, the badge earner and the badge consumer (typically a company looking to hire or outsource the best resources.)

Badge Earners: Broadcast achievements. Badging captures a complete skills profile, from structured training to code building and allows the badge earner to share the badge instantly on sites like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, broadcasting skills and helping to build a personal brand to earn more money, land a consulting gig and warrant a promotion. A recent LinkedIn study showed profiles with certifications and badges receive six times the number of profile views.

Badge Issuers: Engagement. Badging helps the badge issuer attract, nurture and progress a pool of talent and it helps establish the brand as a leader in the field. A badge issued by a company like IBM provides real currency for the badge earner, encouraging the badge earner to stay engaged and advance to the next level.

Badge Consumer: Proof. Badging shows verified “nano-level” skills data on employees and potential hires and can help identify skills gaps which can be filled with training, reorganization or hiring. Badging also motivates existing employees to drive their own career development, thereby increasing the overall talent level in the organization.

Earn an IBM Open Badge today!

IBM has taken a leadership with Open Badges and has launched an Open Badges pilot. IBM only issues badges for resume-worthy activities; you cannot receive an IBM badge just for showing up. But IBM had developed badges for every level, from introductory skills to advanced certifications. You can earn an IBM badgeduring the IBM pilot by completing a selected activity, like completing a free online course in, participating in a Bluemix function, completing an industry certification, contributing to developerWorks or passing a course at one of IBM’s Global Training Providers, including Arrow, Avnet and LearnQuest.

So why not earn your first badge today and then post it automatically to your LinkedIn profile to see how badging works and how it may benefit you. Go to IBM’s Open Badges pilot site to get started right now!

David Leaser is the senior manager for IBM’s Global Skills Initiative. Leaser developed IBM’s first cloud-based learning solution and is the author of a number of thought leadership white papers on talent development, including “Migrating Minds” and “The Social Imperative in Workforce Development.” Leaser has trained more than 4,000 clients and developed more than 30 technology training manuals and video tutorials. You can reach David on LinkedIn or Twitter @david_leaser.

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