Badges: Can Learning Be As Addictive As Gaming?

I have previously written about how Khan Academy has created a motivating, free learning environment by tapping into our innate desire to earn points and badges.

Thanks to Mozilla and the MacArthur Foundation, now anyone can create awesome badges to reward people for learning.  They are already planning to use it for School of Webcraft.  No, not World of Warcraft…School of Webcraft.  Addictive challenges that can actually prepare you for a job.  Who knew?

Mozilla Open Badges

I imagine many colleges and universities using iTunesU might quickly jump on the bandwagon.  Stanford, Yale, Harvard, and MIT are also offering free courses online (mostly just videos & readings).  Though it’s super exciting to say “I’ve taken a course at Yale,” at this stage in my life I need to see something out of the experience I can put on my resume.  A badge would motivate me.  MIT is piloting a free facilitated course, and said they may charge a small fee for certificates in the future, which I think is more than reasonable.  Will they charge for badges soon, too?

My next prediction: LinkedIn is going to get covered in badges.  No more blocks of blah prose text or those bubbles where you add your skills…we’re going to see a more Pinterest-style amalgam of visual displays of accomplishments.  I have to admit: I was already attempting to add “badges” by joining or creating groups to visually indicate what matters to me.  For example, I want everyone to see I earned my Girl Scouts Gold Award.  (So what if it was high school?  I created and ran a theatre day camp called Dual Facade Productions with two friends at 17 years old.  It was awesome and I’m still proud of it.)

Girl Scout Gold Award

So some people may lecture me about the benefits of internal motivation yada yada, but I sincerely believe that in our hearts we are all just scouts looking to earn badges.  People wither and die without some kind of positive reinforcement.  And you know the cute online graphics are quickly going to turn into little felt things to sew onto your jeans or backpack.  Then they transform into hats and stuffed animals and sweaters and pretty soon you’ll have your online campus bookstore for badges.  And not just for kids!  Badges are motivating, they’re fun, they’re easy to identify, and definitely marketable.  What’s not to like?

I just found out about open badges 30 minutes ago, and I already have big plans for how to integrate badges into my trainings and projects.  Forget certification…I’ll be issuing badges soon.  Okay, I’ll probably call them certifications just to make it sound more professional.  But this is an exciting development for elearning!  Here’s what’s running in my head right now:

2 thoughts on “Badges: Can Learning Be As Addictive As Gaming?

Add yours

  1. Great article!

    I’m also excited about the idea of badges for supplemental education. I started writing badge programs for scout volunteers and this will allow me a way to award the badges beyond emailing them individually.

  2. It think badges offer a nice way signify that a goal has been attained. Kinda like visual progress meters can be a powerful motivator in the course of learning. We’re developing a badge system in our new Computer Essentials Online course. Glad to hear it was a timely decision. Thanks for posting. I’ll link back from my new blog:

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