Open Badges: the new currency for professional development?


Mike Byrne’s recent webinar on gamification and open badges was one of the best attended and most enthusiastically received events in the learning sector I’ve attended for some time. Mike made a strong case for open badges to be the new currency in professional devel opment.

I have in the past argued that the real benefit offered by badging and gamification lies within the motivation it provides to learners. Mike emphasised this even further with reference to research that suggests rewards (such as badges) work really well no matter how limited that reward may be. The implication rather mitigates the argument that the award of a badge has little meaning. In fact any award is effective. There is no doubt that a digital stamp can increase employee motivation to learn. On the webinar we discovered that by changing a set of subway station steps into a musical staircase increased its use by 66%. People are more receptive than ever to games – and 32% of learners preferred a gamified approach to learning.

But much of this webinar focused on the corporate benefits of gamification and open badging. Mike pointed out that a crucial difference between them is that badges are task orientated. Formal qualifications say “they can”. Badges say “they have.” As such, badges can recognise all forms of learning, including informal. Their task orientated nature makes them well suited in that regard. For today’s organisations looking to roll informal and formal learning programmes together, this can make a real difference.

But the webinar’s strapline provided the real food for thought. Indeed, pointing out that ‘open badges may be the new currency in personal development’ may actually understate the case. That’s because there is currently no generic currency in the world of corporate elearning! The common nature of badging – the fact that similar badges can apply across any discipline or activity – means that for the first time, organisations have a common measure for achievement. The generic nature of badges gives us a corporate standard ‘currency’ – much like an 8 GCSE’s or 3 A levels does in formal education. That means badges can be stacked to reflect levels of expertise over time, allowing talent to be accurately tracked, developed and promoted in an up-to-date fashion. If it can be effectively communicated to employees that earning badges will be a serious asset to their career aspirations in the future, the end result is motivated learners and a well-informed HR team.

If you would like to watch a recorded version of the webinar or view the slides alone, please see the links below. Look out for information on all our webinars!


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Martin Belton

Martin is a director of Ascot Communications, one of the UK’s leading consultancies working with learning technology organisations. He has presented on stages as far afield as Tokyo and Los Angeles and authored more papers on elearning and IT than he, or anyone else, cares to remember.