Higher education is based largely on the assumption that students want degrees, and therefore they want the courses that are required to earn those degrees. And that assumption has been valid. Degrees have been a “ticket” that offered the possibility of admission to a desirable career (if it wasn’t sold out).
But as more and more people sought and received degrees, the increasing number of tickets available decreased the probability that the ticket would guarantee admission. And, as more and more institutions were printing tickets based on their own criteria, it became more and more difficult for the gatekeepers to know which ticketholders should be admitted. Many of the applicants already possess what appears to be a valid ticket, and the tickets carry very little information: Name of institution/Name of degree. That’s it.
In the next few years, I predict we’ll see more and more adult students interested in accumulating digital badges, as opposed to wanting course credits or degrees. Digital badges are more modular, they do a much better job of describing what the badge holder can do, and they can be assembled in ways that highlight how an individual stands out from the crowd. They can illustrate how he or she has the core qualifications required for consideration, and also has a series of related skills, perspectives, and attributes that add up to competitive advantage. And the quality of each badge can be interrogated with a single click of the mouse.