Grades Out, Badges In - College, Reinvented - The Chronicle of Higher Education | :: The 4th Era :: |

Grades are broken. Students grub for them, pick classes where good ones come easily, and otherwise hustle to win the highest scores for the least learning. As a result, college grades are inflated to the point of meaninglessness—especially to employers who want to know which diploma-holder is best qualified for their jobs.


That's a viewpoint driving experiments in education badges. Offered mostly by online start-ups, the badges are modeled on the brightly colored patches on Boy Scout uniforms but are inspired primarily by video games: Just as most video games offer ways for players to "level up" frequently, to keep them excited, most education-badge projects involve rewarding achievements more fine-tuned than passing (or acing) a course. In a remedial math course, for instance, a badge might be awarded for mastering a concept, whether "surface area" or "median and mode." Or badges might certify soft skills not usually measured at all in college courses, like teamwork or asking good questions.

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