We all know that human capital is much more than formal education, even though most of the time we use levels of educational attainment as a proxy for human capital. We do this because years of formal schooling and educational certification (degrees awarded) can be easily measured and verified. But many of the skills needed in the I-Cubed Economy come through the process of life-long learning — especially since the skills we need in our jobs today are not necessarily likely to have taught when we were back in school. Only through livelong learning can we keep up and continue to build our individual and group human capital.
But how to recognize that learning? Here is an interesting idea: Badges for Lifelong Learning. Sponsored by the MacArthur Foundation and supported by Mozilla, the project will create a series of digital badges that will validate the acquisition of knowledge or skills. The badges would be available on a person’s website, Facebook page, etc and allow an employer to access detailed information about the individuals skills. The badge becomes a certification of skills learned both inside and outside of the formal educational degree and certification process. In essence, the badges help an individual build their brand and reputation through the compilation of their skill set.
The project is just beginning, with Stage One underway. According to the website:
The goal of Stage One is to identify compelling learning content, activities, or programs for which a badge or set of badges would be useful for recognizing and making visible learning that takes place in a particular area or topic. Badges may represent learning a set of skills, acquisition of competencies, achievements, interests, or affiliations. They can provide visible milestones on a learning pathway, support various types of community participation, signal achievement to a community of interest and outside stakeholders, support participation and further learning, and build identity and reputation.
The project is more than just the creation of these badges. It is also a way to promote livelong learning and drive new thinking as to how learning happens.
Let me throw in a different twist to the subject. Maybe these might also become a way of measuring human capital? The project supports are probably not thinking about this dimension of the issue. But if this takes off, looking at these badges might be a good compliment to looking at traditional educational measures (e.g. the number of BS degrees in engineering). Something to think about.
See the video of the launch event (1:55 minutes) below: