Microcredentials and Educational Technology: A Proposed Ethical Taxonomy

Key Takeaways

  • As microcredentials — open digital badges, e-portfolios, verified certificates, and nanodegrees — become more prevalent in the educational landscape, so too should the ethical engagement with practices, assumptions, and effects on society.
  • Issues of shifting powers, archiving the future, and trust become especially critical.
  • A classification system of potential topics specific to microcredentials helps all parties negotiate changing systems of credentialing.

The demand for digital microcredentials suggests an emerging change in the higher education pathway to a job or further learning opportunities. Microcredentials can take the form of open digital badges, e-portfolios, verified certificates, nanodegrees, or other tools that help earners gain a foothold in signaling competencies, skills, and connected networks through a growing system emphasizing evidence-rich credentials.1 This is most recently evidenced by Udacity's guarantee of job placement with their credential.2 In contrast to the paper transcript, microcredentials reroute traditional systems of educational hierarchy, institutional power structures, and recognition of authority. These societal changes ought to be studied ethically, because once mainstream, they are intractable.

Recently argued in a paper on the ethical intersections of open digital badges, a third space is uniquely created in educational technology, fitting between prescriptive and reactive approaches.3 Usually ethical analyses focus on theoretical or applied approaches, but the third space of educational technology exposes how both are insufficient when considering the changing routes of how education leads to a job. Ethical theory is not always directly applicable to lived experiences, and ethical application can be so contextually specific that it is not generalizable. Rather, useful educational technology ethics balances the practical and the theoretical, showing how changes under way in economy and society can be shaped by — and for — emerging credentialing systems. A changing workforce, demanding alternative credentialing systems, can be examined in this third space because it affects society and individuals in potentially unforeseen ways.

Though there are likely many other issues than covered here, a resourceful start is a classification system based on three primary ethical concerns: shifting powers, archiving the future, and building trust. Likewise, it is noted that the focus on microcredentialing should be as a concept rather than as a specific technology, protocol, or practice. While there are certainly differences in various existing and emerging microcredentialing systems, for the purposes of an ethical discussion, they are classified together. Open digital badges are referred to in several specific cases for the sake of clarity and example. In an attempt to ground abstract ethical principles, the taxonomy hopefully helps classify, discuss, and question the many issues that can arise with microcredentialing. There are also cited references for further reading; these sources are not necessarily tied to how the topic is envisioned here, but they do offer additional discussion. The taxonomy is by no means comprehensive or complete; it is, rather, a starting place for highlighting potential problems and for framing ethical responses to the unique challenges microcredentials pose.

Shifting Powers

The transformative potential of microcredentials rests not with undermining traditional educational degrees or curricula but with raising awareness to changing economies and how people find and secure jobs. In other words, microcredentials already play a critical role in a rapidly changing ecosystem of educational routing to job attainment. Understanding societal change means reconciling the various power structures shifting from entrenched systems to disparate undercurrents. Not only do microcredentials track how people translate their digital networks to the workplace, but they also bring out the latent ethical questions of power asymmetries in higher education.

Formalized educational systems can operate in hierarchical ways, which means certain knowledge, curricular, and pedagogical tensions exist between experts, institutions, and degree-seeking students. Microcredentials negotiate the space between these tensions because they can be deployed in informal learning environments like extra- and co-curricular activities, among peer learners, and outside the bounds of traditional accreditation. By operating in this in-between space, microcredentials give greater freedom to how learning is designed, presented, assessed, and dispersed across digital networks, yet, as the notion of the microcredential effectively migrates from learning artifact to workplace credential, valuing systems and new inequalities may emerge. For example, early badges are, essentially, static artifacts: they are awarded, contain criteria for learning and evidence to substantiate the claims, and persist in a digital repository. Badges emerging recently, however, contain more dynamic possibilities like continued endorsement after the awarding. Does this mean newer badges are more valuable to learners, or perhaps more relevant because they become living artifacts that continue to expand long after the learning event?

College transcripts serve as independent, static artifacts, none of which, on a quick perusal, reveal an individual's skill set. Microcredentials, however, provide a promise of a layered or stackable credential that provides competency specificity. For example, Daniel Hickey, James Willis III, and Joshua Quick affirm, "Such badges promise to be valued on the merits of the evidence contained within the badge rather than on the reputation of the institution that issues it."4 Susan Singer further solidifies this notion by stating that "developing stackable credentials for advanced degree holders is a viable, but not yet tapped, approach to documenting an individual's 'convergence creole' fluency."5 This fluency is marked by the ability to engage with practitioners across other disciplines. Because interdisciplinary skill sets are needed alongside global collaborative groups, microcredentials may help create the pathways to assess a person's digital-social acumen.

This is all to say microcredentials operating between the informal and formal, among various groups in the educational and workforce environments, are creating new digital currencies. Unlike formal college credit that is tied to a closed transcript, which is in turn tied to specific curricular designs approved by accreditors, microcredentials, like badges, can be rapidly created, earned, and distributed; if accepted in the workplace, then the currency value mimics that of formal education. This also means that within emerging systems of currency, learners may mix and remix their credentials to show individual interests, talents, and accomplishments. This might not usurp formalized curricula, but it certainly shows a tension in the individual freedom of learners. In other words, learners have greater choice to conform to existing curricula or to piece together a variety of microcredentials (perhaps via verified MOOC certificates and badges from different organizations). This is not to say that this is a binary choice, and certainly there are overlaps. But, the act of (re)mixing one's education shows emerging concerns as education becomes less about knowledge transfer and more about asserting individual creativity.6 Table 1 summaries the various power issues at play concerning microcredentials.

Table 1. Shifting power issues

Issue

Brief Description

Example

Ethical Questions

Curricular Power7

The pursuit of a course of study can be directly tied to individual interests instead of within a designed curriculum.

A learner enrolls in several nanodegree and badge-issuing learning opportunities to purposely bypass the fluff courses offered in college.

Should individuals be able to align their immediate interests and job concerns with a specific curriculum, or should they conform to preset curriculum including areas of exploration like electives?

Knowledge Power8

Different knowledge value systems, which depend on claims of learning, internal and external endorsements, and perceptions of issuing organizations, can form inequalities between microcredentials.

Having earned several certified certificates in MOOCs hosted by Ivy League universities (but no other college credits), a learner is moved to the top of the job candidate pool over candidates with bachelor's degrees.

As some microcredentials gain trust in networks, will they destabilize less robust evidential claims to knowledge? Will the priority of specific skills in a microcredential take precedence over an amassed body of knowledge in a degree?

Pedagogical Power9

Students could demand their learning through specific digital designs, thereby creating greater choice of learning opportunity.

Learners in a MOOC decide that the assessments do not meet their learning needs. They form an informal cohort to award each other digital credentials with screenshots of their completed activities.

How involved should learners be in determining how they want to learn? Are they participants, consumers, or collaborators? Do earners pursuing microcredentials know how they learn best?

Currencies10

Microcredentials can be transferred to other educational opportunities, remixed into new groupings, and stacked to create individual pathways to learning.

In place of attending required continuing learning at work, a learner earns several badges in comparable skills and then requests credit.

Do earners have the right to (re)mix credentials however it best benefits them?

Regimes of Value11

New ecosystems are emerging that capitalize on the disparity between the cost of education and the need for specific skills.

Instead of attending college, a learner earns several nanodegrees; the providers help the learner get an entry job on completion—only weeks later.

Should microcredentials undercut the value of a degree by improving market-ready skill sets?


Archiving the Future

When databases are formed to store microcredentials (like the Backpack for badges), the intent is usually to have some form of data that persists into the future. This data can be recalled via repository to function in a similar way as when the credential was awarded. The act of creating persistent artifacts, especially as concerns of privacy become more aware to the public, can help shape ethical questions. Since "both commercial and educational industries have seen the repercussions of sensitive data being compromised," James Willis and Viktoria Strunk suggest the stewardship of data should be transparent.12 With microcredentials, the role should be clear between issuer and earner. These roles have distinct ethical obligations: The issuer should ensure that the data is used for its intended purpose, and the earner should have the right to make the credential disappear from the repository or cache. Similarly, the issue of persistence is related to validity because as long as the credential is valid, it ought to be maintained by the issuer and accessible to the earner.

In a time when institutions are vying not only for student admissions but also for student retention, it is important to focus on what motivates students to stay and actually learn. One way motivation can be classified is according to intrinsic and extrinsic rewards. The hope is that students are internally motivated to become lifelong learners and to promote change with their acquired knowledge. It has been argued by Richard Elliott, John Clayton, and Jun Iwata that the use of digital badges and microcredentialing can be used to motivate learners to achieve.13 In a study by Alan Reid, Denise Paster, and Samuel Abramovich, however, it was discovered that "the simple presence of digital badges did not enhance learner motivations."14 In fact, "A significant drop-off in motivation to earn digital badges was observed around the middle of the semester for all participants.... The findings from this study suggest that the use of digital badges as an assessment tool may impact a learner's level of intrinsic motivation to earn badges, but only if he or she already had expectancy for learning and placed a value on the learning task itself."15 Expectancy, then, plays an interesting ethical role with motivation: the microcredential can become a mechanism by which a learner engages not only for knowledge but also to build a lasting artifact to reclaim in the future.

Because microcredentials are to be used as open and therefore public artifacts, certain issues should be addressed. Surveillance, when used to direct or influence people, can have negative consequences, especially as it affects educational outcomes. Because social media platforms such as LinkedIn provide privacy settings, an organization or person could have access to another's microcredential and be able to view it without being identified. James Willis, Joshua Quick, and Daniel Hickey offer further scenarios with a negative impact by stating, "Ethically, the question of learners knowingly or unknowingly participating in skills development for nefarious purposes is a question of human freedom, and ultimately it rests with the actions of the learner."16

As organizations and educational institutions begin to issue microcredentials, they must have a revocation process in place to deal with expired, and thus invalid, credentials. Just as certain certifications expire because skill sets must be refreshed, like CPR, some microcredentials would have to be renewed as well. Questions of maintenance, ownership, and identity become even more complex when organizations employ third-party agencies to manage microcredentials. Primarily, issuing organizations are responsible for ensuring embedded data, such as expiration dates and competencies, are clearly and correctly communicated; however, earners bear responsibility for maintaining personal online identity.

In addition to normal usage and expirations, companies should be ready to revoke microcredentials obtained through dishonest means. For example, since currently the main method of authentication of a digital badge is a verifiable e-mail address, it remains that some individuals may set up bogus accounts to obtain the badge. The method of a double login for the sake of cheating on assessments was recently explored in a MOOC; it is reasonable to suggest this could be a widespread practice, especially where credentials can be earned.17 Once issued, and unless revoked, decisions such as when, where, and how to display their microcredentials remains with earners. Wise choices aid in sustaining a positive, reputable online existence, thereby enhancing overall marketability in the workforce. Table 2 shows the implications of microcredentials for archiving.

Table 2. Archival issues

Issue

Brief Description

Example

Ethical Questions

Ownership (Issuer)18

The organization issuing microcredentials has the right to monitor metadata for inaccurate or misleading claims by the earner.

An earner uses graphic alteration to change the name of the badge from intermediate to "advanced." In social media, the badge is incorrectly displayed, thereby artificially inflating an earner's skills capability.

Are there limits to what data organizations should be able to monitor once a microcredential is awarded? Should microcredentials have embedded tracking mechanisms?

Ownership (Earner)19

Earners have the right to make their credential disappear from a repository/cache. Earners also have the right for their credential to persist as long as it is valid.

An earner decides to remove a cluster of microcredentials from social media sites, but finds that copies of the microcredentials exist on issuers' websites. In effect, the earner cannot make the microcredential disappear.

Does an earner have full control of a digital artifact in his/her name? As a recipient, should the earner have the right to destroy a microcredential and any subsequent evidence?

Revocation20

The issuer has the right to revoke the credential if it expires or is abused by an earner.

An earner used a microcredential to achieve professional development, but the certification is only valid for one year. The issuer revoked the microcredential when the earner did not sign up to renew the certification.

Should the issuer retain rights to the microcredential permissions? What protocols protect earners' rights if an issuer unfairly revokes an earned credential?

Surveillance21

Issuers have some ability to actively or passively monitor an earner, based on data like geospatial location, learning completion, and other metadata.

An earner's nanodegrees and badges are tracked by a third-party vendor for marketing purposes; unsolicited ads are sent to the e-mail address associated with the earner.

Do earners have an inherent right to digital privacy? Do organizations have the right to track learning data?

Transaction Motivation22

Issuers and associated researchers could use microcredential data to extrapolate the motivations of earners.

The data collected as a matter of course by the microcredential issuer is studied for patterns of activity; the data patterns suggest ways the issuer can change processes in the future.

Should earners' motivations be studied to benefit future learners? Is learning data proprietary to the issuer?

Stackability23

The compilation of microcredentials can unlock future opportunities or satisfy the requirements of a metacredential.

Having already earned one microcredential, an earner is interested in achieving a certificate requiring several other specific credentials, but is not directly interested in the content of the material. The earner is discouraged by the inherent lack of flexibility to achieve the next step in the credentialing process.

Should earners conform to requirements of various stacking opportunities, or should they build their own pathways to learning?

Building Trust

Issues of trust and trustworthiness increase with the emerging interest and fluid currency of microcredentials; the challenges in creating and monitoring these systems are numerous.24 This involves the reputability of the issuing organization, the worthiness of an assessment to speak to an earner's ability, and the strength of the environment that produces real-world outcomes for microcredential attainment.

Unlike paper-based credentials, microcredentials are housed online, necessitating questions related to privacy. The concept of online privacy is important as both protective principle and security measure.25 By nature, microcredentials carry a set of attached metadata through which one is able to access and verify information.26 As the use of personal information is essential to the microcredentialing process, organizations must find ways to guarantee privacy and safety. Fritz Grupe, William Kuechler, and Scott Sweeney report data privacy requirements in the United States are largely market-driven, less restrictive, and minimally protective in comparison to European requirements.27 Data breaches are a significant threat to privacy, and the last decade has produced numerous examples of the consequences associated with insecure methods of maintaining data. As data-breaching incidents increase, investment in IT security must be spent on the correct types of security methods.28

Fundamentally, microcredentials serve as indicators of competency in specific workplace skills. The display of a microcredential comes with the assumption that one has mastered the necessary objectives designated by the issuing authority. The microcredential serves as a signal that candidates have completed all necessary work and exhibited an expected level of proficiency. Questions of validity can initially be addressed by reviewing the embedded metadata attached to the microcredential; however, this practice does not guarantee the legitimacy of the issuing authority. Just as diploma mills have become a commonplace, yet unacceptable, manner in which to secure worthless paper-based credentials, the possibility of technology-based, fictitious microcredentials must be considered. Alexandra Vollman indicates that diploma mills, claiming to be higher education institutions offering illegitimate degrees for a fee, have increased with the advent of the Internet, particularly as more educational programs have shifted online.29

As traditional credentialing formats attest to the comprehension of a vast range of knowledge and skills, the same cannot be assumed for microcredentials. For example, by awarding a digital badge, the issuing agency is endorsing the earner solely for the skills or knowledge signified by the badge. The agencies place themselves in a unique position as society comes to rely on these agencies' assessment of targeted skills in the same manner in which society relies on traditional educational institutions to be the gatekeepers of measuring traditional education. Conversely, badge earners must consider the reputation of the institutions and organizations through which they earn credentials. An endorsement from a defunct or nonreputable organization can prove detrimental to a personal reputation or career. Although earners have control over where and how to display their credentials, the value of choosing the correct digital badge, and through whom to earn the badge, cannot be underestimated. Because organizations conferring microcredentials may be nonacademic in nature, checks for quality assurance through regulatory agencies and accrediting bodies are largely absent. According to Pat Guilbaud, Joyce Camp, and Andrew Vorder Bruegge, because measures of consensus of which learning elements equate to successfully earning a digital badge are lacking, acceptance by external issuing bodies is also limited.30

A final concern surrounding microcredentials lies in the nature of assessing knowledge. A question to consider is if microcredentials effectively capture a domain of knowledge or if they inherently create divisions within fixed domains. Although microcredentials are intended to serve as both indicators of knowledge and professional motivators, their very nature separates a domain of knowledge into smaller, possibly unequal, components. Although scaffolding of knowledge may be the intent, this separation spawns a hierarchical system of stratification in which subsets of knowledge or specific sets of skills are reprioritized as more (or less) valuable than others. Determining which areas within a fixed domain are worthy of microcredentialing is a process to be approached with much consideration of overall value, purpose, and understanding of the larger domain. Table 3 summarizes trust issues involved with microcredentials.

Table 3. Trust issues

Issue

Brief Description

Example

Ethical Questions

Privacy31

There is a reasonable expectation of the earner that potentially sensitive data should be kept confidential or be subject to notification if/when it is disclosed.

Excited to achieve a badge, an earner included class discussions as evidence; unfortunately, those discussions referenced information about classmates that was intended to remain within the course.

Do earners maintain control of the credential? At what point does the expectation of privacy give way to publicly verifiable evidence?

Identity32

The formation of an individual understanding of self, learning, and accomplishment can occur within a group context.

An earner of a badge is recognized publicly for an ability in a particular skill set by endorsements from peers; this recognition helps the earner form a coherent educational plan for the future.

Should microcredentials play a foundational role in helping people develop their digital individuality? Will new ways of (re)viewing identity emerge from learning within the scope of microcredentials?

Validation33

The demonstration of assessment practices can substantiate a claim of learning and authentication.

The e-portfolio of a student demonstrates to an employer a wide array of skills and abilities; furthermore, the employer hires the candidate on this credential, not the transcript of the degree.

Should microcredentials be validated in the same way as a physical teacher and physical school, or should new models of technologically enhanced validation emerge?

Signal of Competence34

The public display of learning evidence can help earners claim ability in a specific area.

An earner desires to demonstrate skills evidenced in a microcredential but is unable to fully do so on social media and on a resume. Instead, the earner begins to bring together various digital artifacts on a personal website to show competence to a potential employer.

Could a microcredential signal competence much more broadly or much more narrowly than the evidence offered? Is the reception of such a signal of competence (by a school, employer, etc.) indicative of a singular way to define the traits and abilities of the earner?

Endorsement35

Organizations may vouch for earners when microcredentials are issued or afterwards. Gathering further endorsements after awarding of microcredential can signal competence.

An earner gathers additional endorsements for evidence already enclosed in a badge. The written statements of the endorsements suggest an earner's ability surpass the documented evidence.

Could gathering particular endorsements create disparities in similar microcredentials? Should endorsements serve the function of helping earners, and/or should they bolster the credibility of the institution?

Domains and Their Transgressions36

The grouping of microcredentials to move across previously siloed areas of knowledge or specialization can possibly create new clusters of ability and understanding.

An earner's nanodegree suggests comparable knowledge across several disciplines; an employer hires the earner because the disparate clusters of knowledge suggest a unique skill set unlike any other candidate.

Should microcredentials effectively capture a domain of knowledge, or do they inherently create divisions and transgressions of fixed domains?

A Framework for Evaluating Ethical Questions

For educational institutions, content providers, and extracurricular organizations, microcredentials present opportunities for innovation, but they also include potential ethical challenges. These challenges must be considered because credentialing plays a major role in translating educational attainment to job-ready dispositions. While impossible to discuss every one, grouping these challenges according to three major ethical ideas — shifting powers, archiving the future, and building trust — helps provide a productive taxonomic classification. The application of the issues raised need not stymie innovation, but rather should encourage active questioning of how microcredentials affect individuals in society, how transitioning educational attainment affects workforce capability, and how future ethical studies can provide a set of questions to those groups using technology in education. In other words, the application of this taxonomy should help organizations, students, and administrative decision makers think through the various implications of how microcredentials are changing educational values.

Acknowledgment

Lead author James E. Willis III's research was supported by a grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation to Indiana University.

Notes

  1. See Jordan Friedman, "What Employers Think of Badges, Nanodegrees from Online Programs," U.S. News & World Report: Education, January 22, 2016.
  2. Cade Metz, "Code School Udacity Promises Refunds If You Don't Get a Job," Wired Magazine, January 13, 2016.
  3. James E. Willis III, Joshua Quick, and Daniel T. Hickey, "Digital Badges and Ethics: The Uses of Individual Learning Data in Social Contexts," in Proceedings of the Open Badges in Education (OBIE 2015) Workshop, Poughkeepsie, New York, March 16, 2015.
  4. Daniel T. Hickey, James E. Willis III, and Joshua D. Quick, "Where Badges Work Better," ELI brief (EDUCAUSE: Louisville, CO: June 2015): 2.
  5. Susan Rundell Singer, "Learning in a World of Convergence," in Handbook of Science and Technology Convergence, ed. William Sims Bainbridge and Mihail C. Roco (Switzerland: Springer International Publishing, 2015): 10.
  6. Joseph E. Aoun, "Robot-Proof: How College Can Keep People Relevant in the Workplace," Chronicle of Higher Education, January 27, 2016.
  7. See Samuel Abramovich, Christian Schunn, and Ross Mitsuo Higashi, "Are Badges Useful in Education? It Depends upon the Type of Badge and Expertise of Learner," Educational Technology Research and Development 61 (2013): 217–232.
  8. See David Gibson, Nathaniel Ostashewski, Kim Flintoff, Sheryl Grant, and Erin Knight, "Digital Badges in Education," Education and Information Technologies 20, no. 2 (2013): 403–410.
  9. See John Clayton, "Micro-Credentialing, Moodle, Mahara and Motivation," in Invited Workshop: Bank Rakyat School of Business and Entrepreneurship: Universiti Tun Abdul Razak, September 16, 2013, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
  10. See Carla Casilli, "Persona: The Hopeless Dream of Being—Not Seeming, but Being," Persona (blog), August 24, 2012.
  11. Michael R. Olneck, "Digital Badges and Higher Education in a New Society: A Bernsteinian Analysis" in Education in a New Society: Renewing the Sociology of Education, ed. Scott Davies and Jal Mehta (forthcoming); and Michael R. Olneck, "Insurgent Credentials: A Challenge to Established Institutions of Higher Education," paper presented at the exploratory seminar Education in a New Society: The Growing Interpenetration of Education in Modern Life, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, April 26–27, 2012.
  12. James E. Willis III and Viktoria Alane Strunk, "Ethical Responsibilities of Preserving Academicians in an Age of Mechanized Learning: Balancing the Demands of Educating at Capacity and Preserving Human Interactivity," in Rethinking Machine Ethics in the Age of Ubiquitous Technology, ed. Jeffrey White and Rick Searle (Hershey, PA: IGI Global, 2015): 31.
  13. Richard Elliott, John Clayton, and Jun Iwata, "Exploring the Use of Micro-Credentialing and Digital Badges in Learning Environments to Encourage Motivation to Learn and Achieve," in Rhetoric and Reality: Critical Perspectives on Educational Technology, ed. Bronwyn Hegarty, Jenny McDonald, and Swee-Kin Loke, proceedings of ascilite 2014, Dunedin, New Zealand, November 23–26, 2014: 703–707.
  14. Alan J. Reid, Denise Paster, and Samuel Abramovich, "Digital Badges in Undergraduate Composition Courses: Effects on Intrinsic Motivation," Journal of Computer Education 2, no. 4 (2015): 392.
  15. Ibid., 392, 393.
  16. Willis, Quick, and Hickey, "Digital Badges and Ethics," 3.
  17. See Chris G. Northcutt, Andrew D. Ho, and Isaac L. Chuang, "Detecting and Preventing 'Multiple-Account' Cheating in Massive Open Online Courses," white paper (2015).
  18. Kim Oates, "Get the Highest eLearning Results Quickly with Digital Badging," BlueVolt (blog), October 8, 2016.
  19. See Michael R. Olneck, "Whom Will Digital Badges Empower? Sociological Perspectives on Digital Badges," in Proceedings of the Open Badges in Education (OBIE 2015) Workshop, Poughkeepsie, New York (March 16, 2015).
  20. See Alexander M.C. Halavais, "A Genealogy of Badges," Information, Communication & Society 15, no. 3 (2012): 354–373.
  21. See Willis, Quick, and Hickey, "Digital Badges and Ethics."
  22. See W. Ian O'Byrne, Katerina Schenke, James E. Willis III, and Daniel T. Hickey, "Digital Badges: Recognizing, Assessing, and Motivating Learners In and Out of School Contexts," Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy 58, no. 6 (2015): 451–454.
  23. See Education Writers Association, "The Microdegree: The First Open and Stackable Professional Credential," (blog), April 9, 2015; and Tara Fagan, "A Contemporary Way of Contributing to a Professional Portfolio That Is More Reflective of Learning in Today's World," Core Education (blog), May 21, 2015.
  24. Jelena Jovanovic and Vladan Devedzic, "Open Badges: Challenges and Opportunities," Lecture Notes in Computer Science 8613 (2014): 56–65.
  25. David Bauer and Douglas M. Blough, "Copy-Resistant Credentials with Minimum Information Disclosure," technical report, Georgia Institute of Technology (2006).
  26. Robert Gibson, "Four Strategies for Remote Workforce Training, Development, and Certification" in Remote Workforce Training: Effective Technologies and Strategies, ed. Shalin Hai-Jew (Hershey, PA: IGI Global, 2014): 1–16; and Leonie McIlvenny, "Open Badges: Glorified Award Stickers or Valuable Learning Credentials?," Access 29, no. 1 (2015): 30–40.
  27. Fritz H. Grupe, William Kuechler, and Scott Sweeney, "Dealing with Data Privacy Protection: An Issue for the 21st Century," Information Systems Management 19, no. 4 (2002): 61.
  28. Ravi Sen and Sharad Borle, "Estimating the Contextual Risk of Data Breach: An Empirical Approach," Journal of Management Information Systems 32, no. 2 (2015): 314–341.
  29. Alexandra Vollman, "Diploma Mills Thrive with Growth in Online Education," INSIGHT into Diversity 86, no. 3 (2015): 5.
  30. Pat Guilbaud, Joyce Camp, and Andrew Vorder Bruegge, "Digital Badges as Micro-Credentials: An Opportunity to Improve Learning or Just Another Education Technology Fad?," white paper, 2015.
  31. See Donald Clark, "E-portfolios—7 Reasons Why I Don't Want My Life in a Shoebox," Donald Clark Plan B (blog), March 31, 2011.
  32. See Halavais, "A Genealogy of Badges."
  33. See Erin Knight, "An Open, Distributed System for Badge Validation," World of E's (blog), February 11, 2013.
  34. See Michael Staton, "The Degree Is Doomed," Harvard Business Review, January 8, 2014.
  35. See Ed Stone, "Digital Badges: A Hot Career Booster," Strategic Finance 96, no. 2 (2015): 19–20.
  36. Olneck, "Whom Will Digital Badges Empower?"

James E. Willis III is a research associate in the Center for Research on Learning and Technology in the School of Education at Indiana University.  For two years, he has worked as a project coordinator on the Open Badges in Higher Education project, funded by the MacArthur Foundation, to help organizations build evidence-rich open badges. His other publications include analyses of ethical questions in the development of learning analytics and the use of student data. A humanist by training, he earned a PhD from King's College London.

Viktoria A. Strunk is a professor in the Curriculum & Instruction and Doctoral programs at American College of Education. Her career in education spans two decades, and her leadership roles have included writing assessment coordinator, department chair, and academic dean. Her other publications include philosophical inquiry into Victorian literature and ethical questions in the development of technological advances in higher education. Her EdD in Leadership Education is from Spalding University.

Tasha L. Hardtner is a doctoral student studying Adult and Continuing Education at American College of Education. She has almost 20 years of experience in higher education, including her current role as a professor of Sociology and former roles as department chair and associate dean. A few of her interests include adult literacy, campus safety, and distance education.

© 2016 James E. Willis III, Viktoria A. Strunk, and Tasha L. Hardtner. The text of this EDUCAUSE Review article is licensed under the Creative Commons BY 4.0 license.