I'm really excited about this. I read the draft working badge paper a few weeks ago and just re-skimmed it now.
My main worry about the badges appraoch is that it will only be a kind of add-on to the normal educational modle. What I'm mainly interested in doing is entering into direct confrontation with the university as it currently exists. I want to fight with the university, offer an alternative to it, and fundamentally challange the values at work in the university. I'm worried that a badge just isn't going to cut it, that it won't be taken seriously enough or that it will only be taken seriously as an add-on to a "real" university education.
But I'm hoping that we can make badges real and every bit as valuable as university credit at an ivy league school. I'm not exactly how to go about this, but this is what I'm going to try to learn from this class.
Okay, just to be provocative, let's say that 50 of the worlds best professors in the humanities decide that in spring of 2012 they are going to take the class that they would have normally taught at their respective ivy league schools and instead of teaching it at a "real" university they were going to teach it at their local public library instead. All of the same students would take the class, but instead of paying overpriced tuition they would pay something more modest, maybe $300. The professor would pocket nearly the full amount, maybe dedicating some of it to classroom supplies. The professor would do all of the regular teaching they would normally do, lecture, lead demos, grade papers/projects, etc. The students would do all of their regular student activiites too, take notes, do readings, write papers, give presentations, etc. At the end of the semester each student would get a badge signifiying that they had succesfully completed the class. Some of them might get additional badges given by their classmates for being a good team player, etc. Some students might not do all of the work or do it poorly and wouldn't end up getting the badge.
In the end, however, students from these 50 different classes just got the same education at a fraction of the cost. The professors just made the same amount of money (or more) and put in the same amount of effort. Because the professors are all already respected in their fields, and because they've banded together as a group of 50, the badges that they offer carry real weight within the academy. Articulation aggreements are created between the 50 classes, experimental schools, and even a few sympathetic "real" universities that basically say that they acknowledge the badges as carrying the same weight as normal academic credit.
What problems to people see here? Can we solve them? Want to try it?