Learn More Pay Less: The Open Badge Education

August 31, 2012

Post by regular contributor Rafael Gomes de Oliveira.

Education is, without a doubt, one of most important aspects of a person’s life. People may differ in which topics they find important to learn, but everyone is curious and enjoys learning to some degree. Since the dawn of human history, the knowledge, values, and skills of the previous generation have been passed on to the next through demonstration, stories, drawings, songs, and other means of expression. The educational process is both incremental and differential, with each subsequent generation choosing what to keep and what to discard, and incorporating new knowledge and insight of their own to the mix.

“Don’t let schooling interfere with your education.”

~Mark Twain

The open academics concept utilizes the vast information resources available on the Internet.

Formal schooling was developed as a method to standardize and accelerate this passing of information. Since knowledge implies a competitive advantage, education and literacy was, for a very long time, a privilege of the elite/ruling classes. Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press in 1440 was a major breakthrough for the spreading of ideas around the world. We’ve come a long way since then, but the traditional schooling format can still be limiting in terms of scope, diversity, and pace of learning. In recent years, the Internet has expanded our options to include free online education as a technological alternative to traditional schooling, allowing students to develop their own curriculum and method of studying. The Internet access, enjoyed by over 2 billion people, provides a portal to more educational resources one can possibly absorb in a lifetime.

You have probably already heard of Khan Academy, MIT OpenCourseWare, and TED (educational in its own way), which serve as great outside-the-classroom learning tools. The number, quality and diversity of sources are rapidly growing in order to adapt to all needs and tastes. Thus, we arrive at the concept of an open badge education. The Mozilla Open Badges Project is a platform for people to catalog and organize the skills and experience they acquire outside the traditional educational setting. The platform itself is not critical; you could catalog and organize your knowledge in a spreadsheet file. The concept of all-around non-traditional learning is revolutionary.

By offering an accredited system for recording online learning students may be able to reduce higher education costs.

On March 5th 2012, MIT launched their MITx project with a class on circuits and electronics. The goal of the project is not only to offer the material being taught in MIT classes (which they already did through the OpenCourseWare), but it also to alloww students from all over the world to actively participate and earn certificates of successful completion after the end of the course. This fall semester, the list of courses on the edX platform will grow to include classes from Harvard and UC Berkley as well. Topics range from public health to artificial intelligence. Out of the 150,000+ who started the MIT MOOC back in March, only about 7,000 obtained the certificate of successful completion. This shows that students should not expect an easy ride from their open education.

If this trend continues, we should expect more and more classes being offered and more and more students being empowered through technology around the world at all levels. Just last week I showed my 12 year old nephew here in Brazil all these links to top level education resources. He will probably not grasp Harvard-level computer science content yet, but he will be exposed to all sorts of new ideas and concepts that will influence the direction of his life. My nephew is now aware that the reality of a world-class education is a matter of choice for him. We are currently having fun working on a maze-style game on the Scratch programming platform.

The downside of all this access to such an insurmountable mountain of information is the potential to become overwhelmed with irrelevant noise. A healthy information diet needs to accompany the learning process in order for it to produce beneficial results. If that risk of too-much-information is deftly managed, we are left with a progressive, forward-looking educational system capable of thoroughly preparing each new generation in a decentralized, personalized fashion while still keeping key critical skills as foundations.

Will this new open information age allow students to escape rising educational costs and life-long debt (indentured servitude)? Will the people who partake in such a new form of non-traditional education be allowed to become licensed professional engineers if they are able to demonstrate their technical capabilities? We will soon find out those answers, but I hope that they are both a resounding YES!

So, get started on your own open badge education by learning and teaching as well. This can also be a great way to meet new people and socialize. Here are some recommendations:

Do It Yourself:


Open Culture:

Other Sources:

The Art of Living:

“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”

~Robert A. Heinlein

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