P2PU, Skillshare, Badges—Let's See What We Can Make of This! (Idea #4*)

Feb 24, 2012

Skillshare's motto is "Learn anything from anyone anywhere." P2PU offers a School of Webcraft in which you can learn Java, PHP, and HTML (in Spanish). There are more (and better) self-directed learning platforms and opportunities everyday. They are low-cost (many are free) and increasingly social—providing access to peer support and feedback not unlike what you might expect in a more traditional classroom.

Only you can learn at your own pace, on your own time, and there's no pesky parking to deal with.

The Mozilla Badges project (facilitated by HASTAC and funded by the MacArthur Foundation) is working on solutions to the one thing learners need that these new platforms have not yet been able to provide: credentials—the currency of learning that individuals can trade on when applying for jobs. advancing their careers, or just developing their professional portfolios. This is one of the most sophisticated inquiries into the nature of credentials that I have seen (I was jumping up and down with such enthusiasm during the first webinar that I ripped the head-set out of my ears...twice).

The idea is simple: as individuals learn, they accumulate badges that demonstrate their mastery of specific skills—think an adult version of girls scout badges, but portable so you can display them on various social media profiles (Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.).

This effort is also providing a solution for one of the thorniest problems workforce professionals face—the softskills problem. The right badge system can enable peers, co-workers, supervisors, and reports to "vouch" for your ability to work in teams, communicate, and all do all the other things that make you a great colleague instead of just a tolerable one.

Too gamey for workforce you say? The VA doesn't think so.

And have a listen to Brad Burham here at BigThink. He starts out talking about SOPA and innovation, and winds up citing the importance of retraining and explains why traditional models are cost-prohibitive (and possibly less effective). Seriously, have a listen (it's only four minutes).


Now, let's level up.

* This is part of a series of entirely subjective posts intended to inspire greatness among applicants to the Workforce Innovation Fund. The opinions and perspectives expressed here are not those of Social Policy Research, the US Department of Labor (USDOL) or anyone other than the author. Please steal the ideas you find most promising.