Open Badging, YouTube, and Credentialing

When we look at the recent surge in young YouTubers, or YoungTubers as they’re self-identifying, you see that there are actually a lot of really talented, smart, and thoughtful young people who have taught themselves skills that are really valuable and really marketable. However, I don’t know to what extent they realize this.  I fear that when the time comes for them to apply to colleges and to get jobs, there won’t be a way for them to quantify or certify their talents and skills in film-making, video editing, and creative production. For that reason, I do think there is great value in learners being able to get certified for skills they learn outside of school.

The open badging movement is powerful because of the value of the badge externally. If I give my mom a badge for being the best mom, that’s not externally credible or valuable. But if YouTube, as a badge issuer, can certify that I am a credible, valuable, and capable content-creator on their site–that means something. Particularly, when that credential is means for employment and other future prospects, suddenly, there is the potential to shake-up the stranglehold of power that higher education institutions have held over certifying young adults’ capabilities for participating as productive members in the workforce.

When we look at public certifications and vouches of credibility more generally, historically, the ultimate “badge” of credibility has been one’s post-secondary education credentials–i.e. what university you went to. To a large degree, it still does matter (and certain universities still hold the trump cards). But where it starts to get interesting, is when you look at sites like LinkedIn and this push towards having a public profile, on which you are demonstrating your skills and competencies to the world–as an open resume, really. A standard resume is static, and aside from the university or the company name(s) to which I’ve been affiliated, there’s no way of authenticating any of the other information on my resume. With LinkedIn and other public resume type sites, you, as a job-seeker, have the ability to point to things on the Internet that you’ve made: to show rather than tell.

In a way, this open badging movement is trying to capitalize on both the power of traditional certification standards (to vouch for credibility and authority in an area) and the power of the Internet and digital medium (to vividly and easily demonstrate what you’re capable of, rather than just telling the world).

Where I think there’s still a ways to go with the open badging movement is in its approach towards teenagers and young adults. Professionals in the technology and edtech spaces have jumped on this bandwagon swiftly, and are finding ways of using this tool as a secondary means of demonstrating their professional capabilities. However, when it comes to those talented youngtubers, there’s a large gap. Where is the appeal to buy in to this open badging framework, when you’ve got thousands of subscribers to your YouTube channel or hundreds of followers on your Tumblr?

Does the open badging movement stand a chance with young people, as a means for vouching their credibility, skills, and competencies, when the lure of popularity and Internet fame offer a much more appealing reward?

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