Friday, April 17, 2015

Amanda Opperman on Competency-Based Badging

by Gina Howard and James Willis

In a recent meeting with Amanda Opperman, a blogger for Wonderlic, James Willis and Dan Hickey discussed the implications of awarding competency-based, open digital badges in the evolving workplace. Wonderlic is a private company that has been offering businesses and schools with a comprehensive library of assessments and surveys for each phase of the hiring and student selection process for the last 75 years. Wonderlic is beginning to explore the potential of competency-based, open digital badges associated with their assessments of vocational competencies, starting with criminal justice and health care.

In her most recent blog post, How badging by competency promotes the college-to-career path, Amanda Opperman identifies three reasons competency badging can, “provide more precise, robust, and useful data concerning the job readiness of a recent graduate.” She begins with addressing the generality of transcripts and certificates, arguing that they are written in academic terms and may not represent the job skills an employer seeks. Next she looks at potential grade inflation and how GPA’s may not be an accurate indicator of competence. Finally, she writes about the personal connections badges provide as they are specific to the recipient and provide detailed information on their competencies.

Amanda writes for the Wonderlic blog and is an institutional and program effectiveness specialist. She leads initiatives to help institutions improve the efficiency and utility of effectiveness planning and reporting.

The Open Badges in Higher Education Project is looking forward to working them to help address the challenges and share out solutions.  For example, how do you present the evidence of competencies demonstrated with scenario-based performance assessment without risking the security of those same assessments?  This is because scores on performance assessments are not themselves very convincing unless they are accompanied by information about those assessments.  


  1. Thanks for this post! One place this takes my mind: a learner who has earned credentials - the evidences of which she believes speak to meeting the criteria for a course's competencies - could display her credentials as a sort of portfolio to present for a Prior Learning Assessment that results in her getting credit for the course. Am I way off here?

  2. Quite to the contrary, you are right on the money. that is exactly what we are exploring in our research. If you have a badge for a particular set of competencies, individuals can put evidence from a current course or from a prior course or work experience (by inserting hyperlinks to web-enabled artifacts) in the evidence field.

    Then there is a separate step where somebody (likely but not necessarily the instructor) approves that evidence (either by triggering the badge issuing or by endorsing it after the badge url gets stacked into an LMS. If the evidence is from a current course, it would likely be routinely approved. If the evidence is from some other activity the instructor would like interrogate it more deeply.

    The important thing is that the badges serve several important functions. (a) the instructor and peers can give informal feedback for improvement before the earner requests formal approval. (b) the badges give both the instructor and the earn example of what kinds of evidence meet that criteria. (c) the badges give an easy way for the earner to share out their accomplishment.

    they key thing about this solution is that the PLA works more easily within the existing system.