Some time ago, I began a discussion of "Why (Some) People Laugh at Badges."
I would like to ask a different question here. Right now (September, 2013) badges are risible, albeit less and less so, and non-controversial, while discussion of MOOCs is ubiquitous and intensely controversial. Why the difference? What would make discussion of badges more like discussion of MOOCs?
Some reasons that I can think of are that MOOCs clearly appear as a more imminent threat than badges do to faculty livelihoods. MOOCs also appear to some as a threat to cherished values about face to face teaching and learning.
What might make badges controversial? I can think of a few possibilities. One is that they actually "take off," and threaten to displace college and university degrees as labor market credentials, along the lines Kevin Carey has written. But, that is unlikely.
Already much of the work of human resource managers in firms is being computerized, so adding badges to what employers want to know about applicants is not likely to step on HR folks' toes any more than they have already been stepped on by other developments.
If university administrators tried to insist that faculty incorporate badges into their courses, there would be backlash. But, that is unlikely. Right now, badges remain "experimental," undertaken voluntary by individual or small groups of faculty. To generate real faculty concern, I think badges would have to be part of a much broader kind of imposition than standing singly, e.g., as part of mandated competency-based education, crafted for accountability purposes. For the time being, competency-based education in higher education remains experimental, and marginal, e.g., Southern New Hampshire University, University of Wisconsin System's Flex Degree.
If badges ever become as controversial as MOOCs it will be a sign of their success, that they have come to matter consdierably more than they do now.