Insurgent Credentials II: What Is Sociologically Significant About Digital Badges?

Michael Olneck, professor of educational policy studies and sociology at University of Wisconsin-Madison, shared his paper Insurgent Credentials: A Challenge to Established Institutions of Higher Education with us last year, and has written a new paper titled Insurgent Credentials II: What Is Sociologically Significant About Digital Badges? 

A portion of Michael's Insurgent Credentials II paper is excerpted below. To access the full copy, click the document link. 

The sociology of education, the sociology of labor markets, and the sociology of work are distinct subfields which are insufficiently in conversation with one another. Study of badges will need to draw from all of these subfields. Examining if, and, if so, how, badges become credentials which employers weigh will provide new insight into how education, broadly defined, becomes linked to employment. This is not just a matter of how individuals’ educations connect them to jobs. It is a matter of how societal-level conceptions of skills, knowledge, work, and qualification, which may be contested and changing, are incorporated into organizational processes of hiring, job assignments, and task definitions, and how these processes entail education credentials. Hefler & Markowitsch (2012) contend that “particular social relations enacted in the organization of work provides the basis for the institutional effects of formal adult education, strengthening its position in some countries and limiting its impact in others” (ibid., 163). Their contention can be extended in two ways. One, is that social relations of work provide the basis for the effects of education, however defined. The other is that how a society educates and credentials individuals can influence how work is organized (Meyer, 1977; Baker, 2009). One might wonder, for example, if badges will be conducive to thinking of workers as possessing bundles of discrete skills that can be precisely matched with particular job tasks, and, thus, strengthen the ties among, education, training, and occupation.

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