University of California, Berkeley
The Chronicle of Higher Education ran a short article in April 2012 that featured the University of California - Berkeley's digital badges. These badges "are icons that individuals can display on their website, blog, or social media profile to get recognition for informal and formal learning outside of school" (see quoted article). Despite the title of this blog, I actually don't have a problem with this concept. Essentially, the idea is that students will be able to build an online portfolio, specifically geared for social media, that will allow others to see qualifications or achievements that have come apart from (or perhaps in conjunction with) a traditional college setting.
There are three issues that may arise from this trend that could amplify problems that Christian colleges and seminaries already face. The first is that, for those training for ministry, preparation can't be linked solely to a checklist, like the checklists that go with completing many of the digital badges. For many Christian colleges this a big struggle as it is - how does one quantify spiritual qualifications?
The second problem that could be amplified by this trend is a false sense of education. Currently there are schools that give "theological degrees." These schools produce graduates that think they are qualified for ministry or education or whatever the schools have claimed to train them for, but in reality, with no accreditation backing them up and not receiving training from credible educators, it becomes a frustration for the graduate. With no regulation in place to determine how one gets a badge, it becomes up to the issuing institution how a student can earn one. Unfortunately, there are a lot of unaccredited Christian colleges that would love to make some money by offering badges, as people have sued schools over unaccredited degrees, but so far not for badges.
The third problem digital badges may contribute to is a bit more philosophical than the other two. We live in an interconnected, global community. What has happened, almost solely through social media, is that truth for many has become based on the community. It isn't what God said is true or even what I believe is true, but it has increasingly been what the community says is true. Digital badges are a direct result of this philosophy. I can easily conceive of someone in the near future being considered for a ministry position not based on their own beliefs or work ethic, but on community-based badges. It can easily become not if what you believe is true, but if what you believe is corroborated by the rest of the community. See, I told you this part was more philosophical. That being said, I'm no philosopher and, like I said in the beginning, I'm actually not against the badges - if used wisely. The philosophy behind them, though, needs to be understood and I believe that a correct understanding will lead to correct usage. Now, I suppose it's time for the community to agree or disagree . . . the irony!
Digital Merit Badges: Recognition for 21st Century Skills at http://courses.ischool.berkeley.edu/i202/f11/node/738
Carey, Kevin; "A Future Full of Badges" from The Chronicle of Higher Education (http://chronicle.com/article/A-Future-Full-of-Badges/131455/)
For more information on post-post-modernism/meta-modernism check out:
There are ongoing articles that span academic realms at http://www.metamodernism.com/
Metamodernism Manifesto at http://www.metamodernism.org/
Kirby, Alan; "The Death of Post-Modernism" at http://philosophynow.org/issues/58/The_Death_of_Postmodernism_And_Beyond
Mark Stevens is a former seminary student himself and currently researches and teaches in the area of theological studies.