Are Digital Badges and DIY Learning the Future of Education?

As someone who has a kid headed to college in three years, the concept of the staggering cost of a college education combined with the reality that a college degree (or even graduate degree) is no longer the guarantee of employment it used to be is one that weighs heavily on me. Somehow when my parents were paying for me to get a degree in English, the cost of college and the return on that investment as it related to future employment were things I actually thought very little about (sorry mom and dad). Now that I’m going to be the one saddled with much of the cost of  college (times two–I have another kid two years younger than the first), suddenly I have a much more practical mindset about the whole thing. Shocker 

So when I read this article about digital badges and DIY learning, I was intrigued. Even more intrigued when I clicked through to the other article about DIY learning. I think there is a lot to be said for DIY learning, and hope that somehow higher education is magically transformed in time for me not to have to pay two college tuitions. As if.

But equally interesting to me is the Badges for Lifelong Learning concept–acquiring badges from online learning venues as proof of a learned concept. And as much as it interests me from the POV of a parent, of course I can’t help but also think of it in the context of associations. I was glad–and, admittedly, a bit surprised–to see several associations collaborating on the Badges for Lifelong Learning competition.

Looks like two associations actually submitted proposals: the American Library Association and the American Association of Physics Teachers. Take a look at those two proposals for a glimpse of what the future of association learning could look like.

My mind is reeling–would associations actually embrace this concept of digital badges? Would it change the current model for association education? Would it further the notion that associations are irrelevant, or could there be potential for more relevance and potential growth?