The realization that learning can and should occur at any time and in any place is beginning to find some traction. School districts are increasingly offering online as well as seat time courses and we are seeing this at the college level as well. Nay sayers are concerned that online or other out of classroom courses do not have the rigor of a face to face course. There is also the prospect of cheating with Johnny or Suzy paying there smart unscrupulous friend to take tests for them. Also, some statistics show that the drop out rate for online courses is very high. While anytime, anyplace learning can have big advantages in terms of allowing students to control the pace of their learning and use learning modalities that work best for them, it is becoming clearer that adolescents still need a proverbial "kick in the pants" to stay on task. Even motivated students can be easily distracted. Multitasking is all well and good, but attention and concentration are also 21st Century skills.
To address some of these concerns the concept of digital badges is being developed through a grant from the MacArthur Foundation. Digital badges are sort of a "Merit Badge" you receive if you can demonstrate competence in a field of study you pursue outside of school. The trick is to test this knowledge so that users can demonstrate proficiency in a way that is accepted by schools, businesses and other entities.
The enclosed article http://www.eschoolnews.com/2011/10/11/digital-badges-could-help-measure-21st-century-skills/ tells more about digital badges, but I am interested in them because they are yet one more piece of evidence about how learning is changing outside of mainstream schooling. Will schools change to offer a menu of digital badges for prospective students to choose from? What would a school (if you could still call it a school) look like that specialized in offering digital badges?