NFTs as Digital Badges: Potentiality and Pitfalls
Abstract: Digital badging is not new in higher education, though it lacks maturity, decentralization, and a technical level of persistence and utility. Badging–the provisioning of proof-of-accomplishment typically attached to credentials–has been used in relation to student engagement, skill “recognition and transferability,” “personalized learning,” agency, and professional development (Roy & Clark, 2019, p. 2629). However, as much of digital badging is concerned with task completion or credentialing, little attention is paid to proof of experience. Consider a fully online student. Credits and degree are awarded with a few digital badges for taking a collection of classes, this workshop or that training, and so on. What of community engagement or participation in online social events or groups or events and experiences that prove utilization of “soft skills?” Digital badges–insofar as they are ostensibly used currently in higher education–simply do not account for this kind of acknowledgement of student engagement at a distance. This proposal considers an alternative: the non-fungible token (NFT) as digital badge in relation to student experience and engagement. NFTs are blockchain-based proofs of ownership of digital assets; in this case, attendance. The Proof Of Attendance Protocol (POAP) platform may prove useful to ensure non-traditional, online students have persistent, demonstrable, auditble proof of their non-credential-related experiences and participation.