As online education grows through the increasing power of the internet, the nature of the internet also challenges traditional education models, such as the idea that you have to pay tuition to a college or university. Aside from the open courses provided by universities like MIT and Stanford, there are several start ups that occupy less formal positions in the constellation of web-based education offerings. For example, Khan Academy (http://www.khanacademy.org/) , which began with Salman Khan posting tutorial videos for his family, now offers an array of video lessons (mainly on math and science topics), and has moved to formalize its instruction by providing students with progress tracking and, indeed, badges for achievement levels.
As the Chronicle of Higher Education reports, Khan Academy is not alone in offering some form of credential for completing its courses, and such programs may proliferate if Mozilla’s plan to make offering credentials easier gets off the ground:
Mozilla, the group that develops the popular Firefox Web browser, is designing a framework to let anyone with a Web page—colleges, companies, or even individuals—issue education badges designed to prevent forgeries and give potential employers details about the distinctions at the click of a mouse. 
As a concept goes, it’s not terribly new. We’ve had credentials outside traditional colleges and universities being issued for years. Technology companies, for instance, routinely offer courses and exams to become certified in one of their product lines or areas, such as Microsoft’s “Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer,” or MCSE. The allure of these credentials is that they’re specifically geared toward one very identifiable target. Again, as the Chronicle reports,
Employers might prefer a world of badges to the current system. After all, traditional college diplomas look elegant when hung on the wall, but they contain very little detail about what the recipient learned.
Therein, of course, lies the challenge for traditional colleges and universities (not to mention accrediting bodies). Especially as we — from government down to parents — have in recent years been talking about college accountability and the value of a college education largely in terms of “employability” or “practical job skills,” how does a university compete with more compartmentalized and specific self-paced courseware?
If we believe that a college education consists of something beyond the diploma, then we’d better figure out what that is. Otherwise, it’s just a fancy and very expensive badge.