Recognizing Soft Skills is Hard Work

16053504967_7d9aa451e6_o

Luigi Mengato CC-BY 2.0

 

I had a conversation last week with a Canadian colleague, exploring how Open Badges could help youth-serving agencies incorporate “career competencies” into their programming. The ice may finally be breaking up here! I know that we can learn from some exciting initiatives already underway around the world.

Career competencies is her semi-formalized term for what I normally call soft skills: “communication, teamwork, critical thinking etc.” She’s working with a framework that was developed by a Canadian university. There are lots of frameworks out there, which is part of the challenge.

According to my colleague:

These are not easy to accurately assess.  But they are necessary!

Boy, is she right – on both counts.

But that’s exactly why I think an “Open Badges aware” solution represents an ideal approach: their simplicity, their modularity, their different degrees of formality, their freedom to traverse contexts… all these make possible a wide array of flexible strategies for the slippery needs of soft skills assessment and recognition.

So I reached out to the Open Badge community asking for leads to the “current state” of Open Badges for soft skills. I got lots and I’ve dug for more.

This blog post starts the discussion.

 

Why are Soft Skills Important?

The answer is obvious: because employers want them. In fact, they often say they want them more than cognitive and technical skills: “hire for attitude, train for skill.” (Assuming they do train their employees… more later.)

The Canadian Education and Research Institute for Counselling (CERIC) contracted a survey of 500 Canadian business leaders who agreed that “ideal” employees have a good blend of technical and soft skills.

When asked which “soft skills” are most important, they provided this prioritized  list of the usual suspects:

 

I like the long tail, which could help people (at least in Canada) who are designing training and assessment programs and, gosh, badge systems.

 

“Soft Skills are Hard”

This is a cute title for a recent (ongoing?) Canadian social sciences research study, which so far I’ve only been able to see in four page summary form; the full report is likely still unpublished. More information about “Soft Skills are Hard:” The “Skills Gap” and Importance of “Soft Skills”can be found partway down this page on the funder’s website.

But the summary alone is good. It encapsulates the dialogue around soft skills succinctly. I’ve copied the key messages from the first page verbatim because they so closely align with what I want to talk about over the next few blog posts:

  1. There is wide agreement that “soft” skills (often termed “professional” or “generic” skills) are among the skills essential to employment across sectors.
  2. While there is little agreement, however on how specifically these skills are defined.
  3. While much attention is focused on providing Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) graduates with training in soft skills, less attention is focused on Social Sciences and Humanities (SSH) graduates because of an assumption, perhaps mistaken, that these graduates will possess soft skills.
  4. Employers report a “skills gap” and generally do not feel graduates possess sufficient “soft” skills to perform effectively.
  5. There are significant differences in the expectations and perceptions of employers and the perceptions of educators and graduates regarding the level of soft skills graduates possess.
  6. While there are some standardized tests for some soft skills – writing and critical reasoning for example, many soft skills can only be assessed in context and just as there is little agreement on definition, there is little agreement on assessment of these skills.
  7. There are many stakeholders involved in the development and assessment of soft skills and most agree a combination of formal and informal or experiential learning are required.
  8. Because of the way in which soft skills are learned, many segments of the population are disadvantaged in access to the coaching, training and role models needed to develop these skills and cultural biases may play a role in the definition and assessment of soft skills. Moreover the boundaries between “skills” and “personality traits or habits” are blurred particularly with respect to interpersonal skills. A diversity lens is critical.
  9. The lack of consistency in definitions and fragmentation of stakeholders involved in soft skills development compounds the problem and more coordination is needed to develop shared expectations and to bridge the gap between supply and demand.
  10. More research is needed to systematically assess empirically the ways in which soft skills can be defined, developed and evaluated.

What a wonderful row to hoe for Open Badges, don’t you think?

I love point 3 about STEM vs Humanities graduates. I definitely agree with point 7 that  ” a combination of formal and informal or experiential learning are required. ” Point 8’s discussion of accessibility and diversity adds a lot of value to the conversation and should be interesting to the large scale Cities of LRNG initiative in the US, whose mission is to bridge development gaps for underserved populations.

I have a quibble with point 6, and maybe it’s just a question of emphasis: yes, context is important but soft skills are supposed to be transferable. An employer doesn’t say in a behavioural interview “tell me about a time in my specific context”. That’s fodder for “Badges as conversation topics and boundary objects” – more on that point later in a future post, but follow the link to read that interesting article in the original.

I have another quibble with point 9 and maybe it has to do with what’s meant by “coordination” for shared expectations. Because our society is not a totalitarian one, I’m I’m not sure we’re going to get “one framework to rule them all”, although 21st Century Skills is trying. Fragmentation and what to do about it is being discussed right now in this thread of the Open Badges Google Group. But in a later post I’ll be making the point that the evolving Open Badge technology standard provides effective ways to cross boundaries.

But this study makes a great starting point.

 

Coming Up in Future Posts

I’m chunking this fascinating topic into instalments in an effort to cut down the length of my blog posts.

Here’s what I’ve planned so far for upcoming posts:

  • Defining Soft Skills
    You want frameworks? We got frameworks. They’re breeding like rabbits.
  • Assessing  and Recognizing Soft Skills
    Beyond testing. Authentic forms of recognition.
  • Education, Training and Development for Soft Skills
    How can we teach this and know that we’re teaching it well? What can we teach and what can’t we teach?When do we get out of the way? When does it stop?
  • Communicating, “Valorizing”, Analyzing Soft Skills
    How do we evaluate between different contexts? What’s the impact on career development and productivity? How can we analyze impact across contexts?

Soft Skills and Open Badges: Best Friends Forever. Let’s explore the relationship together.

 

Closing plug #1: 2016 Digital Badge Summit

I ‘m looking forward to the learning and networking opportunities as I participate and speak at the exciting Digital Badge Summit on June 24th in the greater Denver area, just before the massive ISTE 2016 conference in Denver itself. There’ll be something for everybody there: K12, Higher Ed, Teacher PD, with a stellar group of speakers.

I plan to learn more about Open Badges for soft skills and I’m curating the Hot Topics thread, which will include sessions on Open Badges and ePortfolios, Trust Networks and Digital Badge Futures. If you’re coming, please reach out!

 

Closing plug #2: Recognize and share learning in a digital world

CanCred logo_RGB_640

CanCred.ca is hosted in Canada

Language Learning – Better with Open Badge eCredentials

I had the pleasure of presenting at the annual TEAM conference in Winnipeg this week. TEAM stands for “Teaching English as an Additional Language (EAL) to Adults in Manitoba”, a portmanteau term for an inclusive volunteer organization that puts on an ambitious program every year – there were 13 tracks in this year’s conference.

EAL is a key enabler of immigrant integration in Canada and I go way back with immigration: my father served as an immigration officer for 20 years and I spent some time growing up overseas. In my career, I’ve worked on several learning projects related to language learning and settlement at the federal and provincial levels, enough to know a fair bit about the immigration and settlement landscape here.

As usual, I adapted my evolving presentation about Open Badges and ePortfolios to language learning, using additional research. This was also an opportunity to talk about CanCred.ca, the Open Badge eCredential service that my company Learning Agents has recently launched in Canada, in partnership with Discendum, of Open Badge Factory fame:

Here’s the presentation, embedded from SlideShare:

I blogged about the broader landscape of Newcomer settlement back in April: (eCredential Pathways for Immigrants and Refugees). This post is more about the language learning side – my chance to reflect on new and old thoughts that occurred to me getting the presentation out in the context of the TEAM conference.

 

Migration = transformation

Picking up your life and moving it to another country is a marvelous opportunity to re-invent yourself, especially if the Plan A you arrived with isn’t working out. Maybe you’re having trouble getting your credentials recognized, or your English isn’t as good as you thought it was, or you’re having trouble building a network.

It’s an opportunity to re-think your career, your life purpose, even your identity. This opens the door for transformative learning tools such as ePortfolio, where you can begin to reflect on your life experience, your gifts, your interests and your emerging opportunities. Open Badge eCredentials can work with ePortfolios in mutually supportive, recursive ways: ePortfolio evidence packages that lead to Open Badges that fold into new evidence packages, etc.

 

Transformation can be a long journey

Learning seldom happens in a straight line: it can take place on multiple fronts at multiple rates at different times. This can be confusing and hard to track. Or it can seem glacial – too slow to track.

In EAL, there’s often a learning plateau around the middle levels of CLB 5-6, where progress seems to slow down. This can be disheartening for people trying to achieve CLB levels 7-8, generally agreed to be the employability level.

IELTS certificate

Recognizing learning achievements with Open Badges can help language learners visualize their continuing progress as they move through these development doldrums.

 

Educators of newcomers also need to learn, and in similar ways

Language learners and their professional instructors both qualify as adults with adult learning preferences and needs. Both need a mixture of formal, non-formal, informal and experiential, connected learning opportunities.

The British Council’s English Agenda does a good job of capturing this in their document Going forward: Continuing Professional Development for English Language Teachers in the UK. This slide from my presentation summarizes the approach:

 

Language learners and their educators are already being credentialed

Learners enrolled in Language Instruction for Newcomers (LINC) programs can earn LINC certificates with sufficient hours of instruction.  According to South Eastman English and Literacy Services,  these certificates can be used for Citizenship and to register for college or university classes.

 

Internationally, many scans of  International English Language Testing System (IELTS) certificates can also be found on the Internet, such as this one posted on an immigration service website in India:

IELTS certificate
Get-Way Immigration Services

I think an Open Badge eCredential could do a more transparent and secure job of sharing this man’s language skills.Even better if it were in an ePortfolio.

 

Language learning is ripe for digital transformation

I was struck at the conference by the relatively low level of technology usage in the EAL community. There are some notable exceptions, and this was evident in the sessions about leveraging the affordances of mobile and web technologies for teaching. English Online comes to mind, for example.

But a speaker in the opening panel had to make the point  that “technology” is not a new “thing”: teachers have always leveraged available technologies to get learning happening. I have a great deal of respect for the passion and dedication of EAL teachers, but I do think that is is an area for improvement.

I suspect that most learners are ready for change…
Infographic: 5 Billion People to Use Mobile Phones by 2017 | Statista Statista

There was push-back at the conference about an online community portal called Tutela.ca. Community members complained about the difficulty of finding resources by theme. Looking at the incredibly poor user experience of seeking resources using “Browse by Topic”, I’m inclined to agree, though the site promises a better experience in a forthcoming “Tutela 3.0”. I just hope the community has the patience to wait!

But I detected a underlying desire for a single place to go to get a canonical, authoritative, “approved” list of resources that teachers can use. This feels a bit like the passive “teach me” attitude that many of the same teachers complain about in their learners. I don’t think it’s going to happen, at least to the extent that they seem to desire, i.e. for all levels and audiences, centrally approved, constantly updated, permanently maintained… Yes, resource search can and should improve, but many of the resources will come from  community peers and from strangers in other communities. Professional learning is a conversation, an ever-evolving stream of emergent and examined practice. This is what it means to be a professional.

 

Technology can help with crowd-sourcing the development of professional resources, such as in the example I provide in my presentation above about VIF International Education, a global education PD initiative, where teachers who develop robust learning resources are recognized by Open Badge eCredentials, killing two birds with one stone.

solutionsdeskinfographic

But the notion of crowd-sourcing and the culture of autonomous, blended  learning in physical and virtual communities needs to be fostered for professionals just as it needs to be fostered for language learners.

Another clue that the community needs to embrace technology more: paper language portfolios. The pushback mentioned above was specifically about lack of tools and resources for Portfolio Based Language Assessment, a primarily formative, “assessment FOR learning” approach to tracking learner progress, ideally based on learner artefacts, but often on instructor “micro-assessments” of learner tasks.

Now I think PBLA is an awesome idea and I’m very proud that it was invented in Manitoba (as Collaborative Language Portfolio Assessment), but the recommended PBLA portfolio is still a 3-ring binder, albeit with some allowance for electronic archiving via CD-ROM. Several sessions at the conference were devoted to PBLA and some shared tools for delivering it, but the default technology was paper.

This seems odd in this day and age, especially when you consider that two of the four skills are Listening and Speaking. It seems to cry out for  multimedia in an online Personal Learning Environment.

And this PLE doesn’t have to be a single-purpose language silo: it can later adapt to support employability and career development needs.

 

Start with Professional Development

Venn diagram - teacher PDCASSP – Collaborative Australian Secondary Science Project

This blog is about Open Badges and ePortfolios as key enablers of transformative learning and there’s a lot of early traction in Open Badges for Educator PD, albeit mostly in the K12 sector:

 

I suggest that “Teaching the Teachers”, or at least helping them learn is a natural first step. This could build on development frameworks such as the British Council’s I quoted above, and/or the Competency Dictionary of the BC Settlement and Adaptation Program (despite its past linkage to ELSA):

 

You could even leverage the Scottish Social Services Council’s Open Badges strategy, which is built on their professional development frameworks:

 

Early areas for development could include PBLA implementation, technology-enabled language learning and recognition for resource development and mentoring – in addition to the easy stuff like conference/workshop recognition and certification.

 

Concluding remarks

We’d be thrilled if the language learning sector in Canada began using our recently launched Canadian eCredentialing solution, because we think it’s ideally suited for the job:

… but we’d be only slightly less thrilled if the EAL sector in Canada showed significant signs of going digital by adapting the global examples provided, using ANY solutions for ePortfolios and eCredentials. We launched our service to help accelerate adoption in this country. After all, it’s 2016!

Problems with “Badges for Food”

This post is about a digital badging practice that I think can be damaging to learner motivation and to our badging community in general.

In a recent Twitter chat about badges for K12 I learned that a large school division, who’s been an early adopter for digital badging has now issued over 100,000 digital badges.  I thought to myself: “Great!” And then I checked out their website after the chat. I watched the promotional videos about the program and thought to myself: “Yikes, shades of B.F. Skinner!”

skinner_box_scheme_01

By Andreas1 (Adapted from Image:Boite skinner.jpg) [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

I’ve transcribed below  significant content from the two videos I watched. I’ll  let them speak for themselves first (with a bit of bolding on my part), then discuss below:

Interview with an Assistant Principal

The 9th Graders are automatically enrolled in this (citizenship) program and to exit… they have to meet certain criteria. Some of it is grades, some of it is joining a club or a sport or being involved in a very rigorous program that requires extra time such as band, FFA (Future Farmers of America), ASB (Associated Student Body), things like that. Or, if they choose not to join a club or sport or one of these programs, then they can attend events and we require ten events. Events can be anything from Saturday School to a sporting event, to Open House, any kind of event that may be going on campus that shows that they’re getting involved. Then they are “passported out”, which means they get to sleep in Wednesday morning.

Then of course, with every accomplishment they’ve achieved they earn points and with the points they can redeem for prizes we have in our Points Store….

[How do you populate the inventory for the points store?]
We reach out to some of our local supporters, we have good relationships with a lot of our businesses here….. The pizza place that’s down the street, they’re actually fairly new in town and we knew they were looking to market their business, so we got in touch with them and they donated a certain amount per quarter. Subway is another huge supporter…. so far we’re having a pretty steady influx of students redeeming their points and prizes.

Interview clips with students

It was just like shopping online. You just hit ‘Add to Cart’…

It helps motivate us because the more badges you get, the more points you get, the more prizes you can get and the more fun you can have.

It’s pretty great because it’s just like a big sticker book. And you get stuff for it.

I see a big problem here. What are the students talking about? Citizenship? Learning?  Looks more like programmed compliance to me. Push the lever, get the treat. They’ve gamified a learning program and in doing so have commercialized it. The learning program is rewards-based: it relies on extrinsic motivation.

How will these kids fare when they can no longer cash in badges and points for pizzas and subs? Will they still want to learn and get involved as citizens? What has this transactional approach done to whatever intrinsic motivation they might have had?

 

640px-nypizzaslice

By Hungry Dudes [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

 

Problems with the “Reward Economy”

One reason I’m reacting like this is because of an article I read recently in The Atlantic. The author is a family psychologist who describes a similar problem with sticker charts,where kids get stickers for good behaviour and can “spend” them on prizes, based on a system their parents set up for them.

It can be pretty effective in the short term. The problem is:

… reward economies promote a transactional model for good behavior: Children come to expect a reward for good behavior and are hesitant to “give it away for free.”

Studies have shown that offering children tangible rewards in exchange for caring behavior may diminish future helpful behavior and can erode children’s innate tendency to help others….

Insights from behavioral economics help explain this effect. From that perspective, the problematic attitude of children raised in a reward economy—“What’s in it for me?”—is a predictable response to the collision of social norms (the invisible forces that shape how humans act) with market norms (a system of payments, debts, contracts, and customers).

In experiments studying the effects of these two norms, the behavioral economist and Duke University professor Dan Ariely has found that when the two come together in the same situation, market norms tend to overpower social norms, shifting the focus from relationships to commerce.

Here’s an example from the article demonstrating the impact :

One mother who was initially pleased with the results of her sticker-chart system said that when she asked her 8-year-old son to stop what he was doing and help his younger brother clean up a spill, he responded: “What will you give me?”

Is this how we want students to view learning about citizenship? “How many more tasks for an extra slice of pepperoni?”

 

Alfie Kohn: Punished by Rewards

I’d already been sensitized to this issue in relation to Open Badges a couple of years earlier at ePIC 2014 by Alfie Kohn , author of of Punished by Rewards:

Here’s Alfie’s thesis, from the book blurb from his website:

Promising goodies to children for good behavior can never produce anything more than temporary obedience. In fact, the more we use artificial inducements to motivate people, the more they lose interest in what we’re bribing them to do.

Serge Ravet, organizer of the ePIC conferences, had read the book and was very enthusiastic about Alfie’s point of view. He blogged about it in 2013 and invited Alfie to appear at ePIC 2014. Although Alfie did not have direct experience with Open Badges, Serge had explained how they work and he agreed to present some thoughts designed to help Open Badges avoid being digital “doggie biscuits”.

Here’s a video recording of Alfie’s ePIC presentation via Skype:

Serge Ravet

 

I like this quote from the video in particular:

I’ve seen plenty of kids who are in awful reading incentive programs, where they get points, or levels, or pizza parties or prizes of various kinds for reading books. And these kids are bragging about it: “Look how great I am. How can I get more of these?” But these kids in a fundamental sense are being lost as learners because their desire to do the learning itself… their interest in reading for its own sake is evaporating before our eyes.

Alfie wound up his remarks with six criteria for reducing harm Open Badges. I should say here that I don’t fully agree with Alfie’s criteria. For example, he rejects gamification as being too controlling and he lumps milestone badges in with that.

Dan Hickey, one of the most active researchers out there in the field of Open Badges, is well aware of Alfie’s work and also has issues with aspects of these criteria. We gave Dan an opportunity to engage Alfie afterwards in a debate over Skype. Unfortunately,  that recording is painful to watch due to audio issues, and Dan was not at his best because he was recovering from a mountain biking accident, so you’re probably better off reading the blog post that Dan wrote about the event a few weeks after, which he ran by Alfie before posting.

Mostly, Dan suggested that the field has moved on in the last 40-odd years: learning is now recognized to have social and cultural aspects that go beyond the individual constructivist model and these need to be taken into account, particularly in a social media ecosystem. Open Badges are well positioned to exploit these social and cultural aspects – not necessarily at the expense of learner autonomy and personal pathways.Badges can be gateways to new learning. (I’d add here that they can also be signposts for the recognition of learning, to help learners consolidate their progress and to demonstrate mastery to others)

Dan cited a couple of examples from his Design Principles Documentation Project:

I’d add that Cities of LRNG is also now experimenting with more nuanced approaches learning in social and cultural contexts based on Connie Yowell’s notion of Connected Learning, which seems support Dan’s reference to intentional learning as described by Bereiter and Scardamalia: engaged learning to solve problems, rather than treating the learning itself as the problem.

Alfie makes a good point about working with rather than doing to learners and I think it’s safe to say that Alfie and Dan agreed that behaviourist “rat mazes” populated with incentives like food (“do this, get a slice”) are not conducive to learning.

Alfie Kohn represents a strong point of view that is useful as a reference point when you’re developing badge systems, but as you can see, it’s not the only one.

In order to improve my badge system design skills, I think I may critique Alfie’s list of criteria in a future post. I’ll do that after looking in more detail at the references that Dan makes in his post and after reading Punished by Rewards right through; I’ve got a library copy that I’ve been skimming for this post.

But please, please, please let’s all agree to stay away from this:

… it’s just like a big sticker book. And you get stuff for it.

 

Closing plug: join us at the 2016 Digital Badge Summit

I’m looking forward to participating and speaking at the Digital Badge Summit on June 24th, just before the massive ISTE 2016 conference. There’ll be something for everybody there: K12, Higher Ed, Teacher PD, …maybe even gamification!

Mindful “Extended Enterprise” Learning at Academic Institutions

I’ve been having a lot of fun over the last few weeks re-thinking how Open Badge eCredentials can enhance lifewide learning through the lens of  Extended Enterprise Learning.

Although this concept originated as a form of “edu-marketing” for private sector producers of products and services, John Leh of Talented Learning has identified five sectors that significantly employ this kind of learning. These are listed below (the linked listings point to my previous posts on the topic):

  1. Private sector producers of products and services
    Improving the product value chain: suppliers, distributors, retailers, customers
  2. Member-based Organizations
    Associations, Unions, Not For Profits
  3. Academic institutions
    Open Education, MOOCs, Work Integrated Learning, vocational education and Apprenticeship
  4. Private Sector Educators and Trainers
    B2B, B2C: independent trainers, ConEd business units
  5. Public Sector organizations
    Emergency/public awareness, voluntary sector support, armed forces, civilian public service

This post explores how academic institutions already deliver Extended Enterprise Learning and how they might do this more deliberately for their own survival in troubled times.

 

How Academic Institutions Align with Extended Enterprise Learning:

Extended Enterprise Learning
Academic Institution
Learning is delivered to non-employees: customers, partners and other stakeholders in the value chain Learners, employers, sector bodies, professional bodies, accreditation bodies, governments, other institutions, contractors, SaaS
Learning is an optional, often paid service
Undergraduate student engagement and retention

ConEd, Contract Training

Delivery is diverse and spans contexts F2F, asynchronous/synchronous online, credentialed/non-credentialed, coaching, mentoring, performance support

Multiple partners

Learner is not necessarily identified MOOCs, OER
Learning is a customer pipeline
MOOCs, Open University’s Badged Open Courses
Learning is an after-market “value add” Continuing Education, Continuing Professional Development
Learning provides added revenue PACE as a revenue centre
Learners are brand advocates Displaying credentials in résumés and on social media

 

Mapping a Vision for Extended Enterprise Learning at Academic Institutions

The fourth diagram, an ugly one thrown together by me, is a conceptual mashup of the first three:

  An Extended Enterprise Map by Jay Cross

An Academic Stakeholder Map

Academic institutions don’t only exist in ecosystems, they are ecosystems in themselves:

A Credentialing Map

This recent post from Carla Casilli, a thought leader in the Open Badge community, demonstrates the notional flexibility and hints at the portability of Open Badges:

 

Don’s Ugly “Shove-It-All-On-One-Page” Map

I’ve taken community colleges as an example key connector and deconstructed them a bit, so that cluster represents a sub-layer – I  could just as easily have done that with universities:

SmallPiecesMap

 

Implication 1: Customer Diversity, Learner Autonomy

Many public sector academic institutions, particularly  universities, are uncomfortable with the notion of learner as customer, preferring to think of them as what I would call “targets for transformation”, if teaching is the goal, or “talent pipelines” if research is the goal. OK, sometimes both.

However, Learners do generally pay for their learning, they generally have a choice of suppliers and do vote with their feet if their needs aren’t being met.

Certainly there are dangers inherent in treating undergraduate students too much like customers; ask any instructor whose performance assessment is based on student evaluations. But Gardner Campbell, Vice Provost for Learning Innovation and Student Success at Virginia Commonwealth University, warns us that there are also dangers inherent in viewing value only in terms of the institution. Student needs can be conflated with institutional needs and real learning can be compromised.

This can have an impact on about society and the concept of “shared private goods” (i.e. the shared learning of learners) contributing to the public good in what Gardner Campbell calls the “digital media commons”. See this recent interview excerpt from Bryan Alexander’s excellent Future Trends Forum series (watch 3m22s – 7m45):

So maybe the public is a “customer”.

And there are other customers, such as:

  • Employers
  • Professional bodies
  • Funders

Exploring the first element, “learner as customer” , we have the following examples of the “Extended Enterprise”:

  • “Pre-Sales”: MOOCs as recruitment vehicles
    MOOC consortia are proliferating. We’ve heard of edX, Coursera and even Unizin. Over in Europe, Open University’s multi-institutional multi-national FutureLearn platform has over 3.5 million learners. In the words of its CEO, MOOCs will become “one of the most important recruitment grounds…particularly for international students”, adding that their university partners were discovering that offering free online content was “not just about courses” but also about making institutions “more discoverable” online.
    First sample is free…

  • “Post-Sales”: Continuing Education, Continuing Professional Development, Alumni Associations
    It’s useful to maintain contact with graduates (satisfied customers?), who may want to come back for more learning, or may wish to “pay back” their learning in the form of donations. Institutions can encourage this productive relationship by providing services for alumni such as, oh I don’t know, maybe a lifelong ePortfolio?

 

Implication 2: Competition and Coopetition

Yes, institutions compete with each other and the private sector competes with the public sector; I’ll be exploring Extended Enterprises in private sector education in a future post.

But each institution is part of a larger system whose goal is (should be!) to benefit learners as they move through the (more or less) defined stages of learning: K12, post-secondary, professional/post-graduate, workplace and lifelong. As the learner moves through the stages of their learning, the supplier and other stakeholders inter-operate (again, more or less).

Some examples:

  • Articulation agreements and dual credit programs: secondary/post-secondary, college/university
  • Apprenticeship Board agreements with colleges to provide the formal learning component of apprenticeship programs
  • Agreements with employers for Work Integrated Learning and custom programs aligned to industry needs
  • Undergraduate programs designed for professional certification
  • Other external standards and accreditation bodies which help align learning standards and programs and hold providers accountable for quality of delivery. They are themselves accountable to the public and regulated by the governments (who are themselves accountable…)
  • Recognition of Prior Learning enables learners to carry forward more of the human capital they have earned along the way, via credit transfer and prior learning assessment, including recognition of experiential learning. (It’s not always perfect – I went to three institutions before I got my undergraduate degree, leaving several orphaned credits in my wake…)

 

Implication 3: Small Pieces, Loosely Joined – Enabled by Portable Credentials

If the components of a system are smaller and based on common standards they can connect with each other more easily. David Weinberger tells us this is why the Internet is so revolutionary: HTTP, FTP, SMTP…

In this way, simplicity and modularity can support the flexible complexity of an ecosystem, rather than the brittle complications of trying to get vertically integrated information siloes to talk to each other.

Portable micro-credentials (small, standards-based) can help enable this. Here are some quick examples by topic:

  • MOOCs
    Badged Open Courses on OpenLearn, (Open University’s “Home” MOOC platform) are for “learners who are seeking access to study skills and to have their learning recognised.” According to their report, Badging and Employability at the Open University“Evaluation of the OU’s pilot badging projects suggests that badging offers a way of reconciling informal learning and the demands of employers, and that badging content for university students and informal learners alike may become a key widening participation activity for HEIs.”
  • Co-Curricular Records and ePortfolios
    Notre Dame’s E2B2 (ePortfolios with Evidence-Based Badges) initiative  encourages students to showcase their skills and accomplishments visually on their ePortfolios, while establishing a standard system for verifying and quantifying these formal and informal achievements and skills. As students get involved with badges, the goal is that they start to focus on the co-curricular aspects of their education that is, the learning that happens outside of the classroom.
  • Continuing Education and Alumni Professional Development
    University of Central Florida’s Division of Continuing Education delivers both kinds of eCredentials, in addition to a host of others for undergraduates, staff and faculty.
  • Open Assessment
    DeakinDigital‘s modular “Recognition of Professional Practice: micro-credentials for Graduate Learning Outcomes (Communication, etc.) aligned to the Australian Qualification Framework that can add up to 90+% of a Master’s Degree at a fraction of the time and cost. The customers for this “Credential-to-Degree”program can be  Employers, who can cherry-pick for Talent Management programs, or individual Learners, who might never have gone back for traditional Masters degree, for reasons of time or expense.

 

In closing…

 Imagine if this:SmallPiecesMap_crop

… were part of this:

 

 … instead of this:

wisconsin-military-ridge-state-trail-farm-silos-and-barn

Photo via Good Free Photos – PUBLIC DOMAIN

 

Wouldn’t that be a good thing?

Not only for the learner, but for academic institutions seeking new routes to fiscal sustainability.

Current methods aren’t working too well for many institutions: since 2013, Bryan Alexander has been curating a scary list of institutional examples of what he calls the Queen Sacrifice: “the combination of self-destructive sacrifice and hope for gain” – otherwise known as cutting core programs to make ends meet and stay in business.

Recognizing Learning in Associations with Open Badge eCredentials

Today’s post explores Extended Enterprise Learning for Member-based Organizations, one of five sectors that significantly employ this kind of learning, according to John Leh of Talented Learning:

  1. Corporate
    Improving the product value chain: suppliers, distributors, retailers, customers
  2. Member-based Organizations
    Associations, Unions, Not For Profits
  3. For Profit Training
    B2B, B2C: independent trainers, ConEd business units
  4. Academic
    Open Education, MOOCs, Work Integrated Learning, vocational education and Apprenticeship
  5. Public Sector
    Emergency/public awareness, voluntary sector support, armed forces, civilian public service

Common characteristics of Extended Enterprise Learning include:

  • A “partner cluster” approach to delivery and reception of learning
  • Voluntary enrolment, often paid, so the learning experience must be engaging
  • A mix of marketing and education, with layering of commitment
  • A focus on measurement and impact analysis

 

About Associations – Statistics

Associations play an important role in our society, bringing people together around shared interests, whether those are professional, commercial, cultural, or just about anything people can be interested in.

According to the Associations Canada 2015 index, there are 20,127 associations and related organizations in Canada*, broken down in the following sub-sectors:

  • Professional: 11%
  • Trade: 27%
  • Special interest: 62%
    This includes everything from AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) to Zoroastrianism. It’s hard to segment, though I’m working on it.

They’re typically not all that rich: 65% of associations in Canada have a budget of less that $500K.

* A similar index for the US lists only 40,000, but I think this is due to more exclusive criteria. I suspect over 100,000 similar organizations in the US, if not more.

 

Purposes and Needs of Associations

These play out differently in different sub-sectors. For example,  industry organizations are more concerned with Advocacy and Marketing, whereas professional organizations are naturally more concerned with Professionalization.

  • Advocacy and marketing
    • Public Relations, communications
    • Policy development, influence
  • Professionalization and professional learning
    Credentialing and certification of learning are trending upward in the sector.

    • From “soft” credentialing to “hard” certification and mandatory Continuing Professional Development (CPD)
    • Usually focuses on the 10% of 70:20:10 learning: courses, workshops, webinars
  • Networking
    This is a form of social learning, the 20% of 70:20:10. It includes events, online communities and social media. It can be useful for member engagement, mentoring, expertise and opportunity identification and ad hoc learning.
  • Change, issue management
    This can include research, trend analysis, tool development and other resources to support the 70% of 70:20:10 – the “doing”, problem solving, continuous improvement part of learning.
  • Organizational Survival
    Associations have internal needs that must be met, in order to keep the lights on and the future secure:

    • Membership maintenance, growth (delivering value)
    • Sponsorship, other revenue
    • Volunteer service: recruitment and avoiding “burnout”
    • Leadership Development, Succession

 

Association Learning: Think Beyond the LMS

Learning is more than courses; it’s lifewide:

I like this report card about the 70:20:10 performance of typical LMSs from another presentation by John Leh:

An LMS is a learning “batch processor” and generally measures what’s easy to measure, which is biased to the 10%: online courses, typically delivered to cohorts, or automated if delivered to individuals.

Unless sophisticated processes are in place, LMSs measure the delivery of bulk “learning inputs” with assessment based on the internal activities and content of the course rather than real world impact, or ROI.

I say that we should measure personalized learning outcomes across the 70:20:10 spectrum of learning. Open Badge eCredentials make this possible.

 

Some Benefits of eCredentials for Associations

As an open, human and machine-readable technology standard, Open Badges have huge potential for associations in bridging needs and solutions across sectors and regions, for personal and organizational purposes.

Here are some examples:

  • Personal learning pathways
    This is about delivering value to individual members.
    EDUCAUSE, the “foremost community of higher education IT leaders and professionals”, with a membership of over 2,300 organizations (over 300 private sector), talks about Signals for yourself: gaining new knowledge, developing your brand, and “wayfinding” to make your career path more visible.
  • Modularity and stackability
    Learning opportunities don’t always have to be ponderously packaged in courses, but can be delivered and assessed at a smaller scale:Microcredentials are natural territory for associations and logically connect to microlearning. Learners increasingly appreciate and seek out ways to demonstrate their ongoing learning in what we term “the other 50 years”—the typical lifespan after adults leave higher education.
    Tagoras: ASSOCIATION LEARNING TECHNOLOGY 2016 p23Geeky people are now exploring how xAPI learning events can be stacked into Open Badge eCredentials:

  • Diversity of expression
    With a flexible eCredentialing system, learning doesn’t have to be locked up inside a single LMS silo. Learning can be online or offline, course-based or event-based, automatically or  manually assessed. And recognition can encompass a broader scope: Recognition of experiential learning, professional achievements, development interests, volunteer service, certification…
    For example, the Canadian Public Relations Society “Accredited in Public Relations” eCredential is based on years of service, work samples, an oral interview and a proctored exam.
  • Diversity of sourcing
    Organizations, especially smaller ones, don’t have to expensively reinvent the wheel: they can choose to recognize credentialed learning from other educators and trainers who support the Open Badge eCredential standard. For example, project management or leadership may be better delivered by an external organization, with its own industry-recognized credential.
  • Demonstration of Impact
    Once you start focusing on outcomes rather than inputs, you can start curating these in skills passports and skills inventories across contexts, reporting on organizations and regions, ideally linked to performance changes. Expertise mapping can help with planning and member development and performance support.Educause calls this signals for others
  • Emergent learning and innovation
    Learners in a community don’t have to just be learners – they can teach too, spreading the learning, bringing in new learning from outside as teachers. Skills ecosystems can develop.
  • Social Media Reach
    Your members and learners become brand advocates, on LinkedIn and other social media sites:

    SocialMedia_2016-04-17_14-05-35

    LinkedIn

Most of these benefits have a bottom line impact or at least a measureable ROI:

  • Increasing value for members
  • Attracting new members
  • Increasing revenues from members and external clients

Last year, I mapped some of these benefits for Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in the  Humanitarian sector. I’ve tweaked that a bit to create a more generic version for Extended Enterprises, although I need to work the revenue part in better:

PLEforEE

Don Presant 2016-04-17 CC-BY

 

Closing Words

I’m enjoying my exploration of Extended Enterprise Learning, it’s been a real threshold concept for me, opening up new vistas for my ongoing obsession with Open Badge eCredentials for recognizing lifelong, lifewide learning and achievement.

I plan to explore the Public Sector in an upcoming post.

 

Closing plug: join us at the 2016 Digital Badge Summit

I’m looking forward to participating and speaking at the Digital Badge Summit on June 24th, just before the massive ISTE 2016 conference. There’ll be something for everybody there: K12, Higher Ed, Teacher PD, Extended Enterprise…

Open Badge eCredentials for Extended Enterprise Learning

Frequent readers of this blog know that I’m obsessed with Open Badge eCredentials. I think they provide a fantastic lens to analyze and improve the quality of lifelong, lifewide learning: for delivery, for recognition or “valorization” and for use as a skills currency.

But I now have a new lens: Extended Enterprise Learning (also called Extended Enterprise Training or EET). I think it’s a great way to engage pragmatic private sector companies about the benefits of Open Badge eCredentials. IBM is just one example of early adopting companies who are beginning to see the benefits.

For me, Extended Enterprise Learning is a threshold concept: it opens up new vistas and reframes previous insights. I’m currently refactoring my thinking with this concept explicitly in mind.

It comes with a twist, focusing not on employee development, but on partner development in the value chain, with the goal of measurably improving customer satisfaction and sales growth. It’s mostly about supporting products: improving quality and system efficiency, growing sales and developing informed users who will fuel future demand and development. For-profit companies tend to care about these metrics a lot, so it’s easier to get their attention with solutions that help them with their measurables.

And credentials already play a big part in this kind of learning. We’re just talking about making them digital and portable.

We need to do a better job of getting into the private sector with Open Badge eCredentials and I suggest that we start where these bottom-liners care the most and move on from there.

 

What is the Extended Enterprise?

Wikipedia calls the Extended Enterprise “a loosely coupled, self-organizing network of firms that combine their economic output to provide products and services offerings to the market.” Wikipedia describes it as a multi-stakeholder view of Michael Porter’s value chain. Or maybe an ecosystem of ecosystems? Whatever, it’s an increasing reality as organizations in different sectors realize that they can’t do it all by themselves and that there’s power in organizational clusters.

The IT sector has latched on to the concept, using it as a framework  loosely coupled, agile enterprise architectures – modular, pluggable systems.This short presentation from 2009 does a great job of laying out the concept and its implications:

In his analysis above, Graves lists the”three distinct economies of the enterprise”, which got my attention in this era of social media and Serge Ravets’s notions of  badges as networks of trust:

  • transaction economy : things, money, profit
  • attention economy : conversation, the bully pulpit, or ‘right to be heard’
  • trust economy : willingness to engage, or lack of it

Instructure’s Canvas LMS, with its open architecture, GitHub code sharing,  EduApp plug-in sharing and Canvas Network course sharing centre is a stellar example of an extended enterprise approach to LMSs.

But a fit-for-purpose LMS can also be a key enabler for Extended Enterprise Learning.

 

What is Extended Enterprise Learning?

According to a 2015 Elearning! magazine article, titled Extended Enterprise Training Trends, Extended Enterprise Learning is:

the delivery of training, certification programs and knowledge assets not only to employees but also to customers, partners, suppliers, channel and distributor networks, franchisers and franchisees, association members, independent agents, contractors and volunteers — in short, any stakeholder who does not work directly for the organization.

Although this graphic came from an article focused on eLearning and LMSs, I like the way it segments the markets:

 

Why is Extended Enterprise Learning Important?

Because that’s where private sector organizations will spend money for training first. They’re business people before they’re employers and  they often have trouble seeing a direct bottom line benefit to employee training. But they will pay for training that measurably shrinks their costs or grows their profits.

I love this quote from an interview with John Leh of Talented Learning, a consultancy in the field:

Employee development is good, but it is hard to prove progress, so less innovation happens there and budgets are tighter. For the extended enterprise, it is all about building a community of voluntary learners, keeping them engaged, giving them paths to content and credentials they want and need. You want them to buy content, contribute content, and do it again and again….

John makes his living recommending fit-for-purpose LMSs for Extended Enterprise Learning needs. He also wrote a great article about developing an ROI framework for extended enterprise learning that will help EEL make the case and sustain the initiative. I actually think it could teach a few things to people seeking to justify employee training.

The LMS world has certainly picked up on the notion and the more agile LMSs are reconfiguring to accommodate. Here’s TotaraLMS in 2015, but there are lots of other examples:

 

Adding Value to Extended Enterprise Learning with

Open Badge eCredentials

I think Open Badges have exciting potential for supporting this kind of diverse learning, with its multiple contexts and roles and the often volatile, emergent nature of learning objectives. I’ve summarized my thoughts below.

The left column comes from these sources:

BenefitsChart04_crop

 

Notes about the Chart

Standards-based technology portability*
Jeff Walter in Training Magazine: Employee Training vs. Extended Enterprise Training:

In extended enterprise training, the student isn’t necessary known or identified.

NB: Open Badges are the perfect solution for this situation, since they don’t require that you register in a learning management system in order to learn and be recognized for it.

Open Badge Communities*
John Leh, Talented Learning: The Business Case for Customer Learning:

You can create communities of interest and encourage participants to develop skills, share their success stories and help answer others’ questions. You can wrap contests and awards around your learning programs to engage and motivate participants. The possibilities are endless.  Ideally, you can build a growing global community of customers who are committed to your brand and help others learn about it too.

Recognized Social Media Champions**
Skilljar: How to Measure the ROI of Customer Training

Innovative marketers are experimenting with the next evolution of content marketing –  offering on-demand training. This strategy provides your prospects with demonstrated value from the time they spend with your company, even prior to entering a buying cycle. Increase your brand awareness by offering industry thought leadership content that is scalable, convenient, and interactive. You can even offer certifications and accredited professional development hours.

NB: eCredentialing is great, but too many of the solutions offered rely on LMS silos, offering only the ability to post your credential on LinkedIn. There’s more to social media and learning ecosystems than the ability to post your LMS credential on LinkedIn. LMS siloes are all about the vendor and vendor lock-in. Open Badges can be elements of a standards-based, loosely coupled ecosystem where learning and recognition can travel easily across LMSs and other technology systems.

 

Early traction: Open Badges in Extended Enterprise Learning

I’ve quoted IBM’s David Leaser before. A slide from his February 2016 presentation does a great job of reviewing my points and adding a few more:

Early results for IBM’s initiative are very promising:

  • 129% increase in enrolments for badged courses
  • 226% increase in course completions
  • 694% increase in successful end-of-course assessments

Other private sector ICT sector companies who have jumped on the Open Badges bandwagon include Adobe, Oracle, Autodesk, Microsoft, Citrix, Linux Professional Institute (LPI), Juniper Networks, Cisco, Red Hat Linux, Hortonworks and Lenovo.

 

Moving Beyond ICT

It’s only natural that ICT be a key early adopter with its focus on technology, but technology has had an transformative impact on the entire World of Work and Open Badges can be a great fit for other sectors too.

This graph from the Elearning!  article cited above could provide a useful roadmap for Open Badges over the next year or two:

It’s interesting to see that Education is listed as the most active EET. I’m trying to wrap my head around that. If it’s product learning, what’s the product: the learning or the credential? How is the use of that product being supported by external learning? Who’s the customer? Who’s the upstream supplier? Downstream distributor? I can see some room for discussion of  Professional and Continuing Education, adjunct faculty, online consortia, government and private sector relationships, but still… I see Education as more of a supplier to other EETs.  On the other hand, Education is the most actively engaged with Open Badges, so that’s a strategy for them to better engage EETs with modular education and training supported by recognition pathways.

Let’s take a quick look at some of the others in declining order:

  • Non-profit organizations
    Current examples: Scottish Social Services Council, DisasterReady.Org, and hopefully MSF, as I advocated last year at ePIC 2015…more on this in future posts:

  • Manufacturing
    Current example: the Manufacturing Institute has Project Lead the Way for youth talent pipelines and its M-List, a Skills Certification System which brokers college training aligned to industry quality standards, but I don’t know of any product training programs that are credentialed with Open badges. Watch this space. I’ll continue to dig.
  • Healthcare/pharmaceutical
    Not much yet; regulatory issues could be a barrier, but there is a lot of potential here. Another space to watch.
  • Software/web/development/services
    The bulk of the early action, as described above
  • Financial/banking/insurance/real estate/legal
    Some glimmers – not much. This would makes sense for distributed financial products such as mutual funds that require a diverse multi-channel salesforce.
  • Government
    There is the so-called Belgian Backpack, but not much else that I know of, other than some interesting early experimentation in Ottawa related to a government-wide change initiative called Blueprint 2020. This is an area of potential significant growth. What if GovLoop understood the power of Open Badges to recognize learning across sectors and jurisdictions?
  • Associations
    Lots of potential here and some early action. I’ll be looking at this sector in more depth in a future post.

It’ll be interesting to see how all this plays out over the next 12-24 months.

 

Coda

Although I never met him, I miss Jay Cross, who died last November:

In a 2012 post on the Internet Time Alliance blog, titled  Customer Learning, a largely unexploited marketing strategy, Jay quoted retailer Sy Syms:

The best customer is an educated customer.

To this I would add “and the best partner is an educated partner”, whether that be a supplier, distributor or another stakeholder whose success is linked to yours.

I’ve focused on private sector extended enterprises in this post but as mentioned above, I’ll be looking the concept more closely in the public and not-for-profit sectors in the future.

eCredential Pathways for Immigrants and Refugees

I was an Immigration brat: my dad served for 20 years, much of it overseas. So I have a soft spot for this topic.

1968_JandM_Celebration0048

A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away…with my German Wookie friend

As an adult, I’ve also worked on immigration projects over the years at the community, provincial and federal level.

So naturally I speculate how Open Badges and ePortfolios can help immigrants and refugees gain traction in this country Canada, where we depend so much on immigration and where our new government has taken such dramatic steps to welcome refugees from Syria.

Why Open Badge eCredentials and ePortfolios? Well, for me they go together like pictures and galleries, medals and showcases, stamps and passports, evidence and arguments. Together, they support the mapping, emergence and recognition of learning.

I hope to be presenting a version of these ideas at a conference in May, so consider this as a draft.

 

The Transition Penalty for Newcomers

I’m borrowing this term from a 2004 Canadian Labor and Business Centre handbook, which found that it took more than ten years before the unemployment level for immigrants dropped below that of the Canadian-born population. Many remedial steps have been taken since, but many of the barriers persist.

CLBC_p17

Newcomers are at a disadvantage when they arrive in Canada:

  • They may lack sufficient language skills
    Needs in this area have increased with the increasing diversity of our newcomers. Language is often the most obvious deficit and there are many programs in place to improve language skills, increasingly starting overseas.
  • Their learning and professional qualifications are often not fully recognized
    Immigrants with academic credentials and professional qualifications must have their documents examined and evaluated by third party services. Where there are gaps in documentation, it’s often difficult to resolve back in their home country.In many cases their qualifications are devalued compared to their home country and they must work to fill the gap. This is particularly true for regulated professions.
  • Their work experience is often not recognized
    Canadian employers often have no knowledge of the organizations that the immigrants and refugees may have worked for. Guess whose problem that is? Canadian employers often specify 1-2 years Canadian work experience in their postings, which makes it hard to get started back in your field. Many are forced to take service jobs just to get Canadian experience (and make a living) and risk losing touch with their field of expertise. This is called “skills fossilization”.
  • They lack social capital
    In a new country they lack the social connections that can often lead to good jobs. They must build these over again. If they find support in a community from their home country, that can have both positive and negative effects on their adaptation.
  • Their soft skills may not fit Canadian norms
    I call it “meta-social skills” and it’s a big issue, related to language skills and the lack of social capital. The implicit language of interpersonal relations can vary a lot between countries. For example, most Canadians don’t jump to their feet when their boss walks into the room. Self-awareness is part of the learning. Many language programs are actually “language and culture” programs.

  • It’s a long, difficult journey to full integration
    It takes determination and often a bit of luck to succeed: get the language, get the first Canadian job, get the first job in your field, advance up the ladder to your previous level….
    Many give up along the way, resigning themselves to preparing the way for the next generation, whose education can be completed here in Canada, with no transition penalty. Others transfer skills into alternative occupations related to their original field, and this can be a good strategy.

    Regardless, it can be a long multi-year slog, and it’s sometimes difficult to feel that you’re making progress. In language training for example, progress through the lower skill levels can be steep, but it flattens in the mid-high skill levels, frustrating those who need that final 10-20% to get into their target occupation. They often feel stuck.

  • The journey needs a more personal approach with better mapping and recognition of progress
    Migrants have individualized assets and gaps, but they are typically trained in cohorts. If tracking of learning occurs, it’s typically tracking of inputs not outcomes. There are sometimes hand-off gaps between service providers. Employers can be  at a loss in evaluating the skills of immigrants and can reactively add unfair criteria that increase the barriers.

 

 

How Can Open Badge eCredentials and ePortfolios help?

Have a quick look at these examples which I’ll summarize below:

 

ePortfolios for Newcomers at ISSofBC

ISSofBC is a large immigrant serving agency in BC’s Lower Mainland.

This very short (1m40s) video does a good job of describing how ePortfolios enhance their Language Instruction for Newcomers (LINC) for Employment Program:

 

I helped ISSofBC set up this ePortfolio program with a Train the Trainer series of workshops that leveraged effective practices from projects around the world and showed them how to get the most out of Mahara ePortfolio.

This is an example of an immigrant ePortfolio, following ISSofBC’s method:

 

 

Open Badges for Migrant Professionals at Beuth University

This presentation from a Nordplus adult educators project webinar last November discusses approaches to improving the soft employability skills of professional migrants in Germany:

 

 

 

Open Badges for ESL/EAL Professionals

English Online is a nonprofit service English e-learning service based in Winnipeg.  Since 2014, they’ve hosted an annual virtual conference for English teachers. They recognize different forms of participation with different Open Badges, each with its own distinct criteria and evidence:

 

In a similar way, TESOL Arabia’s Education Technology Special Interest Group (TAEDTECH sig) “aims to promote good practice in the use of technology in EFL instruction throughout the Arab Gulf Region.”

TESOL_2016-04-03_13-06-06

 

 

Reasons why ePortfolios and Open Badge eCredentials Can Help Newcomers

  • ePortfolios and Open Badges Support Personal Learning Pathways
    These pathways can be modular, flexible, diverse, portable and shareable.  They can visualize goals and progress toward those goals,  building confidence for newcomers and providing formative information for their advisors.

    Learning from multiple sources can be aggregated and blended in skills passports & ePortfolios, with holistic curation and reflection. For example, I’m currently exploring with others how Kiron Open Higher Education’s innovative MOOC-to-University-Degree strategy for refugees can be enhanced with Recognition of Prior Learning for academic credit through ePortfolios and Open Badges.

    eCredentials can support personalized learning, learning contracts and recognition of learning and performance achievements.

    Recognizing progress and achievement with Open Badge eCredentials can dramatically increase learner retention, as IBM has found out to its delight:

    (see details in my post: Open Badge eCredentials: Good Business for Higher Ed (Part 1)) .

  • ePortfolios and Open Badge eCredentials Provide Transparent Evidence of Skills and Abilities
    Higher level, more summative “milestone” badges can validate  language skills, technical skills or even soft skills and “work readiness”, if they’re backed by rigorous criteria and assessment from reputable issuers. Embedded evidence can add to authenticity. These can become skills currency for employers and academic institutions.
  • Newcomers are social media savvy
    According to this 2009 study, newcomers have decent ICT skills and tend to be more engaged with social media than native-born Canadians. Even many refugees, which proved controversial last year, according to the CBC story below:

    The CBC story is worth a read: examples of smartphone use by savvy refugees include relaying important survival information to others following behind,  language learning and orientation to their new environment.

    Once they arrive here, newcomers are also often trained in ICT applications (e.g. Office, AutoCAD) and how to use LinkedIn for networking. LinkedIn can be a great destination for your more impressive Open Badges, or you may want to consider an ePortfolio. An ePortfolio is a bit like LinkedIn, but with better storage, more flexible display, better alignment to specific criteria and gosh, your data still belongs to you, not LinkedIn. If you can make a LinkedIn profile, you can make an ePortfolio.

 

Reasons why ePortfolios and Open Badge eCredentials Can Help Other Stakeholders

  • Enhanced Online Profile Using Social Media
    IBM reports significant social media benefit with thousands of IBM-branded eCredentials making their way onto LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, blogs and company websites. OK, IBM is a global enterprise and its training has great cachet, but smaller software and leadership trainers are already seeing benefits also. I have examples from Canada, like this one:

    Demonstration of Impact
    Just as IBM can report their outcomes, so too can immigrant service providers better enumerate and communicate the impact of their services to their funders by counting badges issued, accepted, displayed, endorsed, etc.

  • Talent Pipelines, Candidate Assessment and Employee Development
    We’re already starting to see this happen, not only with IBM, but with the Belgian public service, the US Manufacturing Institute and a multi-stakeholder regional initiative in Colorado.
  • Professional Development for Service Providers
    In addition to the ESL examples above, I’ve previously blogged about the Scottish Social Services Council’s early steps with Open Badges to recognize the informal learning of its 200,000 care workers.Here in Canada, I’m exploring how we might adapt that model with a  non-profit sector council which includes immigrant service providers.

 

 

Where to start?

 

  • Employers
    Employer awareness is still a limit to the growth of eCredentials, but I’d say it’s mostly due to lack of engagement on the part of most issuers. When employers are approached to participate in the process they can become quite enthusiastic, as the Manufacturing Institute and Colorado experiences show, as does this one from a Wisconsin College:

    But you actually need to pick up the phone and reach out to them, to build their awareness and give them a chance to endorse the ideas and even some of the eCredentials themselves. It doesn’t take long – a breakfast meeting, maybe?

    In the meantime, immigrant serving organizations are employers too, and that fits with the PD suggestion. As employers, what skills and behaviours do they want to encourage? The Scottish Social Services Council model can help here.

  • Newcomer Learners
    As you work the channels above, It’s worthwhile to experiment with informal, low-risk forms of recognition with your learners, such as completion of a collections of tasks such as resume/cover preparation, employer research, language tasks, etc. This will give you a chance to test the idea with them and see what works and doesn’t work.

 

 

Final Word

I do hope to find some traction in this area over the coming months. I think it’s ripe, particularly on the PD side.

If anyone has ideas and wants to work with me, please let me know.

Enhancing Aboriginal PD with Open Badge eCredentials

This post explores the potential for developing a micro-credentialing system based on Mozilla Open Badges (* see Footnote 1) for Professional Development in Aboriginal  Education (**  see Footnote 2) and increased awareness of Aboriginal Canada in the broader education system.

To some extent, it builds on my earlier post: Why do K12 teachers like Open Badge eCredentials with their PD? But it also applies the principles of Global Education to a better understanding of Aboriginal Canada. The idea is to start with teacher PD but the ultimate goal is to take it to students.

As a current Winnipegger originally from Toronto, these ideas are based on my knowledge of Manitoba and Ontario and the Aboriginal projects I’ve worked on. Aboriginal Education is an important issue here in Canada. According to the Globe and Mail, “Canada’s national newspaper”:

Only 40 per cent of First Nations students living on reserves graduate from high school. They score far below other students on standardized tests. And their numbers are about to explode.

Outcomes for the vastly greater numbers of Aboriginal students in off-reserve schools are somewhat better, but still poor, compared to the rest of the population. Maamaawisiiwin Education Research Centre asks:

What are our children and youth experiencing in the classrooms…? And what is the experience doing to them?

Have we come far enough from the bad old days of residential schools whose wounding impact the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was established to help heal?

 

Can eCredentialing with Open Badges help bridge gaps in Aboriginal Education, starting with transforming the knowledge, attitudes and capabilities of teachers?

It would be just one element among many others trying to help solve a huge issue, fraught with controversy and past failure. But I believe it could help and I’m beginning to see a willingness to try new ideas in the emerging policies of our new federal government.

 

Educator PD: Early Traction for Open Badges

Why start badging with educators? Well, I like what VIF International Education has to say about it:

We believe that education has the power to change the world. And we see teachers as force multipliers with the potential to reach and affect huge numbers of young minds. So we start with teachers.

And educators seem to really like having their PD recognized with micro-credentials. I’ve blogged previously about PD badging initiatives such as Digital Promise and PD Learning Network. I like the self-directed, evidence-based approach I often see  in educator PD. It’s not just about rewarding attendance at conferences and workshops.

I recently came across this October 2015 EdSurge article, written by the Superintendent of the Houston Independent School District (HISD) about their global learning initiative: “So You Want to Drive Instruction With Digital Badges? Start With the Teacher.”

This edited excerpt nails the case for inquiry-based, knowledge-building, badge-recognized PD:

What makes the digital badging system different from more traditional forms of professional development are five key features that taken together increase significantly the likelihood that the learning experience for a teacher will lead to results in the classroom for students — which, after all, is the point of professional development. The five features:

  1. Badging requires demonstrating understanding and implementation of a target content or skill.
  2. Badging provides recognition and motivation.
  3. Badging allows for knowledge circulation among teachers.
  4. Badging can be tracked and assessed.
  5. Badging is a scalable enterprise.

 

Global Education for Teachers and Students

Houston’s badging initiative is a partnership with VIF International Education, mentioned above who was one of the winners of the DML Trust Challenge with their proposal “Global Gateway: Building Trust Through Peer Review”.

Their approach:

We support teachers in developing and applying global competence in their classrooms through focused and measurable professional training, flexible resources and peer-to-peer collaborations.

Have a look a this short video explaining the process:

 

Aboriginal Education in Canada – In Transition

Although I’ve been speculating about badges for Aboriginal education for some time, the trigger for this post was a Teacher PD panel at the HEQCO Transitions conference last week. The panel focused a lot on  Aboriginal Education due to participation by John Hodson of Maamaawisiiwin Education Research Centre and Kyle Hill of Teach for Canada.

Here in Canada, Aboriginal Education is getting lots more play recently, due to the December 2015 release of the  Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and its acceptance by Justin Trudeau, leader of the new federal government which in its historic 2016 budget allocated $2.6 billion of new funding over the next five years for primary and secondary schooling on reserves.

One common thread is teacher capacity, particularly in terms of knowledge and attitude. This is very important for schools on reserves but also for the more than 80% of Aboriginal kids educated off-reserve (at least in Ontario) – and for the rest of our population to better understand Aboriginal Canada and our relationship to it.

 

Some Ideas for Recognizing Aboriginal PD with Open Badges

These ideas are exploratory and in no way exhaustive. They range from easy to more ambitious. They can be said to have formative, summative and transformative elements in different degrees.

Some of these ideas attempt to transfer VIF’s approach to Global Education to a notion “Inter-Nation” education, between Aboriginal Canada and the rest of our population.

Naturally, these ideas would need to be realistically evaluated in light of the needs and choices of Aboriginal stakeholders, political realities of federal-provincial relations and labour relations with teachers.

 

IDEA 1: Recognize in-service workshops

This can be fairly straightforward, merely digital recognition of current practice, but care should be taken in introducing it, to test engagement and take up. Small-scale pilots and proofs of concept may be the way to start, so that assumptions can be tested and adjustments can be made early on.

Micro-credentials awarded should be aligned to familiar PD frameworks and enhanced Aboriginal curriculum frameworks such as:

  • The grade-leveled themes in the Ontario FNMI Toolkit:
    • Aboriginal Peoples and Organizations
    • Culture, Tradition, and Language
    • Cross-Cultural Perspectives
    • Celebration
    • Current and Historical Issues
  • Themes in Manitoba’s Native Studies S1-S4 curriculum:
    • Aboriginal Identity
    • Environmental Harmony
    • Aboriginal Contributions
    • World Issues

 

IDEA 2: Recognize self-directed learning

As with Digital Promise and PD Learning Network, teachers could engage with resources independently, reflecting forward on how their new learning may affect their practice and reflecting backward on its actual impact. They may also develop other evidence of their learning for evaluation when challenging for badges.

This is still not much of a stretch, merely applying a well- tested PD approach to a new domain and different standards. But it should fit in with our PD practices up here.

 

IDEA 3: Recognize new contributions to shared knowledge

My idea here is to adapt the VIF International Global Gateway model, as described by a participating school superintendent:

Participating teachers advance through a series of inquiry-based professional development modules. Teachers are awarded a digital badge for the successful completion of each 10-hour module. To accomplish this, they must complete the following steps: 1) study module content, 2) participate in a focused discussion with peers working on the same module, 3) create an original inquiry-based global lesson plan that incorporates new learning, 4) implement the original lesson plan in the classroom, 5) provide evidence of classroom implementation and 6) reflect on and revise the lesson created.

The final product of every module is a tested, global lesson plan that articulates learning objectives, activities, assessments, and resources for each stage of inquiry. Upon completion, teachers may publish finalized lessons in a resource library where they can be accessed by other educators.

Imagine this global learning model applied to “inter-nation” learning for Aboriginal Canada. It would take a lot more effort to set up, but there is exciting potential here.

 

Benefits: formative, summative, transformative

In her introduction to Making Professional Learning Count, a research report on teacher attitudes to micro-credentials, Karen Cator of Digital Promise had this to say:

How can we clearly articulate existing and emerging competencies and support and recognize the accomplishments of educators as they develop throughout their careers? How can we better connect educators with peers so they can share and more quickly adopt best practices? And, what are ways teachers can be supported while driving their own learning? As an emerging professional learning strategy for educators, micro-credentials show great promise.

Other initiatives have shown that  recognizing the learning of teachers is a great way to seed ideas for recognizing the learning of students.

We also have the Manitoba example of Igniting the Power Within, which also started with professionals, in this case community advisors and counsellors. The project developed and tested curriculum and resources about workplace Essential Skills and RPL. Using a portfolio framework, this richly metaphorical authentically appreciative learning model has been used in Aboriginal communities to recognize and document the skills, knowledge and gifts we all have. It has made an impact on the lives of thousands of people.

Teachers and other professionals who have earned micro-credentials can think of creative ways to transfer their own experience to their students and clients.

In the spirit of appreciative inquiry, this kind of modular recognition can build learning pathways based on small positive steps, starting from where each person is at. This could be a Western teacher unaware of Aboriginal Perspectives or a student unaware of the Western scientific method.

This illustration from a Manitoba curriculum document draws on work from Alaska to describe the similarities and differences between Aboriginal and Western Ways of Knowing.

I see it as a map indicating how to bring communities together to find shared values through connected learning.

I see Open Badges all over it.

 

FOOTNOTE: Mozilla Open Badges*

Open Badges were originally developed to recognize learning anywhere, reaching out to at-risk populations with connected learning and appreciative recognition opportunities, as the Cities of LRNG website states:

There is a disconnect in today’s traditional education system, which leaves many youth disengaged in school and unprepared for the workplace and community. Now more than ever, young people need access, inspiration and guidance.

Here’s a brief intro to Open Badges that may help those new to the topic:

 

FOOTNOTE: Aboriginal**

In Canada, when we say Aboriginal, it’s an inclusive term that means First Nations (mostly treaty-based, on reserve and off), Métis (mixed race, with a distinct culture, recently achieved official status) and Inuit (also incorrectly called Eskimo) populations. People in the US might just say “Native Americans”.

 

Closing plug: join us at the 2016 Digital Badge Summit

I’m looking forward to participating and speaking at the Digital Badge Summit on June 24th, just before the massive ISTE 2016 conference. There’ll be something for everybody there: K12, Higher Ed, Teacher PD…

I’ll also be sticking around with Eric Rousselle and his colleague Nilü of Discendum for ISTE 2016 afterward to help introduce Open Badge Factory and Open Badge Passport to the US K12 community, along with an exciting new offering for the Canadian K12 community. More on that later.

Open Badges: Connectors for Open Learning

This post continues an exploration of how Open Badges can support Personal Learning in Open Learning Networks. Open Educational Practices, if you will.

If you’re not interested in the more technical aspects of edtech, please bear with me. I’m laying the groundwork here to set up a wide array of practical applications in areas such as:

  • K12-PSE transition
  • PSE-career transition
  • Immigrant language training and workforce integration
  • Vocational training
  • Talent management and workforce development
  • Meeting the needs of under-served audiences, such as at-risk youth

I’ll be exploring those in future posts.

Today’s post is part of a series that is inspired by #NRC01PL, Stephen Downes’ Personal Learning MOOC. It picks up on my post from last week, which, among other things, said that Open Badges are becoming machine-readable nodes in open networks.

I believe that Open Badges can play a key role in what Stephen Downes calls the Metaversity:

 

Stephen explains it in his companion video presentation. The metaversity is a modular solution to an issue expressed by Michael Feldstein back in 2005:

“We need a system that is optimized toward slotting in new pieces as they become available, not as an after-thought or an add-on, but as a fundamental characteristic of the system. We need a system that lowers the barrier to innovation of new learning tools.”

So I looked at the pieces in Stephen’s diagram and reflected that Open Badges are pretty modular too. They’re JSON-LD objects, composed of standard fields with links to other information objects and they’re intended to be combined in pathways, stacks and clusters, based on the information they represent.

I decided to make the following diagram of my own as a one-page thinking tool, drawing from the Open Badges Specification, the Badge Alliance 2016 Roadmap, Nate Otto’s March 9 update on the Badge Alliance Standard Working Group, loosely coupled with my own delusions:

Metadata Schematic v02

Apologies for the fine print detail – I’ll eventually make it simpler image to communicate better (you can try “view image” in the meantime). But the having the detail on a single page is helping me think through the following:

 

Knowledge and Learning Resources are diverse

They can be people, content, metadata, and even badges to name a few. This is what I was trying to get at in my last post about the “Internet of Badge Things”.

Learning doesn’t flow in just one direction. Open Educational Practices talk about knowledge ecosystems with feedback/remix loops. The notion that learners bring value to the equation is something that’s most familiar in adult learning and the college system, but it’s more or less true everywhere. So why can’t a badge earner’s evidence become a learning resource, whether they’re curating and remixing somebody else’s work or coming up with something new?

I actually had a similar thought in the 1990’s while leading the Online Group at TVOntario. But I wasn’t able to do much with it, other than code name it Boswell and make a diagram I can no longer find. Maybe now?

 

Open Badges develop most of their value after issue

There’s been a lot of attention paid to the value that can be baked into a badge at issuing time, but  that’s really just potential value (I’m talking the summative side here).

It’s when a badge is shared and recognized that its “mint” value hits reality and becomes exchangeable currency. This will happen in social settings: online communities, badge clearinghouses, job and work portals, and also in peer to peer exchanges, via emails, blockchains, personal open ledgers and other methods we haven’t thought of yet. This isn’t just my thought… my colleague Serge Ravet has been saying it for ages.

I’ll add a connectivist point here: it’s not just the resources and nodes that have value, but the way they’re connected through patterns of use – the network cluster.

 

The Open Badges ecosystem: symmetrical, diverse, emergent

I think that the emerging Open Badges ecosystem is a similar distributed knowledge and learning architecture to the one Stephen describes in his presentation and can indeed supply a lot of the virtual routers and cabling for Stephen’s vision.

It supports Charles Vest’s three key properties of successful networks. It is becoming increasingly:

  • Diverse (supports many objectives)
  • Interwoven (recognizes lifewide activities, networks amplify value)
  • Open (highly permeable, accommodates many minds)

Issuers can be earners, earners can be issuers, and anybody can be an endorser of a kind. Agents, objects and connections can exist at many levels.

This has the makings of an emergent knowledge and innovation ecosystem – the network as a learning thing. There is value in the badge itself and in its relationship to its environment. It’s potentially much more than a top-down credentialing protocol for training and education, though it can certainly do that.

 

An exciting vision

These last few blog posts that are connected to topics in #NRC01PL have been difficult for me to write, but I think it’s because I’m rewiring my thinking as I write, making my way through a few conceptual thresholds. This rewiring promises to make my future badge system planning more robust and flexible.

All this may seem pretty esoteric, but consider the following possibilities as examples:

  • Badges linked to Open Educational Resources (it’s already happening)
  • Badge recommendations, based on badges you’ve already earned
  • Mixing and matching badges from different issuers using common external standards to build your own learning pathways
  • Personal portfolios that are robust learner-owned resource profiles, identifying you as qualified for a particular role.
  • Badges endorsed by employers in your region that automatically move you up the queue in talent pipelines and Applicant Tracking Systems
  • Regional workforce skills surveys based on badge analytics, attracting new investment to a community

I’ll be coming back soon to focus on current examples out there and more immediately practical concerns for Open Badges in early 2016… blame #NRC01PL in the meantime.

 

Closing plug: join us at the 2016 Digital Badge Summit

I’m looking forward to participating and speaking at the Digital Badge Summit in June, with badge community luminaries such as Nate Otto, Doug Belshaw, Serge Ravet, Dan Hickey, James Willis and Eric Rousselle… that’s just naming a few!

There’ll be something for everybody: K12, Higher Ed, PD… Nate Otto and I will be curating a “Hot Topics” thread.

I’ll also be sticking around with Eric Rousselle and his colleague Nilü for the ISTE conference afterward to help introduce Open Badge Factory to the US K12 community, along with an exciting new offering for the Canadian K12 community. More on that later.

 

Personal Learning Ecosystems as an “Internet of Badge Things”

This post is a change of pace for Littoraly. It begins to question the notion of Open Badges as scalable micro-credentials. How modular are they? Are they like lego blocks or are they fractal and chaotic? How far can we push the notion of modularity?

It’s part environmental scan and part thought experiment. I had wanted to explore this anyway, and the fact that #NRC01PL, Stephen Downes’ Personal Learning MOOC is now actively developing the notions of connectivism, emergence and recognition gives me a perfect opportunity.

The point of the post is the Draft Ecosystem Scaling Chart towards the bottom, but it takes me a while to set it up. You may want to cut to the chase and then loop back. But the video alone is worth the price of admission.

 

Nano, micro… let’s call the whole whole thing soft

Open Badges are often called micro-credentials and I think there are maybe three reasons for this:

  1. Avoiding the word “badge” when first introducing them to adult audiences who may label them as trivial
  2. Making them appear as less than a full credential to credentialing bodies and institutions concerned about devaluing their credentialing mojo
  3. Introducing the notion of modular credentials that can be sequenced, clustered and transformed into Milestone badges (also known as “meta-badges”: badges whose criteria involve the earning of tributary badges)

Today’s post begins to explore the boundaries of the third reason. It goes from nano through micro to giga. But Stephen argues that  learning is not as neatly compartmentalized and nestable as many may think.

 

The MOOC Ecosystem

I’ve structured the post around Stephen Downes’ Fantastic Voyage exploration of the MOOC Ecosystem, introduced this week as part of the MOOC. It’s based on a talk he gave in Glasgow last year. Stephen zooms up and down from sub-microscopic to global perspectives, which I found quite inspiring:

Some Quick Notes about the MOOC Ecosystem Model

Stephen makes most of these points at the end, but I’ll get them out of  the way now:

  • Connectivism is based on the notion of neural networks.
    Learning happens via “neuro-plasticity”, where connections are made and reinforced with activities. The value is in the patterns of active connections.
  • Zooming up increases complexity
    What is perceived as a node at one level can also be a network of networks
  • Complexity: not just in number, but also  interdependence, interactivity
    It looks like chaos, but in fact it’s just the complex result of simple interactions at different levels.Each level has some degree of both independence and interdependence with peer, sub- and super-nodes and networks.
  • Cognition is bi-directional: Emergence <–>Recognition
    I have some trouble following the distinction Stephen makes with his “video image of Richard Nixon” example, but here’s what I understand:

    • Emergence means patterns and sub-networks being perceived as objects
    • Recognition means objects as perceived activating patterns of learning and behaviour
      … I think.

  • “Levels” are meshed and entwined
    It’s not a neat set of concentric circles or hierarchical hub-spoke system; boundaries are blurred; layers intersect
    (This makes me think of my dim notions of quantum mechanics.)

 

My (Very) Emergent Thoughts About Scaling Open Badges

Open Badges are becoming machine-readable nodes in trust networks

In moving from version 1 to version 1.1, Open Badges moved from JSON to JSON-LD. LD stands for Linked Data, which enables structured searches, not just crawling unstructured text. JSON-LD enables new descriptive properties to be added to Open Badges that can be mapped to external vocabularies and frameworks.

Geo-location is one example that has been implemented, various competency frameworks should come soon, third-party endorsement is in the works for v2.0, scheduled to come out later this year. In the meantime, according to a recent community call, the Open Badge Network project in Europe is working on an Open Badge extension for competency alignment using InLOC linked data, a JSON-LD framework designed by Jisc to support the sharing of learning information.

And if work with the W3C’s Verifiable Claims Working Group continues to go well, Open Badges will become “payment grade” verifiable claims, linked to owner identities rather than the online service that issued them.

 

There is a Drive Toward Open Badge Ecosystems

So, imagine if there were millions of Open Badges (there already are) whose various properties were discoverable by both humans and machines, whose aggregation and deconstruction could scale through algorithmic protocols, supplemented by other locally relevant, possibly unstructured information as necessary.

We already see some examples of different issuers and earners displaying badges to earn and badges earned, such as:

  • Open Badge Passport Gallery
    Public badges of earners are discoverable by issuer country, issuer name, badge name, and earner
  • Open Badge Academy
    Displays badges that can be earned and badge assertions that have been endorsed by others online
  • LinkedIn
    414m members, building a business graph of the world. Site searches by country can find badge issuers and badge assertions
  • (please comment to suggest others)

Then we have what Stephen would call Federated Search:

My colleague Serge Ravet envisions trust networks growing up around Open Badges that could scale and he sees Open Personal Ledgers as helping make that possible:

 

The lack of “standardization” echoes fuzzy neural networks

Although initiatives such as Connecting Credentials and IMS Global’s Open Badge Extensions for Education (OBEE) are trying to find  common ground for exchanging information about skills and learning, people are people and context is context. What’s “grit” for one community is “resilience” for another; what’s level 6 in one framework is level 4 in another; what’s relevant evidence in one context is perceived as opaque or infantile in another. Bits and pieces from different systems are borrowed, mashed up and transformed into new things.

This calls to mind Downes’ Two Dogmas of Educationism which Stephen introduces at 19m00s above (relabeling Quine’s Two Dogmas of Empiricism – intersting that Quine’s holism gets into quantum logic):

  1. Reductionism is False
  2. No Analytic-Synthetic Distinction

Every level is a complex network and functions on its own and has an impact on other peer sub and super networks:

I confess that I need to go through this philosophical stuff a few times more in order to really get what he’s on about. Basically, I take it to mean that things aren’t as simple and modular as many might suppose. A diversity of methods for learning via emergence and recognition will be required, which would include structured and non-structured information.

But I like the word recognition. That’s probably because I like the phrase Recognition of Learning…and not just prior learning, but also emergent learning.

 

Open Badges have the potential to support emergent learning and innovation ecosystems

Imagine you’re a global services company with half a million employees around the world, scattered over countries, regions, occupations and lines of business. How can you possibly foster learning and innovation across your operation?

One global services company I know is considering Open Badges. The example I was given was to imagine a small shop in Kuala Lumpur  coming up with an innovation, whether it be a cool new method or piece of technology. One way for them to spread the innovations is to offer a badge offering to teach it. This advertises the innovation, provides a method for disseminating it along with a way to track its spread, as earners display their badge instances.

What you start to have here is an Internet of Badge Things. Which is a great segue to the real point of this post:

 

Draft Ecosystem Scaling Chart

This is a rough first attempt to track the potential scalability of Open Badges against Stephen’s levels of MOOCs and education in general.

I’m not totally happy with how I’ve matched levels, and I’m already thinking I may need to separate issuer/earner/consumer functions in future versions. But I hope readers will recognize enough here to to come up with a few emergent ideas of their own.

NB: Stephen starts at 2000, goes up to the planetary level, then back down to the sub-microscopic level. I’ve chosen to simplify by starting small and going big.

 Size  Stephen:
Level of Complexity
Don: Open Badges Applicability
0.000002 Bit

Change in the neuron

 Learner in the moment
0.00002 Synapse

1-1 connection between neurons

Learning activities (e.g. xAPI)

Evidence artefacts

“Bits of Trust”
(see @szerge)

0.0002 Neural Network

Your personal knowledge, based on connections ; neuroplasticity

Learning Record Stores

Curated collections of evidence

Personal Open Ledger
(see @szerge)

0.002 Touch

Haptics

Badge Issuers

Badge Classes (what the badge is about)

Badge design: gestalt, semiotics

0.02 Language and Text

Words, images, patterns that have meaning

Badge criteria, evidence, other fields in a badge class

Badge image

0.2 Interfaces

Connection between your hand or eye and an object device or tool

Assessments, badge applications
2 You (and a Friend)

Personal Learning Network: you connecting to others, your social media, resources

Don: my arbitrary median level

Single badges

Formative badges

Badge Assertions (baked badges awarded to individuals)

20 Linked Data

Personal Graph

Don: I have trouble separating this level from above and below

Badge collections

Summative badges

Milestone Badges

200 Dunbar’s number
(really 150)Level where:

  • a village becomes a town,
  • a collaborative group with a common identity and shared purpose becomes
    a cooperative network with communication, interaction, negotiation, cooperation

Don: beyond which a “Learning Tribe” becomes a “Learning Movement”

Badge pathways – prescriptive or descriptive

Badge Passports

Nested Milestone Badges

Badge systems

2,000 Size of the first MOOC

“Small town”; network (don’t know everybody)

Synchronous event – webinar

Don: “Online town hall”

Badge gallery, badge group

Self-awarded badges

Shared badge systems

“Chains of Trust” (@szerge)

20,000 Series of first MOOCs

Don: “Small town circuit”

Community of Practice

Exchange comments, resources, etc.

“After market” badge metadata

Communities of diverse badges

Communities around specific badges and badge types (badges as hubs and rallying points)

Badges as knowledge objects

200,000 The first big xMOOC: Artificial Intelligence

Learning analytics

The quantified self

Data points to provide learners with a dashboard

Indexed badge systems as knowledge patterns (Credmos)
2,000,000 The Early MOOCisphere

Collections and Systems

Learning record stores, learning results to generate an interactive reactive, even predictive system

Badge regions

Federated Backpacks

Badge repositories (Badgepedias, a “smart” Backpack)

“Networks of Trust” (@szerge)

20,000,000 National MOOC Strategy

National Repositories

Open online learning

Badge nations

Googling a badge (W3C)

200,000,000 Overall impact of MOOC on culture and pedagogy

Open Resource Network

e.g. Directory of Open Access Journals

Badge cultures, badge economies
Multi-country movementsBadgechains, aggregated ledgers

OR:

LinkedIn

2,000,000,000 MOOC world

Knowledge becomes a network

“Badge planet”,
“Internet of Badge Things”Badges as learning agents

 

Final thoughts

I don’t think I’ve nailed this yet; this is me thinking or learning out loud. I’m still pondering how connectivism affects the notion of badge scalability.

For one thing, I’m still struggling with constructivist modularity vs. connectivist emergence and recognition. As an example, trades have skill sets that are in National Occupational Analyses (NOAs) such as this NOA for Cooks. It’s pretty analytical, but wouldn’t you want to feel confident that you had covered the bases? But maybe it doesn’t cover all the bases, because it’s not holistic enough. Is there a better way of doing this? I do know that my chef friend says that a good test of a cook is how well he/she slices a tomato – that combines several pieces of skill and knowledge into one seemingly simple capability. I think I would fail, but I blame my tools – oops, sharpening knives is one of the skills.

Open Badges do a useful job of filling gaps in our current education and training systems. And I think they can provide useful data points in holistic recognition recognition systems, which is a point I made in my last post.

But all in all, I’m feeling pleased about having joined this mini-MOOC, if only as a way to test my evolving ideas about how Open Badges can recognize learning.