Open Badges and the Innovator’s Recognition Dilemma

Open Badges are a Disruptive Innovation

I may be coming late to this party (Tom Vander Ark mentioned this as early as March 2012), but I’m going to be reading more Clayton Christensen over the next while. Why? Because his theories about disruptive innovation help integrate a lot of the thinking that’s inspiring me about Open Badges and the recognition of learning.

Why are Open Badges a disruptive innovation? In a nutshell: Open Badges don’t have to be as “good” as the high quality diplomas and degrees issued by higher education. Instead, they can be a lesser quality, less costly, less difficult solution that fills unmet needs at the edges of the recognition of learning and achievement, such as for Associations.

There’s nothing wrong with less quality, if it’s appropriate for the need, especially if it’s provided at a lower cost and/or has lower barriers to entry. You don’t pour a foundation to build a mobile home.  In the same way, Open Badges can be lightweight instead of heavyweight credentials, if those lightweight credentials are good enough to do the job, such as tack a new skill or achievement onto your résumé.

Over time, Open Badges technology and social infrastructure will continue to grow in “quality”and gravitas,  with machine-readable taxonomies that enable searching, 3rd party endorsement and other forms of validation, rich extensions, improved post-issuing valorization markets and so on. Eventually they will likely become a more transparent, complete and flexible system than our current high quality diplomas and degrees. Diplomas and degrees will probably be seen more as recognition milestones rather than end points in lifelong learning careers.

This video from 2014’s Globalization of Higher Education conference was the trigger for me. Clayton Christensen was talking more about OER and MOOCs, but his observations apply equally well to Open Badges and the recognition of open learning:

… particularly the section starting at 14 minutes,  where he moves on from the classic micro-computer example to talk about how Sony and Panasonic hollowed out the market for vacuum tubes by making transistors for unmet needs: smaller items, such as hearing aids and transistor radios:

christensen_screenshot

gradually making them better and better,

… until by the mid-1980’s you could build pretty big things with solid state electronics. And one by one, it sucked the customers out of the core into the periphery and the periphery then became the core. All of the companies that made vacuum tube products vaporized.(Quoted from above at 19m14s)

This happened despite the vacuum tube industry spending 30 times the R&D money that Sony spent, trying to make transistors meet the needs of their current market. So it’s not like they didn’t see it coming, they were just locked into the needs of their current customer base.

Christensen doesn’t do a great job of describing the concept of non-consumption in the video; it’s better here in this interview with Business Innovation Factory:

According to Clay, true disruption occurs when companies compete against non-consumption. “A new-market disruption is an innovation that enables a larger population of people, who previously lacked the money or skill, now to begin buying and using a product and doing the job for themselves,” explains Clay.

If you’re an upstart chasing after the  non-consumer, the great news is that your audience is non-discriminating. They want something easy to use and they want it cheap. They’re not expecting that same level of quality and performance. “Because,” says Clay, “something is so much better than nothing.(bolding mine)

Tom Vander Ark was not the only person to see this before me. Here’s an excerpt from Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due:Designing Open Badges for a Technology Integration Course, written by a team from BYU:

This makes badges a textbook example of a disruptive innovation according to Christensen et al. (2011) as badges are cheap to produce, and are available to a segment of the education market not currently being served (bolding mine).

(I’m looking forward to discussing this further with one of the authors,  BYU’s Rick West at the ePortfolio and Identity Conference next month.)

 

The Unmet Needs of Associations

Enter Associations as a large bloc of non-consumers of high quality, expensive credentials. Let’s leave aside the high stakes certifications of regulated professions for a moment; instead, think about non-regulated professional associations and industry associations.

Here’s a quote from a recent excellent white paper, The Association Role in the New Education Paradigm:

Associations are well known as advocates for our industries and professions. Less well known, but potentially even more important in today’s world, associations create standards, define boundaries between professional spheres, and identify competencies needed in the employment world. We create educational programming designed to fill needs unmet (bolding mine) by more traditional educational institutions and foster social connections and professional opportunity through networking. Where conventional educational curricula come up short, associations provide industry-specific bodies of knowledge. Where diplomas fail to demonstrate specific competencies, credible and well-designed credentialing and certification efforts can fill the gap.

Hmm… “needs unmet”. Unmet needs. Non-consumption as an opportunity.

In the section entitled “Where Do We Start?”, here’s one starting point that stood out for me:

Micro-Credentialing and Badging
Career paths are no longer linear and simple, with students earning a degree in a particular subject, getting a job in that field, progressing smoothly up a defined career ladder at one company, and retiring with the proverbial gold watch after 40 years. Resumes can’t be linear, either, anymore. Qualifications are now about competencies that can be mixed and matched as necessary to meet employer or licensing requirements. Micro-credentialing and badging were created specifically to address this new way of acquiring and demonstrating skills.(pg 30)

This is what IBM’s David Leaser was talking about when he said in our recent #openepic chat:

#Certifications limit the pool of talent. #OpenBadges expand the pool of talent

And later, from David in the same chat:

Proposal: Use certifications for credentials which have a shelf life of 2 years or more; use Open Badges for “liquid” skills.

Unmet needs again.

 

The Innovator’s Solution: Deakin Prime and Deakin Digital

What can academic institutions do? Again, from this interview with Business Innovation Factory:

Clay suggests shifting responsibility for answering the disruptive threat to an autonomous organization (bolding mine) that can then frame it as an opportunity. A new organization can pursue alternative channels, utilize different suppliers, and employ different services. Most importantly, they can do this without hindering their current, and most likely profitable value network while also giving their new growth ventures a solid foundation for success.

Can you say DeakinDigital, “a wholly owned subsidiary of Deakin University”? They’re now badging Masters level Recognition of Professional Practice for mid-careeer professionals – meeting unmet needs. They’re now run by the same CEO who runs DeakinPrime, Deakin’s corporate business training arm. This is an example of the Innovator’s Solution.

A bit like Madison Area Technical College’s badge approach to PACE/Corporate training. And several university Extension arms, such as Colorado State and Oregon State. (Typically) uncredentialed cash cows for their institutions.

So it’s starting at the edges… but beware of competition from agile upstarts.

 

Join us at ePIC in Bologna

I’ll be discussing this and other issues with Rick West, Bernard Bull, Dan Hickey, Connie Yowell, IBM’s David Leaser and a host of other enthusiasts (see speaker list.)

We’ll also be launching the Bologna Open Recognition Declaration. Current supporters of this declaration include Sir John Daniel, Stamenka Uvalić-Trumbic and Mark Surman. More to follow. Be one of them! Comments welcome at the Google Doc draft page.

Recognize and share learning in a digital world. Hosted in Canada by Canadians.

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Recognizing Self-Directed Learners with Open Badge eCredentials

This post is a response to a post on cogdogblog where Alan Levine was questioning the value of Open Badges as a credential system: Seeking Evidence of Badge Evidence. Although the post was mostly about the crappy evidence practices of many badge issuers and the need for evidence (I say sometimes yes, sometimes no), one of Alan’s thoughts struck me all the more when it was endorsed by Stephen Downes in OLDaily:

“being badged is a passive act, even with blockchain secure authority, it is done to you. As important is what you do yourself, in active tense, to demonstrate your own evidence. Get badged, yes, that’s one part of showing what you have done. But get out there, get a domain, and show the world what you can do. That is evidence.”

Alan’s post has sparked an interesting series of comments that will culminate in Alan joining a Badge Alliance Community Call on Wednesday March 9 at 12pm ET. This is my contribution ahead of time.

My post is also doing double duty as an assignment for #NRC01PL, the Personal Learning cMOOC now underway led by Stephen Downes and linked to NRC’s multi-year Learning and Performance Support Systems initiative.

At this point, the MOOC is about to move on from blasting the poor LMS for its preoccupations with highly-controlled instructional design, over-reliance on content delivery with tied assessment, and limited options for deeper learning through practice, experience and reflection. Interesting not just for its timing, Donald Clark’s latest blog post hits a lot of these points but also talks about the benefits of the LMS, helping make the case for Phil Hill’s Minivan of Education.

As a new blogger but longtime user of Slideshare, my post builds on a presentation about PLEs that I delivered at ePIC 2015 on behalf of MSF Canada with Dominique Giguère of Currents Group:

The key slide (39) is here – my idealized vision for a badged humanitarian career:personal-learning-environments-for-humanitarian-learning-and-development-39-638

The point I want to make in this post is that sometimes even self-directed learners need to be recognized in order to build their professional identity and achieve their goals. And it doesn’t always have to mean bowing down to The Man, whether that be an employer or your nearest institution.I think this is important in the context of #NRC01PL, MOOCs in general and Open Educational Practices as a mindset. As eLearning Provocateur put it so succinctly in a post about 70:20:10 (Personal Learning applied to the workplace),

I’m an advocate of informalising the learning, and formalising the assessment. eCredentials have an important part to play in the latter.

I should emphasize here that my interest goes way beyond higher education and well into the workplace. And while blogs can be a great way to learn out loud, hone your wits in public and build a connected body of work in certain fields, I don’t think a blog can do it all for everybody, and it may be wholly inappropriate to some recognition contexts.

How many blogging industrial welders do you know, for example?

 UPDATE: Alan Levine has found two… see comment

Open Badges Don’t Have to Suck

Yes, many badges do suck – cue the military metaphors:

tumblr_mn3w88qrl01qfzgweo1_500

Carpet Badging @kyledbowen CC BY-SA

 

But that’s like saying WordPress sucks because so many people use it poorly, or for things you hate. Sturgeon’s law: 90% of everything is crap. Focus on the 10%.

An Open Badge is a tool for recognizing and communicating learning. Like any tool it can be used poorly, imperfectly or, as I like to say, “in the spirit of continuous improvement.”

 

Badge Earners Aren’t Passive

I’m not even sure that passive is the right word. I think what Alan and Stephen mean is dependent, as in not independent or self-directed; what Serge Ravet referred to in his comment to Alan’s post as an asymmetrical power relationship where:

“authorities” (have) the “right to trust” while the average punter has only the right to beg to be trusted by an “authority.”

(I love it when Serge talks Cockney.)

It’s not passive because badges are owned by the earner. Yes, a badge “victim” may be sent a badge for being randomly awesome, for showing up at a conference, or for completing some algorithmic idiocy (you logged in!).

But he/she can refuse the badge – that’s at least passive-aggressive. And they can decide to actively share the badge to further their goals if the badge has transferable meaning for them and the audience they are sharing with, such as employers. And then there are other ways to earn and use badges that I go into below.

Attaching a label to a person that the person has no control over – that’s passive.

 

My Premises

Open Badges are more than Digital Badges

Like many, I make a big distinction between Open Badges and Digital Badges, although the former is technically a subset of the latter, and I’ll cite Doug Belshaw again here:

For me, Open Badge = eCredential = micro-credential = modular credential = a technically portable, potentially socially transferable statement of learning or achievement.

When I say digital badges I generally mean the kind that are not technically portable or socially transferable. They can have localized merit, but are not the focus here. The problem is when badge issuers mindlessly use Open Badges for digital badge purposes, i.e. issue Open Badges with no thought to how they could have transferable value and how to make that happen.

 

People want to be recognized in different ways at different times

There are times when even self-directed learners need to have their learning and capabilities formally or semi-formally assessed and recognized for specific purposes, such as a mid-careerist transitioning to back to education or to a new occupation, or a skilled immigrant transitioning to a new workforce.

The phrase Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL, also PLAR or PLA) will likely leave behind most of the university sector (colleges support it), but the notion behind it is what first brought me to Open Badges via ePortfolios: recognizing what someone knows and can do, based on assessing authentic evidence that can be selected from lifewide learning (formal, nonformal, informal/experiential) and has been curated, annotated and aligned for a particular purpose(s).

It’s an important set of processes and values for adult learning. It’s all about fairness: recognizing learning, no matter where it was gained.

AAEEBL will tell you that you can also have formative portfolios FOR emergent learning, but I’m speaking here mostly about summative portfolios OF past learning that are designed for recognition for a specific reason: academic credit, admission, professional registration, hiring, promotion, etc. These are increasingly known as “Targeted Evidence Packages” to avoid the word “portfolio”, which has baggage in some circles as being synonymous with sprawling life stories in loose-leaf binders (or piled up in a blog, or scattered across the Internet).

I’d  call them micro-portfolios, because their curated content is typically a subset of a larger portfolio that can have many ongoing purposes, including learning: front display case vs. back workshop.

 

Assessing Self-Directed Learners

Assessment is not just about tests

Up here in Canada, we’ve done a lot of work improving and clarifying our RPL practices, especially for regulated professions. One reason for this is to make things fairer for immigrants and refugees. A lot of it is about getting away from high stakes exams as the weapon of choice and thinking about more authentic and fairer ways to assess capabilities.

According to this 2012 guideline for assessing skilled immigrants from the Canadian Association for Prior Learning Assessment (CAPLA), there are five main kinds of assessment, each with pros and cons, which are often used together in varying combinations:

  1. Self-Assessments
    Typically formative, can be self-directed or interpretive, i.e. shared with others
  2. Written Examinations
    Criterion referenced (simple cut score) or norm-referenced (Bell curved)
  3. Oral Questioning
    Formal/informal, structured/unstructured. Can even be a collaboratively structured “professional conversation”, an interesting practice which I’m going to follow up on later.
  4. Demonstrations and Observations
    Workplace assessments over time and event-based simulations, such as the medical Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE)
  5. Portfolios and ePortfolios
    Portfolios FOR learning and/or Portfolios OF learning (Formative and/or Summative)

I don’t know about you, but I could drive an Open Badges recognition truck through all this – or is that a B-2?

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Meet me in St. Louis, Louis…   Public Domain

For example:

  1. Self-Assessments
    a) Declarations of interest and belief, such as Serge Ravet’s example of Je suis Charlie. These can begin to get at soft skills, but can obviously be gamed.
    b) Self-issued, self-regulated badges, aligned to clear standards, linked to examinable evidence, based on models such as Continuing Professional Development (CPD) in several professions and program review in academic institutions. Use for both continuous improvement and evaluation by others. Evidence and badge issue can be evaluated and endorsed after issue by standards bodies and other stakeholders, which adds value over time. Currency maintained by a stream of continuing evidence, with or without additional external recognition. I recently suggested this as a model to an impoverished professional body seeking sustainable ways to improve its CPD.
  2. Written Examinations
    a) Career Readiness badges.
    Employers already test for literacy, numeracy and document use for front line candidates. NOCTI’s Job Ready and College Ready Assessment badges can save time and money for candidates and employers and reduce the waste of lost assessments that could be transferred from the immediate hiring or admissions context (testing, re-testing…)
    b) Language testing
    MSF Brussels’ evolving competency model includes the leveled Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. This and other language frameworks are testable and displayable and can be used for  recruiting in the workplace or for HE admissions.
    c) Health and Safety compliance testing – not a biggie for most of the audience reading this post, but useful for candidates who need them to be recruited or retained. And for the employer.
  3. Oral Questioning
    a) DeakinDigital’s video interview as triangulation for their portfolio assessment (see below)
    b) Language testing, perhaps for Canada’s Portfolio Based Language Assessment (PBLA) for immigrants. When is PBLA going to make the transition to ePortfolio anyway?
    c) Audio/video recordings could be supporting evidence for  “professional conversations” badges, or even asynchronous behavioural interviews.
  4. Demonstrations and Observations
    a) The best example I have at the moment is Lipscomb University’s OSCE for Business Leaders (my term – maybe it should be OSLE), where leadership-related soft skills are evaluated in workplace simulations within a controlled environment.
    b) Vocational Training. There is huge potential for more authentic, modular, progressive, experience and practice-based alternatives to the dysfunctional national Red Seal apprenticeship system in Canada, with its isolated and often disruptive formal learning semesters, opaque experiential timecard logbook and multiple choice exam as a final hoop capstone. The logbook could be a beautiful digital thing made of many badges with linked evidence. But there are barriers… sadly, few of them related to learner needs. The Manufacturing Institute in the US is working on this, but I also advise keeping an eye on City & Guilds in the UK. Their TecBac is a good start.
  5. Portfolios and ePortfolios
    DeakinDigital formally badges Masters level Recognition of Professional Practice, based mostly on ePortfolios (Targeted Evidence Packages), supplemented by other assessment as needed (known as triangulation in RPL parlance). It’s my fond hope that MSF will support something like this for its leadership pipeline.

 

Blogs are not enough

Alan Levine and Stephen Downes both say that the evidence of their capabilities is in their output. Well, they’re blogging rock stars with thousands of followers who appear to blog as easily as they breathe. They’ve built their credibility through their output over time and that gets them work and speaking engagements in the post-secondary edtech community. They have huge social capital. They don’t need no stinkin’ badges.

But what if they were going through a career transition and needed to re-establish themselves in another community that doesn’t know them and doesn’t have the time to read all their blog posts? That’s essentially what happens to immigrants, for example. (Think about all those Americans fleeing to Cape Breton if Trump Wins.) What if they were BAs just graduating?

And not all of us are bloggers. I’m a recently hatched blogger and I’m finding that it takes significant effort to maintain the channel.

Also, blogs aren’t equally useful across sectors, however great a fit they are for the post-secondary edtech community. The industrial welder is just an extreme example.

Personal learning implies personal evidence that’s appropriate to context. It takes a ton of effort to assemble an ePortfolio or a blog. It takes a ton of effort to evaluate one, which is a key barrier to their acceptance. Trustable proxies like Open Badges can help. They can include direct evidence or BE indirect evidence nuggets (more RPL parlance), with trust. More on that in future posts.

 

Open Badges can help structure and reinforce blogs and ePortfolios

If we’re talking about past learning, I see a person’s body of work and the sum of their experience as similar to a swampy archaelogical site or an unexploited mine. For ongoing work and learning, maybe an abundant wetland estuary.

It requires investigation, cooperation with others, triage, channeling, sifting, extraction,  refinement, construction and packaging before you can develop transferable value from the raw materials that different audiences will recognize in environments where you want to build your social capital.

So I say that Open Badges can be like structural supports for a person’s body of work, like gabions for an embankment or corduroy roads in a wetland. Signposts, like localized GIS markers or 3D beacons helping you map and leverage your assets.

These hardened pieces of validated (and ideally aligned) evidence can support other kinds of evidence to tell your learning story.

So I’m going to be asking Stephen for a badge if I complete this MOOC. But I want a good one that I can use somewhere else…hmm, maybe at DeakinDigital?

6 Predictions for Open Badges in 2016

About this Blog

So: a mere 23 years after discovering the World Wide Web at TVOntario, this is my first real blog post. It’s taken a while to distill my thoughts. 8->

I’ll be leveraging my edtech-soaked obsessions with digital identity, online community, lifelong learning and career development, and this will be a combination of speculation, evaluation, reportage and related rabbit holes from the perspective of an advocate and active participant. I’ve been pretty active on social media such as Twitter and  Slideshare; this should help fill the cracks with longer explorations of the ideas that I’ve been sharing there.

About this Post

Nothing like setting yourself up for trouble on your very first blog post, but it is January 1st after all, and it seems only natural to look ahead at the coming year. I may regret this 12 months from now. Or I may feel like a genius.

Open Badges have followed an interesting path since the idea was sketched on a napkin after the 2011 MozFest in Barcelona. 2016 will mark 5 years since their inception. Are they poised for the big time, or is this concept still “ahead of market adoption”, to quote Madison Area Technical College’s Academic Plan for 2014-2107?

List of predictions

  1. Coming to Canada: Open Badge Factory and Open Badge Passport
  2. Version 2.0 of the OBI Standard
  3. Endorsement by Third Parties
  4. Alignment to Frameworks
  5. Regional Badge Ecosystems
  6. October in Bologna: ePIC 2016

 

1. Coming to Canada: Open Badge Factory and Open Badge Passport

This is the one I have most control over: my company Learning Agents is working with Discendum to launch a clone of the complete Finnish solution on Canadian servers in early 2016.

I’ve been an early and staunch supporter of Open Badge Factory (the issuing platform) and Open Badge Passport (the complementary storage and display platform) since I invited Mozilla Foundation to introduce Open Badges at ePortfolio and Identity Conference (ePIC) in 2012. Mark Surman couldn’t make it except via this video clip:

…but Carla Casilli and Doug Belshaw (then at Mozilla) did a great job of inspiring the European ePortfolio community that June in London in 2012, including Eric Rousselle, CEO of Discendum from Finland.

Eric and his development team at Discendum conceived Open Badge Factory as a solution for educators and trainers to issue Open Badges in distributed learning environments (ePortfolio, LMS, online community of practice, face to face) but to manage them centrally, ensuring coherent issuer control and avoiding badge fragmentation (because “badge rot is real!”).

More recently, they introduced Open Badge Passport as a more robust and flexible alternative to Mozilla Backpack. This loosely coupled tandem of Factory and Passport should be more flexible than the tightly integrated competition. We’re betting so at Learning Agents, and I’ve been very impressed with the momentum of innovation that Discendum has been able to sustain over the past two years.

A micro-credentialing solution housed on Canadian servers will be “PIA-friendly” (PIA= Privacy Impact Assessment), and therefore more attractive for Canadian academic and public institutions who may be interested in micro-credentialing, but concerned about PIPEDA, the US Patriot Act and related privacy issues. The fact that it originates from a country which respects privacy and is known for its educational outcomes doesn’t hurt either.  The Canadian service will be re-branded to avoid confusion with the original that continues to be offered from servers in Finland.

More on this via other channels in the coming weeks.

 

2. Version 2.0 of the OBI Standard

Nate Otto has been doing a great job wearing half a hat as Interim ED of the Badge Alliance in addition to his duties at Concentric Sky. I’m hoping that 2016 will see greater stability for the mandate and funding of the Badge Alliance so that Nate and other stakeholders such as LRNG are able to steer the Open Badge Infrastructure (OBI) standard from 1.1 to 2.0, sometime in the summer of 2016.

The standard has holes in it and anyway must continue to evolve in a changing environment and growing awareness of its potential as a building block for learning and recognition pathways. Details of the scope of changes for 2.0 are still sparse, but watch the OPEN BADGE STANDARD WORKING GROUP for details as they emerge.

Version 1.1 brought us Extensions, which enabled all kinds of new functionality, and we haven’t harvested anywhere near the total benefit of that yet. Because Version 2.0 is a major upgrade, expect some things to break from previous versions of the OBI, but also expect accessible migration paths.

 

3. Endorsement by Third Parties

The most obvious example of Endorsement is a standards organization endorsing badge issuers and/or the badges they issue, but could also include consumer or stakeholder community endorsement, such as by employers, industry associations or regional networks.

whats a badge really worth

Bryan Mathers, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

This is one of the barriers holding back cautious potential issuers and consumers from adopting Open Badges. Endorsement is now theoretically possible via Extensions in version 1.1 of the OBI, which have already been used to enable distributed issuing networks (“badge sharing“) and geolocation. Version 2.0 of the standard may also have a role to play.

Expect to see one or more OBI-compliant implementations of Endorsement in 2016.

 

4. Alignment to Frameworks

This is another “popular” barrier to adoption for early and late majorities. Assuming an Open Badge is of “good quality”, where does it fit, what is its relevance? How can you use it to recognize the skills and abilities of the earner? The OBI makes Open Badges technically “portable” between contexts, but how is a badge in one context meaningful in another?

One way is to align the badges to standards. This is already starting to happen with Teacher PD and the ISTE standards (see both Digital Promise and  PD Learning Network in the US)  and in the world of IT with the Skills Framework for the Information Age (SFIA) framework (see QualIT example from New Zealand and this proposed model from South Africa…there will be one from Canada in 2016, if all goes well.)

However, the OBI doesn’t currently support Alignment very well…in the standard it’s just a single URL with an open text description. What’s needed is is a standardized way of referring to a framework and where this badge fits in that framework. This will improve things such machine readability, discoverability and modular development pathways, helping Open Badges achieve their potential as developmental building blocks in interoperable skills ecosystems. Myknowledgemap‘s Justframeworks.com from the UK may be useful in this regard. It’s a simple solution that avoids leveling where possible, although I am sure there will be other solutions that are more complex and may still be simple enough to work. I was hearing again recently about Simon Grant’s InLOC specification in this regard.

Expect to see some meaningful progress on this file on several fronts in 2016.

 

5. Regional Badge Ecosystems

What if you gave a badge and nobody cared? This is true of far too many badge systems. Open Badges are easy to do…badly. A common shortcoming is an over-emphasis on what’s easy for a single instructor to do: formative, “gamified learning” learning strategies to engage (torture?) students inside the context of a course. If there’s no meaning for the badge beyond that course, no redeemable, summative value outside of the context, why:

  • …should students care, especially if they’re uncomfortable with certain aspects of gamification?
  • …bother making it a portable Open Badge?

There’s nothing necessarily wrong with using digital badges for gamification inside a context – Khan Academy is a decent example of this. But that’s not why Open Badges were invented, hence the tagline: “Get recognition for skills you learn anywhere.” For ongoing meaning, there has to be a summative recognition value to the badge:

800px-Open_Badges_napkin_sketch_crop

Source: https://wiki.mozilla.org/Badges

Summative recognition implies someone doing the summing up: the badge audience (or “consumer”). It can be an audience of employers, admissions officers at educational institutions, or any entity that needs to assess the capabilities of a candidate. A clear awareness of audience is typically missing in hasty badge implementations. Good badge system design engages badge audiences early, sometimes even giving them a chance to co-create the badges. Then, when candidates approach them with these badges, they are a familiar currency.

All well and good, but it can be an exhaustingly incremental process to build badge audiences org by org, or even sector by sector. What if you could bring a representative group of stakeholders together for a community or region to put Open Badges and common skills frameworks onto the local radar and vocabulary?

Excitingly, this is what’s starting to happen in these places:

  • Cities of LRNG (formerly “Cities of Learning”, but I guess they re-allocated the vowels) in Chicago, Dallas, Washington and Pittsburgh, soon to be followed by many more.
    This example is stronger on the “supply” side (i.e. issuers over audiences), but has good funding and great potential.
  • Colorado – a potentially converging cluster of: Colorado Community College System Badge Consortium (presentation), Colorado State University , and Aurora Public Schools (see Badge Summit advertised June 2016)

I also have hopes of helping get something similar going in BC’s Lower Mainland. I’ll be encouraging and tracking all this in 2016.

 

6. October in Bologna: ePIC 2016

Serge Ravet started this conference about ePortfolios in 2003 and I’ve attended every one since 2004. It’s my favourite conference, because it’s always been about staking out new territory.

In recent years, I’ve played more of a role in helping with the programming. I was able to introduce Open Badges in 2012 with Serge’s enthusiastic approval, and since then Open Badges have gained in prominence every year. That’s not surprising, because they represent a less monolithic, more modular and often complementary enhancement to the mission of ePortfolios.

This year, Serge’s organization ADPIOS is partnering with CINECA, the Italian HE consortium behind the new Bestr badge solution, to offer ePIC 2016 in the fascinating city of Bologna:

I *think* the dates will be October 27-29. We’re still finalizing the details, but should be able to issue the Call for Contributions soon.

This promises to be a banner year for ePIC. I’ll be returning to it in future posts as the year progresses.

In closing

Wow, this took a while; I hope it hasn’t been too long a read for you. I’ll be working to get quicker and pithier in future posts.