Employability Skills Can Be Learned

As someone who tracks the recognition of learning and achievement using Open Badges, I found Learning to be Employable, a report from UK’s City & Guilds a very interesting read, despite its narrow focus on Further Education (FE). Although this report focused on youth in vocational programs, there was lots here that can be adapted to other groups along the spectrum of lifelong learning.

I’m becoming more and more interested in how Open Badges can provide evidence of employability soft skills. I last wrote a blog post on this back in June 2016 and plan to write more on the topic. This post is a further instalment in what I hope will be a series, but is also doing double duty as a submission for the City & Guilds Employability Practitioner CPD ENGAGE Open Badge – eating my own dog food… yum!

youcandoit_3968766889_2f2503d702

Jill Dawson CC 2.0 BY

First Part: What Are Employability Skills and Which Are Most Important?

I  found this section (actually two sections) the most difficult. I guess I was expecting a simplification of an area I’ve found difficult to pin down (I sometimes call soft skills “slippery skills”, because getting them to line up nicely is like trying to nail jello to a wall.)

Instead, I was treated to a historical survey and research summary that emphasized  overlaps between terms. I found the definitions interesting, but still had difficulty parsing terms such as perseverance and resilience (NB: “Resilient” capability  on page 33 includes “perseveres” and ‘displays grit” – ack!) and the authors’ constructs of “habits of mind” and “transferable skills”. As more of a “lumper” than a “splitter”, I found lots of commonality across categories!

Here in Canada, I’m hoping to bring people to agreement on soft skills, building on frameworks such as:

Given all the overlap and the difficulty in getting universal agreement on terminology, I think that for recognition of employability soft skills via Open Badges it makes sense to simply link to individual frameworks as needed or demanded by different audiences, especially badge consumers such as employers. This way, earned badges will be more locally relevant, aligned to employers’ hiring contexts with a minimum of adjustment on their part (“Don’t make me think!”). The technology should be able to accommodate this  in version 2 of the Open Badges standard: alignment to skills framework(s), which could be a feature of  post-facto third party  endorsement.

Moving on from frameworks, it was very useful to read about the need to remove the concept of morality from character and the focus on “performance character”,  a useful term gleaned from the Character Education Partnership (CEP) in the US:

‘those qualities needed to realise one’s potential for excellence – to develop one’s talents, work hard and achieve goals’‘those qualities needed to realise one’s potential for excellence – to develop one’s talents, work hard and achieve goals’

In an amoral world, this might make a good Assassin’s Creed, however reprehensible that goal might be. If you must be an assassin, you should find your passion and work on your performance character to be the absolutely best one you can…

Second Part: Pedagogy of Employability Soft Skills

This part is where the report came alive for me. Again, there were no simplified prescriptions to follow, but lots of useful case studies and characteristics of exemplary institutions.A key lesson is that employability must be embedded across the curriculum and beyond it, not shoved into its own curriculum silo, or dumped into student services, to be accessed at the end of the program.

Wearing my Open Badge lens, I picked these effective practices out on page 42:

  • student-led recording evidence of personal development, accompanying school-led approaches to measure character (note to self:  personal learning pathways)
  • use of reward or award systems schemes (note to self: uh, badges?)
  • older students working with younger students (note to self: badge the older students)
  • opportunities to take part in voluntary programmes and social action in school and in the local community (note to self: badges as modular Co-Curricular Records)

The Ofsted case study of the Halton Borough Council on page 43 hammered on the importance of real employer engagement to get the skinny on opportunities  for Work Integrated Learning and employment, but also to get their input on programme design – which skills and what to call them, so that job candidates are speaking the same language as their employers.

Speaking of language, I appreciated this paragraph on page 45, suggesting the notion of developing ingrained work habits rather than ‘learned’ employability skills:

While most employers, colleges and training providers tend to use a language of skills – employability skills, soft skills, NCS, for example – it is important to see the bigger picture. The CBI has clearly grasped this in its various educational initiatives, and we suggest that we follow its lead by using the word ‘habit’ to elevate this debate to an institutional level rather than allowing it to sit within discussions about individual courses. The evolution of thinking about employability exemplified by the CBI also has the benefit of focusing on ‘employability habits’, skills which have become so much second nature that they are also habitually used.

This helped me see how these are soft skills (or habits!) that could be acquired by many, rather than traits to be recognized in a lucky few. The key super-habit being Dweck’s “growth mindset”:

a combination of self-belief, a willingness to give things a go, seeing mistakes as an inevitable part of making progress, being willing and able to take and learn from feedback, being pre-disposed to share emerging ideas with others and look for their input, valuing hard work and effort, and seeing perseverance as an essential part of human activity.

This is an amalgam of skills that have been defined in various ways in this report. An employer might recognize the totality without troubling to check off each component part.  (But my ePortfolio background tells me that the employer should seek confirmation of his/her conclusion through triangulation of evidence to  avoid the “halo effect” a single impression might create.)

I was interested to learn that non-cognitive skills are still malleable  at the adolescent level, so that resilience, persistence, etc. can still be effectively worked on in high school and early college.

The authors report that “GenY” (Millenial?) workers seek more immediate feedback than Boomer, “attributed to their exposure to instant communication and feedback via internet access and social media.” This suggests personalized digital badge development pathways to monomaniacal people like myself.

The chapter on Co-Curricular learning was particularly good. I hadn’t heard of Learning Companies (pg 54) per se, but I see parallels with practice firms or virtual enterprises, out of continental Europe (see Forbes article.)

I also hadn’t heard of UK’s National Citizen Service, which seems to be quite effective and successful and has surprisingly won support across the political spectrum in the country. Something to think about here in Canada, as we emerge from the rubble of the Katimavik and Canada World Youth programs.

One quibble: the assessment section did not even mention badges, though it did talk about ePortfolios and “the use of technology to support the recording and assessing of employability skills.” I suggest that the authors may want to examine the affordances of digital badges and Open Badges, given their discussion of the tension between formative and summative assessment and ePortfolios.

Summary

This report joins my library of resources on soft skills and I’ll be following up on many of the references cited in it.

I do like the City & Guilds approach of focusing on PD of instructors using Open Badges for reflective learning. This makes for better change management for one thing, getting instructors to reflect on the changes needed. Also, the Scottish Social Services Council has discovered that the reflections contained in such badges are a great source of feedback and qualitative research. I’m sure that City & Guilds will also find this.

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…

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.

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?

1920px-b-2_spirit_060810-f-6701p-004

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?

Open Badge eCredentials: Good Business for Higher Ed (Part 2)

Higher education institutions face a lot of financial challenges these days: declining enrolment in many programs, uncertain funding, rising costs, external competition, etc. So I thought it made sense to explore business reasons to implement Open Badges.

There’s been a lot written about how Open Badges and Digital (i.e. not Open) Badges can transform teaching and learning, but that just adds them to the end of a very long list. What if Open Badges:

  • Were revenue positive?
  • Helped clearly demonstrate  the value of a higher education and enabled its transfer into the workplace?
  • Became a common currency for collaboration between institutions and employers?
  • Helped show and even accelerated the innovative impact that an institution makes on its surrounding community?

That would transform Open Badge eCredentials from just another distraction or expense into a possible game changer.

Part 1 last week dealt with pathways INTO higher education. In Part 2, I’m going to explore pathways OUT OF higher education – and back in again. And out, and in…

 

Making that sheepskin “smarter” and more useful

754px-SheepskinDiploma

Millermz at English Wikipedia CC BY-SA 3.0

If it were just about digitizing degrees and transcripts for easier sharing , then services such as Parchment and Digitary would have it solved already, maybe with a bit of help from high level degree evaluators such as World Education Services, who can tell you for example whether a BA from another country is worth the same as one in Canada (in addition to telling you if the documentation is forged or if the institution is bogus.)

But what does a degree really tell you? According to a recently published, well-researched and cogent (unfortunately pay-walled) article in The Information Society by Carla Casilli and Dan Hickey, it’s a “long-standing social shorthand” based on a tacit set of trust networks which are not “typically, nor even frequently, tested, investigated or held accountable”. They go on to say that the PSE system has responded by introducing standards for academic content, PD and teaching practices but “there is little in academic degrees themselves that can be used to judge the quality of the learning or of the preparation level” (although I would argue that degree frameworks in many countries outside North America such as EQF, SCQF and AQF do speak to the “preparation level” part at a high level.) In any case, they say, and I agree that “the process of evaluating traditional educational credentials remains murky.” Love that word.

For these reasons, as this teachonline.ca article from Contact North says:

…. many significant employers now look less at what the credential is and look more carefully at what an individual can actually do. To help them assess this, more and more employers are looking to proofs of work-based learning, badges, evidence from learner portfolios of projects completed and other forms of evidence of knowledge, skills and competency.

Contact North describes a couple of official responses to this: the UK’s Higher Education Achievement Report and the Post-Secondary Achievement Report in the US.”Both of these developments are in their infancy.”

Not even born yet, but very interesting is IMS Global’s Open Badge Extensions for Education (OBEE) initiative, linked to their efforts to enable Competency Based Education (CBE). According to Mark Leuba, VP Product Management in a recent WCET presentation, this is part of a vision to take student records “out of the lockbox” and provide evidence of “discrete, “pre-degree” attainment” as “individual and bundled units of learning” that are secure, shareable and portable.

This is part of a wider strategy by IMS Global:

  • Open Badge efforts will continue to expand, i.e.
    • For-credit, co-curricular, continuing education units, faculty professional development
  • There will be an increased focus on the rigor and meaning of digital badges for academic institution
    • IMS-led working group on Open Badge Extensions for Education (OBEE)
    • Compliance certification
  • In the future there will be convergence of open technical standards for badges, e-transcripts and secure, portable learner records.

Reading this both excites and scares me. If it works it could be great, but it’s very ambitious and could bog down or lead to unworkably complex standards. It’s also a bit top-down. I suspect that my colleague Serge Ravet would say that it doesn’t speak to more symmetrical recognition scenarios (peer-peer, self-assessment, emergent issuers, etc.) and instead perpetuates the current power structure. But hey, I’m speaking here to a higher education audience, so that’s OK.

I do hope they remember the part about “small pieces, loosely connected.” Thankfully, Badge Alliance ED Nate Otto and other friendlies are involved. If you’re interested, the working group has split into four Taskforces (Specifications,  Analytics, Discoverability, Compliance) and is in the first of three 90-day sprints. I suggest contacting @MarkLeuba directly if you would like to be invited to participate. You should also know that WCET is following up with a summit in June:21st Century Credentials: Learners + Institutions + Workforce. Looks interesting.

In the meantime, we soldiers push forward in the trenches. I just just completed a Train the Trainer engagement at a local college for a Mahara ePortfolio solution to support a Business Technology Management program seeking national accreditation. I was working with faculty and support staff to leverage the affordances of Mahara to enable students to map evidence of their learning to Program Learning Outcomes. Basically, exploring different ways to curate and align artefacts and to connect and integrate them with genuine reflection. And how to get task and grade oriented students to engage with all that. Tools and resources we used included AAC&U’s VALUE rubrics and Serge Ravet’s ePortfolio and Open Badges Maturity Matrix.

I suggested to them that Mahara + Open Badges would be a potent combination. Mahara has an Open Badges displayer, and you can start building  ePortfolio/Open Badge hybrid pages that can leverage each other’s strengths, such as badges + additional evidence for a higher level badge, ongoing currency via reflection and new evidence, etc.

The point is that that Open Badges help you harden those soft skills that are diffused across ePortfolios and present them in more packaged, digestible proxies that can be drilled into if necessary. Employers want to see authentic evidence of those skills, but they don’t want to have to sift through the evidence like archaeologists.

I am a little disturbed by one development this week in Ontario: the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO) wants to introduce “soft skills” testing for students entering AND leaving Ontario PSE institutions. According to the story in the Hamilton Spectator,  HEQCO is seeking participants for a pilot that could roll out province-wide. The test, based on PIAAC, assesses literacy, numeracy and “problem solving in technology rich environments”.

“We don’t want to test because we’re interested in ranking institutions. But students spend time and money on post-secondary education, and the public invests in it, so we need to know if students are acquiring the skills that are going to serve them well,” said (Harvey) Weingarten, (president of HEQCO) former president of the University of Calgary. “If we’re not doing as well as we’d like, then we need to do a better job.”

I have a lot  of questions about this, some of which I raised on the STLHE mailing list and also on Carolyn Hoessler’s blog. I hope to find out more at HEQCO’s Transitions conference in a few weeks. I see that Contact North and some others interested in different forms of assessment for a broader range of skills are represented at the conference, so that’s a good thing.

Literacy and numeracy are necessary but not sufficient. How can you help your graduates demonstrate to employers that they have the stuff that will make their organizations live long and prosper?

For example, I suggest that Canadian liberal arts programs who are struggling to demonstrate the value of what they have to offer in the face of declining enrolment may want to have a look at what Deakin and Notre Dame are doing, inspired in part by AAC&U. (See more detail in a previous post in this blog.)

 

“Sticky alumni”, nano-degrees, community ecosystems

Alma_Mater_-_Columbia_University

Sean Shapiro CC BY-SA 3.0

According to Grammarist, alma mater means “generous or bountiful mother”. But what happens when Mom changes the locks?

When students graduate from colleges and universities, they often lose the connection with their alma maters. I know I did. Granted, progressive institutions do provide some declining career support after graduation and even some continuing services, such as lifelong portfolios. And then, of course, once they start making some real coin, alumni organizations start hitting them up for money, perhaps to feed Mom’s construction habit.

But I don’t see much evidence of a strategic approach to what I would call “sticky” alumni: institutions deliberately maintaining  mutually beneficial lifelong relationships with their graduates that evolve in character over the career of the graduate, which could play out in the following rough sequence:

  • Career placement & counseling for the student
  • Continuing education and CPD student
  • Mid-career graduate student, including recognition and accreditation of professional practice (a la DeakinDigital)
  • Program advisory committee member
  • Community resource, guest speaker, adjunct instructor
  • Workplace placement partner
  • Research and innovation partner
  • Alumni donor

One size doesn’t fit all, but you get the idea. Graduating students are a great place to start, but this could also be part of a strategy to increase engagement by mid-career adults previously unconnected with your institution. Open Badges can provide the skills and recognition currency to make this happen. Open Badges are increasingly discoverable over networks. LinkedIn profiles are just the start. Let’s start thinking about Lifelong Learning Analytics.

We’re already starting to see fragments of this emerging:

Again, according to Contact North:

Student Demand WILL CONTINUE TO GROW AND CHANGE
More students seeking shorter programs, which are skill-based and work-ready means the demand for micro-credit, nano-degrees and badges, will grow. This is already occurring, with colleges and private providers partnering with firms, professions and industry associations to develop competency assessments which can be used irrespective of whether or not the person being assessed has studied formal programs or courses: it will be skills that matter.

The ecosystem part starts to kick in in these examples:

BCcampus’ 2015 white paper: Competency to Credential:

Competency to Credential was initially conceived through a challenge-driven innovation and iterative design process for the delivery of new “horizontal” competency profiles resulting from changing health care strategies across several “vertical” health care professions (across BC.)

IBM’s Innovation and Growth badges

IBM sees Open Badges as a strategic tool to attract talent and drive innovation, partly in partnership with academic institutions. Here’s a rough transcription from a recent Badge Alliance Community Call :

“We have a real talent problem, so we’re trying to create that talent pipeline… we’re to figure out how to create lifelong learner journeys where we can say “What’s our K-12 strategy?”…and start to get people interested in robotics when they’re kids..how do we progress people through 13 years old to 18 year old kids? And then we have (higher education) academic initiatives, the Code Schools… ..college credentials and then how do we speak that same language..in the corporate space. How do we figure out that real progression plan? Honestly, I think that Badges is the perfect common language to connect all those things together.”
David Leaser, Senior Program Manager, Innovation and Growth Initiatives at IBM

Small wonder that Alan Davis, President and Vice-Chancellor at Kwantlen Polytechnic University said in a recent email communication, linking Open Badges to Open Educational Practices:

We see Open Badge eCredentials as a key building block to help us achieve the goals of our Academic Plan. Open Badges can map learning pathways that connect theory to practice. Open Badges can also connect our students to our community as they work with local industries, solving real world problems and driving innovation in our region.

Hmm… what if Open Badges were smart nodes in open networks, a bit like the internet itself?

Internet_map_1024_-_transparent,_inverted

By the OPTE Project – Originally from the English Wikipedia CC BY 2.5

 

And my point is…

If we stop thinking about Open Badges and Digital Badges as just another way to engage students inside courses and start thinking about their potential as:

  • smart modular knowledge objects that can be shared across information systems and social networks, based on a common standard;
  • granular evidence of learning outcomes and external impact;
  • digital beacons for branding institutions and marketing courses and programs;
  • communication tools for knowledge transfer and emergent innovation;

… then we have something that can make a serious impact on a higher education institution’s mission AND bottom line… don’tcha think?

CINECA seems to think so. It’s a non profit consortium, made up of 70 Italian universities, four Italian Research Institutions and the Italian Ministry of Education.

That’s why it’s developed Bestr,an Open Badge platform to “valorize competencies and connect them with companies, universities and training institutions”

That’s why it’s co-hosting the ePortfolio and Identity Conference (ePIC 2016) this year in Bologna with conference founder, Serge Ravet of ADPIOS:

Join us!

Open Badge eCredentials: Good Business for Higher Ed (Part 1)

I advocate for Open Badge eCredentials up here in Canada.

And I think I need to up my game in Higher Ed, because there’s really not much going on up here in post-secondary, with a handful of exceptions scattered across the country. (Is there anything going on east of Quebec? Please let me know.)

Compared to other countries such as the US, UK, Ireland, Italy and Australia, we haven’t exactly been early adopters in applying the exciting affordances of Open Badges for the benefit of formative and summative assessment and recognition of learning in higher education. I’m sure there are several course-level experiments that I don’t know about, but at the executive level, overall? As an edtech manager recently reported to me about senior management interest in eCredentials at his college: “Crickets….” This despite early explorations in BC and Quebec and several articles from Contact North’s teachonline.ca which I’ll touch on in Part 2 of this post.

I won’t speculate here why this is the case. What I will do is improve what I have the most control over: providing clear business-oriented arguments for institutions to at least dip their toes in the water of micro-credentialing and, together with their colleagues in other countries, begin to explore the synergies between Open Badges and student engagement, graduate employability, research and innovation,  and other issues related to institutional relevance and sustainability.

 

“Future student” pipelines

Recruitment strategies are becoming more sophisticated as institutions compete for students at home and abroad. The more innovative institutions are actively leveraging the similarities between student recruitment and what large companies do with social media and gamification to engage prospects and build talent pipelines into their organizations. After all, it’s just talent at an earlier stage of development, isn’t it?

For example, Open University in the UK is experimenting with Badged Open Courses.

According to this presentation at OpenEd15 in Vancouver, results in the first eight months were impressive:

  • Over 12,000 new visitors a month to OpenLearn
  • A very high rate click-throughs to make enquiries (~28%) •
  • Completion rates of BOCs are higher than with “traditional”MOOCs
  • Very high satisfaction rates (~98%)
  • 3000 prospectus requests, 400 formal module registrations
  • Up to 57% of survey respondents say that they will be sharing their achievements with an employer or prospective employer

Over in the private sector, IBM is doing some exciting work exploring how Open Badges can have a bottom line impact on eRecruiting and talent development on a global scale. They have issued 100,000’s of Open Badges in  domains such as data analytics. Big Data University, an IBM Canada initiative (!) reports exciting results for their online courses since they were badged:

  • 129% increase in enrollments
  • 226% increase in course completions
  • 694% increase in successful End of Course assessments

Wow. And according to the recent IBM presentation I saw, 85% of the badges claimed have been posted to LinkedIn, which  helps explain the statistics above and makes a good case for Open Badges and social networks.

Open Badges help IBM and its client organizations train people in their products and technology environments. They also generate qualified talent leads and track and nurture workforce talent to improve company performance through an engaged and a measurably continuously improving workforce.

Yes, big data is “so hot right now”, hence the eye-popping numbers. But it seems clear that Open Badges can boost learner engagement and success in large scale online courses, which can have a positive impact on recruitment. And many institutions are in fact experimenting with MOOCs to try to attract future students. Shouldn’t more of these initiatives be looking at badging those courses?

Because IBM is talking about starting in K12 and taking it through post-secondary and beyond (play segment 46:20 – 50:54):

Enhancing Admissions Criteria

Once students are interested in your institution, evaluating them is next.

Open Badge eCredentials can help with this, but I have to say that the other shoe still needs to drop in admissions officers’ minds, even outside of Canada. I’ll lay out the case for Open Badges here and report back on any emergence, which I do expect in 2016.

Required courses and good marks are the default for admissions assessment in Canada. Thankfully, standardized admissions tests are not popular here, and may even be on the decline  in the US, with hundreds of institutions relegating them to optional status. As for those, according to the Washington Post in 2014:

A three-year national study of colleges that do not require applicants to submit ACT or SAT scores found only “trivial” differences in the college graduation rates or the cumulative grade point average of students between those who do and those who do not send in their standardized test results.

Most institutions up here seem to feel that high school grades are the best predictor of student success. At a few institutions, if applicants think their grades will fall marginally below requirements, they can submit something like the University of Western Ontario’s  Extraordinary Extracurricular Activities and Contributions to Citizenship Profile.

According to OUAC’s eINFO site, some programs may have additional admission criteria that could include evaluation forms, reference forms or autobiographical letters. In some instances, applicants must attend an interview or audition, or submit a portfolio.

(As I explored in a previous post, Open Badges can be curated and aligned to requirements in ePortfolios along with other evidence. That’s one place where the shoe could drop…has it? Anybody?)

Currently, some US institutions are looking for ways to go beyond grades to evaluate the whole person. As reported in a recent post by Dan Hickey on his Remediating Assessment blog, a report from a group of Ivy League admission officers is starting to explore ways to evaluate prospective students for ethical engagement:

College admissions can send compelling  messages that both ethical engagement— especially concern for others and  the common good—and intellectual  engagement are highly important.

In his post, Dan explores some interesting ways that Open Badges can authentically demonstrate ethical engagement, primarily through embedding evidence.

I do think that evaluating ethical engagement is a laudable goal, but I’m also interested in intellectual engagement side, which the report really didn’t delve into. But I found at least one institution that does.

Hampshire College is a bit of an outlier, and not just because it’s actually located in Massachusetts. They’ve gone further than most US institutions by dumping standardized admissions testing entirely. Instead, as reported on their website last year:

In our admissions, we review an applicant’s whole academic and lived experience. We consider an applicant’s ability to present themselves in essays and interviews, review their recommendations from mentors, and assess factors such as their community engagement and entrepreneurism. And yes, we look closely at high school academic records, though in an unconventional manner. We look for an overarching narrative that shows motivation, discipline, and the capacity for self-reflection.

The results of their “No SAT/ACT” policy:

  • The quantity of applications went down but the quality went up
  • Enrollment yield (acceptance of invitations) rose from 18% to 26%
  • Class diversity increased from 21% to 31% students of color
  • First-generation students rose from 12% to 18% in this year’s class
  • All the above despite being “kicked off” the U.S. News & World Report “Best Colleges” rankings in 2015

Hampshire College’s focus on evaluating the whole student in order to select the best candidates for success pays off at the other end too. Hampshire is sixth on Forbes’ list of most entrepreneurial colleges: more than a quarter of Hampshire graduates start their own enterprises: social ventures, investment firms, advocacy organizations, or creative mashups of those and more.

Then again, not all students are destined to be entrepreneurs, so how about this:

We are in the top one percent of colleges nationwide in the percentage of our undergraduate alumni who go on to earn advanced degrees—this on the strength of an education where we assess their capabilities narratively, and where we never, not once, subject them to a numerical or letter grade on a test or course.

See more graduate outcomes here.

Imagine this kind of thinking adapted (not copied) to Aboriginal education reform here in Canada, just as an example.

Now, Hampshire College doesn’t  use Open Badges for Admissions that I know of. I cite them because their focus on “narrative assessment” is Open Badge-friendly. This statement on their Admissions page sounds very badgey to me:

Some of these traits manifest themselves in the trends on your transcripts, others in the work you do outside the classroom.

Here’s a shout out: does anybody know about any institutions currently including Open Badges in their admissions processes, explicity or implicitly?

I noticed that someone at the Sprout Fund said in June 2015:

“Right now there are already a limited number of colleges that are considering badges as part of their admissions process.”

… and I’d love to find out who those are and whether any have made the jump. I’ve reached out to the person quoted, but can anybody at Sprout help?

DePaul University in Chicago was supposed to be looking at it back in 2013, according to the Clinton Global Initiative web site:

Nichole Pinkard, associate professor in DePaul’s College of Computing and Digital Media, said DePaul will consider Open Badges that document higher-level learning as part of the application process.

“Badges give you a better idea of who the applicant is. They give you a stronger sense of quality and a stronger sense of context of what that person has done in the real world,” Pinkard said. “While digital badges won’t replace anything we currently require, as they become more prominent and more recognized, we would expect more students to include them in their applications to DePaul. The applicant’s academic record will still be the most important consideration.

But I can’t find any evidence of it on their website. Nichole is keynoting at the June Digital Badge Summit in Colorado:

… so I hope to learn more by then at the latest.

It could be that enhancing Admissions with Open Badges is still too much of stretch for most institutions. But I wouldn’t be surprised if in 2016 we see one of the more innovative colleges or universities either prescribing or endorsing Open Badges which indicate that the earners are ready for success at their institutions. Maybe one of the LearningCounts members that already supports Prior Learning Assessment for credit?

Winding up Part 1

The first part of this monster post has focused on how Open Badge eCredentials can enable the transition TO Higher Ed. Next week’s Part 2 will be focused on how Open Badges the transition FROM Higher Ed to employment.

I’ll be attending a conference in Toronto next month hosted by the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO) with a very promising title:

Nothing about Open Badge eCredentials in the program information, but I can’t imagine that they won’t emerge as a topic, based on some of the speakers and topics I do see listed.

I’ll be hoping to engage with Ontario Higher Ed professionals on the issues raised in Part 1 today and in Part 2 next week, where I’ll delve into benefits of Open Badges such as:

  • Demonstrating the “soft” value of Higher Ed
  • “Sticky alumni” and nanodegrees
  • Virtuous education/research spirals embedded in communities

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Should your LMS be HQ for your Open Badge eCredentials?

I just heard that Discendum, the developers of my favourite eCredentialing solution, have joined the D2L Partner Network in order to develop a Brightspace LMS plugin for Open Badge Factory.

landingpage_logo

Brightspace has a huge footprint in Canada, so this pleases me no end. It actually pleases me more than last year’s news that Brightspace had introduced their own integrated badging solution, matching Moodle, Blackboard, and Canvas.

Why is that? Because your LMS may not be the best platform to run your Open Badge system.

Backstory

It took me a while to realize this. I’m actually partly responsible for Open Badges coming to Moodle: in late 2011, I connected Totara Learning to the DML competition and the “Moodle as Issuer, Mahara as Displayer” project was born. This brought Open Badges to Totara LMS and Moodle in 2013.*

But I’ve changed, largely from working with Eric Rousselle at Discendum over the past couple of years. (Full disclosure: Learning Agents is launching a Canadian eCredentialing service in early 2016 built on Open Badge Factory and Open Badge Passport technology.)

I love working with Discendum because I find them clear thinking, practical souls. They’re always concerned with finding value that customers will pay for and they look for the simplest technology paths to deliver that value. This is what’s made them the leading edtech provider in Finland (OK, it’s a small market. But still.)

And they know LMSs. They built their own (Optima), which is popular in Finland and they are Totara LMS partners, with clients in several countries. They’re also a Mahara ePortfolio Partner, with a large national multi-site Mahara similar to New Zealand’s MyPortfolio. ePortfolio is why we met at Serge Ravet’s ePIC 2012 conference, when Mozilla took Open Badges on tour in Europe and changed how we think about ePortfolios.

Eric was intrigued by the potential of Open Badges at ePIC and brought the notion back to Discendum in Finland. The Discendum team liked what it discovered in early experiments, but found the Open Badge community a bit anarchic back then. They decided there was a niche for them to fill: a non-US provider focused on the needs of learning organizations seeking to build trustable and sustainable badge systems, flexible enough to integrate with diverse workflows and demonstrate the quality of their learning.

Small pieces, loosely connected

What they’ve developed is a loosely coupled system that works *with* LMSs, but remains independent. Badges are triggered and displayed inside LMSs and other systems, but they’re created and managed inside the external badging platform. They’ve even decoupled issuers from earners, which will provide even more flexibility down the road:

OpenBadgeswithOpenBadgeFactory_v24_ECOSYSTEM

From Open Badge Factory: A Badging Platform for Canada

Note: Salava, the open source Community Edition of Open Badge Passport, has recently been released on GitHub.

What are the benefits of this approach? Well, Discendum and I have developed this matrix comparison with an LMS-centric approach. It’s focused on Moodle and Totara LMS, because that’s what we know best. It’s propaganda, but sincere propaganda:

OpenBadgeswithOpenBadgeFactory_v26_MATRIXFrom Open Badge Factory: A Badging Platform for Canada

We’re in good company

Discendum is not alone in this loosely coupled thinking, although they’ve taken it further than most. If you look at the Badge Alliance list of Badge Issuing Platforms and EduAppCenter’s open LTI app collection, you’ll see lots of flexible connectivity between LMSs and independent badging platforms.

Dan Hickey wrote a really interesting post last year about the increasing complexity of LMSs over time and how they tend to lose touch with their design origins as they keep on bolting on new features in response to customer demand. Phil Hill has labeled the LMS as the Minivan of Education (i.e. convenient, but stodgy and a bit embarrassing.) I think of them more as retro-fitted camper vans, bulging with awkward add-ons that sometimes leak at the seams.

Dan Hickey reported recently that he was meeting engineers at Instructure to “share the wish lists of ten Canvas users regarding badges, outcomes, and ePortfolios.” I do think Canvas is better equipped than many of its LMS competitors for continuing relevance due to its more modular, externally pluggable design. For example, Canvas already has LTI-based connectivity with Canvabadges, Acclaim, Badge Safe, Badger and Open Badge Factory.

Serge Ravet also wrote a great post about his frustrations in making Moodle LMS work together with Mahara ePortfolio to track competencies for a European project (he blames me for luring him into using Mahara). Serge suggested that Mahara ePortfolio have a badge issuer plugin for Open Badge Factory. Now it does. How flexible is that?

So here’s a top 3 summary of why you should think about housing your badge system *outside* the LMS:

  1. Specialized badge systems can focus on doing one thing well, away from the control of integrated omnibus applications
  2. Control and quality
    Trivial things can be badged (“great login, here’s a badge!”) and badge strategies can be scattered and fragmentary.
    – Links inside badges start breaking as courses and accounts are deleted and even LMSs are migrated. This often means they’re no longer valid. (Badge rot is REAL, man…)
  3. Flexibility!

And in conclusion…

So if you’re a learning organization (or a learning unit within one) and concerned about quality,  here are some things for you to think about:

  • Can I issue badges from my different systems and diverse workflows: face to face workshops, synchronous e-learning, within the LMS; and in other assessment and recognition contexts: ePortfolio, online community, testing applications…?
  • How is evidence handled? Is it archived within the LMS, or exportable to a separate location?
  • Where are the issued badges stored and how secure are they?
    • What happens when we delete the course?
    • What happens if we change our LMS?
  • Can I control who creates and issues badges?
  • Are the badges globally accessible and copyable within and across systems?
  • Do I have a global picture of my badge system and can I track how well it’s achieving its goals?

On the other hand…

If it’s just about gamification within a course, then who cares? Fill your boots, as they say Down East in Canada. But think twice before you make these *Digital* Badges into *Open* Badges, i.e. portable into other contexts. Let’s be careful about handing out Open Badges like stickers, because that can degrade them as a skills currency.

 

* Footnote:  reviewing at a HASTAC interview from that time makes me wonder what happened to the “Mahara as Displayer” part. Totara had ambitious plans to make Mahara part of a federated backpack system, but the only Mahara displayer I know of is made by Discendum.

Join us at the ePortfolio and Identity Conference ePIC 2016.
The Call for Contributions is now open:

epic2016_banner

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.