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…

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Open Badge eCredentials for Extended Enterprise Learning

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

What is the Extended Enterprise?

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

What is Extended Enterprise Learning?

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

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

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

 

Why is Extended Enterprise Learning Important?

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

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

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

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

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

 

Adding Value to Extended Enterprise Learning with

Open Badge eCredentials

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

The left column comes from these sources:

BenefitsChart04_crop

 

Notes about the Chart

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Early traction: Open Badges in Extended Enterprise Learning

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

Early results for IBM’s initiative are very promising:

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

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

 

Moving Beyond ICT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Coda

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

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

The best customer is an educated customer.

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

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

Open Badges: Connectors for Open Learning

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

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

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

I’ll be exploring those in future posts.

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Metadata Schematic v02

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

 

Knowledge and Learning Resources are diverse

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

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

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

 

Open Badges develop most of their value after issue

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

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

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

 

The Open Badges ecosystem: symmetrical, diverse, emergent

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

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

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

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

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

 

An exciting vision

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

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

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

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

 

Closing plug: join us at the 2016 Digital Badge Summit

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

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

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

 

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!