Openness (wk.1) #OpenBadgesMOOC

Badges - New Currency for Professional CredentialsWith the best will in the world I’ll be taking part in the Mozilla / BlackBoard MOOC called “New Currency for Professional Credentials”.

MOOC: Badges – New currency for Professional credentials

You can read all my posts from this MOOC on the OpenBadgesMOOC tag, when I’ve written them!

Why this MOOC?
Why is this MOOC interesting to me? I have posted about Open Badges a number of times, and how I feel the ability to demonstrate skills and knowledge obtained during a formal course of study (University) are not always easy to spot, and certainly not easy to show through the normal / formal certification received. If students can earn badges for skills, group work, ability, etc. rather than an overall ‘grade’ which is considers pass / fail then this is of use to prospective employers? Aren’t we always hearing how students are not being prepared for the modern workplace? With a Mozilla BackPack full of badges (here’s my Backpack: Mozilla Open Badges) the student able to show and demonstrate these skills will have an edge. Yes?

Now that the CourseSite has opened up the meatier sections we can see what the next six weeks is about. We’ll be looking at Openness, Badge Fundamentals, Employers and Learners, Providers, and Opportunities. There are a number of groups for us to join, no doubt to help us focus on the area(s) of most interest or importance to our own badge requirements (personal or professional). I joined the following groups:

  • Badges for Higher Education Instructor/Faculty Professional Development
  • Badges for MOOCs
  • Badges in Traditional Higher Ed Courses

Week 1 – “Openness” 
Week one is about ‘openness’ and the disparity between job descriptions and alignment of knowledge that formal courses have to the job specifications. This fresh approach (badges) could be viewed as a new ‘currency’ exchange “between job seekers, learning providers, and employers”.

We are not really told what to do other than login for the online session and the discussion groups. Yes, the discussion boards have a thread started with the question/topic for us to engage in, but I only found that be accident. Not necessarily a well sign-posted Bb course at the moment, but hopefully it gets better as we get more user generated content, discussions, and readings to take part in.

This first week’s discussion activity, it seems, is about the question of “who, what, and why”, the traditional ice-breaker activity. This is where being involved in more than one group could be more trouble than it’s worth. The interactions and discussions have been slow to start, considering the number of people who signed up to each group, but this is always the case in that we will always engage and work at different times of the day and week, therefore missing some interactions completely.

The MOOC seems to be heavily centred around the scheduled live sessions. While it is nicely timed for the working day for pretty much everyone, in whatever timezone they are in, for me it is at 7PM –  when I’m putting my two boys to bed. I’ll have to use the recording and catch-up service if i’m going to have any hope of keeping up with the MOOC.

Reading (again, for many of us) the Open Badges for Lifelong Learning report from The Mozilla Foundation which explains the varied types of learning (although greatly simplified into just four examples) that takes place outside a formal learning environment / course, this is a good introduction to badges for something other than pass / fail showcase:

“Most existing systems of educational degrees and job-relevant accreditation require enrollment in formal programs and institutions and dictate that learning needs to follow prescribed paths. Informal, peer-based and self-directed learning is only acknowledged to the degree that it supports the formal curriculum. Further, most of these formal systems do not account for newer skills like digital literacies or for granular skills and incremental learning, and thus a degree or report card tells a limited story about what relevant skills and competencies people have developed along the way.”

I enjoyed the reading too, as there were some resources (and innovators) I hadn’t come across before (good to see Doug Belshaw there too, I’m sure his work will feature in all the week readings and activities!). From the discussion around ‘Badges are not assessments‘ and ‘Understanding motivation in badge system design‘ we are exposed to the potential of badges in different environments and for different purposes.

Obviously everyone on the MOOC is interested in badges, but what about being able to introduce badges to those who do not agree or believe they have a place in learning and/or education? Is this, perhaps, covered in the final week: “Opportunities” and I’m getting ahead of myself (again)?

We also now have access to the badges that can be earned from the MOOC, and that you don’t have to wait for each week to run before you can try and earn them – obviously you need to know what/how the criteria can be met so perhaps it is better to wait and do each in turn, but it’s good that the badges are not intrinsically linked to the week and activity.

Challenge 1 – Define an EcosystemeModerator Badge
I am about to facilitate a small course on eModeration. There is no certification for attendance or ‘passing’ the course, but what better opportunity to trial badges than this? The course is being run over three weeks and a badge can be earned each week for participation and engagement in the weekly activities in relation to the individual learning outcome. A fourth badge can be earned for completion of all three weeks. This (right) is one of the badges I designed in Fireworks and ‘baked’ using

  • The course is internal to the University and is being taken by interested academics who want to be able to make more and better use of discussion boards for student engagement and assessment. Before the introduction of badges there would have been no record of achievement for the course other.
  • Having experienced and senior academics as students is an experience in itself as they often have strong and well defined views on a subject or approach, but the materials have been well developed (not by me, unfortunately) and well structured.
  • Badges are appropriately introduced and explained: these are a new concept to many and need careful and considerate implementation. As the students on the course are also academics they will be finding out first-hand the benefit of the gamification of learning with a view to also thinking and planning their own implementation of badges in their own courses and assessment strategies.
  • The ecosystem with a University context is not always easy. The implementation of our own open badge initiative will need careful planning and liaison with many departments and committees before it is widely adopted and ‘installed’, and this initial trial on the eModerator course will help us understand what is needed (support, technically, pedagogically, etc.) and help to inform the committees and departments (as well as gain some valuable analysis and support).
  • In the context of these ‘students’ and this course it is not necessarily appropriate to talk about future employers and job prospects, but what will be extremely valuable is that the participating academics can, and will, gain the insight and experience of open badges with a view to furthering their own learning journeys and applying this knowledge with their own courses and students. If it can provide information and feedback that the appropriate committees and departments can see a tangible benefit for the student experience then it is a project/job well done.

From this initial run of the course, and from learning more about badges through this MOOC, I aim to gain a better understanding of badges and how to use them, and the eModerator materials, and plan to tailor the badges to more specific learning outcomes for future cohorts of students taking it.

During my surfing and searching I found this excellent post on the Leicester City Council’s BSF ICT Team website – Get recognised! Learners on Open Badges. Written by three teenagers it is an excellent introduction to badges, but more importantly it is written from their perspective – these are the students who will, and want to, earn badges.

Hear what students themselves think about badges:

“Another advantage is that it can boost your career prospects as it can provide you proof of skills gained outside of formal qualifications, which may be relevant to a certain job. It may even enable you to stand out from competition when applying to university, etc. Also, youngsters may see this as a game, which may motivate them to work harder in order to obtain as many badges as they can and although they might think of it just as “fun” it could help them in the future.”

A final thought for this week is that, if you noticed, the CourseSite encourages sharing, reuse, and remixing of the materials, and there is even a course package / course cartridge of it too!

Challenge 1 – Feedback
“We’d love to see user stories that you would create for this scenario.”