Open Badge Design Toolkits

I have used the DigitalMe Badge Canvas and Jisc Open Badge Design Toolkit frequently during badge design consultancy sessions so I thought I would provide links to them both here. I led the development of the Jisc Open Badge Design Toolkit while working with Jisc and have uploaded it to slideshare for ease of discovery. It is based on the DigitalMe Badge Canvas and is shared under a Creative Commons license CC By-NC-SA 4.0. The following link provides a Download button, where you can save a copy as a pdf: Jisc Open Badge Design Toolkit

The Jisc toolkit aids the creation of badge system, content and brand design and includes tips for completing each section. Amongst other things, it can help badge creators to consider:

  • The value proposition of a badge
  • The badge earner, issuer and viewer
  • Criteria
  • Assessment methodology
  • Granularity
  • Levels
  • Themes
  • Iconography

When I run badge Design Days, I find participants who are working on the content for a single badge will inevitably begin to consider clusters of badges, meta and micro-badges, levels – all of which contribute to the development of a wider badge system. As a badge system begins to develop, thoughts around branding and the visual elements of a badge also become more important… how will a viewer know at a glance that this badge is part of a larger badge system and related to another badge? How will they know this badge denotes a higher level of another badge? For this reason, the Jisc Open Badge Design Toolkit is intended to be part of an iterative process to badge system development, in that system, badge content and branding often seem to build on each other.

I will be using the toolkit at the Open Educational Ideas conference in Berlin next week, where I will be co-delivering an Open Badges for Open Education workshop with Dr Ilona Buchem. The conference will bring together a range of presenters working in the open education space and will investigate frameworks, national and institutional policies as well as best practice in open education.

As the badges sphere develops social design tools such as the Jisc Open Badges Toolkit and the DigitalMe Badge Canvas will also need to develop, so at DigitalMe we are currently creating new Badge Canvases to use in our consultancy services, including a new version of the free canvas, (which has so far been downloaded 3000 times and translated into 4 languages). The following slides will step you through how to use the canvas and provide an example of a badge system.


Skilling me softly

Feather 1 by Jim Champion. From Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

Recently industry, community groups and informal learning providers have come together to research and advocate for more investment in soft skills development. The group has produced the Backing Soft Skills report, which highlights the importance of soft skills to the (UK) economy:

“soft skills contribute £88 billion to the UK economy today – with this contribution predicted to increase to £109 billion during the next five years.”

via McDonald’s Backing Soft Skills.

Inviting educational institutions to work with them, the group are aiming to embed soft skills development in educational practices. In discussions I’ve had with higher education institutions globally over the past year, there seems to be an increasing interest in recognising soft skills. Clearly, given my interest in Open Badges, discussions have often revolved around this, sometimes because I’ve been specifically invited to discuss them in this context and sometimes because discussions have just ended up on this topic as a highly relevant way to evidence soft skills.

Implementing Open Badges can help to begin a discussion around soft skills, which may be couched in terms of employability skills, additional skills, character attributes etc. After a presentation I gave this week on Open Badges at the University of Stirling, various areas of application were discussed, such as using Open Badges to recognise:

  • The voluntary work of Class Reps, who develop a range of skills around communication, negotiation, leadership
  • The skills developed by 4th year students who teach and mentor students in 1st year
  • Graduate attributes – attributes the University thinks graduates will need for work
  • Additional skills highlighted via the Higher Education Achievement Report (HEAR), which might include volunteering, awards etc.

One of the Backing Soft Skills report’s findings, is that employees can often struggle to articulate their soft skills. This chimes with research that underpinned the Mozilla Discovery project, which investigated badge-based pathways to employment. For me, one of the most interesting aspects of working on that project was how the process of engaging with the badge ecosystem could be used to help people identify their strengths, including hard and soft skills, in order to discover their intrinsic motivators. This knowledge can be useful as it can help people to make better choices about possible career or learning pathways, based on things they would enjoy as well as be good at. This in turn can have a positive impact on employers or educators because they would be engaging with people who were intrinsically motivated by their job or studies and so more likely to demonstrate resilience in overcoming challenges and stay the course to a given destination point. Clearly a more engaged, motivated and productive workforce will have a positive impact on the economy.

A recent example of the link between Open Badges and the ability to articulate skills was highlighted to me by the team developing Open Badges at Abertay University. They commented that the process of gaining Open Badges for soft skills or personal attributes has had the effect of helping their students to better understand their competencies and how they have demonstrated them. This has provided the students with the confidence to talk about their strengths, backed up by tangible and ready-to-hand examples, which they can use in competency based job interviews.

The Backing Soft Skills research and report adds further weight to existing efforts to implement processes and practices for developing and capturing soft skills. One of the key reasons for the development of the Open Badges specification was to capture and evidence soft skills and personal attributes that are not explicitly recognised through formal qualifications, and this alongside other ways they can aid in soft skills articulation, suggests to me that Open Badges will have an increasingly important role to play in the employment and education spheres.

Developing a new learning currency with Open Badges – ALT webinar

Last month I was invited to give a webinar on Open Badges for the Association for Learning Technology (ALT). As a long-standing member of ALT I have greatly benefited from insights and examples of educational practice from members of the email list and recently there has been a lot of discussion on how Open Badges can and are being applied in further and higher education. So it seemed timely to share some of the developments in the wider Open Badges field.

Topics I covered in the webinar included:

  • Community discussions relating to the Mozilla hosted badge backpack (should there be one main backpack or federated backpacks?)
  • IMS and W3C projects relating to competency based education and digital identity – the IMS Digital Credentialing Initiative and the W3C Open Credentials Community Group
  • Some of the digital opportunities that DigitalMe are leveraging to capture evidence on the move, support badge earners to share and capitalise on their achievements and to enable evidence-based endorsement

During the questions and answer session, we discussed…

  • Badges being used as intrinsic motivators (but perceptions existing around them as extrinsic motivators)
  • The cultural and design aspects of Open Badges
  • The choice of name for ‘badges’

There were a number of links shared and discussion around Open Badge projects and developments in the chat as well, so if you’re interested in a quick catch up on Open Badge developments, it could be worth a look.

Here’s a link to the ALT webinar

And the slides I used:

Creating a Culture of Openness – Pilots to Policy to Prosperity

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve attended a number of events on open education, open credentialing (focusing on Open Badges), innovation and prosperity. In the process I have come across a number of examples of excellent practice, frustration at barriers to the creation of a culture of openness and the importance of culture to create prosperity.

Starting with how open digital credentialing can help to highlight student achievement beyond academic qualifications and aid employability, at the Scottish Blackboard User Group staff from the University of Edinburgh and Abertay University discussed their Open Badge projects ….

The University of Edinburgh

The Edinburgh University Student Association (EUSA) has developed a comprehensive badge framework to recognise the work and skills gained by Class Reps. Class Reps demonstrate a number of skills in the course of their duties that are sought by employers (see a previous blog post on skills employers seek for some examples), relating to communication, people and problem solving skills etc. The badges EUSA have created range from those that are used to recognise specific skills to badges signifying involvement in the Student Staff Liaison Committee and an over-arching Class Rep badge. Myles Blaney explained that students must submit a blog post, reviewed by a EUSA staff member, as evidence for their badge.

The reasons for developing the badges were to provide a portable and versatile digital credential that could be shared online, including on professional profile sites such as LinkedIn, to highlight the range of skills Class Reps develop to recruiters. The badges can also be used as stepping stones to the Edinburgh Award for Representing Students, as evidence for the 50+ hours of voluntary work Class Reps do each year.

This use of Open Badges seems a good example of how badges can also be used for more than just recognition of achievement but for other outcomes, such as to promote reflective practice (through the use of blog posts for evidence). The badges were all created by members of the EUSA, which would have required deep engagement with digital assessment practices, prompting thought on what is and should be assessed, how to evidence and assess in a fair way and how to manage that process. It seems to me these skills could help students have a clearer appreciation of requirements for their own assignments as well as helping them recognise their skills and attributes beyond academic ones.

Abertay University

Abertay University have been using a range of Open Badges, to showcase activities that can count towards the Higher Education Achievement Report (HEAR). The HEAR provides a transcript of a student’s achievements while at university, including things like awards, volunteering, being a Class Rep etc. Carol Maxwell and Deborah Farley described how they have been aligning badges to the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF), which is Scotland’s national qualifications framework, used to level formal and informal learning. They have created badges which represent a notional 10 hours of effort, the same learning time specified for one SCQF credit point.

Carol and Deborah commented, however, that they are considering if stipulating 10 hours of effort for every badge will provide the flexibility they need or whether they might become more granular with their badges. They also remarked that badges have proven to be a useful tool for helping students to visualise their interests and skills and to provide case studies of what they have achieved. They felt that this could help students with job interviews, particularly competency based ones, by providing students with tangible examples of what they had to do to gain a badge that recognised a particular competency.

ALT Scotland

At a recent ALT Scotland event on Open Education, with a focus on policy, discussion focused on how we move from pockets of excellent open practice to a culture of openness.

University of Dundee

Natalie Lafferty discussed skills developed by students developing Open Educational Resources (OERs) that are used within the medical curriculum at the University of Dundee. Through the process of co-creating the curriculum, students have been learning about multi-media design, learning design, usability testing, copyright and developing a range of other skills, which Open Badges have helped to showcase. You can find out more about this great example of teaching, learning and open practice here…

Pilots to policy?

The above examples were self-contained initiatives and not representative of institution wide uptake of open digital credentialing but according to the presenters, feedback has been positive and there are plans to continue and extend use. I wonder if we will move to more institutional approaches however.

Lorna Campbell, who initiated and led the development of the Open Scotland Declaration, and Marion Kelt, who developed the OER policy for Glasgow Caledonian University both spoke at the ALT Scotland event about some of the challenges involved in moving an open education initiative towards policy. A lack of a clear sense of ownership of the open agenda appears to cause blockages, so knowing who to go to in order to move from pockets of practice to a clear mission can be difficult. However, in the case of Glasgow Caledonian University’s OER policy, this has been achieved and the Open Scotland Declaration appears to be gaining ground, with interest expressed by some of those attending and facilitating another recent event, Innovation and Prosperity in Scotland, organised by Nesta and the Economic Development Association Scotland (EDAS).

Creating a Culture of Openness

Check the #ScotlandCanDo twitter feed from the 23d June 2015 for information about some of the great talks and discussion around creativity and how to re-invigorate the wealth of a nation (in both human and financial terms) through education and innovation. The Innovation and Prosperity in Scotland event was thoughtfully and expertly facilitated by Pat Kane and I particularly enjoyed talks by Juan José Ibarretxe, former President of the Basque Country, and Professor Irene McAra-McWilliams from Glasgow School of Art. A common theme throughout the day was the importance of culture… something which a well presented policy can help to promote, by giving people the awareness of what is encouraged, possible, and in some instances, what they won’t be reprimanded for doing.

A point was made at a discussion on OERs hosted by Terry McAndrew from the Higher Education Academy that I attended on the same day, that many people don’t want to share their resources in case someone steals their work. As that pioneer of innovation in education and one of the founders of the Scottish Enlightenment, Francis Hutcheson reminds us though, altruism is linked to self-interest – so by sharing we are also promoting our work and ourselves. Something that MIT benefited from when they released hundreds of their courses as open educational resources years ago. Perhaps it’s not such a surprise then that they now make more money from their t-shirt sales than they do from their spin-off companies.

Openness = Prosperity? What do you think?

Horizon Higher Education Report 2015 and Badges

The Horizon Higher Education 2015 Report has been published today. The last couple of years’ reports have contained mentions of Open Badges as key trends so I wanted to see how badges were referenced this time. As I am also now working with DigitalMe, focusing on Open Badges in HE and adult learning, I was interested to see where some of my work might be focused.

It seems badges are perhaps now seen as more embedded in key higher education trends given how they are referred to in relation to other developments.

Badges are mentioned throughout the report in the context of:

Open Education Resources (OERs) (Mid-Term Trend: Driving Ed Tech adoption in higher education for three to five years). A report from the University of South Africa, the Open Educational Resources Strategy 2014-2016 found that emerging technologies such as Open Badges and MOOCs are disrupting traditional revenue models for universities and that these, as well as other OERs, could help a re-focus from content delivery to improved services.

Blending formal and informal learning (Solvable Challenge). The ePortfolios and Open Badges Maturity Matrix is mentioned in terms of leadership and a possible framework to use to inform current and future practice around ePortfolios and Open Badges use. A post about the matrix in Learning Futures provides background to its development.

Important Developments in Educational Technology for Higher Education (Learning Technologies). Badges / microcredits are listed as an important development alongside learning analytics, MOOCs and open content amongst others.

So badges seem to be seen as an integral part of emerging practice in higher education. Watch this space!

Evidencing Employability Skills with Open Badges

I originally wrote the following blog post in January 2014. I am re-publishing it here given recent events and discussions I have had on the views of employers in relation to Open Badges.

Doug Belshaw also wrote a post last week which highlights that some of the challenges discussed in this post, remain perceived challenges today. His post, ‘The three biggest (perceived) problems with Open Badges‘, challenges the thinking behind these perceptions.

There was an exciting announcement earlier this week by the IMS Global Learning Consortium on their commitment to accelerating the adoption of Open Badges in formal and corporate education: IMS Global Announces Initiative to Establish Digital Badges as Common Currency for K-20 and Corporate Education

Doug has also written a useful post on this, ‘An exciting week for Open Badges‘, which unpicks some of the reasons why this is an important announcement for the uptake of Open Badges. It also provides further evidence as to why expanding our thinking in relation to digital credentialing and Open Badges is becoming increasingly important.

One of the ideas mentioned in the post, around clusters of badges, was also explored further during the Discovery project, a proof-of-concept project on badge based pathways to employment that I worked on with Mozilla last year: Discovering pathways

Concerns, Possible Solutions, Paradigm Shifts and Key Findings

There was focused and lively discussion at the Open Badges: Ways to Evidence Employability event I co-facilitated at the University of the West of Scotland (UWS) this week.

Alongside Tom Caira, Chair of the Industry Advisory Board for Computing and Frances Rowan, Stakeholder Manager (Careers and Employability Service) from UWS, we brought together over 50 technology employers (Directors from multinational and local companies), students, educators and members of the Open Badges in Scottish Education Group (OBSEG) to consider if Open Badges could provide a useful way of highlighting employability skills and attributes employers are looking for.
Commencing with an ice-breaker activity we split into groups and asked students to say what attributes they thought employers might look for in potential employees, then employers commented on what they are looking for. This was followed by presentations on the key attributes research is showing employers are currently interested in and a collated list from the employers at the event.
 List of employability skills
Attitude; Communication; Business Awareness; Resilience; Reliability; Problem Solving / Dynamic Thinking; People Skills; Responsibility (team working and self-awareness)
I then gave an introduction to Open Badges and we followed this with the groups using DigitalMe’s Canvas Design Sheet for the task of considering how they could evidence these attributes using Open Badges. All of this sparked a barrage of questions!


As you perhaps might expect from this group of people, the questions were very pragmatic and focused on the practicalities of using Open Badges in the employment process. During the resulting discussion people voiced their concerns and identified what they would need in order to find value and place trust in badges.

An initial concern was investing in something they thought might create an additional administrative burden. There was agreement that they would not wish to be presented with so many badges that it would result in additional time or resources required for the application process. If in the process of reviewing badges, they also came across badges for things that they didn’t feel were of value or relevant to the application, they felt this could undermine the value they placed on all badges.

Some employers were also concerned about the open nature of the infrastructure, with one employer saying it scared him. Another commented he would want to see people licensed to issue badges. The underlying concern here was that employers don’t have time to deal with a hit and miss scenario with badges. Currently when they see that someone has a degree or certificate from a known educational provider, they trust the value of this because they have an implicit understanding of the quality assurance processes and verification procedures the awards from these institutions have gone through. They will also value certificates from some institutions or training providers more than others, again based on their own trust networks, which will have been built up from their own experiences, the views of their network, the sector and generally accepted social views of top educational providers. Badges add a new dimension to this mix because they could come from issuers the employers have not heard of so they would have nothing to base immediate judgements on as to whether or not it would be worth clicking through to find out more about the badge and why it was awarded. They also weren’t sure how recruitment agencies would deal with this. The last thing the employers wanted was to add to the length of time it takes to get through a sometimes very large pile of applications for a job.

There were questions around the potential for inconsistent use of words to describe what is being badged. For example, there could be inconsistencies in people’s perceptions of what makes up an attribute. One of the attributes we were working with was ‘resilience’, which could be interpreted in different ways and result in badges being issued based on divergent understandings of what resilience means. Badges could also be issued to someone for showing high levels of resilience but if that word didn’t appear in the title of the badge, how would this be picked up until the badge consumer drilled down into the criteria and evidence? The employers were clear that unless the underpinning reason for the badge was obvious, they might not bother to click through and read this additional information.

Finally, as participants began to work through the badge canvas, they began to appreciate the challenge involved in evidencing an attribute. How do you demonstrate good listening skills, resilience or commitment in a way that can be consistently verified? How can you capture something that becomes evident through the actions someone takes over a period of time or that they might demonstrate by their attitude and approach to a variety of situations?

I think the key concerns from this group of employers could be summed up as:

  1. Employers want to immediately understand the value behind a badge. They don’t want to spend time clicking through to the detail of a badge unless they feel it will reveal something worthwhile
  2. Employers are concerned with badge apathy and are likely to be put off the concept of badges if they come across too many badges that are irrelevant to them in a given context
  3. It is probable that new trust networks will develop but initially it is likely badges from issuers employers already know and trust will be valued more.

Possible solutions

There are implications for issuers developing a badge brand and building up the value in their badges. Once employers begin to recognise the look of a badge from a particular issuer, and if they have valued other badges from that issuer, it seems more likely they will click through to the information behind another badge from that issuer. During discussion with individuals after the event, ideas like having a way to endorse a badge to say the badge consumer found it useful, relevant etc were raised. Rating systems can pose problems, such as people indiscriminately giving good or poor marks or reviews but perhaps it is worth exploring. The concept of endorsement did cause some confusion during the event when I raised the potential for others to endorse a badge, such as a company endorsing a badge issued by an educational institution and vice versa. Some thought this meant anyone could endorse a badge, which as mentioned above, might result in inaccurate endorsements. Once I had clarified that the endorsement would take place before the badge was issued and would essentially demonstrate that an external party was recognising and endorsing the value of the badge and the rigour of the processes applied in developing and issuing it, this was seen as being of more value.

From Flickr by Doug Belshaw CC-BY-2.0

For badge display developers, we discussed that something which would potentially help employers / recruiters to make judgements about attribute strengths is cluster displays of badges eg like the honeycomb image you often see associated with badge related posts. Clusters of badges could be generated through badges being tagged with keywords. So if a job applicant has a number of badges tagged with the term resilience, these would display in a ‘resilience’ cluster, which could provide a quick visual clue for recruiters to explore that candidate’s application further. This resulted in discussion around whether or not a taxonomy of attributes would be helpful so that there is a common understanding of what being resilient means. This cluster approach could also perhaps give some level of security that to have received so many resilience badges, this candidate does have some strength in that area, even if none of the badges come from issuers in the recruiter’s existing trust networks. This kind of development, could allow employers to extend their trust networks by being introduced to new issuers that they have already given some, albeit potentially minimal, level of credence to.

With respect to evidencing attributes, a number of the students at the event were mature students, some of whom were juggling young families, a job as well as a Masters degree. Someone managing their studies in amongst these other demands, is likely to be demonstrating quite high levels of commitment and discipline so how could this be badged? Could a possible solution be to pitch for a badge for a particular attribute? This would in a way, mimic providing information at interview where the candidate might talk through how they feel they have demonstrated a particular attribute by how they have approached different situations, their overall attitude etc. If this was presented for a badge, the pitch could be verified by someone others would trust to make that kind of judgement. (The information as to why they are in a position to make this judgement could be included in the badge criteria, eg that they are a course tutor or community leader who has known the person for a period of time.)

In terms of avoiding badge apathy or de-valuing badges, the implications for badge earners applying for jobs would be to pick and choose the most pertinent badges to present for a particular job application.

Paradigm shift

Beyond the practical questions from participants, the concept of Open Badges sparked some passionate debate as people grappled with the potential impact badges could have on our existing system of assessment and award. On one level, Open Badges can simply provide a digital equivalent to paper based certificates to show that someone has achieved something. On another level, they could also provide an opportunity for a paradigm shift in how we assess, and what we recognise, in terms of an individual’s skills and attributes.

The digital nature of Open Badges creates a variety of opportunities that don’t exit, at least to the same extent, with paper-based assessment and certification. Currently, candidates can make all kinds of statements about their attributes in a covering letter, that a recruiter, if they do not know the candidate, generally has to take on trust. There may be no immediate way to ascertain whether the person is actually a good team player, problem identifier and solver etc until perhaps the interview stage or a phone call to someone who knows the candidate. With Open Badges, the ability to link to digital evidence means the recruiter can, with a click, immediately see and make their own judgements about whether or not the earner has deserved a badge issued for a particular attribute. Links to evidence or the fact that the candidate has received a badge from an issuer the consumer trusts, could help to narrow the field of people to invite to interview by giving some more weight to the statements made by the applicant.

There are also opportunities around ‘big data’, which could be used to surface things like how many learning scenarios someone has undertaken on a particular subject, how many online quizzes or other forms of assessment they have successfully completed, their contribution to a community’s knowledge etc. Why not issue badges based on what is surfaced by some of this data? Stephen Downes has argued in a post on how we assess, that perhaps we should look at assessing individuals for their contribution to a community’s knowledge. This contribution could be identified through blog posts, tweets and comments etc that someone is doing anyway, without them thinking about them being used to demonstrate aptitude within the community. I personally like the idea of assessment becoming more invisible – something that can take place without people really being aware of it (Helen Keegan’s exemplary stealth assessment scenario at the University of Salford, I think demonstrates the potential power of this approach well).

Job seeking and recruitment through the online environment is increasing and online professional profiles can work 24/7 to promote an individual to potential employers and recruitment agencies. By adding Open Badges that highlight attributes alongside formal qualifications on these profiles, recruiters could gain a more holistic view of an individual and search for those individuals with just the right mix of skills and attributes they seek.

Key take-aways from the Evidencing Employability Skills with Open Badges event

The employers who attended the event are interested in the opportunities Open Badges could provide but with conditions around value and trust. Value and trust could be built by consideration of the following:  


The employers want to see badges which are meaningful and relevant to the context, eg to only be presented with badges relevant to the skills and attributes for a particular job being applied for. They believe badge apathy is likely to develop if they come across too many badges they feel are irrelevant in a given context.


In order to trust the value of a badge, the employers want to feel secure in the knowledge that appropriate rigour has been applied in developing, assessing and issuing a badge. For example, they want to know they can trust the validity of the processes the issuer has gone through in developing the badge, that the appropriate weight or level of effort / knowledge / aptitude is indicated and that adequate quality assurance processes have been adhered to while developing the badge.  


Connected to rigour, they want to know that the assessments or evidence required for achieving a badge have been consistently applied and the same badge is issued for comparable levels of effort, achievement or ability. They are also interested in visual consistencies, so that they can recognise badge brands to build up quick visual references of trusted issuers and also understand different levels of achievement via the badge image.

I think the key points for issuers and badge earners is that the trust and value employers place in Open Badges, could be built up over time through rigorous and consistent processes being applied when creating and issuing badges and through the earner being selective when choosing relevant badges to present for a given context. In essence, I don’t think this is very different from how trust has been created in the current issuers of awards or how we re-write our CV / resumes for different contexts.

Tom Caira concluded the event by asking if people would endorse them introducing Open Badges as a pilot to an entrepreneur module. This resulted in a cautious yes from the participants as they continued to reflect on what they had just learnt during the workshop and someone suggested a Return on Investment exercise to try to gauge the effort required in creating the badges compared to the possible gains in terms of helping students demonstrate employability attributes in a way that employers value. On the whole, however, there was consensus that it would be useful to explore Open Badges further, run a pilot and have some feed in from employers during the process.

Ignoring the Instructions and the Learning Comfort Blanket

If like me, you never read the instructions (until you’ve got into a mess and it’s absolutely necessary), you might enjoy @derekrobertson’s…: If Vygotsky played Minecraft… on the benefits of learners setting the agenda for their learning rather than following someone else’s instructions.Learning comfort blanket

Robertson focuses on children learning but I feel what he says resonates with adult learning too. In jobs that have required me to deliver pre-set (technology-related) training with adults, I have often found I’m in a race to get out of the way of their learning and have sometimes wondered why I’m even there, other than as a kind of learning comfort blanket. On the whole, the participants are happy exploring and my attempts to demonstrate anything often lag behind this exploration. I answer questions but even then, the participants will often answer them for themselves in the process of articulating them. I perhaps sometimes speed up their exploration in a ‘phone a friend’ type way, by maybe explaining the mechanics of a process or a more efficient way of approaching something but on the whole the participants will have their own agendas and objectives for how they will use what they are learning, which dictates their priorities and discovery. So imposing a rigid structure seems counter-intuitive.

I think this is why I am so drawn to the possibilities provided by Open Badges to open up learning and assessment. Competency based credentialling, that can be applied at micro or macro levels, seems to provide an opportunity for this kind of exploratory learning, where learners determine the instructions for their learning and assessment, as they go along.

This does perhaps raise and build on questions around:

  • The purpose of the teacher
  • How we structure learning
  • How we assess learning that has not been pre-defined

As learners develop their own learning pathways, meandering through ideas, activities and networks, wouldn’t it be great, if they could earn recognition for that learning as they go? I hope this is something that could develop as Open Badges developments grow. The Badge Alliance has created a great timeline of Open Badges developments in 2014, which highlights some of the projects and possibilities that are being explored.

The Year is Wide Open

Mozilla Monument San FranciscoHappy New Year!

A new year is always a good time for evaluation and a fresh start. It’s also exciting to see existing developments continue to grow.

One of the areas of development I am still very much involved in and believe will continue to grow in 2015 is digital credentialling, and in particular, the open standard for this, Open Badges. With apparently 12,000 sign-ups each day for the student profile platform MyEdu, which supports Open Badges, the use of digital credentials to showcase achievements and engage with employers seems likely to rise throughout 2015.

Organisations like DigitalMe in the UK are continuing to use badges in active learning programmes, to help students demonstrate skills as well as to gain a sense of their learning journey and other achievements they can build towards

I’m hopeful that Open Badge developments in the public, private and voluntary sectors in Scotland will also continue to grow this year.

I had the good fortune at the end of last year to finally visit the Mozilla Monument in San Francisco and hunt for my name amongst the other Mozillians working to keep the web open. I do hope Open Education and an open web will continue to be priorities in 2015.

Competency-Based Education and Open Badges

The past few weeks have seen a few exciting developments for Open Badges. In June, and in response to recommendations of the Further Education Learning Technology Action Group (FELTAG), the UK Minister for Skills commented that educational agencies and awarding bodies should be actively looking at the opportunities offered by ‘Open Badges in the areas of peer assessment, employer partnership, learning analytics and the engagement of learners’

Discussions on how Open Badges could benefit the areas mentioned above and a range of other educational opportunities in Scotland, have been taking place via the Open Badges in Scottish Education Group (OBSEG) I set up with the RSC Scotland, over the past year. This group brings together many Scottish educational institutions, agencies, employers, student groups and the national awarding body to consider how this form of digital credentialling could enhance learning and accreditation. Members of the group, the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA), made a commitment to investigating how they could use Open Badges in 2013, and it is likely this will initially include badges for Accreditation of Prior Learning (APL) for SQA qualifications and recognition of Continual Professional Development (CPD) of SQA staff.

The SQA have also been working with Education Scotland and educational practitioners on a new competency-based education system, implemented in Scottish schools this year, Curriculum for Excellence. This curriculum recognises that learning happens everywhere and aims to support learners develop skills for learning, work and life through the development of four capacities: successful learners; confident individuals; responsible citizens; effective contributors. It is acknowledged that Open Badges could be a good fit for recognising the wider range of an individual’s attributes and strengths, as well as academic achievements, such a competency-based system can allow.

Given this Scottish backdrop and as I am about to commence a new role with Blackboard, I was pleased that Blackboard also recently made a strong commitment to investigating competency-based education and badges. They are collaborating with the American Council on Education to undertake research into a competency-based approach and the use of digital badges to record achievements.

Interesting developments and I’m looking forward to seeing how things progress over the coming year. Finally, the Open University have also published an intriguing post for a Senior Producer Accreditation and Assessment, to drive a programme of accreditation for informal learners. Great opportunity for implementing Open Badges…

Stories from Crossover Edinburgh and D14, Glasgow

Speaking at Crossover Edinburgh about context for using Open Badges

Stories from a couple of the recent events I’ve spoken at, capturing some of the thoughts from each day on using technology to support how we learn, connect, work and recognise people’s abilities.