Beyond #OpenBadges: #OpenSignatures — the power to act, rather than the power to pack!

For a long time I have played with the idea of picture-less badges and one-pixel badges. The reason for that was the over importance attributed to what I often refer to as the “pretty picture” playing the proverbial role of the tree hiding the forest of trust. Picture-less badges and one-pixel badges force us to reflect on how to get value out of the metadata embedded in a badge: what can we do with a badge if we don’t have a “pretty picture” to display?

One of the most disheartening and yet fascinating thing with Open Badges is our inability (or lack of interest) in using them to inform even the most elementary service related to badges. For example, I remember very clearly a session during my first visit at the Mozfest in 2012 where the idea of “badge the badger”was discussed, i.e. use badges to control the right to issue certain badges. Four years later, nothing has changed. For an external observer, that could be interpreted as if we do not really believe in their value beyond displaying “pretty pictures.”

Thanks to the work done with the 2.0 spec, things might change, but change will not happen solely with the publication of a new standard: to exploit its full potential we need the right technology and, moreover, the right mind-set. Using Open Badges as verifiable claims to control access to services could have been done with the current version of the standard. If it has not happened, it is not primarily the fault of a defective standard, but the mind-set of some of those involved in the Open Badge ecosystem, in particular the excessive focus on badges as micro-credentials rather than verifiable claims. Continue reading

#OpenBadges: the BOTOX of education? — #BeyondCredentials

Two weeks ago, during the Badge Alliance weekly Community Call (link) when Nate Otto presented the outcomes of the Badge Alliance Board Meeting, one of the slides (c.f. below) triggered a discussion on whether Open Badges are “just about credentialing”:

Are Open Badges about credentialing?

Are Open Badges just about credentialing?

Earlier in April, Carla Casilli posted her reflections on “Open badges + credentials: the value of the not-credential” (link):

“Right now, we still need badges to flourish in the non-regimented space of not-credentials—a world of value that has yet to be fully realized or appreciated—where the sliding scale of social and cultural currency changes depending on context.”

Doug Belshaw responded to Carla stating: “ I just can’t see a situation where a badge wouldn’t also count as a credential — even if that wasn’t the original intention” (link). Doug further adds:

“What badges don’t have to be, even if they’re wholly contained within the ‘credential’ circle, is traditional. They can recognise all kinds of knowledge, skills, and behaviours — as well as all kinds of things we haven’t even thought of yet!”

While defending that badges are credentials Doug Belshaw claims that “badges don’t have to be […] traditional,” yet it is precisely because badges tend to be “traditional” that Carla Casilli writes “we still need badges to flourish in the non-regimented space of not-credentials.” Could there be a connection between thinking of Open Badges as credentials and the reason why they are not being more used in the “non-regimented space”?

“While Open Badges could become an authentic rejuvenating medicine, many are only interested in an educational BOTOX® for a cheap facelift.”

With the growing interest of institutions of formal education in Open Badges, I am afraid that we are more likely to witness the transformation of Open Badges technology and practices to fit the needs of formal education for conformance rather than the other way around. While Open Badges could become an authentic rejuvenating medicine, many are only interested in an educational BOTOX® for a cheap facelift — Don Presant detailed one such example in Problems with “Badges for Food”.

My claim is that the vocabulary we use to describe Open Badges and the processes they support can make the difference between authentic transformation and masquerade — and avoid BOTOX®  mishaps! Continue reading

What relationship between #OpenBadges and competencies?

Recent posts by Timothy Freeman Cook (@timothyfcook) explored (here and there) the relationship between Open Badges and competencies.  I would like to build on Timothy’s ideas.

I have rearranged in a table the initial elements of what Timothy calls “the atomic elements of learning”:

 Atom  Equivalent Definition  Learner’s perspective
Competencies Standards Definition of learning one ought to acquire What should I learn?
Pathways Courses Relationships between learnings In what order should I learn?
 Badges Credentials Proof of a learning accomplishment Did I learn it? 
 Resources Opportunities Something one can use for a learning experience  How can I learn it?

For Timothy:

The more I sketch and dwell on it, the more I am convinced that the concept of the pathway is actually something that should apply, separately, to each of the 3 elements.  […]

The 3 primary elements are:

  1. Competency
  2. Credential
  3. Resource

and each of these can be expressed on a graph with a linear or non-learner ordering or nested relationships. […] A competency graph is a prerequisite structure.

While later in the post is the following definition: “[the] competency graph is a map” I would like to explore now this idea of mapping and graphs.

What are the frameworks of learning?

Good competency standards are designed by performing a functional analysis, i.e. the analysis of all the activities contributing to achieving the purpose/mission of a sector (e.g. automotive, hotel & catering industry) or domain (e.g. management, administration, sales, engineering). The functional analysis is a mapping exercise, just like explorers drew maps of unchartered territories. Functional analysis takes into account all the activities, from the most basic (e.g. feed-in a copy machine) to the most complex (managing finance). The outcome is a competency framework.

Unfortunately, very few competency standards are built this way. Most of them are the result of task analysis leading to a fragmented representation of the territory. Moreover there is often a confusion between competencyqualification and training frameworks.

When a competency framework is produced, there is not yet an indication that a certain competency is at level 1 or 8 (there are 8 levels in the European Qualification Framework, link) nor that one competency must be acquired before another. The attribution of levels to the different competencies is based on the spectrum of routine/unpredictable tasks, basic/complex required knowledge, the degree of responsibility for oneself and others, etc. The result is a qualification framework. The organisation of competencies through prerequisites leads to a training framework.

Continue reading

#OpenBadges – Micro-credentials: what can we learn from micro-credits?

“The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.”
― Ernest Hemingway

Are micro-credentials a disruptive innovation, just as micro-credits (micro-loans) were thought to be a few years ago? To answer this question we should first find out what can be qualified as a disruptive innovation? According to Wikipedia:

A disruptive innovation is an innovation that helps create a new market and value network, and eventually disrupts an existing market and value network (over a few years or decades), displacing an earlier technology.

Open Badges are creating a new market, the market of Open Credentials (micro-credentials are just one type of Open Credentials) and establishing a new currency, or more precisely reinvigorating one of the oldest currencies ever: trust.

Trust has many properties. First, it’s free and when offered, it enriches both the giver and the recipient. And when the recipients of trust get richer (with trust), their increased wealth can trickle back to those who initiallyoffered their trust. While it might still need the philosophers’ stone (link) to be transmuted into gold, trust can nevertheless be transformed into real cash as one experiences when applying for a loan. Con artists and banks* also know how to make cash out of trust!

For the poorest, things are different. One of the few assets they cannot be totally deprived of is trust. Thanks to the Nobel Prize winning Grameen Bank (link) founded by Muhammad Yunus, they now have the power to convert trust into micro-loans.

Grameen Bank is owned by the borrowers and it is based on trust. It does not require any collateral from its borrowers. Since the bank does not wish to take any borrower to the court of law in case of non-repayment, it does not require the borrowers to sign any legal instrument.

Were micro-credits transformative?

What lessons could the Open Badge practitioners learn from the Grameen Bank and the many micro-credit organisations that have been spawned since its creation? Can we draw a parallel between micro-credits and micro-credentials in terms of empowerment and potential social transformation? Could Open Badges create the conditions for the emergence of a new economy?

Continue reading

#OpenBadges for Key Competencies

This post is an extract of a position paper, Key Competency Badges, a reflection based on the work done in the TRANSIt project in relation to the acquisition of key competencies.

How to combine Open Badges with key competencies? To what result? One way to approach this question is to recognise that key competencies are just one particular group of competencies, so what is good for the recognition of competencies in general, is likely to be just as good for key competencies. As there are already plenty of Open Badges used to recognise a large range of competencies, then it is just a matter of extending current practice.

What is implied with this approach is that Key Competency Open Badges will need key competency standards similar to the UK key skill 2000 introduced above. While it might seem unproblematic to define standards related to the mastery of mathematics and foreign languages, things might get more complicated with digital competencies and even more with the sense of initiative and entrepreneurship and social and civic competencies. For example, the French authorities decided to remove ‘entrepreneurship’ from the European key competency labelled “sense of initiative and entrepreneurship.” The French version is “autonomie et initiative” [5] (autonomy and initiative).

Continue reading

Recognition and Accreditation of Competencies in 2030: How Different?

Wednesday 16 October 2013, I was invited to give a keynote address at a conference[1] in Warsaw celebrating the publication of 300 competency standards[2] at the initiative of the Department of Labour Market from the Polish Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs. Participants included the State Secretary from the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, representatives of social partners such as the Polish Craft Association, the Polish Chamber of Commerce, different employer associations and trade unions.

It was interesting to witness how much has been achieved 6 years after the publication of 200 qualification standards and my first visit to Warsaw when on the 18 December 2007 I was invited to give a keynote at a conference entitled National Occupational Standards as a Tool for Employment and Education Policy. The brief for this year’s keynote was to invite the participants to explore the potential of those newly published competency standards to support, recognise and accredit learning.

What follows is the abstract of my presentation[3].

Continue reading

The ePortfolio and CPD for nurses

The highlight of last week for me was a trip to the wonderful city of Bologna to speak at a conference for nursing professionals on the development of competencies organised by IPASVI, the national nursing federation. It was a pleasure to meet our colleague and EIfEL member, Stuart Cable, Interim Lead for Learning Zone of the Royal College of Nursing in the UK. I gave an overview of ePortfolio activities in the healthcare sector in Europe and a brief outline of the role of the ePortfolio in the creation of digital identity. Stuart presented the impressive RCN ePortfolio and its use in professional development in the UK.

Can we have a ‘one size fits all’ approach to competency as the European Qualification Framework seems to hope? I think the answer is yes if the EQF remains a framework in which national frameworks can find their place. The Italian nursing profession is now tackling the challenge of defining competencies and designing development programmes – a process that some EU countries have already gone through and others have yet to address. Once again, context is critical. The eternal round of elections in Italy has inevitable repercussions on the availability and deployment of resources. The profession is making a concerted effort to improve its image and raise the level of qualifications. It was clear that they were in agreement with the broad view of competence as presented by the EQF that includes such ‘metacompetencies’ as learning to learn, working with others, communication and problem-solving. At the same time, there seems to be a need for consensus on basic technical competencies. We shall make slower progress to achieving the goal of professional mobility if some nurses can prescribe medication (UK) and some can’t (Italy).

The only slight downside to the event for me was trying to communicate the excitement of the subject in 7.5 minutes (15 mins with consecutive translation!). However we aim to follow up this ‘headline delivery’ with more detailed work in the ePortfolio healthcare SIG. So far there is interest in this group from Italy, France, the UK and Australia. All other expressions of interest welcome. We’ll be posting information soon and arranging a meeting before the summer in preparation for ePortfolio 2008 in Maastricht.