On Monday 10 September, I represented MIRVA-member FiBS at a German-speaking workshop looking at the role and design of digital certificates, with a particular focus on the application of open badges.
The workshop took place at the Goethe University, Frankfurt am Main, and was attended by a group of 15 people representing very different perspectives on this issue. The workshop brought together programmers and practitioners familiar with badge technologies and people hoping that badges might offer a new form of alternative credential appropriate for application in the areas of virtual study mobility, refugee access to higher education, teaching of digital competencies as professional development and linkage between learning gained in formal and informal learning settings.
A major element of the workshop was offered in a world-café format, where participants were invited to discuss three dimensions of open badges: 1) the appropriateness of badges for giving evidence of different types of learning, 2) the technology requirements of a badging system, and 3) the framework requirements in terms of regulations and quality assurance. The discussions related to all three dimensions developed in very similar ways.
At the start of discussions, the participants focussed on the requirements necessary for a perfect certification ecology. That is to say, they thought about how the technology should link individual badges to central skills frameworks and enable stacking of similar skills (e.g. through machine learning and natural language processing) and they thought about how to assure the quality and comparability of the endorsements contained in the badges. Under these conditions only certain types of learning could really be captured by badges, i.e. those most easily and robustly aligned to skills frameworks.
However, in all three cases, the various discussions reached a point at which the participants began to consider whether these strict requirements – which are familiar to formal certification and qualifications – would limit the very alternative open badges were offering. A certain consensus began to emerge around the idea that a major benefit of badges is their agility and ‘lightness’ and the fact that they can be applied in settings that are not easily aligned to formal or regulatory frameworks (e.g. related to informal learning).
The discussion was left with an open ending, without definite conclusions either way. However, the workshop left us all with an important question for the implementation of badges: should they be used simply as smaller versions of formal certificates (e.g. microcredits) or does their real value lie in them offering an alternative way of recognising skills and abilities, which compensates to some extent for its lack formality, with digitally connected context information contained in the metadata?
For more information on open badges see: https://openbadges.org/
For more information on the goals and activities of the MIRVA project see: https://mirva.openrecognition.org/
For further discussions on these issues, consider attending the EPIC18 conference see: https://epic.openrecognition.org/
In order to see my presentation at the workshop see here