Reflecting on learning and seeing the world in exciting new ways.

I’ve been thinking about massaging this blog back to life for some time now. I often come across topical educational discussions or links to resources that are worthy of further exploration but rarely get beyond sharing them as a link on Twitter. I’ll start today with a couple of topics I’ve been recently pondering.

MOOCs

The jury is still out for me about MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses). If you’re new to the concept of MOOCs, Ryan Tracey has put together a good overview of what a MOOC is. Built with connectivist design principles in mind, the theory is good. However, the longtime online learner and facilitator in me wonders just how effective such large scale forums can be, or whether the huge numbers involved mean they are simply a recipe for online mayhem, particularly for less web-savvy users. Good organisation and clear communication is critical. I’m happy to be convinced of their worth (or otherwise).

I am starting a MOOC next week with the hope that it will help me kill two birds with one stone. The first is to experience a MOOC first-hand and the second is to explore the possible use of online badges with the suite of qualifications I am involved in developing.

Open badges

Mozilla OpenBadges logoI was introduced to the use of open badges at the elearnz Conference in Auckland recently. Since then, I have thought long and hard about how they could be used to recognise and acknowledge learners’ skills and achievements in various areas. I am interested in exploring how my organisation could develop badges for our learners and whether or not they would find them valuable.

Some initial thoughts I have about the use of badges to recognise learning:

  • What are the conventions around awarding badges to represent whole qualifications, as opposed to the individual skills or clusters of skills that the qualifications represent? Will learners expect badges for every course or standard they complete or will they be satisfied for a single badge representing the whole qualification. For example, if you take a unit standard-based qualification and award a badge for its completion (much like the physical badges some organisations offer), will those learners feel disadvantaged if other organisations offer say 15 badges for the same amount of work? Isn’t that why we register credits for unit standards with NZQA on a learner’s record of achievement?
  • I already have a couple of badges in my Mozilla Backpack. Although they are just introductory examples, they were surprisingly easy to get. I imagine that the number of badges developed will grow exponentially once the concept takes off and more organisations start using them. I wonder what value badges will hold for learners and the issuing organisations if they are presented alongside those that require very low levels of skill or application.
  • How could the skills represented by each badge be made transferrable or even comparable? Will it be acceptable or even expected that hundreds of different organisations could issue badges for very similar skills? I understand that the issuing organisation needs to establish credibility, but how apparent will this be for viewers (for example, potential employers)?

Badges: New Currency for Professional Credentials starts next week and is run in Blackboard, a LMS I have previously taught in for many years (albeit using older versions). The timing of the live sessions aren’t NZ-friendly so I won’t be attending them in real time by will view the content once it is made available. I look forward to learning more about the issues surrounding the use of badges in education and joining in the discussion.

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