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My highlights of 2015

Will Woods's blog - Sun, 13/12/2015 - 11:01

“Don’t procrastinate” – that was my only resolution for the New Year as a I started 2015. I had already begun this year by moving to Learning and Teaching Solutions (LTS) which was a big decision as it was a huge change for me leaving behind the research part of my job to focus on the big challenge of working with colleagues to create TEL (Technology Enhanced Learning) sub-unit of LTS.
Over the past year we’ve created a sub-unit consisting of 44 extremely dedicated and committed staff from different parts of LTS who have come together to cover four TEL areas which complement each other. These areas are Learning Innovation, Learning Environments, TEL Design and Student Experience. All areas are supported by evidence which is gathered through student engagement or by working with areas from across the Open University responsible for data and analytics.

 

…it has been extremely hard work. The unit was created during a change process which saw the OU cut costs and reduce staffing across all units. This meant that we needed to adjust plans in March to take account of the financial constraints. TEL was also created during a period when we could not afford to reduce productivity which meant that people were expected to “double hat”, doing both their previous role and their new TEL role in parallel. I have huge admiration of the team and unit for what has been achieved. We’ve run Hack Days and established and worked with people across the OU to deliver a series of “Quick Win” projects to accelerate priority activities for TEL and we’ve also collaborated with the IET Learning Design team to create a joint series of Special Interest Group events to stimulate discussion about TEL across the organisation.

Across the wider Open University the new OpenTEL Priority Research Area has been created which complements TEL, the research feeding through into practice.

As well as the organisational achievements I’ve also had some personal achievements during 2015. I was made Acting Director of TEL in May and have enjoyed a year sitting in the “hot seat” driving the work of the unit. I’m now looking forward to taking on a new challenge in 2016 and to passing on the baton for TEL to Mark Nichols who takes the reins in February.

I have achieved Senior Fellowship status with the Higher Education Academy through an OpenPAD inquiry process. I used my work on delivering the infrastructure for the Open Science Lab (now called Open STEM Lab) as the basis for my submission. I really enjoyed the process of reflection. I would encourage everyone in HE to go through this process as it is extremely valuable to improving practice across HE.

I’ve also written a book chapter for a Routledge International publication, again on my work on iSpot – The books is called Mobile Learning and STEM: Case studies in practice and is published today (a good read – especially chapter six!). I worked with Janice and Kevin to get the chapter in shape. Taking the lead author role has given a new found admiration for the work of my academic colleagues as it has been challenging fitting the writing around the other aspects of my job.

I’ve really enjoyed the friendships I’ve made during 2015 and these will stay with me for life. I’m looking forward to the changes to the the portfolio and to enabling innovation across the University.

…my next post will be less navel gazing and more about my thoughts on the external environment and the challenges ahead!

 

 

 

 


Innovating Pedagogy 2015

This is the fourth in a series of influential reports from The Open University exploring new forms of teaching, learning and assessment for an interactive world, to guide teachers and policy makers in productive innovation. This report represents a collaboration with our colleagues in the Center for Technology and Learning at SRI International, the leading US research organisation.

This year, the focus is on:

  • Crossover learning (connecting formal and informal learning)
  • Learning through argumentation (developing skills of scientific argumentation)
  • Incidental learning (harnessing unplanned or unintentional learning)
  • Context-based learning (how context shapes and is shaped by the process of learning)
  • Computational thinking (solving problems using techniques from computing)
  • Learning by doing science with remote labs (guided experiments on authentic scientific equipment)
  • Embodied learning (making mind and body work together to support learning)
  • Adaptive teaching (adapting computer-based teaching to the learner’s knowledge and action)
  • Analytics of emotions (responding to the emotional states of students)
  • Stealth assessment (unobtrusive assessment of learning processes).

You can download the report at www.open.ac.uk/innovating

 


The ethics of MOOC research

I spent 2 December at a FutureLearn Academic Network meeting at the University of Southampton.

The morning was taken up with short pecha kucha sessions on MOOC research, and the afternoon included three talks on the ethics of MOOCs, from Mike Sharples (FutureLearn and The open University), Jocelyn Wishart (University of Bristol) and me. Although we hadn’t coordinated our talks in advance, we managed to focus on different areas. Mike talked about the current FutureLearn approach, Jocelyn drew parallels with the ethics of mobile learning, and I drew on the work on learning analytics that is being carried out by the community (most notably by Sharon Slade and Paul Prinsloo).


Research and Practice in HE

On my way home from Maastricht, I travelled via Liverpool John Moores University to present a seminar in the university’s Research and Practice in Higher Education series. The seminars address a range of contemporary and emerging issues and themes in university education, and run as part of LJMU’s support for evidence-based practice.

I talked about a structure for rolling out learning analytics at scale, from the process of developing an initial vision through to evaluation of the innovation and planning for future developments.
The 90-minute seminar gave time to explore issues in detail, with everyone in the audience having opportunities to ask questions and to share experiences.


Research and Practice in HE

On my way home from Maastricht, I travelled via Liverpool John Moores University to present a seminar in the university’s Research and Practice in Higher Education series. The seminars address a range of contemporary and emerging issues and themes in university education, and run as part of JMU’s support for evidence-based practice. I talked about a structure for rolling out learning analytics at scale, from the process of developing an initial vision through to evaluation of the innovation and planning for future developments. The 90-minute seminar gave time to explore issues in detail, with everyone in the audience having opportunities to ask questions and to share experiences.

 

 


Health & Education in the Digital Era

Last week I was in the beautiful town of Maastricht to present on learning analytics at ‘Health, Education and Lifestyle in the Digital Era’. This was an event run at the Bonbonniere by the iLife project at Maastricht University.

The event was unusual in that it brought people from the fields of education and medicine together to talk about ways of making use of big data and digital innovation.

I was particularly inspired by Joel Dudley’s talk (very similar to this one). He is director of biomedical informatics at Mount Sinai hospital in New York, with access to data about over 3 million patients. He outlined some of the unexpected connections thrown up by analysis of this data: the anticonvulsant drug that treats inflammatory bowel disease, and the antipsychotic drug that treats small-cell lung cancer. He also showed networked images of data related to Type II diabetes, which point to this being not one, but three diseases.

For the non-medics in the room, he widened his talk to the use of data in general. When Amazon and Netflix base their recommendations for him on hundreds of data points, why is he prescribed medicine on the basis that he is a male in his thirties from New York? When Formula 1 cars have 200 data feeds and turn in 5GB of data in every lap, why is our knowledge of our own health confined to a few readings made at the times when we turn up in the doctor’s surgery? He pointed to the new technologies that enable us to gather data about our health – from tattoo biosensors, to nappies that form part of the Internet of Things, to a device that enables your smartphone to carry out blood tests. Now that we can collect all this data, when are we going to make good use of it to improve and extend our lives?

My presentation, like many others, looked to the future, drawing on the Visions of the Future study currently being carried out by the Learning Analytics Community Exchange (LACE) project. Visions of the Future began with the development of eight future scenarios for learning analytics that could come to pass by 2025. For each of them, we have asked experts – through surveys and workshops – whether the vision is desirable, whether it is feasible, and what would have to happen to make it a reality. The study is still in progress, but I was able to report on initial findings and responses.

 


Learning design and learning analytics workshop

 

On 28 October I ran a pre-conference workshop at the 14th European Conference on e-Learning (held at the University of Hertfordshire) on ‘Learning design and learning analytics: building the links with MOOCs’.

To give a focus to the workshop, I aimed to choose a FutureLearn MOOC on a subject that everyone would know a little about and no one would know a lot about. As it was three days after the 600th anniversary of Agincourt (a famous battle in English history that fans of Shakespeare may know of through his play, Henry V) I picked the University of Southampton’s MOOC on the subject, ‘Agincourt 1415: Myth and Reality’.

I had reckoned without the international scope of the ECEL conference – I had picked on a subject that most of my audience knew nothing about, and that held little interest for them. Nevertheless, they bravely grappled with issues of learning design related to medieval muster rolls, ancient armour and the issue of whether war crimes existed before they were defined in law.

Learning analytics, learning design and MOOCs from Rebecca Ferguson

Abstract

This hands-on workshop will work with learning design tools and with massive open online courses (MOOCs) on the FutureLearn platform to explore how learning design can be used to influence the choice and design of learning analytics. This workshop will be of interest to people who are involved in the design or presentation of online courses, and to those who want to find out more about learning design, learning analytics or MOOCs.


Big data for policy

On 22 September, Adam Cooper and I (from the LAEP project) were invited to attend ‘Big Data for policy: how safe is it to surf the next Big Wave?‘ This workshop was organised by a section of the European Commission – the Information Society of the Joint Research Centre: Institute for Prospective Technological Studies (or the IS Unit of the JRC-IPTS – still quite a mouthful!)

The European Commission defined a new strategy on Big Data last year, with the aim of supporting and accelerating the transition towards a data-driven economy in Europe. This links up with other Euro strategies such as open data, cloud computing, high-performance computing and access to scientific data. The workshop in Seville was designed to present case studies of work in various sectors on Big Data, and to bring together the views of experts from industry, policy makers and academia.

The case studies came from countries around the world. I found three of them particularly interesting in terms of the scale and scope of what can be done with Big Data.

  • Big Data for Development: New Opportunities for Emerging Markets (Rohan Samarajiva, CEO LirneAsia, Sri Lanka). Rohan talked, among other things, about how mobile phone use can be employed as a gauge of population movement, and to identify different population groupings within Sri Lanka. He blogged about the event here, and his slides are here.
  • Setting the Scene: EUROSTAT (Albrecht Wirthmann, EUROSTAT). Among the things Albrecht talked about were projects on mobile phone data and flight reservation data as sources for tourism and population statistics. Mobile phone data appears to give a more reliable picture of who is where than, for example, accommodation statistics, ferry passenger data, household survey data or border control data. His presentation can be downloaded here.
  • Data for Development: An Emerging Opportunity (Nicolas De Cordes, Orange, France). Nicolas described work by Orange to reuse technical network management data, creating strongly anonymous data samples that can be used by researchers to help with countries’ development issues. This, for example, enables them to model the spread of diseases, optimising the location of hospitals to improve medical help. His presentation can be downloaded here.

 


Innovating Pedagogy

OU Innovation Report series - Mon, 30/11/2015 - 15:53

The series of reports explores new forms of teaching, learning and assessment for an interactive world, to guide teachers and policy makers in productive innovation.

The 2015 report will be available on 3rd December 2015

View the 2014 Innovating Pedagogy report.

This fourth report, produced in collaboration with SRI International, proposes ten innovations that are already in currency but have not yet had a profound influence on education.  You can see a summary of each innovation at the menu on the right. Please add your comments on the report and the innovations.

Innovation to Impact

Will Woods's blog - Sun, 15/11/2015 - 14:38

“Innovation to Impact: Whilst there is a great deal of innovation in the University, it has been difficult to get ideas realised and tested quickly.  It will be necessary to take more managed risks to enable us to innovate rapidly and bring the benefits of innovation to our students.”

L&T Vision and Plan 2025  – Belinda Tynan PVC LT

In my last post Adaptive Capacity I began by setting the scene around the innovation agenda for The Open University, and more widely across UK Higher Education in order to meet the challenges that are currently faced by the sector. I’ll now delve a bit deeper into the Learning Innovation area to cover some of my recent work.

I’ll begin by setting out some of the current organisational barriers in the area of learning innovation as I see them:

  • There is frequently no early dialogue between different units to establish when services could be more widely applied to OU Learning and Teaching.
  • Research systems are not created to be enterprise ready and not designed with operational criteria in mind.
  • There is no organisational resource earmarked to bridge the gap between research funded activity and operational activity.
  • There is no systematic joining of the pedagogical, content and technical expertise across the organisation to enable leveraging of scholarship and research expertise to drive forward enterprise level innovation.

I suspect this is not uncommon in most large organisations that have grown organically and responded to different market forces and funding regimes. At the heart of this is a deep rooted risk aversion that has grown over the past decade. I speak to other people across the organisation and I hear things such as “the project and risk management expected of a mature organisation”. What this brings with it is a culture where experimentation is treated as recklessness and where it is deemed unacceptable to take risks.

So what should we do to address this? – I’ve had a number of workshops with colleagues from the Institute of Educational Technology, Knowledge Media Institute and Learning and Teaching Solutions (in particular the Learning Innovation team) along with a number of academic chums from across the faculties to try to tease this out and we’ve done lots of creative scribbling on boards! …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The objective has been to improve the environment for innovation. The above scribbling represents a ‘maturity model’ where as a project moves from incubation to larger scale there is a process and environment to allow that transition to take place and at each stage a gradually larger amount of ‘transition funding’ is released (and consequently rigour applied) following an evaluation to allow the project to move to the next stage…but before I get into too much detail what framework is needed?

Let’s call it an “action plan” to addresses the four areas:
  • Governance – Directing investment and identifying opportunities for adoption from existing research work
  • Process – Creating a managed innovation process
  • Systems – The structure required to manage innovation projects
  • Culture – Developing a culture which enables innovation and managed risk taking

This is easy to say but difficult to achieve (see my previous post for details on that). I intend to cover all of these areas in future posts but I’ll begin by taking one of these, let’s take process for example, how would we achieve that objective?

Objective: Create an innovation pathway
  1. Identify and track opportunities to leverage research, scholarship and innovation investments etc.
  2. Regularly review the Learning Systems Roadmap and priorities in light of these opportunities.
  3. Ensure a clear and transparent process is in place to support the inclusion of worthwhile opportunities – where colleagues know how to get their work adopted to benefit students and learners and understand the learning systems priorities.
  4. Opportunities are developed by the appropriate teams at the appropriate stages for sustainability, quality, performance and security.
  5. Opportunities are reviewed throughout the development stages and continued or culled as appropriate.
  6. The cost/benefit of all developments is tracked.

The overall investment in learning systems results in an improved experience and outcomes for students and learners.

So on a practical level what can we do to enable this, what concepts can we apply?

Concepts discussed:
  1. “ideas club” – fostering ideas in a friendly informal environment
  2. Create an “ideas bank” and allow mechanisms for worthwhile ideas to get incubated and sponsored. (N.B. this needs to be carefully managed and orchestrated so that it is more than just a popularity contest but addresses mundane but important organisational innovation as well as the “shiny stuff” – Neilsen and Norman have done some good work on this within the usability research field)
  3. Build innovation into work planning and career development processes so that people are encouraged to develop ideas (i.e. building time in to allow everyone to develop scholarly practice across the organisation).
  4. Three stages
    1. “feral” – use anything, built it try it, agile, cull or iteratively improve.
    2. “incubated” – evaluated, developed further, sponsored, fostered.
    3. “mainstreamed” – roadmap ready, enterprise ready, robust, scalable, sustainable.

How do we remove blockers to taming the “feral children”? – That is the cultural challenge. To put this into perspective I often quote Ron Tolido, Chief Technology Officer at Amazon

“At Amazon, you must write a business case to stop an innovation proposal, rather than to start one. Silences 90% of nay-sayers”

This can be achieved if we all treat innovation as something we expect and sponsor. If you haven’t read it the Educause paper Building a Culture of Innovation in Higher Education: Design & Practice for Leaders is a good read with lots of practical advice.

 

I’ll talk more on the cultural aspects in my next post.


adaptive capacity

Will Woods's blog - Sun, 01/11/2015 - 10:41

The Open University needs to reinvent itself to survive. The new Vice Chancellor, Peter Horrocks, has been explaining what that means most recently in an interview for the Financial Times. I’m extremely impressed by Peter and his plans for reinventing the institution. For my part I’m now part of a new portfolio called learning innovation, however the remit for this portfolio will be a very broad one and encompass institutional innovation and the capacity for innovation as a means to dig ourselves out of an (organisational) hole.

We are all asked to consider how the portfolio can respond. Have we got the right leadership? – what are the barriers?

I have been doing some desktop research and found an excellent set of articles on the news industry about innovation moving from print to digital. The OU is grappling with many similar issues. If you read one article from this group read the one on creating the right culture and structure.

“Leaders cannot simply mandate a new culture,” wrote Brown and Groves in their paper. “Organizations must develop new routines that fit in the context of the existing culture and nudge members toward a culture that embraces innovation.”

There are parallels between the reinvention of the press from print to digital media and the OU. Although the OU embraces technology and has a very rich VLE the underlying model and culture still demonstrate influences of the print-based correspondence model of the 1960’s.

I’ve been asked for my thoughts on what we need to do. In doing this it is important to reflect critically on what we mean by innovation. In particular around radical or disruptive innovation. There’s a great post by Phil Hill called Cracks in the Theory of Disruptive Innovation summarizing current scholarly thinking around the pitfalls  of applying disruptive innovation theory within the context of higher education. The article includes a summary from MIT Sloan Management Review :

“In summary, stories about disruptive innovation can provide warnings of what may happen, but they are no substitute for critical thinking. High-level theories can give managers encouragement, but they are no replacement for careful analysis and difficult choices.”

When thinking about the problem of innovation within the context of the Open University we also need to consider the external environment, for the Open University it’s looking at critically at the funding and support for part time learning and  life long learning as described in recent media articles demonstrating the issues of reduction of funding and support to the sector which are particular important to the Open University.

I spoke to Alistair Jarvis Director of Communications and External Relations at Universities UK recently about this subject and he said that in order to survive universities would need to diversify their business model and to occupy a market niche. He said that the EU referendum will have impact regardless of the outcome but is potentially very damaging and that government funding will continue to decrease.

In my opinion for the Open University this means thinking critically about the business models. Looking at B2B and B2G services. Thinking about continuing the OU’s mission through the open and informal routes and through micro-accreditation and certification routes and apprenticeships. It certainly means an overhaul of the curriculum. A simplification of the infrastructure and support services. It also requires a re-evaluation of risk. In particular the risk of complacency. It requires senior sponsorship of ideas to move them through to practice. It relies on internal funding for transition and up-scaling of research into teaching practice but most importantly it requires everyone to look outside the Open University and to wake up to the external environment. To see the OU in the context of challenges within the wider sector. To work in partnership with others, to bring or adapt solutions in use effectively elsewhere.

It requires everyone to stop assuming that how it has been done here is how it will be done in the future.

In my next post I’ll explain more about what I see as the method for achieving organisational innovation.

 

 

 


“Open Badges as Bridges: Design, Create, Connect”: Glasgow, Scotland (28 October 2015)

Dr Beck Pitt's blog - Wed, 28/10/2015 - 18:15

This post shares my notes from today’s Digital Me Open Badges workshop at Glasgow Youth Theatre: “Open Badges as Bridges – Design, Create, Connect.” Please check out Grainne Hamilton’s guest post on the Open Scotland blog which gives useful background information on open badges and the workshop.

Morning sessions (introducing ourselves, common themes, planning and designing a badge):

Badges used to denote “school of life” type achievements and skills.

Challenges for badges: people’s “strengths” are not always amplified through conventional awards/certification, can badges help by highlighting soft skills, for example? How can badges by used to enable people to stand out from each other: what makes me different from other people and how can I show this? It was also highlighted that some employers are now offering badges (“connecting to opportunities”)

Scunthorpe using them for their Lit strategy. Supporter to Reporter: For Success (S2RfS) badges are staged: 628 badges awarded to date, 88% retention, 234 participants have completed pilot scheme. Next stage is “working for success” for people getting ready to work.

Open badges are being used at Edinburgh Student Association (21 different badges for Reps), Dundee (medical department), Abertay (HEAR) and Borders college (CPD).

Badges need to be integrated into existing structures (how best to do this): pathways?

The idea of communicating and mainstreaming formal qualifications through badges in order to highlight the specific practical set of skills that people have was also discussed.

Portability of badges in relation to multiple email accounts was raised as an issue: Mozilla and DigitalMe are working on this and are holding a hackathon at next month’s MozFest in London.

Designing a badge issues/challenges/questions: Brand identity, how to make badges appeal to intended audience, if the badge has an expiry date, granularity, sustainability (building a badge ecosystem with the capacity to grow), possibility to save reinventing pre-existing badges by reusing and assessment were all issues/challenges discussed. Peer assessment in particular was noted and shared experiences highlighted the need for criteria, clarity on what was being assessed and multiple reviewing in order to make this type of assessment meaningful.

Afternoon sessions (Open Badge Academy, designing badge pathways)

Open Badge Academy (OBA) is about “using badges to create a profile” (unifying support/content with tech side). OBA is for lifelong learning, anyone over 16 years of age, employers etc. Tech Futures Academy in partnership with businesses and governmental organisations. Closed beta launch w/c 2 November.

Process: you create a closed/open Academy, design a badge and learners are able to search for your badge (where applicable), learners submit multi-media as evidence, are awarded a badge which can then be shared. The platform enables the creator to also assess the impact that the badge is having. USPs: Other users can endorse your evidence (more robust) and OBA enables you to upload all kinds of evidence (e.g. photos, videos etc.) in order to evidence a badge (this mitigates longevity issues and brings together evidence that is often hosted on different platforms (e.g. you post a URL to your blog post). OBA also enables you to import in and share out existing badges.

Having your badges available as “a profile” which hosts all related evidence for skills enables employers to “dig in and evaluate skills” easily. You can see what badges others have been awarded. OBA have a verification process in place for academies that claim to be representing/awarding on behalf of institutions. Large-scale academies will need to pay for use.

Thinking ahead: OBA looking to enable ‘closed’ evidence at a later date. API will be coming next year and they are also considering specialist apps for specific academies. iOS but possibly Android if demand. Automated badges are also pending. Claim codes also future possibility for OBA (useful for large scale badge awarding, e.g. at a conference)

Examples/Case studies: Nationwide Young Carers in Focus (YCiF @YCIF_tweets) 200 young carers as champions: badges in advocacy, interviewing and presenting to enhance social media and digital skills in order to “influence change effectively.” Activities have included interviewing and engaging with high-level stakeholders and being responsible for the YCiF Twitter account (learning about what is appropriate for this context), which give people the opportunity to have practice based examples to evidence these types of skills. Leads to references: these can be used when looking for employment, applying for training etc.

Other examples: Mozilla Webmaker, Code Club, O2 Guru and Leeds City Council.

Also looked at “badged pathways to employment” where you look at career trajectory and identify “badgeable moments” which reveal skills needed for careers that are not always obvious (e.g. creativity). Give different way of showing skills, showcasing talents/attributes and “pathway to a job” via open badges.

Also thinking about visual representation of badging network. Role of sharing to ensure badges can network and be comparable. Advised to go “generic” and simplify where possible and when thinking about potentially complex systems of badging, e.g. multiple options for types of evidence that you can submit to show competency/skill. Need to differentiate between the latter and the activity.


“Open Badges as Bridges: Design, Create, Connect”: Glasgow, Scotland (28 October 2015)

Dr Beck Pitt's blog - Wed, 28/10/2015 - 18:15

This post shares my notes from today’s Digital Me Open Badges workshop at Glasgow Youth Theatre: “Open Badges as Bridges – Design, Create, Connect.” Please check out Grainne Hamilton’s guest post on the Open Scotland blog which gives useful background information on open badges and the workshop.

Morning sessions (introducing ourselves, common themes, planning and designing a badge):

Badges used to denote “school of life” type achievements and skills.

Challenges for badges: people’s “strengths” are not always amplified through conventional awards/certification, can badges help by highlighting soft skills, for example? How can badges by used to enable people to stand out from each other: what makes me different from other people and how can I show this? It was also highlighted that some employers are now offering badges (“connecting to opportunities”)

Scunthorpe using them for their Lit strategy. Supporter to Reporter: For Success (S2RfS) badges are staged: 628 badges awarded to date, 88% retention, 234 participants have completed pilot scheme. Next stage is “working for success” for people getting ready to work.

Open badges are being used at Edinburgh Student Association (21 different badges for Reps), Dundee (medical department), Abertay (HEAR) and Borders college (CPD).

Badges need to be integrated into existing structures (how best to do this): pathways?

The idea of communicating and mainstreaming formal qualifications through badges in order to highlight the specific practical set of skills that people have was also discussed.

Portability of badges in relation to multiple email accounts was raised as an issue: Mozilla and DigitalMe are working on this and are holding a hackathon at next month’s MozFest in London.

Designing a badge issues/challenges/questions: Brand identity, how to make badges appeal to intended audience, if the badge has an expiry date, granularity, sustainability (building a badge ecosystem with the capacity to grow), possibility to save reinventing pre-existing badges by reusing and assessment were all issues/challenges discussed. Peer assessment in particular was noted and shared experiences highlighted the need for criteria, clarity on what was being assessed and multiple reviewing in order to make this type of assessment meaningful.

Afternoon sessions (Open Badge Academy, designing badge pathways)

Open Badge Academy (OBA) is about “using badges to create a profile” (unifying support/content with tech side). OBA is for lifelong learning, anyone over 16 years of age, employers etc. Tech Futures Academy in partnership with businesses and governmental organisations. Closed beta launch w/c 2 November.

Process: you create a closed/open Academy, design a badge and learners are able to search for your badge (where applicable), learners submit multi-media as evidence, are awarded a badge which can then be shared. The platform enables the creator to also assess the impact that the badge is having. USPs: Other users can endorse your evidence (more robust) and OBA enables you to upload all kinds of evidence (e.g. photos, videos etc.) in order to evidence a badge (this mitigates longevity issues and brings together evidence that is often hosted on different platforms (e.g. you post a URL to your blog post). OBA also enables you to import in and share out existing badges.

Having your badges available as “a profile” which hosts all related evidence for skills enables employers to “dig in and evaluate skills” easily. You can see what badges others have been awarded. OBA have a verification process in place for academies that claim to be representing/awarding on behalf of institutions. Large-scale academies will need to pay for use.

Thinking ahead: OBA looking to enable ‘closed’ evidence at a later date. API will be coming next year and they are also considering specialist apps for specific academies. iOS but possibly Android if demand. Automated badges are also pending. Claim codes also future possibility for OBA (useful for large scale badge awarding, e.g. at a conference)

Examples/Case studies: Nationwide Young Carers in Focus (YCiF @YCIF_tweets) 200 young carers as champions: badges in advocacy, interviewing and presenting to enhance social media and digital skills in order to “influence change effectively.” Activities have included interviewing and engaging with high-level stakeholders and being responsible for the YCiF Twitter account (learning about what is appropriate for this context), which give people the opportunity to have practice based examples to evidence these types of skills. Leads to references: these can be used when looking for employment, applying for training etc.

Other examples: Mozilla Webmaker, Code Club, O2 Guru and Leeds City Council.

Also looked at “badged pathways to employment” where you look at career trajectory and identify “badgeable moments” which reveal skills needed for careers that are not always obvious (e.g. creativity). Give different way of showing skills, showcasing talents/attributes and “pathway to a job” via open badges.

Also thinking about visual representation of badging network. Role of sharing to ensure badges can network and be comparable. Advised to go “generic” and simplify where possible and when thinking about potentially complex systems of badging, e.g. multiple options for types of evidence that you can submit to show competency/skill. Need to differentiate between the latter and the activity.


Eight years on WordPress

My academic blogging goes back more than the eight years I have spent with my own account on WordPress – my first doctoral blog post was on 9 Nov 2015.

In it I noted, ‘I was at Dave Wield’s U500 seminar on research methodology yesterday, and remembered how crucial research journals are. Thought I’d take a break from the one for my Masters and start once again.’

I now have no memory of that Masters blog, but the research journal that I began on Blogger and then imported to the university’s installation of WordPress is still there, and I still occasionally add to it, and still make use of it.

It still has the great advantages over a physical research journal that I can search it very easily, and that it is available to me wherever I have an Internet connection.