Monday, March 19, 2012

The process of open educational practice, rather than the outcomes. Stuff badges!!.

Dave Wiley posted a piece on why universities will be the biggest awarders of badges.

I can see why he thinks this is the case. Educational Institutions are the ones that have for centuries been awarders of pieces of paper  for successful working with knowledge, but not necessarily for learning outcomes!!! That's the problem with formal education, resources are provided, and interactions between people taken place, but if people actually learn anything is not easy to measure. Who is to say that all these students who were so good at the exam actually learnt anything, they might just have been very good at answering exam questions? As open education practicioners, we should think about this when discussing certification and question if this model is actually the right one for open learning.

Clearly, by awarding badges to open learning episods, for instance, you actually change them  into closed courses. We already have lots and lots of those. So, why are people suddenly so obsessed with accreditation of open courses? It seems to me that at the moment the hype generated by MITx and Stanford around their 'open' courses and the idea by Mozilla to give boy scout awards to learners are at its heart, but in my view they do not only devalue Higher Education, and produce a two-tier system, one for the people who can afford the high fees who receive the 'quality learning experience' with all bells and whistles and human interaction and support, and the other people, who can't afford these and who get an open dehumanised, machine learning experience and apparently receive a token of appreciation in the form of a badge from the institution for their effort! All this as employers might value  this second rate experience from a top-tier university more than a 'quality experience' from a not so top of the range university. The market in higher education at its best (:-( !!

Of course accreditation of prior learning is not new. Over the past twenty years there have been enough challenges in providing some sort of award for open learners' efforts. Learners might use the certification they receive for their open learning episode to show institutions that they have achieved a certain level of competency. Again, its the institutions of higher education that put value (or nonvalue) to these certificates.

How important should this be in the current technology-rich climate? And, is this really, really the direction that we would like  open educational practice to develop into? Would it not be more valuable to use our energy in thinking about the learning process, and not about the external pressures for accreditation of (possible) learning outcomes? One other model would be to developing Open Educational Resources and provide access to them, but to do this in the context of open learning environments that give learners choices and control over their own learning process and learning experiences. Environments where learners will be stimulated to interact with other human beings and be critical of the world in which they live, higher education included, and where they are tempted to be analytical. And yes, technology can be used on these environments to guide learners in this, for instance learners might be able to use analytics visualizations to see where on their learning journey they are, rather than to have an HE institution make all the decisions about the value of their learning.   There are wider benfits to open learning than a certificate by an HE institution!!!