Stopping and Thinking at the #CRAResidential2014

I’m up in Birmingham (Aston University) with the Centre for Recording Achievement for their Annual residential conference.  There seems to be a lot of reflection going on, and in the interests of that I thought I would write my own reflective piece.

As usual there are a lot of people here from a range of universities and organisations.  The conference started with us reflecting on how students reflect, with immediate discussions from everyone.  I think we all agreed or came to the conclusion, that reflection was becoming a dirty word with students, along with the likes of a variety of other, over used terms thrown about  in education.  ‘Stop and Think’ was suggested as a viable alternative.

I’m up here because I was talking about Digital Badges.  I wasn’t going to talk about the technology behind the badges, we had a lovely workshop last year with Chris Millsom (York) who gave us all Badges.  My talk was more about the thinking process behind the badge, the stages of development for an institution.

The focus of the session was really to encourage colleagues to identify what awards they already offer and apply the stages of Badge development to them, getting them to think about how they might ‘Badgify’ these.  Each table (3 ) were asked to pick one and work through from identifying stakeholders to gathering evidence, authenticating and issuing.  I think the general consensus was that it was much harder than you think, but it is a valuable opportunity to get a range of different perspectives and those who attended really engaged and provided us with lots to think about.  I always think that networks like these are invaluable to innovation in institutions and this was no exception.

Building Badges workshop

Badge Resources

I had some feedback that the session was useful but I used an acronym that was unfamiliar – MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) and Credly – oops!  Follow those links for more information.

I attended the AGM where there was a discussion about more collaborative working between organisations and in particular there was a mention of ePortfolios.  This seems like a natural collaboration between the CRA and the Association for Learning Technology (ALT) so hopefully something will come of this.  The CRA also want to run Special Interest Groups as suggested by the CRA community.  I know that Badges is definitely one and I noticed that someone had suggested a region specific group, and London and South East was listed.

The final presentation this evening was from students and their lecturer who have used ePortfolio (Mahara) within their module as an assessment.   The module was ‘Land Law’. The two girls who came along were confident and gave a ‘warts and all’ presentation. They were a great example of the community itself, in that they were friendly, interactive and informed and t was great to hear from them. One thought I had is that there could be scope to use the CRA to perform some research across other institutions to see what their experiences of using ePortfolios had been like.

The conference dinner was great as the girls sat on our table so we had a long chat with them and I got to show them Twitter.  They are both graduating next year and I reminded them to capture this experience for their own ePortfolios



Forget the straight and narrow – focus on the Curve

Picture of curve patternsI’ve just been reading a book by Nicholas Lovell called the Curve. It’s essentially about embracing the change that has come with the digital world in which we live and about thinking differently. He makes a point about how the old fashioned way of thinking about your ‘product’ (whatever that is) was about the number. How many do we sell, etc. But its all changed now and it’s more about the customer – the experience. Giving stuff way for free is a good thing, there will always be people that will pay for something extra, the ‘superfans’ he calls them.

I was thinking about how this idea could be applied to HE. I especially started to think about this for MOOCs. We offer them for free but we are trying to apply old fashioned models to them. Creating them in the image of the established models from our antiquated lecture theatres and then asking everyone to buy a certificate, or pay for a model that offers authentication. Where’s the experience in that? We could offer so much more, what if everyone could do the MOOC for free but a few could pay more for a package, (don’t ask me what) but I think the super fans, as Lovell put it could come up with what they would want? How about the EdX MOOC Justice offering a series of sessions on the campus, with a signed book by Michael Sandell, or for the super rich, super fans, how about an audience with? Or better still, an evening with, someone has the money and some would pay.

I’m not saying that this is the answer to the business model question for MOOCs but its much more interesting to think about it in the way that Lovell has described in his book. It doesn’t have to end there either, we could be so much more creative with our courses, and offer differing levels of packages.

I’m not sure everyone is quite ready, but I’m watching with interest for the effects of the Curve with Higher Education.

photo credit: Kris Krug via photopin cc