‘Non-traditional’ learning (for higher education)…portfolios and badges

Cool dude with a badgeThe projects that I work on aren’t really projects in the technical sense.  I like to think of them more as adventures into the unknown.  They have a beginning and an end, but they don’t stick to specific milestones.  Nothing is rigid and the work I am doing involves people, which means that anything can happen, particularly within higher education. However, I do get results, or rather ‘they’ do get results.  This isn’t about me, it is about the students and how they manage their university experience. I am interested in how they bring together all the experiences that they have at university and how these translate into skills that they can use.

A way of capturing all of this is through ePortfolios combined with Badges.  You need both.  Yes, yes, you do.  The portfolio represents a bigger version of everything that the student is involved in, the badges are the specific sets of skills or activities, based around evidence, that capture what their contribution was.

Badges + portfolios = 3D student/person 

This balance of skills and context provides a lovely way of demonstrating who the student/person is, and what they have contributed to their activities.  I’m finding that students don’t just enjoy creating the portfolios, they are gaining confidence, they are able to articulate their experiences and they can see what they have achieved (as well as how they have grown) and are guided by their tutors through sets of Badges.  Examples of the work of the iChamps who have been working alongside academics to bring digital skills to life show this very well:

Charlie Cosstick

Ursula Grover

Courtney Rowan

Clarissa Chay

Rebekah Kulidzan (now at LSE)  

The use of Pathbrite combined with Badges is a project that will end in July 2017.   This has been applied with Geography and soon, Social Sciences students.   I’m supporting more and more interest in this combination of development and digital literacies skills as we move forward with this project but I hope that when it ends, that we can use this model to enhance more educational and research experiences in this innovative way.

Another good thing from Scotland – Badges (yay)


Things I love about Scotland:

  1. Lovely people
  2. Edinburgh with the CRA in June was beautiful. So much culture.
  3. I love that they wanted to stay in the EU.
  4. They rock Badges.

I was looking for resources about Badges for the session I am running tomorrow with UG students from Geography.  I gave the talk last year but this year I wanted to show the students what their Badge would look like and who else was issuing Badges.  Last year, I could tell them about IBM, Samsung, City & Guilds and the NHS.  I thought there must be more and there are.  I discovered a wonderful site from the Scottish Social Services Council.  Not only can you be issued a Badge through their site, but there is a webinar about Badges (and not just for Social Services practitioners) covering all aspects from what is a Badge, how they can be used, how to issue and even how to future proof your service.  The webinar is a full 60 minutes but there is so much information and if you listen to the whole thing you can get a Badge.  This is not a trivial, motivational use, in order to get the badge I need to say what I learnt from the webinar and how I will use it in my organisation. It made me think and listen.  Awesome.

What (one thing*) I learnt from the webinar

It was refreshing to hear from an organisation with a practical, real-world use of open badges.  In particular, my key takeaways are around usage and application.  Robert Stewart sets out clearly how Badges (with evidence) can be used to evaluate events.  I really liked the Bronze, Silver and Gold attendance badges.  If you attended you get the Bronze (thats the hook to get you to see what a badge is) Silver attendance is what did you learn and plans for action, as well as sharing; Gold – having attended the conference or event, what have you done in your organisation.  Then you have evidence of action as a direct consequence of your event and not via a survey but with evidence.  It made my heart sing!

What I plan to do

I am going to take the idea forward of sharing.  There is huge interest in the use of Badges to engage academically. In particular co-curricular activities and I will ask people that when they gain their badges to share what they have done. I really liked the use of # in the naming of the Badges.  This also ties in with ePortfolios (inspired by Katie Coleman) where the evidence is part of a bigger picture of the online identity of the person.

The application has been submitted!

*I have a whole bunch of ideas but I need to digest all the things I have realised as I was listening, including format of presentation, resources etc

Lost in Disruption #DMLLExpo

IMG_4596The Disruptive Media Learning Lab at Coventry University is one of those places that when you enter it you start saying “WOW”.   I was there yesterday for their “Lost in Disruption Expo“, invited to give a keynote with Jacqui Speculand (raising her hand above) who is their Principal Project Lead. I met Jacqui when she came to Southampton University for our Open Badges in HE conference in March, although we had been in touch via Twitter we had never actually met before but our common interest in the use of Open Badges meant we had so much in common.

I have to say something about their Lab space.  On the top floor of their Lanchester Library (another link, we have a Lanchester building at Southampton University) named after Sir Frederick Lanchester   an important engineer of his time and soon to be featured as part of a Heritage Funded project at Coventry University.  This space is a complete conversion of the third floor of the library.  As soon as you open the door you feel inspired to learn. It has that feeling of open space it is light and well laid out with jazzy spaces for sitting, I think they called it the “Google hill” a wooden tiered structure for sitting and holding talks.  There are spaces for collaboration, sectioned off by huge whiteboards, tastefully designed and used by students all the time.  I have created a little video about the space here.  It is the sort of space that you are probably best describing with images so I’ll let that video speak for itself.  One of the takeaways I had from the space was that it was well designed, well used and because of the light and the layout it made you want to learn.  It is so true that your environment has a huge impact on how you feel and your behaviour.   Part of the space belongs to the DMLL team.  That is also a revelation.  The team consists of Subject Librarians, Teaching staff, Education Developers, technical innovators, I call them that, they are not their real titles but they are not Learning technologists, they don’t look after a VLE and get people to use it.  They are much more than that, the team is like an innovation engine, all working together, to explore ideas and get it right.  Jacqui mentioned that it was a safe space to fail, somewhere to try out a concept, tweak it and adjust it before it is no longer a project, where is can be rejected or adopted by the university. You so need that.   In addition to all of these people they had student interns working with them, and some of them they took on to be members of staff.

The Expo itself was held in the space, ably Chaired by Helen Keegan. There are teaching rooms all round the edges of the space, some with glass walls and some as regular spaces but all have Apple TV, so the use of iPads to connect wirelessly is in place and has been for some time.  Each of these rooms can be booked via the devices on the walls using Outlook as the booking system.  No need to complicate it by using the regular university-wide booking system.  We were talking in “The Grass” an intimate tiered space, covered in fake grass.  It was a completely different experience to talk to 60 0r 70 people and being able to see all of them.  People were not just sitting up, but they were relaxed and listening, genuinely listening, it was much more engaging to talk and listen here, again, because of the environment.  Yes, we could have a room with 70 people in it.  It is not the same, even the grass had something to do with it!

The talks were excellent – I listened to Brian Lamb talking about how the VLE has been designed to put is into the silos that we are trying so hard to get out of.  He also talked about “Splot“, a tool he has created to make it so much easier to write.   He spoke of Sandstorm, a collection of open access apps that are a toolbox of web-enabled tools for academia.   Jim Groom (DS106) talked about how we need to be more aware of how our data is used, he talked about lots of things including “A domain of ones own” project at University of Mary Washington to encourage academics to write more about their work so that they raise their academic profiles but they own their presence, and it is syndicated to the university.    MOOCs and their corporatisation. And he showed us the “back to the future” 80’s console room.  I could go on and on.  Both Brian and Jim gave inspiring talks , I even listened to the podcast by Jon Udell on the way home on the train.

There was so much to see and listen to I hope we can see it all again.  I missed some sessions because I was preparing for my talk, but the tweets looked really interesting.  They asked me what my takeaways were from the day and I said about the space because that just hit you as it was so different from the ‘usual’.    But I also think that it is essential for progress and for the students to experience something like that.  You need the space to explore and develop, and to meet the challenges of the new world of Higher Education.  We can’t keep doing what we have always done. We will become irrelevant and students need to have the benefit of this in their own space before they face the real world.   I hope that I can go there again and show others, and to work with the Innovation Engine that is the DMLL team.

The day captured in social media (Storify)


Open Badges, Digital Skills and O2

I was invited to the launch of the Open Badge Academy at Air Street in London, the HQ of Telefonica (O2) yesterday.  Hosted by the TechPartnership which used to be eSkills we were introduced to the latest system for issuing, creating and displaying open badges.  They are built on the open standard created by Mozilla and it looks very impressive.  The system was supported by Digital Me and Makewav.es both based in Leeds and have huge expertise behind them.   There are sets of badges that are available and being trialled by 14-16 year olds, around Cybersecurity and Employability.  The event had attracted a great range of employers, local authority members, SME’s and of big employers like Samsung and our hosts, O2.  There were a few start ups that were interested in how they could vet employees using  badges and our conversations were around the importance of digital skills for the digital economy.

The format of the event was for an introduction, demo and then a couple of break out sessions. I attended a break out session from TAS who are a company with 300,000 employees, 9,000 in the UK. They already offer online challenges, so a Badge was a natural extension for them. They offer their badges to school children and the teachers organise and issue the badge to their own pupils.  I did ask a question about copy right and who owns the data.   I was thinking that if one of the tasks that the pupils did to earn a badge was to create a 6 second video, then who owned the video once it was uploaded into a system?  My reasoning was not to disrupt but to think about the implications of use, for the person uploading as they may want to earn another badge from another employer,  which might entail them using the same video.  In their minds, they created and own the video but what if the organisation issuing the badge decided to use the video as a promotion for their activities?  Who can say yes and no?  The question was answered in the next session when we discovered that the Tech partnership owned the content.  I don’t think there was anything particularly unsual about that, common practice (you are the product after all) but I think awareness of the fact that your creations may not stay your creations and the implications to that are important to consider.

I do like the Open Badge Academy.  It was very sleek and nicely designed.  It seemed very useful as well. It isn’t another displaying system, it allows the creation of the badge, endorsements, the ability to see who else has the same badge and how you are part of a community.  It was also connected to LinkedIn (that is how your recommendations happen).  It is free to education to use and worth taking a look at.

If you are interested in Open Badges in Higher Education then look out for further information about the Badge Conference to be held at the University of Southampton on March 8th 2016.  We are planning the conference now with colleagues from Warwick, Open University, Sussex and now South Wales.  More details to follow.

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