‘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

From Curriculum Innovation to Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownies

Every week I think I can’t get any busier than I am but then I surprise myself and this week has been no exception!

It started with Curriculum Innovation and I met up with some people interested in running webinars with their students. New iChamps collaborations, both medicine and music this week, then I visited went to London, visited Queen Mary’s Uni with my daughter. She has applied and we went on a visit day. Queen Mary’s History department was our focus and she really liked it. I was interested in hearing about the opportunities they offered their students and I always like to hear from the students about their experiences.

I also met with the Association for Learning Technology Board of Trustees at the London Knowledge Lab. That was great as they are a great bunch and there was lots of interesting things to talk about, including the Winter Conferencein Scotland and other things ALT offers like CMALT. We were issued with new info packs which look very nice. Looking forward to the next conference in Manchester (Sept 2015), I was there last week.

In between all of this I’m trying to identify a uni supported tool to run webinars – and meetings. I don’t think we have one I can use with iPads though, so will probably end up running Hangouts (I discovered our version of Adobe Connect doesn’t support iPads).

Yesterday, I spent part of the morning discussing new mooc ideas with Futurelearn, lots of exciting opportunities to be had there. Then off introduce the Institute for Learning Innovation and Development (ILIaD) seminar with Judith Lock (Biological Sciences) and had a lovely chat with one of her students, James Thomas and Judith. I mentioned the MOOC discussions and I think that may have sparked something with them and I need to arrange a meeting with the relevant MOOC people.

Later on I met with the Chair of Governors for Itchen College, where I’m a Parent Governor.

I got a Digital Badge for contributing to the the Badge Alliance and Scoop.it told me I was a rockstar in curation 🙂

Next week we have Southampton Opportunity showcase, and Thursday and Friday I’m in Birmingham for the Centre for Recording Acheivement annual residential where I’ll be running a workshop called ‘building badges’. A hands on, non techy walk through for the content side of using open badges.

I also had confirmation that I’m going to Tunisia to talk about innovative CPD through student engagement.

Oh, and I also managed to discover and create wonderful peanut butter brownies.

Just call me Wonder Woman 😄

Takeaways of a techy kind from #ALTc

I’ve just come back from ALTc – a learning technology focussed conference, three days at Warwick University.  I wanted to record some of of it before I get consumed by the day job.

1.  I noticed that there seemed to be less about the technology in particular and more about the human interactions with it.  A number of sessions mentioned its all about the people for example.  Of course I would say that being a very people orientated person but Bryan Mathers mentioned it in his talk and it goes without saying that education technology systems are a waste of time if people don’t use them.

2.  Digital literacies – yet again, underlying theme for everything we do.  I noticed that there were many sessions mentioning online skills.  The wonderful project with Leicester Council (Josie Fraser and Lucy Atkins) which is a lovely example of collaborating with external organisations to develop skills.  They are sharing all their project outputs and I think that there will (or should be) many more intiatives like this to extend skills.   There were other sessions as well, that were not specifically about digital literacies skills but essentially that’s what they were talking about.  Spread the word.

3. Online learning is mainstream.  It’s not going anywhere and can only flourish (see point 2) MOOCs have played their part in attracting those who may not have necessarily been interested in doing anything online (purely because senior leadership teams weren’t interested) so if nothing else.  MOOCs have opened the door.

4.  People – so many people I know ‘online’ and I got to meet them face to face.  Thats the cool bit.  Yes, I am all over social media, but I stiil want to see and hear from people in the flesh. Jeff Haywood (I always like hearing about Edinburgh), Catherine Cronin (really interesting, all open and getting people to embrace the world at their fingertips) and Audrey Watters.  She has tatoos.  Lot’s of tatoos.  And some of them are techy tatoos which did distract me a bit.  But she was funny, engaging and had something to say about the use of the web and how it shapes our thinking.  Really fun and interesting which wasn’t a disappointment at all.

Next years conference is going to be all about ‘Shaping the future together’ at Manchester 8th – 10th September.  I hope it will be as much fun as this years, the ALT members are a blast and I hope to see as many of my online and offline friends as possible.


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