I advocate for Open Badge eCredentials up here in Canada.
And I think I need to up my game in Higher Ed, because there’s really not much going on up here in post-secondary, with a handful of exceptions scattered across the country. (Is there anything going on east of Quebec? Please let me know.)
Compared to other countries such as the US, UK, Ireland, Italy and Australia, we haven’t exactly been early adopters in applying the exciting affordances of Open Badges for the benefit of formative and summative assessment and recognition of learning in higher education. I’m sure there are several course-level experiments that I don’t know about, but at the executive level, overall? As an edtech manager recently reported to me about senior management interest in eCredentials at his college: “Crickets….” This despite early explorations in BC and Quebec and several articles from Contact North’s teachonline.ca which I’ll touch on in Part 2 of this post.
I won’t speculate here why this is the case. What I will do is improve what I have the most control over: providing clear business-oriented arguments for institutions to at least dip their toes in the water of micro-credentialing and, together with their colleagues in other countries, begin to explore the synergies between Open Badges and student engagement, graduate employability, research and innovation, and other issues related to institutional relevance and sustainability.
“Future student” pipelines
Recruitment strategies are becoming more sophisticated as institutions compete for students at home and abroad. The more innovative institutions are actively leveraging the similarities between student recruitment and what large companies do with social media and gamification to engage prospects and build talent pipelines into their organizations. After all, it’s just talent at an earlier stage of development, isn’t it?
For example, Open University in the UK is experimenting with Badged Open Courses.
According to this presentation at OpenEd15 in Vancouver, results in the first eight months were impressive:
- Over 12,000 new visitors a month to OpenLearn
- A very high rate click-throughs to make enquiries (~28%) •
- Completion rates of BOCs are higher than with “traditional”MOOCs
- Very high satisfaction rates (~98%)
- 3000 prospectus requests, 400 formal module registrations
- Up to 57% of survey respondents say that they will be sharing their achievements with an employer or prospective employer
Over in the private sector, IBM is doing some exciting work exploring how Open Badges can have a bottom line impact on eRecruiting and talent development on a global scale. They have issued 100,000’s of Open Badges in domains such as data analytics. Big Data University, an IBM Canada initiative (!) reports exciting results for their online courses since they were badged:
- 129% increase in enrollments
- 226% increase in course completions
- 694% increase in successful End of Course assessments
Wow. And according to the recent IBM presentation I saw, 85% of the badges claimed have been posted to LinkedIn, which helps explain the statistics above and makes a good case for Open Badges and social networks.
Open Badges help IBM and its client organizations train people in their products and technology environments. They also generate qualified talent leads and track and nurture workforce talent to improve company performance through an engaged and a measurably continuously improving workforce.
Yes, big data is “so hot right now”, hence the eye-popping numbers. But it seems clear that Open Badges can boost learner engagement and success in large scale online courses, which can have a positive impact on recruitment. And many institutions are in fact experimenting with MOOCs to try to attract future students. Shouldn’t more of these initiatives be looking at badging those courses?
Because IBM is talking about starting in K12 and taking it through post-secondary and beyond (play segment 46:20 – 50:54):
[archiveorg OpenBadgesCommunityCall17February2016 width=640 height=140 frameborder=0 webkitallowfullscreen=true mozallowfullscreen=true]
Enhancing Admissions Criteria
Once students are interested in your institution, evaluating them is next.
Open Badge eCredentials can help with this, but I have to say that the other shoe still needs to drop in admissions officers’ minds, even outside of Canada. I’ll lay out the case for Open Badges here and report back on any emergence, which I do expect in 2016.
Required courses and good marks are the default for admissions assessment in Canada. Thankfully, standardized admissions tests are not popular here, and may even be on the decline in the US, with hundreds of institutions relegating them to optional status. As for those, according to the Washington Post in 2014:
A three-year national study of colleges that do not require applicants to submit ACT or SAT scores found only “trivial” differences in the college graduation rates or the cumulative grade point average of students between those who do and those who do not send in their standardized test results.
Most institutions up here seem to feel that high school grades are the best predictor of student success. At a few institutions, if applicants think their grades will fall marginally below requirements, they can submit something like the University of Western Ontario’s Extraordinary Extracurricular Activities and Contributions to Citizenship Profile.
According to OUAC’s eINFO site, some programs may have additional admission criteria that could include evaluation forms, reference forms or autobiographical letters. In some instances, applicants must attend an interview or audition, or submit a portfolio.
(As I explored in a previous post, Open Badges can be curated and aligned to requirements in ePortfolios along with other evidence. That’s one place where the shoe could drop…has it? Anybody?)
Currently, some US institutions are looking for ways to go beyond grades to evaluate the whole person. As reported in a recent post by Dan Hickey on his Remediating Assessment blog, a report from a group of Ivy League admission officers is starting to explore ways to evaluate prospective students for ethical engagement:
College admissions can send compelling messages that both ethical engagement— especially concern for others and the common good—and intellectual engagement are highly important.
In his post, Dan explores some interesting ways that Open Badges can authentically demonstrate ethical engagement, primarily through embedding evidence.
I do think that evaluating ethical engagement is a laudable goal, but I’m also interested in intellectual engagement side, which the report really didn’t delve into. But I found at least one institution that does.
Hampshire College is a bit of an outlier, and not just because it’s actually located in Massachusetts. They’ve gone further than most US institutions by dumping standardized admissions testing entirely. Instead, as reported on their website last year:
In our admissions, we review an applicant’s whole academic and lived experience. We consider an applicant’s ability to present themselves in essays and interviews, review their recommendations from mentors, and assess factors such as their community engagement and entrepreneurism. And yes, we look closely at high school academic records, though in an unconventional manner. We look for an overarching narrative that shows motivation, discipline, and the capacity for self-reflection.
The results of their “No SAT/ACT” policy:
- The quantity of applications went down but the quality went up
- Enrollment yield (acceptance of invitations) rose from 18% to 26%
- Class diversity increased from 21% to 31% students of color
- First-generation students rose from 12% to 18% in this year’s class
- All the above despite being “kicked off” the U.S. News & World Report “Best Colleges” rankings in 2015
Hampshire College’s focus on evaluating the whole student in order to select the best candidates for success pays off at the other end too. Hampshire is sixth on Forbes’ list of most entrepreneurial colleges: more than a quarter of Hampshire graduates start their own enterprises: social ventures, investment firms, advocacy organizations, or creative mashups of those and more.
Then again, not all students are destined to be entrepreneurs, so how about this:
We are in the top one percent of colleges nationwide in the percentage of our undergraduate alumni who go on to earn advanced degrees—this on the strength of an education where we assess their capabilities narratively, and where we never, not once, subject them to a numerical or letter grade on a test or course.
See more graduate outcomes here.
Imagine this kind of thinking adapted (not copied) to Aboriginal education reform here in Canada, just as an example.
Now, Hampshire College doesn’t use Open Badges for Admissions that I know of. I cite them because their focus on “narrative assessment” is Open Badge-friendly. This statement on their Admissions page sounds very badgey to me:
Some of these traits manifest themselves in the trends on your transcripts, others in the work you do outside the classroom.
Here’s a shout out: does anybody know about any institutions currently including Open Badges in their admissions processes, explicity or implicitly?
I noticed that someone at the Sprout Fund said in June 2015:
“Right now there are already a limited number of colleges that are considering badges as part of their admissions process.”
… and I’d love to find out who those are and whether any have made the jump. I’ve reached out to the person quoted, but can anybody at Sprout help?
DePaul University in Chicago was supposed to be looking at it back in 2013, according to the Clinton Global Initiative web site:
Nichole Pinkard, associate professor in DePaul’s College of Computing and Digital Media, said DePaul will consider Open Badges that document higher-level learning as part of the application process.
“Badges give you a better idea of who the applicant is. They give you a stronger sense of quality and a stronger sense of context of what that person has done in the real world,” Pinkard said. “While digital badges won’t replace anything we currently require, as they become more prominent and more recognized, we would expect more students to include them in their applications to DePaul. The applicant’s academic record will still be the most important consideration.
But I can’t find any evidence of it on their website. Nichole is keynoting at the June Digital Badge Summit in Colorado:
… so I hope to learn more by then at the latest.
It could be that enhancing Admissions with Open Badges is still too much of stretch for most institutions. But I wouldn’t be surprised if in 2016 we see one of the more innovative colleges or universities either prescribing or endorsing Open Badges which indicate that the earners are ready for success at their institutions. Maybe one of the LearningCounts members that already supports Prior Learning Assessment for credit?
Winding up Part 1
The first part of this monster post has focused on how Open Badge eCredentials can enable the transition TO Higher Ed. Next week’s Part 2 will be focused on how Open Badges the transition FROM Higher Ed to employment.
I’ll be attending a conference in Toronto next month hosted by the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO) with a very promising title:
Nothing about Open Badge eCredentials in the program information, but I can’t imagine that they won’t emerge as a topic, based on some of the speakers and topics I do see listed.
I’ll be hoping to engage with Ontario Higher Ed professionals on the issues raised in Part 1 today and in Part 2 next week, where I’ll delve into benefits of Open Badges such as:
- Demonstrating the “soft” value of Higher Ed
- “Sticky alumni” and nanodegrees
- Virtuous education/research spirals embedded in communities
Exceptionally informative post. Pragmatically, this was one of the most insightful posts on this topic I have read.
Thanks Michael. I was going for pragmatic, nice to hear that I was on target. This was tougher to write than it looks.
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