Currently the only way that people can evidence their learning is through transcripts offered by universities or other providers. These ‘report cards’ offer no insight into what students actually learned.
 
 
Currently the only way that people can evidence their learning is through transcripts offered by universities or other providers. These ‘report cards’ offer no insight into what students actually learned.

Connected learning

There is an enormous opportunity for the industry around the ways that different kinds of learning can be tracked and accredited to create ‘connected’ learning experiences.


Peter Thomas

Peter Thomas

Professor Peter Thomas is COO of the Leasing Foundation, Director the Manifesto Group and Creative Director of Medicine Unboxed.
Peter Thomas

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Introduction from Executive Producer JO DAVIS
Peter Thomas, the Leasing Foundation COO and education expert, looks at one of the building blocks of a modern approach to education, training and development – how you evidence what people have learned. the ‘Open Badges initiative' is a digital system of recognition for learning in which individual badges represent formal and informal learning, achievements, skills, competencies, service to industry associations, involvement with CSR programmes or mentoring. This approach may be one way that organisations can break away from expensive, time-consuming educational qualifications based on one-size-fits-all materials.

Who should be interested in this?
Anyone concerned with education, training and development, digital content strategists, marketing and communications professionals in organisations of all sizes.

 

Connected learning 

Most learning takes the form of attendance at a structured course, usually supplemented by online learning, where each module has a credit weighing that indicates how it contributes to an overall qualification – certificate, diploma or degree. In the case of company-based learning and development, learning is about progression through a training programme followed by an assessment.

Increasingly though, the learning materials that people use aren’t locked up in degrees, diplomas or courses but are available on the internet. Some of these may be part of a more structured programme (for example in the case of MOOCs – Massively Open Online Courses) and some of them are available as independent pieces of content, but learners are increasingly using them to build their knowledge alongside – and in some cases as a replacement for – more structured programmes.

Alongside the greater availability of digital materials, learning takes place constantly in the workplace outside of any structured programme and happens with no prescribed syllabus. On the job, peer-based, self-directed and informal learning experiences are part of the everyday life of companies, but very few of these experiences are ever are made visible even in performance appraisal systems.

Currently the only way that people can evidence their learning is through transcripts offered by universities or other providers. These ‘report cards’ offer no insight into what students actually learned, but only show performance against a set of criteria; informal learning has no verifiable system of measurement and accreditation[a].

The most an employer can know is that someone completed a degree, or successfully finished a diploma course – they cannot know how this learning might have been the catalyst for new competencies, or how it complements, extends or enhances peer-based, self-directed and informal learning experiences.

One approach to trying to provide this visibility and accreditation of learning is the Open Badges initiative by a non-profit technology organisation, the Mozilla Foundation. A badge is a digital symbol of recognition for learning that includes a set of metadata that explains the badge and the evidence behind it. Badges can represent formal and informal learning, achievements, skills, competencies, service to industry associations, involvement with CSR programmes or mentoring. Learners collect badges from badge issuers – who may or not be educational institutions – for their various learning experiences. One badge might represent a course on The Regulatory Framework for Financial Systems from an external provider; another might represent a company internal training course on Risk Management; another might be issued for taking the MIT Sloan School Open Courseware module on Data Analysis; or a badge might be issued for the Leasing Foundation Diversity Strategy course. All of these badges can be embedded in sites like LinkedIn or added to resumes or professional development records.

Open Badges launched in March 2012, and there are over 800 providers who have issued almost 100,000 badges. Chicago, for example, has developed a city-wide system where learners can pick up hundreds of different badges from across dozens of learning organisations; the Clinton Global Initiative and the National Science Foundation are also issuing badges, along with many other organisations.

The value of the open badge approach is that it gives some context to both formal and informal learning experiences. It provides recognition to the learner for those experiences and a more accurate picture of the learner to an employer.

For online courses, it will not be course content, quality and participation that are used to assess their status, but the ability to measure and assess real learning and skills acquisition. Those courses that result in quality learning and measurable skills competencies will be those that learners and employers find most valuable, and it is this that Open Badges make visible.

One outcome of opening up a whole range of learning experiences for accreditation through badges is that it starts to make the job of recruiting much easier. In a time when employers turn to the internet to find talent – using LinkedIn, or data-mining sites like Gild or TalentBin – what is needed is valid and verifiable accreditation for learning experiences. For learners it is a way or empowering them to get the data and evidence necessary to achieve their career aspirations, to support their corporate professional development programmes, and to reward them in meaningful ways for what they have achieved.

Open Badges is still in its infancy, but the signs are that both learners – employees and future employees – and organisations, who either provide training or hire people who have been trained, are looking for ways to break out of the established mould where accreditation is done by educational institutions on their own terms, and break away from expensive, time-consuming educational qualifications based on one-size-fits-all materials.

For leasing and asset finance, the opportunity is to work with employers across the industry to define Open Badges, or our own version of them, that are owned by the industry and represent a shared vision of learning that both attracts new talent and develops existing talent.

CC BY 4.0 Connected learning by Peter Thomas is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.