Digital Badging at the Open University

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  • Digital badging at

    The Open University

    Patrina Law, Head of Free Learning@HigherEdPatrina

  • 2

    Why do we do free learning?


    by the Grace of God of the

    United Kingdom of Great Britain

    and Northern Ireland and of

    Our other Realms and

    Territories Queen, Head of the

    Commonwealth, Defender of the


  • Engaging new learners


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    What is OpenLearn?

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    Our commitment to open

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    What has this activity achieved?



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    Benefits to institutions of OER

    Increases access to education

    Provides an opportunity to assess and plan education choices

    Showcases intellectual outputs, promoting profile and attracting students

    Converts learners into fee paying enrolments

    Accelerates learning

    Adds value to knowledge production

    Reduces faculty preparation time

    Generates cost savings

    Enhances quality

    Generates innovation through collaboration.

    (Stacey, 2012)

    For OU students in particular: A taster for online/distance Delivers improved progression for those that use OpenLearn A vehicle for module choice / qualification pathway

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    Who are our OpenLearn learners?

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    How do they feel about their learning?


    A test to give confidence my next

    module choice is appropriate for me



    Declare improved

    confidence in ability to study.

    Are students. 29% of enrolled

    are OU students.

    Want OU-branded recognition

    for informal learning.

    More likely to take

    another free course.

    More likely to

    recommend OU

    content to others.



    The free extracts of courses gave me

    confidence to enroll in my first moduleI

    have also been using them to practice

    time management.

    A good talking point and something

    to include on my CV

    Fees are now too high for me to

    consider continuing my degree

    Thank you for providing a resource

    for people that cannot get to a facility

    due to physical or financial difficulty.

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    Recognition in an informal / non formal environment

    Cross (2007) describes informal learning as the unofficial,unscheduled, impromptu way people learn but in anenvironment where one assigns grades and onetakes attendance.

    We have moved from Crosss anonymous world to one ofidentified informal learning. There is a growing demand thatlearners want recognition for their achievements in the freelearning space that can be acknowledged publicly.

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    OpenLearn learners want OU-branded recognition for their learning.


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    What are badges?

    Image credits: Thornhill School; and Patrina Law.

    As a coming together of games culture and the traditional badge issuing by clubs and societies, a digital badge has developed to become an online visual representation of an accomplishment or skill (Ostashewski & Reid, 2015) issued in a variety of formal and non formal settings.

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    An incentive for learners To identify progress To signify achievement and learning

    On assessment in badges (Hickey (2012):o Summative functions - assessment of learningo Formative functions for individuals - assessment for learningo Transformative functions for systems - assessment as learning

    Defining the potential of digital badgingOn assessment in learning (Abramovich et al., 2013): the potential benefit of an assessment is determined by its ability to both maintain learning motivation and accurately communicate a students learning.

    Assessments (using Moodle quizzes in BOCs) presented in the way that Hickey identifies, we are attempting to communicate feedback and provide motivation to learners in an environment that cannot provide tutorial support.

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    In support of motivating learners in the open

    OpenLearn Badged Open Courses (BOCs):1. Give informal learners the recognition theyve

    requested.2. Give prospective students the skills to be

    prepared for undergraduate study.3. Give our current students a means of

    developing and displaying skills relevant to career progression.

    Cheaper to produce than our MOOCs No tutoring overhead Badging infrastructure interoperable with open


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    Badged Open Courses -- assessment framework

    Learners need to achieve 50% to pass an assessment

    Learners are given three attempts

    If they fail on the third attempt, they can retake after 24 hours

    Practice assessment is available throughout the course

    All pages of the course must have been read

    Formal assessment takes place halfway and at the end

    All BOCs are 24 hours of learning

    Two successful assessments = 1 badge

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    5 points of openness

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    Badge display

    Mozilla Backpack (or other aggregator)

    My OpenLearn ProfileSocial networks

    Printable certificate

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    BOC impact first 10 months 2000+ badges issued

    The BOCs are generating around 12,000 new visitors a month to OpenLearn

    They drive a very high proportion of learners to click-through to make an enquiry to the OU (26.2% Feb-Nov 2015)

    Completion rates of BOCs are higher than our MOOCs

    300 formal module registrations have been made (mostly entry level)

    2,300 prospectus requests

    254 qualification sign-ups (mostly new students)

    Satisfaction rates are very high (~98%)

    Surveys have shown that up to 57% say that they will be sharing their achievements with an employer or prospective employer

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    BOCs as a motivator and for recognition 71% perceive digital badge and certificate as equally


    Responses to What does earning a badge mean to you?

    Source: SurveyMonkey. End of course survey, Succeed with maths, Part 1.

    The basic

    accreditation from

    these badges adds

    more value to the

    work I put in

    Thank you for giving

    me the confidence to

    do something I

    thought I had no

    intellect to actually


    BOC impact data analysis

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    BOCs supporting professional development

    39-57% will show badge to employer

    BOCs as preparedness and driver for study

    Promising demographic for undergraduate recruitment (younger than OpenLearn overall) and existing qualifications: only 7-17% hold undergraduate degree compared to 26% on OpenLearn (MOOCs >70%)

    Reasons for studying: Professional development (84%), personal interest (78%), preparation for study (54%)

    58% had not taken online course before

    BOCs supporting disabled learners

    Between 15% and 37% declare a disability (OpenLearn overall is 23%; UK adult population is 16%)

    A good talking

    point and

    something to

    include on my


    Refreshed my

    maths skills and

    going on to do the

    open learn

    English course,

    will be applying to

    do an access

    course in March

    BOC impact data analysis

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    Learners are clear about how they like to learn

    Responses to Please rate how you felt about the different ways of learning on OpenLearn.

    Source: SurveyMonkey. End of course survey, English: skills for learning

    BOC impact data analysis

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    BOC impact reasons for studying

    Word cloud source: SurveyMonkey. End of course survey, Succeed with maths Part 1

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    1. Were we setting the bar too high? Were we going to deter completion?

    2. Are the detractors right to question the value of a badge?

    3. Scant research and almost no empirical data. 4. Was using repurposed content really going to save

    on production costs? 5. Can we convince others of the robustness of the QE?6. Developing assessment a challenge for most

    writers 45 questions for Weeks 4 and 8; 15 questions for remaining weeks. A big ask.

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    Solutions1. Setting the bar too high? Test and see OpenLearn is

    rapid response environment for developing approaches to elearning.

    2. Detractors? Development of IMS Global Open Badge Extensions for Education.

    3. Still scant research and almost no empirical data.4. Will continue to mix new and repurposed content;

    identify at module specification where possible. 5. Quality of learning experience assured through

    academic authoring and critical readership. As with MOOCs and other OpenLearn courses.

    6. Assessment expertise developed, but remains a challenge.

  • A mechanism to engage with partners


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    The future of digital badging at the OU

    In 2016Succeeding in postgraduate study Digital scholarship

    Working in the voluntary sector Resilience and flexibility

    Returning to STEM Commercial communication and negotiation

    Succeeding in a digital world Leadership and followership

    Cyber security Understanding business structures

    Supporting student preparedness as inductionSupport learner CPDBOCs on the OU Student Record and HEARPromoted by lecturers and University careers advisorsHighly impactful outreach mechanism

    Succeed with maths Parts 1 &2 Succeed with learning

    Introducing the voluntary sector English: sk