Digital badging at the OU

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Why Evaluate?

Recognising informal elearning with digital badging: evidence for a sustainable business modelPatrina Law, Head of Free Learning The Open


Why do we do free learning?


What is ?Comprehensive: Over 900 free courses 1-100 hrs in length.

Representative: From introductory to masters.

Inspiring: Enriched with inspiring topical videos, interactive games, quizzes, polls and articles.

Rewarding: Recognising progress and achievements through personal profiles, certification and digital badging.



Our commitment to open


How does informal learning begin?

Informal learning often starts with broadcast

[Click ON the video on the TV - The video on the TV will play while you talk turn the volume down if too much ]

We make about 25 SERIES with the BBC each year

About 250 million views of our programmes in the UK (people watch more than one)

Academic involved in programme making

[Click away form the TV graphic to get next step in animation]

All programmes have a call to action points at open learn more than 10K hours of content and about 5.5m visitors each year OpenLearn is THE home of our informal learning

It contains light items, perhaps only requiring 5 or ten minutes study including videos games, interactives (click ON this item to be taken through the page on OpenLearn if you are online)

It contains examples of units (whole) from our courses (nearly all are covered at all levels) [Try click ON this item to be taken to the unit related to the previous light interactive]

And every page contains a link to the opportunities to study formally with the OU - more than 10% of those visiting OpenLearn make this journey to enquiry about formal study

And where possible we syndicate our content onto other channels like YouTube and iTunesU .. And now some of our courses on FutureLearn

Although much of this comes from TV - increasingly traffic comes form natural search (Google) because we have so much content in the open.5

Syndication of free assets

We think syndication is important getting the same content onto multiple channels helps us reach more and different peopleWe will build on this this year from these three initial channels to many more

BUT critically ONLY openlearn will really allow us a degree of control over how our materials are shown, deliver on brand impression, and be optimised for offering next steps to OU6

Why is OpenLearn important?7

Enquirers: 13% of visitor enquire about qualifying with the OU.

39mTotal visitors worldwide inspired by free learning from the OU since launch.

4.9mNew visitors every year.

Social Impact: OpenLearn helps ensures our campus remains truly open, with academic perspectives on important community issues.


Why is it important


Our research: who are our informal learners?Research projects in 2013, 2014 and 2015: Demographic profiling of learners, students and teachersUnderstanding how the content serves learners needsExamining how free educational content is influences the progression to formal studyUnderstanding learners challenges and successesDiscovering what learners want and how this is changingEvaluating the impact of the recognition for informal learning


9What do our surveys tell us?


What we know about our OpenLearn learners

I can definitely say that I wouldnt have taken the risk of paying so much to do a degree if I hadnt been able to test the water through OpenLearn. The free extracts of courses gave me confidence to enroll in my first moduleI have also been using them to practice time management.

It's free! I can't afford the costs of university courses since it all went sky high. I fell into OpenLearn because I was priced out of other studies. Thank you for providing a resource for people that cannot get to a facility due to physical and/or financial difficulty. Being out of the workforce is hard; it is easy to feel closed off from particular changes. These courses make it possible to keep the mind active, learn and try to stay currentwith the advancement of technology.

What do informal learners want now?58% declare improved confidence in their ability to study. 38% are students. 10% enrol: 29% of these are OU students.80+% want OU-branded recognition for informal learning.

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

We have moved from Cross anonymous world to one of identified informal learning. Whilst learning is still taking place as a supplement to formal learning there is a growing demand and expectation that informal learners want recognition for their achievements and engagement that can be acknowledged beyond a closed forum of learners.

Why award badges?

Image credits: Thornhill School; and Patrina Law.

A means to recognise learning, to motivate learners, and to provide evidence of skills and achievements in a variety of formal and informal settings


Digital badges in HEResearch tells us that they are used:by educators in MOOCs to reward and motivate learners to participate in a group. by learners to let others know of their mastery usually in closed, online, tutored environments. by universities as a method of encouraging first year students to complete.

Awarding of a badge can often be a manual activity.


Badged Open Courses (BOCs) on OpenLearn

Require learners to progress at their own pace and not in a cohort, in specially designed courses.

Badges are applied to support and motivate learners who, in the informal sector, are often from underserved groups.


Engaging with learners informal and formalLaunched in 2015, Badged Open Courses:Give informal learners the recognition theyve requested.Give prospective students the skills to be prepared for undergraduate study.Give our current students a means of developing and displaying skills relevant to career progression.

Created using repurposed module content or via current module productionCheaper to produce than our MOOCsNo tutoring overheadBadging infrastructure interoperable with open standards

Badge display

Mozilla BackpackMy OpenLearn ProfileSocial networks e.g. LinkedIn

Printable certificate

BOC assessment frameworkLearners need to achieve 50% to pass an assessmentLearners are given three attemptsIf they fail on the third attempt, they can retake after 24 hoursPractice assessment is available throughout the courseAll pages of the course must have been readFormal assessment takes place halfway and at the end

Two successful assessments = 1 badge

The business case for free learningA showcase for new studentsA taster of paid-for contentConfidence buildingA taster for studying online and at a distanceFor OpenLearn, direct click-through to make an enquiryRe-using/repurposing course content reduces costsImproved grades and confidence in students

BOC impact supporting the business caseInitial findings (since March):1300 badges issuedThe BOCs are generating over 12,000 new visitors a month to OpenLearnThey drive a very high proportion of learners to click-through to make an enquiry to the OU (~28%)Completion rates of BOCs are higher than our MOOCs250 formal module registrations have been made (mostly entry level) 2000 prospectus requestsSatisfaction rates are very high (~98%) Surveys have also shown that up to 57% say that they will be sharing their achievements with an employer or prospective employer

BOC impact qualitative data analysisBOCs as a motivator and for recognition71% perceive digital badge and certificate as equally important

Responses to What does earning a badge mean to you?

Source: SurveyMonkey. End of course survey, English skills for learning.The basic accreditation from these badges adds more value to the work I put inThank you for giving me the confidence to do something I thought I had no intellect to actually do

BOC impact qualitative data analysisBOCs supporting professional development39-57% will show badge to employer

BOCs as preparedness and driver for studyPromising demographic for undergraduate recruitment in terms of age (younger than OpenLearn overall) and existing qualifications: 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 beforea good talking point and something to include on my CVRefreshed 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 qualitative data analysisIdentified informal 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, Succeed with maths Part 1

BOC impact reasons for studying

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

HEAR / extended transcript

Education Design Lab, collaborating employers + collaborating badge providers

Next stepsPlatform enables rapid feedback for interoperable innovation with the VLE (Moodle)Continue to experi