The validation and quality assurance of open badges at the University of Derby
University of Derby, United Kingdom
The Mozilla Foundation (2011) launched the technical standard of open badges as a method for academic and non-academic learners to collect and display their achievements in an image format. Open badges are digital recognitions of skills and achievements that can be issued from multiple sources, and in any subject or topic area that a learner has chosen to engage with. These can be collected and displayed as part of an e-portfolio and social media profiles, and present an opportunity for non-traditional learners and job seekers to improve or enhance their training and qualification repertoire. Digital badges have become an integral part of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) at the University of Derby (UoD) for awarding micro credentials. At the UoD, the incorporation of these has been linked to statistics that show an average completion rate of 28.8% across our four MOOCs, comparing favorably to the sector average of 5-10%.
Open Badges and the University of Derby:
The use of badges has supported our MOOC quality framework and a pilot project, as part of our digital badges group, has allowed us to issue our own institutionally designed badges with legitimacy and credibility from our own server. Digital badges allows learners to own their outcomes in both curricular and non-curricular activities, which can be used to highlight accomplishments to employers. At UoD, we also issue Badges for our staff training and can be used for skills auditing. Our recent work has highlighted the importance of administering open badges to provide a learner incentive and to recognize completion of work (micro or full). At present, other Higher Educational Institutions (HEIs) also issue their own digital badges. Usually these badges are issued through a third party service and the badges are not vetted through a quality assurance processes which devours the credibility and integrity of these micro credentials. At UoD, we have followed an approach where these badges are issued through our own hosted servers and we have also developed a quality assurance framework around the use of the badges. The quality framework ensures that the badges reward meaningful learning or accomplishments.
The developing badge process at the UoD is supporting learners in gaining credible recognition and endorsement of their skillset, particularly as we move towards independent implementation of badges. With the establishment of a badge framework, these could be used among educational institutions. At ePIC 2016, we will discuss the success of our MOOCs in relation to completion and micro completion, the subsequent pilot digital badges project for the wider University and the ongoing efforts of our working badges group. We will discuss how the use of badges has added to the quality assurance process of not only our MOOCs but also shaping our wider teaching and learning practice.
Finding the sweet spot: Digitally connecting personal, classroom, and field-based learning experiences
Mount Royal University, Canada
The purpose of this research study was to investigate how students in a Bachelor of Education (B.Ed.) program were using a professional learning plan (ePortfolio) to document their achievement of the knowledge, skills and attributes (KSA’s) by digitally connecting their personal, classroom, and field-based learning experiences. This is the space for students to develop and communicate self-understanding and create learning goals and strategies that will allow them to be most successful in their future teaching practice (Johnsen, 2012).
The Community of Inquiry (CoI) framework was used to guide this study (Garrison, 2016). The CoI is a generic framework that directs attention to the process of constructing and confirming deep understanding such as the knowledge, skills, and attributes required to become a successful teacher. The three main elements of the CoI framework are social presence, cognitive presence, and teaching presence. Each of these elements and their overlap must be considered in the design and delivery of collaborative learning assessment activities and outcomes within a B.Ed. program.
Methods of Investigation
An action research approach was used to direct this study. Stringer (2013) indicates that action research is a reflective process of progressive problem solving led by individuals working with others in teams or as a part of a ‘community of inquiry’ to improve the way they address issues and solve problems. This research approach should result in some practical outcome related to the lives or work of the participants, which in this case is the effective integration of personal, classroom, and field-based learning experiences in a B.Ed. program.
A mixture of quantitative (i.e., student surveys) and qualitative (i.e., faculty interviews, student focus group) research methods were used for this study. A constant comparative approachwas used to identify patterns, themes, and categories of analysis that “emerge out of the data rather than being imposed on them prior to data collection and analysis” (Patton, 1990, p. 390).
Findings obtained from the faculty interviews suggest that there is currently a tension with the professional learning plan process between being a surface versus a deep learning experience for the B.Ed. students. Faculty perceive that many students view the learning plan simply as a “check-list” or “set of hoops to jump through” in order to demonstrate their achievement of the Interim KSAs. They recommend that this process should be revised in order to allow students to “tell their stories about how they are developing their professional teaching identities through the connection of their personal, classroom, and field-based learning experiences”. In order to achieve this outcome we have begun to examine the digital storytelling research literature (Barrett, 2006; Ehiyazaryan-White, 2012; Jenkins, M. & Lonsdale, 2007; Johnsen, 2012; Robin, 2005; Schank, 2012).
The survey and focus group results indicate that education students perceive that the professional learning plan process helps them connect their personal, classroom, and field-based learning experiences by:
- Having all my learning artifacts in one place to connect, critique, and reflect upon;
- Documenting professional growth;
- Journaling in each of my courses;
- Peer mentoring and collaboration.
In terms of having all of the learning artifacts in one place, students commented that “I think the professional learning plan really brings together all the components of the program, as well as weaving in our personal experiences” and “It has for sure helped me connect because I've had to think more about the things that I was noticing in the elementary school classrooms and having to connect it with the Education course content”.
With regards to documenting professional growth, one student stated that the learning plan process “forced me to see the connections and relevance between personal and professional life” and another student explained that “It allows me to display what I am learning while being able to go back and reflect on what I have learnt. As well it allows me to build on my prior knowledge and to create a stronger professional learning plan”.
Another student commented about the relationship between her course journals and the professional learning plan “I have been able to include artifacts and pictures from my experiences in my learning plan that I have first documented in my field journals”.
And, finally, a number of students emphasized the importance of the peer mentoring and collaboration that was involved in the construction of their professional learning plans, “I found that when I created my learning plan I was able to input all my experiences into one space and other people were able to see them and provide me with feedback, this made our class stay connected and become a community of learners” (Student 39) and “It has helped me to become more creative by seeing how the other students in my class think and learning from each of them”.
Fostering awareness on competences and developing professional identities through an experience using ePortfolios for Master Students
University of Padova, Italy
The paper presents a case study on the use of a ePortfolio to support reflection and awareness on learning occurred in formal, informal and non-formal contexts for Master students enrolled in Adult Education studies. The experience carried out in spring 2016 lasted around 1 month and involved 12 students and was part of the task required by the course of “Competences evaluation”, which focused not only on acquiring and applying knowledge about the subject, but also on developing individual reflection for personal and professional growth.
In line with the main reflective practice theories (Kolb, 1984; Moon, 1999; Schon, 1991), the ePortfolio has been chosen both for the value of the process and of the final product. On one hand, it represents a tool for self-assessment, deep understanding of prior and current experiences, self-regulated ongoing monitoring of learning, student-centred way to set-up new learning goals and needs. On the other hand, it collects examples and evidences from various experiences, as showcase of main strengths and competences for teachers and future employers, it is a concrete digital document that can be easily carried with all learning records.
The exercise of doing a personal portfolio and receiving feedback from peers and teacher enriches the level of students’ responsibility on their own learning (Gredler, 1999) and supports people on searching a holistic sense in the combination of different threads emerging from diverse experiences. Moreover, the collection of evidences to prove competences described avoids a self-referential approach (Rossi, Giannandrea, & Magnoler, 2011) and, on the contrary, develops an inter-subjective evaluation of competences.
Methodology and description of the case study
Master students have been asked to develop their own portfolio, following a process with three steps:
- Self-assessment, reflective narratives and collection of evidences on 5 chosen core competences
- Collection of at least 2 written feedbacks, one from a peer and another from an expert, who have seen the student acting the competence
- Peer evaluation among students and formative feedback.
As framework for the competences to be described and for the prompts used to foster the reflection, the Council of Europe Youth Work Portfolio was used. Sections for self-assessment and narratives have been created on Moodle platform, visible only to each student and to the tutor, who provided periodic individual feedback. The reasons of choosing the Youth competence framework were mainly because it seemed a complete but flexible guide for students, it included several competences that refer also to adult education and training, it provided meaningful prompts for reflection and for evidences collection.
The Moodle tool “workshop” was used for the final peer evaluation, in which each student was asked to evaluate the portfolio of a peer against a set of shared and agreed criteria and provide constructive feedback.
Findings and conclusions
During and at the end of the portfolio construction, students provided feedback on the experience by answering open-ended questions and by participating to a focus group. The activity emerged as very positive because the ePortfolio promoted reflection on prior learning and on learning needs and fostered self-criticism. It was also a tool for empowerment, to giving value to the personal prior events, to connecting what happens in class to what happens outside (which was perceived as rather new aspect), to supporting peer assessment and collaboration, to creating a personalised learning environment. The ePortfolio seemed to promote awareness of personal resources and was useful for a better preparation of the CV, with a clearer vision of possible professional identities and pathways. The digital dimension represented an opportunity to enhance confidence in the use of ICT skills and to have a transferable repository of examples, links, pictures to show and prove competences.
Students also highlighted some areas of improvement such as the need of understand and familiarise with the self-assessment scale and to find a balance in the narratives between a general description of learning events and a very detailed one. Other crucial and rather difficult aspects were to connect competences acquired in different experiences, by grouping skills and knowledge gained in diverse contexts into competences, and to be able to evaluate peers' portfolios according to standards. Those aspects will be improved in future replication of the study.
In general, reflection and awareness have been developed through the ePortfolio and the case study proved to be effective also as methodological learning for students who will work as adult trainers.
Opening minds with eportfolios: How can eportfolios enhance the nature of the learning experience and the development of criticality among flexible learners?
Dublin City University, Ireland
This paper reports on a doctoral research project which examines the nature of the learning experience of using an eportfolio and whether it enhances the development of criticality among flexible learners. It aims to interrogate the process of the development of criticality rather than the product. The project adopts a case study approach, following 20 flexible learners over the course of one academic year in a Dublin based third level institution.
The research questions for the study are:
How can eportfolios enhance the nature of the learning experience and the development of criticality among flexible learners?
How can eportfolios be used to enhance criticality in learning?
What is the nature of the learning experience when students are interacting with the eportfolio technology?
This study is using an exploratory holistic single-case design where the “object of the study” or the single issue/ the of the learner experience of using an eportfolio and the process of developing criticality are investigated. (Creswell 2007,Stake 1995, Yin 2014)
The setting is a unit which is a provider of online, ‘off-campus’ programmes in a Dublin based higher education institution. The participants are intermediate flexible sociology learners studying a module called Soc3A- Power, Social Order, Crime, Work and Employment as part of the BA (Hons) in Humanities which is a modular humanities programme whereby learners can study a combination of history, sociology, literature, psychology and philosophy. The modules are delivered through a blend of virtual online tutorials and face to face sessions. The participants are mature adult students (over the age of 23) combining study with work and family commitments, in the context of this project they are defined as flexible learners. (Brunton, Brown, Costello, Delaney, Fox, & Galvin, 2015)
In order to gain a rich, thick and personal description of the experience of using an eportfolio the following data collection methods are selected; physical artefacts contained in an eportfolio and interviews. The main source of data will be the written, visual and multimedia artefacts from the learner’s eportfolios, and the focus of the interviews will be the learner’s eportfolios and their experience of the process of learning with an eportfolio.
Participants will use their eportfolios to create a critical commentary of their learning and will complete five eportfolio entries over the course of one academic year at key points in their learning journey. Eportfolio entries will follow a prescribed structured template of critical questions intended to encourage reflection about their learning. Data collection will commence in September 2016.