Open Thinkering


TB872: A systems map of organisations involved with LERs in the USA

Note: this is a post reflecting on one of the modules of my MSc in Systems Thinking in Practice. You can see all of the related posts in this category

As part of my preparations for my End of Module Assessment (EMA) I need to create a diagram giving an overview of an ecosystem I’m trying to help influence. Having already created diagrams from the perspective of the Digital Credentials Consortium (DCC) with which WAO is working, I’ve decided to try and take on the concept of Learning and Employment Records (LERs).

We’re currently helping the DCC think about what might go into an updated version of the LER Ecosystem Map. Given that LER is a term which is currently specific to the US context, I’m using this as an opportunity to braid my theoretical and practical understanding of how all of this fits together. Although I’ve worked with US-based organisations and visited there many times, I have no lived experience of the country nor of its systems.

Image from LER map website including circles such as 'Credentialing Organizations' and 'HR Systems' around the outside, and 'Developing', 'Issuing', 'Adopting' and 'Using' around the central word 'Equity'.

The above image from the LER map is colourful and nice to look at, but in my opinion does not help the visitor understand the ecosystem. Although my needs may be different to, say, employers or learners, I have come at this from an organisational point of view, trying to categorise them based on interest and objective.

While I’ve tried to make this as clear as possible it is confusing to me as well as to others I know who are more deeply immersed in it. Ideally, I would be able to represent this map in three dimensions.

A systems map showing a partial and incomplete understanding of the relationship between different organisations involved with LERs in the USA
(click/tap to enlarge)

Although I have interacted with representatives from some of the organisations mentioned on here, it is a very different landscape to a decade ago when I was working on Open Badges at Mozilla. It’s almost as if the digital credentialing landscape has fractured into three:

  • Skills-based hiring (LERs)
  • Academic-adjacent courses (microcredentials)
  • Holistic recognition of skills, etc. (Open Recognition)

One of the criticisms I have of the LER Ecosystem Map as it currently stands is that it appears to have been created by committee. It is unclear who is it is for, and as such there are multiple, competing, overlapping understandings of the ecosystem.

I have the following questions in terms of where there might be a need for a more systemic perspective:

  1. What is the future we are collectively trying to imagine? Beyond helping HR departments more accurately and efficiently match workers to jobs, how do LERs make the world a better place?
  2. Over and above lending an air of integrity, what is the role of academia in the LER ecosystem?
  3. Where is the voice of the learner, earner, or worker in this system, beyond being the subject of research?

I’m sure other questions will come to me as I think about this and work more on the LER map. It’s been an interesting exercise, though, just to look at what the different organisations do and try to categorise and classify them on my (incomplete, subjective) systems map.

Update: it’s not a systems map as such, but a day later I realised that WAO’s Audience Ikigai template could be useful for this work. So I had a go trying to map the LER landscape using only four thematic areas:

Four coloured overlapping ovals entitled 'Policy & Funding', 'Skills-based Credentialing', 'Research & Academia', and 'Technology, Interoperability & Standards'

Various organisations (e.g. the Digital Credentials Consortium and Credential Engine) are positioned at various overlaps

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