Open Thinkering


Tag: microcredentials

The Unseen Threads of Open Recognition


This is my second post this week on threads, although this has nothing to do with Meta or the Fediverse.

Instead, as I head to The Badge Summit in Colorado, I want to reflect even more on the differences between microcredentials and Open Recognition. Both are usually based on the Open Badges standard, but the emphasis is quite different.

Perhaps it’s easiest to explain the difference by using a metaphor. Open Recognition is like a detailed tapestry which tells a nuanced story of an individuals lifelong (and lifewide) journey. It’s not just woven with one type of thread, but represents a holistic view of knowledge, skills, experiences, talents, and aspirations.

This tapestry, as Serge Ravet has pointed out, also requires threads from other people. That’s because recognition is reflexive; it tells you more than just about the individual in question.

Microcredentials can form part of this tapestry, but for the purpose of this metaphor I’m going to contrast them more as a string of beads. Each bead is beautifully-poished and carefully-threaded. It stands for something immediately recognisable (and potentially tradeable) in the wider world.

It’s great that microcredentials exist. I think that they have the potential of helping democratise access to higher education, provide just-in-time learning, and enable a more diverse pipeline into decent jobs.

But life isn’t just about work, it’s about human flourishing. Some of that can happen with the jobs that we do, but much of it happens elsewhere. Open Recognition is the acknowledgement of talents, skills, and aspirations that extend beyond formal credentialing.

As I’ve explained elsewhere, Open Recognition denotes the rights of individuals, communities, and territories to ascribe their own labels and definitions to their educational journeys. The frameworks for Open Recognition may be emergent and/or implicit, much like the threads in a tapestry, resulting in a comprehensive and nuanced understanding of a person’s learning journey.

I’m heading to The Badge Summit, as I did last year, determined to help people understand the holistic power of Open Recognition. I’m joined in this endeavour by comrades who will also be peppering the event with their own related sessions. Don Presant has created a timetable for those interested in attending them.

To be honest, it feels a lot like the early days of Open Badges, trying to explain why something that feels so obviously necessary and awesome is valuable. I think this is partly because Open Badges, since they’ve been stewarded by 1EdTech (formely IMS Global Learning Consortium) have been captured by a neoliberal attempt to turn universities as mere training grounds for large employers. But that’s a whole other blog post…

Photo by Erol Ahmed on Unsplash

Embracing the Full Spectrum: towards a new era of inclusive, open recognition

White light going through a prism and being refracted into the colours of the rainbow. Image from Pixabay.

Earlier this month, Don Presant published a post entitled The Case for Full Spectrum “Inclusive” Credentials in which he mentioned that “people want to work with people, not just collection of skills”.

We are humans, not machines.

Yesterday, on the KBW community call, Amy Daniels-Moehle expressed her appreciation for the story that Anne shared in our Open Education Talks presentation about her experiences. Amy mentioned that the Gen-Z kids she works with had been excited when watching it. They used the metaphor of showing the full electromagnetic spectrum of themselves — more than just the visible light that we usually see.

It’s a useful metaphor. Just as the electromagnetic spectrum extends far beyond the range of visible light, encompassing ultraviolet, infrared, and many other frequencies, the concept of Open Recognition encourages us to broaden our perspective. As I’ve said before, it allows us to recognising not only knowledge, skills, and understanding, but also behaviours, relationships, and experiences

I remember learning in my Physics lessons that, with the electromagnetic spectrum, each frequency band has its unique properties, applications, and value. Visible light allows us to perceive the world around us. Ultraviolet and infrared frequencies have their uses in areas such as medicine, communication, and security. Other creatures, such as bees, can actually see these parts of the spectrum, which means they see the world very differently to us.

Similarly, it’s time for us to see the world in a new light. Open Recognition acknowledges that individuals possess diverse skills, competencies, and experiences that might not be immediately apparent or visible. Like the ultraviolet and infrared frequencies, these hidden talents may hold immense value and potential. Instead of doubling-down on what went before, we should be encouraging environment that embraces and celebrates this diversity. We can unlock untapped potential, create new opportunities, and enable more human flourishing.

In the same way that harnessing the full spectrum of electromagnetic radiation has led to groundbreaking discoveries and advancements, I believe that embracing Open Recognition can lead to a more inclusive, equitable, and thriving society. By acknowledging and valuing the myriad skills and talents each person brings, we can better collaborate and learn from one another. What’s not to like about that?

Note: if you’re interested in this, there’s a community of like-minded people you can join!

Reinventing the Fortress: using Open Recognition to enhance ‘standards’ and ‘rigour’

Midjourney-created image with prompt: "imposing fortress castle with guards, mountain range, wide angle, people in foreground holding bright lanterns, vivid colors, max rive, dan mumford, sylvain sarrailh, detailed artwork, 8k, 32k, lively rainbow, ultra realistic, beautiful lake, moon eclipse, ultra epic composition, hyperdetailed"

Imagine a formidable fortress standing tall. Long the bastion of formal education, it’s built upon the pillars of ‘standards’ and ‘rigour’. It has provided structure and stability to the learning landscape. These days, it’s being reinforced with smaller building blocks (‘microcredentials’) but the shape and size of the fortress largely remains the same.

However, as the winds of change begin to blow, a new force emerges from the horizon: Open Recognition. Far from seeking to topple the fortress, this powerful idea aims to harmonise with its foundations, creating a more inclusive and adaptive stronghold for learning.

Open Recognition is a movement that values diverse learning experiences and self-directed pathways. So, at first, it may appear to be in direct opposition to the fortress’s rigidity. However, upon closer inspection, rather than seeking to tear down the walls of standards and rigour, Open Recognition seeks to expand and reimagine them. This ensures that the fortress is inclusive: remaining relevant and accessible to all learners.

To create harmony between these seemingly conflicting forces, it’s important to first acknowledge that the fortress of standards and rigour does have its merits. It provides a solid framework for education, ensuring consistency and quality across the board. However, this approach can also be limiting, imposing barriers that prevent many learners from fully realising their potential.

Open Recognition brings flexibility and personalisation to the fortress. By validating the skills and competencies acquired through non-formal and informal learning experiences, Open Recognition allows the fortress to accommodate different sizes and shape of ‘room’, allowing the unique talents and aspirations of each individual to flourish

The key to harmonising these two forces lies in recognising their complementary nature. Open Recognition strengthens the fortress by expanding its boundaries, while standards and rigour provide the structural integrity that ensures the quality and credibility of the learning experiences within.

Educators and employers, as the guardians of the fortress, play a crucial role in fostering this harmony. By embracing Open Recognition, they can cultivate a more inclusive and dynamic learning ecosystem that values and supports diverse pathways to success. In doing so, they not only uphold the principles of standards and rigour but also enrich the fortress with the wealth of experiences and perspectives that Open Recognition brings.

As the fortress of standards and rigour harmonises with Open Recognition, it becomes a thriving stronghold of lifelong learning, identity, and opportunity. Far from crumbling under the weight of change, the fortress is invigorated by the union of these two powerful forces, ensuring its continued relevance and resilience in an ever-evolving world.