Open Thinkering


Tag: semester of learning

What did we learn during a ‘semester of learning’ on #openbadges over at

Open Badges and Assessment

Seven weeks ago I proposed a ‘semester of learning’ about Mozilla’s Open Badges. This was originally going to be hosted on an installation of BuddyPress, but eventually resided at in a group called Open Badges and Assessment. It attracted a diverse mix of people, most of whom I’d never encountered before (I love it when that happens!) Many of use are continuing the conversation at a new HASTAC group.

In a similar way to a MOOC (Massive Online Open Course) the semester of learning was an informal affair where participants (of which there were 84 altogether) could be as active as they want. Again, as with MOOCs, many were content to listen in upon what others were talking about. Others played a more active role. I’ve archived the study group, but it will remain available indefinitely on for your perusal.

Things tailed off slightly towards the end, for two reasons. The first was that I was in the last couple of weeks of my thesis, so was spending all of my spare time on that. Secondly, the conversation moved from being in a niche area to being much more mainstream (via Twitter, etc.) with the launch of the DML Competition

As a taster of what went on in the semester of learning here’s some comments from the beginning and towards the end.

Week 1

There are key questions around ensuring quality for these badges to take hold. If they are to become something valuable on a CV for example then a prospective employer needs to be able to ascertain the level & rigour involved in the aquisition of the badge. (Dan Stucke)

I’m really impressed by the scope of this Mozilla project. I must admit, I signed up merely because I am interested in looking at ways for developing badges in a high school context, so to see this scale up in such a monumental way is pretty inspiring.

The potential for a new standard in qualifications that learners continue to build upon is very interesting. For example, my own degree and teaching qualifications are relatively old compared to everything I have learned since, and even though there is no formal recognition of my increased learning over the years, save a few references from previous employers, I’d say the undocumented skills I have now make me a far more qualified person than I appear to be on paper. I think the case studies from the open badge system framework draft make this point quite well. (Jackson Bates)

My main worry about the badges appraoch is that it will only be a kind of add-on to the normal educational modle. What I’m mainly interested in doing is entering into direct confrontation with the university as it currently exists. I want to fight with the university, offer an alternative to it, and fundamentally challange the values at work in the university. I’m worried that a badge just isn’t going to cut it, that it won’t be taken seriously enough or that it will only be taken seriously as an add-on to a “real” university education. (Thomas Gokey)

Week 6

Every time a new educational fad erupts it seems to be polarizing, which seems to hold true in the conversations surrounding the dml announcement.  Instead of talking about whether we agree or disagree with the movement a better topic would be, what can these badges do for education, specifically assessment?

I am excited to see what comes of the research grants for the badges.  Will we start giving badges instead of end of course assessments/exams?  Would that be a good thing?  How would it work?

Yes of course it would be messy, but what if students had to obtain specific badges to pass into the next grade or to receive a high school diploma?  Would it motivate students to complete their coursework or would it only further increase dropout rates?  At any rate it is obvious that we would have to get the buy in of students to pull this off effectively…. (AndiStrack)

In the twitter about the grants, people expressed concern that there would be a proliferation of badges of dubious value. Nobody can stop that from happening and it would not be desirable. Our organization plans to categorize and rank badges by difficulty. We think our website that lists the badges will get substantial traffic just as our lists of open textbooks have done. (Jacky Hood)


I found a fantastically easy way to setup a study group and would certainly do so again. I think that the semester of learning helped point people towards certain resources that they may not otherwise have seen and, perhaps more importantly, engage with other people they may not have come across. It was great to see, given some of the superficiality and shallow reading evident from those reacting in various backchannels during the announcement, that those who were part of the group were committed to going away to think and read.

What did we learn? Well, I think I can speak on behalf of us when I say that talking of ‘badges for lifelong learning’ sounds simple but actually contains a lot of nuance and hidden complexity around assessment. I’m very much looking forward to continuing the conversation both on Twitter (using the hashtags #openbadges and #dmlbadges) and within the new HASTAC group.  🙂

JOIN US! A semester of learning about Open Badges and assessment.

Open Badges and assessment

What: An informal, collaborative group learning more about Mozilla’s Open Badge architecture.

Why: To consider the ways Open Badges could be used to credentialise educational outcomes.


When: Saturday 13th August – Friday 30th September 2011

Hashtag: #openbadges

I proposed a ‘semester of learning’ on Open Badges and assessment earlier this week. The idea seemed to gain some enthusiasm and traction, so I’ve gone ahead and set up a study group at There’s no real need for a commitment other than joining the group and lurkers are as welcome as frequent contributors.

There’ll be a live Q&A and discussion session via IRC at 20.00 BST (GMT+1) tonight, Saturday 13th April, and every Saturday night. The link to get involved with that is in the sidebar at

The first week’s task is really easy: read up on Open Badges so that in Week 2 we can negotiate how we’re going to move forward discussing and debating how they could be used within education.

Join us!

Semester of Learning: Open Badges and assessment

Update: This will now take place at

Semester of Learning: Mozilla badges and assessment

At the Thinking Digital Conference 2011 Nicole Yershon, Director of Innovative Solutions at Ogilvy mentioned an idea that immediately struck a chord with me. The idea? Having a semester of learning. This, of course, is a term loosely borrowed from universities but the way Nicole described and applied it (before I drifted off into a reverie of what I could spend a semester learning about) was much more self-directed and informa.

I’d like to propose a collaborative semester of learning.

After being initially sceptical, I’m now super-excited about the revolutionary potential of Mozilla’s Open Badges project and I want to investigate it further. I want to go beyond the type of research I would do for a single blog post and go a lot more in depth.

I have a feeling some may wish to join me in this.

Mozilla’s project in a nutshell:

  • Today’s learning happens everywhere, not just in the classroom. But it’s often difficult to get credit for it.
  • Mozilla and Peer 2 Peer University are working to solve this problem by developing an Open Badges infrastructure.
  • Our system will make it easy for education providers, web sites and other organizations to issue badges that give public recognition and validation for specific skills and achievements.
  • And provide an easy way for learners to manage and display those badges across the web — on their personal web site or resume, social networking profiles, job sites or just about anywhere.
  • The result: Open Badges will help learners everywhere unlock career and educational opportunities, and regonize skills that traditional resumes and transcripts often leave out.

I’m proposing the following as a basic minimum for this semester of learning:

  1. It lasts about six weeks, from Saturday 13th August to the end of September.
  2. Participants pool their findings and have asynchronous discussions (location TBC)
  3. Synchronous discussions as and when required.

The whole thing would be very light-touch, completely interest-based and informal. We’ll experiment with approaches for badge-giving within communities both educational and otherwise and, well, generally just see how it goes.

So… you in? (let me know in the comments)