OPEN BADGES IN HIGHER EDUCATION
The Open Badges concept is modern solution for recognizing and verifying learning and skills. Badges are particularly well suited to describe skills that have been acquired through informal learning. Conventional diplomas are not typically used for this type of learning. On a practical level the Open Badge is an image with the metadata that indicates the earners skills. Metadata contains a description of the skills learned, information about the issuer of the badge, date when the badge was issued and expiration date. The duration of validity of the badge makes it possible to take into account the temporary nature of the learned skill. Open Badge concept also includes solutions to check the validity of issuer organization and the content of the badge. The earner of the badge may or may not accept a badge he has been issued. The badges are stored in the personal folder of the Mozilla’s cloud based service. Earners may share their badges in their own social networks, ePortfolios, CV or for example in earners own web site.
In the autumn of 2013 started in Finland, Tekes-funded Open Badge Factory (OBF) project consortium. Tekes is the most important publicly funded expert organization for financing research, development and innovation in Finland. OBF project consortium consists of five subprojects. The goal of the main subproject is to develop a cross-platform cloud based service named Open Badge Factory. The service provides an environment for creating, issuing, sharing and managing open badges. The project consortium also involves a university, companies and a nationwide adult education institution which acts as an umbrella for non-governmental organizations. Educational institutions and companies are piloting the concept from their point of views on their own environments.
From the point of view of higher education organization the interest is to make the so called hidden learning visible. By hidden learning we mean learning skills that are not included in the curriculum as such. Those skills are therefore not displayed in diplomas. To make hidden learning visible is challenging because learning is difficult to identify and knowledge is cumulative in nature; it typically accumulates in small pieces as a by-product of the many actual courses.
The functionality of the OBF concept to make the hidden learning visible is piloted in The Master Studies in Mathematical Information Technology at the Kokkola University Consortium Chydenius. In the first phase the target of the piloting is to make students’eLearning skills visible. The studying in study program is strongly supported with educational technology solutions. Thus, the related know-how accumulates for students during studies. Another target of the pilot is to make visible accumulated skills related to internationalization. As the skills accumulates in small pieces during number of courses plays the hierarchy of the badges significant role.
This paper introduces the Open badge Factory project consortium and the objectives and activities of the subprojects. The paper also presents the challenges and opportunities related to the Open Badge concept and the preliminary results already achieved. The examination is made on, above all, from the perspective of higher education.