I’ve been involved, somewhat peripherally, with the Open Badging Initiative for the last six months or so. Initially, it was a way to start thinking about breaking the LMS (Integrated Learning Platform? aw, screw it, I don’t know what the thing is called anymore) out of the box it’s in and communicating what the LMS does well with other parties. I thought it could be a way to communicate skills, think about developing a short-hand language through the badge to communicate with other people. It’s really a way to check all the boxes that get me excited currently. Open standards? Yep. Mutating a system to do something other than what was intended? Yep. Visual design an image that communicates a value to another party? Yep. Explore the value of a systematic education? Yep.

The problem is that I essentially stopped programming in 2004 when I really didn’t need it anymore. Sure I’ve done a few things like hack together a PERL script to parse out values in a text file, and dump it into a database, but using badges at this point, or at least at my institution, I need to get up to speed with programming and handling JSON, XML if I’m going to start tinkering with our LMS and implementing badges. Ouch. Thankfully, I’ve got a few friends and colleagues who’ll help me get there.

For those of you who don’t know, badging is a way of giving value to something by awarding an image that represents that value. At it’s simplest, it works like the Scouts – demonstrate something and get a badge for demonstrating that you know something. It’s basically the same proposition as what grades are in higher education. The neat thing is that the badge doesn’t have to be tied to a number that’s arbitrarily set by someone (a teacher) or something (a computer, schooling system…). It can be tied to evidence or not, depending on the issuer of the badge and what they demand for getting the badge. That’s where badging is cool for me.

When you earn a badge that conforms to the Open Badges Standard, it can be pushed to your backpack. This is the central repository of badges for you. I’ve embedded below a portion of my backpack for you to see how one might display achievements.

What makes badges a little better than a grade value is the evidence of learning which is listed as part of the criteria. Now in many cases this is not as transparent as it should be. For instance, I’ve been working through CodeSchool’s Javascript introduction and JQuery courses that issue badges. Their criteria is displaying on a page that “confirms” I completed a module. Wouldn’t this page be much better if it shared exactly what I did to earn the badge? That would be powerful. I realize that there’s all sorts of considerations for student privacy, and ideally they would be able to control what is shared with the badge (maybe an on/off switch with each badge issuer to allow for a simple description of what earned the badge or a more detailed results page). That might lead to badges being more than a symbol of learning that doesn’t communicate clearly to the viewer what was learned.

The Flipped Classroom Meets a MOOC

This feels like some sort of joke – a flipped classroom walks into a bar and starts talking to a MOOC….

Here’s the quote:

“The use of videos with quizzes puts the learning directly in students’ hands,” said Gries. “If they don’t understand a concept, they can re-watch the videos and take the quizzes again. This allows students to learn at their own pace. It is exciting.”

I’m almost positive that was taken out of context, but if not, watching a video again, or taking a quiz again, in and of itself is not learning. It’s not good learning design, it’s not good thinking, it’s just drill and repeat in another form. It’s drill and repeat, at the student’s command…

I’m purposefully ignoring the good stuff that happens in this article, like the 8% grade increase (which is being attributed to the flipped model, but could just be the students in the class are better than the previous years, maybe the class size was smaller, leading to better instructional opportunities…). I also find it curious that the University of Toronto could find no student to add their voice to this puff piece. Undoubtedly, something is here – but what it is really isn’t shared in this piece. It will be interesting to see if any research is accomplished on this over the next few years.

This isn’t the first time that people have repurposed Coursera or other xMOOC platform content as elements of a flipped classroom. It strikes me that if this approach takes hold, all education has done with these MOOCs is that they’ve created another set of publishers with a repository of content. If so, the future of MOOCs (as content repositories) is pretty grim.