Four For the Future: Credentialing

diplomaSome interesting news on the credentialing front of late. As more and more employers (and others) move beyond the traditional degree as the sole marker of expertise or ability, and as the potential for informal, self-organized, powerful learning continues to explode, the ways in which people are beginning to accrue and communicate various skills and expertise is changing by the day. From badges to micro-credentials to competency based degrees, the future of credentials looks to be replete with innovation and iteration, raising serious questions for schools as to how to best prepare students for a variety of possibilities.

In this post, we take a look at four resources that can serve as starting points for learning and discussions about the potential futures for credentials.

The Future is Now: Unpacking Digital Badging and Micro-credentialing for K-20 Educators – Angela Elkordy provides a great overview of the opportunities and challenges of rethinking credentials throughout our schooling lives.

The momentum behind the digital badges concept is building in large part, because learning now can be continuous, no longer bound by time or location, interest-driven, or, increasingly, by cost.  However, at this point, the outcomes of the learning processes are not measured, assessed or communicated to interested audiences in any meaningful or systematic manner.  A digital badge ecosystem has been proposed as a method to organize and articulate some informal learning, hence making it “visible” to others.

Certifying Skills and Knowledge: Four Scenarios for the Future of Credentials (pdf) – The Knowledge Works Foundation has always been on the edge when it comes to thinking about schools and education moving forward. In their most recent whitepaper released last week, Jason Swanson explores the different paths that thinking around credentialing might take. He writes:

The scenarios are intended to bring to light key issues driving change in and around credentials in order to help stakeholders develop forward-looking visions for how people might attain and evaluate the quality of credentials, consider how best to leverage or otherwise respond to new and emerging forms of credentials, and develop strategies for creating credentials consistent with their visions for the future of learning.

Developing a System of Micro-credentials: Supporting Deeper Learning in the Classroom (pdf) – While we’re not enthusiastic fans of the “deeper learning” label on what we think are obvious descriptors of regular, old “learning,” this overview from Digital Promise nonetheless serves as a starting point for conversation around the practical uses of badges in teacher professional development. Here is how the impetus for this work is described in the  publication:

Teachers earn credentials at the beginning of their careers, but they learn new skills every day. While teachers are recognized for the time they spend in formal professional development settings, they often don’t have the opportunity to demonstrate the full breadth of what they have learned, including in informal contexts. [These] micro-credentials provide professional educators a new way to identify competencies they are developing and gain recognition for the skills they learn throughout their careers.

Mozilla Open Badges – The Mozilla Foundation (an offshoot of the folks who brought you Netscape, the first Web browser) has been creating a framework for badges that recognize “skills you learn anywhere” for a number of years now. Importantly, Open Badges allow organizations to create their own badge frameworks, and badge holders can combine badges from a number of different organizations via their badge backpack. Here’s the blurb:

At Mozilla, we believe that learning happens over the course of a lifetime and frequently beyond the classroom. With the support of the MacArthur Foundation, we’ve built the Open Badges Infrastructure, which makes it possible for badges issued by different companies and communities to be interoperable and shareable across the web.

To see an iteration of Mozilla Open Badges in a school, check out Worlds of Learning from the New Milford (NJ) School District.

Key questions for schools:

How are you preparing students to track and display the informal learning they do online? To what extent are teachers being offered the ability to pursue their own “micro-credentials” or badges as a part of their own professional development work? How is your school or district modeling the transparent display of credentials or badges among educators and students?

Image credit: Anne

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