Badges in Online Learning

A recent comment from Debbie mentioned badges. So it seems a good time to initiate a discussion of Badges in online learning, higher education, and the workplace.

If you’re not familiar with badges they are essentially the same thing as we earned in Scouts – a tangible reward for achieving specific tasks. In online learning they are an attempt to grant credit (formal or informal) for achievements. The long-term hope is that students earning badges at one institution or in online courses or life experiences will be able to translate those badges into credit at another institution.

Read 7 Things You Should Know About Badges from Educause.

The main grantor of badges is currently Mozilla’s Open Badge site. It seems an unusual stretch for a browser company to take, but that may be my limitation.

There is also at least one commercial badge site, so I anticipate more will appear or have already arrived. That means there will be multiple badge systems that have to coordinated – possibly defeating the purpose for badges.

From an employer’s perspective badges may be an added method for scanning and screening candidates. Simply by adding your earned badges to your resume or social profile, you may go to the top of the list.

Do you think badges will “catch on”? Are you already using them in your courses? Are you seeing them applied in other courses? Share your thoughts and experiences with badges below:

Bates Lecture

Wanted to start this topic and move comments here to keep things organized. ( :-) is it any wonder I’m having a hard time with the perceived lack of organization in the MOOC?)

I attended the lecture with Dr. Tony Bates and was happily surprised at the quality of the content, as well as the interaction. If you’ve not watched the replay I would encourage you to do so.

Two references may be helpful:

9 steps to Quality Online Learning

Standards for Online Learning

I was shocked by his statement that Coursera failed to do any research on peer review – before building it into their model! That was an eye-opener.

Another take-away for me was that some of the large, highly-publicized MOOCs are like watching History TV – quality lectures that you may or may not watch. You watch as long as you like, take away what you want, come and go as you please. My question was, of course, why NOT just create a television channel with these quality lectures on them and keep it out there. Why call it a course?

I have a lot of other reactions to some of the content, but I’ll save those thoughts for later blog posts. Enjoy the discussion below…

MOOC Blogs

Like everyone else in the course, I’m trying to manage the fire hose amount of information coming at us. One way I’m doing this is by bookmarking the blogs from other participants, as I discover them.

And of course it occurred to me that every member of the course is doing exactly the same thing! So in the interest of efficiency, I’ve added a list of MOOC blogs to the sidebar – for your convenience as well as mine.

If yours isn’t list there, just give me the URL in your comment below and I’ll get it added next time I’m working here in the site.


Uncomfortable With MOOC

I’ve given this a lot of thought, particularly in light of recent comments in the discussion area. Here’s a quick run-down:

I said: “I’m an experienced online learner and teacher, but seem to be having difficulty understanding WHAT to do in this course so far. Anyone feeling a little lost? Are we supposed to post here? On our individual blogs? Where does the interaction take place? When we find out how to comment on others’ blogs? Do we need a gmail address (someone mentioned Google+)? It looked like things were organized until I started trying to DO them.”

Turns out I was not alone! In fact a couple of other participants chimed in, saying they felt the same way. Then Greg Walker responded with: “What you do in this course is up to YOU. This is not a step-by-step course where everyone is learning the same content and doing the same activities. If you have never experienced this way of learning it will seem daunting at first. All new meaningful challenges are.”

Ah-ha! That’s when it hit me! That’s the very reason I am NOT comfortable with this style of “learning.”

I come from a business background. Outcomes are important. When someone hires me to teach a topic, they want to be sure they get a return on their investment. A measurable return. More than enough that it pays for my services.

Likewise as a person who teaches entrepreneurs, I have the same perspective. People pay to take my courses. Why? Because they have a reasonable expectation that they will earn more money as a result of my course. Even before they sign up, they want to know WIIFM – what’s in it for me. They won’t spend their cash on a course that lets them get whatever they choose to from it. They want specific results. In fact, by law we are required to provide a 60-day guarantee on any course we sell. You can imagine what happens if students DON’T acquire the skills I promised!

In the business environment, time IS money. There is no time to “explore.” There is no tolerance for people taking time out of their work schedule to participate in a course who they may or may not learn something. Where there are no stated outcomes or guarantee of skills. In business this is called “your own time.”

Even when I designed early learning systems, such as those for Classroom Connect and the THE Institute, there were specific outcomes that we identified, then developed instruction to achieve. Like people in business, teachers don’t have time to spend on a course that may or may not be helpful; that has no standardization of results.

Given my perspective, I’m not sure how long I will last in this MOOC. But it certainly has opened my eyes to the nature of this movement. MOOCs are comfortable – that’s why a lot of people want to take them. After all, whether you learn something or not – it doesn’t matter. Plus you can say you took a course at whatever institution is offering this week’s MOOC. Sounds good over Friday night happy hour.

As for the chance that MOOCs will catch on as a “learning” tool – not if businesses catch on. We can’t afford to have a nation of people spending their time taking MOOCs. Can you imagine running a business this way? Everyone doing what they want, when they want, creating their own meaning for the job, no requirements? It seems that only academe has that luxury.

I can’t wait to hear your reactions! Do you agree or disagree with me?

Introduce Yourself

As part of the MOOC we were asked to introduce ourselves, using these six questions. Here goes!

What is your intention for this workshop (why are you here)?

I’ve read a lot about MOOCs, but never participated in one. I felt this was a great opportunity, since I write about teaching online.

What issues do you think are important?

If you mean issues about teaching online, then I think there is a total misunderstanding of the opportunities to teach online. Coming from the academic world,  most people believe they have to get a job from a university in order to teach online. This totally unrealistic.

If you mean issues about MOOCs, then I have a LOT of them, as I’m sure you will come to see during this course.

How  will (you) contribute?

I write a lot. I share a lot. I am totally comfortable expressing opinions and ideas in public. So I hope that my role will be an active participant who both responds to and creates thought-provoking conversations about this process.

How would you like to see community develop among participants?

Online communities develop on their own. It’s a natural process for people to gravitate toward those who learn and think as they do. The only thing the organizing team has to do is provide the opportunities and tools and not get in the way with too much structure. While it’s “nice” to have the discussions on the University’s site, it’s also not convenient for most participants. I believe you would be better served with a group on LinkedIN or Facebook, where people are already participating in communities, instead of having to learn all new structures.

These types of workshops are new for most people. In fact  about 90% don’t even participate. How will you overcome the fear of learning in the open and the frustration of using new technology, courageously work through any setbacks, and not give up?

I’ve been online since 1983. Learning in the open and technology challenges are not issues for me. I agree it takes practice and trust, but I am way beyond that personally. The only reason I will stop participating is if I find it is not a good ROI – return on investment of my time and effort.

Excellent Start for the MOOC

Given the mention of MOOC Disasters, I have to say I am particularly impressed with the Get Prepared information for this course.

Labeling it a “connectivitst” courses (a term I’ve not heard before), they have included:

  • Types of Activities
  • Principles
  • Key Tools
  • List of tools you need to move forward in the course

Having created a lot of online courses, I know how much preparation and thought has gone into this one page. Congratulations on a great start!

By the way, there’s an entire site on Connectivist MOOCs. Who knew? Enjoy further investigation if you’re curious.

MOOC Disasters

While I have all the confidence that the current MOOC on teaching online will be successful and well planned, I do find the literature on past failures equally interesting. We do learn from our mistakes – don’t we?

Read about the MOOC Meltdown – ironically in a course about teaching online!

Had they read this excellent article about how to teach a MOOC, the prior meltdown would not have occurred.  This is definitely a content-rich article you should bookmark!