This blog post will provide a brief introduction and overview of the European e-VALUATE project as it currently stands and will provide a snapshot of its primary aim to further the recognition, validation and accreditation of new forms of open online learning.


Tomorrow, as part of the European e-VALUATE project, I attend the e-VALUATE Work Conference in Humanity House, The Hague, Netherlands, where I represent my university, the University of Limerick, as the Irish higher education institution (HEI) resonance group representative, along with Quality & Qualifications (QQI) NARIC Ireland, the Irish project team member led by Angela Lambkin.

Gabi Witthaus will keynote the Work Conference building upon some of her previous expertise in this area.

Prelude

One of the great hopes for online learning lies in its capability to open up new learning possibilities to those who traditionally have had little access to higher education. For this to be realised, certificates etc. awarded to students for undertaking online learning on whatever platform, will need to become greater recognised as a means to progress onto further study (via RPL, exemptions, and other methods) and to employment.

Outcomes of these ‘alternative’ learning experiences aren’t always captured and can go unnoticed within current HEI recognition practices which focus primarily on assessing prospective student’s qualifications obtained through formal or more ‘traditional’ forms of education. In tandem with improved recognition practice comes a need to quality assure the online learning being recognised so that evaluators and institutions can safely stand over the certificates being awarded as a means for awardees to gain entry onto their institutional programmes of study. The e-VALUATE project is looking to expand upon this to provide further clarity and guidance in the area of recognition of non-standard standalone e-learning.

e-VALUATE is an Erasmus+ project co-funded by the European Commission. The project consortium comprises representatives from the ENIC-NARIC network (ENIC = European Network of Information Centres, NARIC = National Academic Recognition Information Centres):
NARIC The Netherlands (Project Coordinator), NARIC Denmark, NARIC Lithuania, NARIC Norway, NARIC Ireland, and UK NARIC. Other partners involved are the Vice-President of the Lisbon Recognition Convention Committee, the European Consortium for Accreditation in higher education (ECA) and Kiron, the non-governmental organisation enabling access to higher education and learning for refugees through digital solutions.

To ensure that the representative views and experiences of European HEIs are taken on board, a resonance group was formed comprising HEI representatives from each of the project team nations involved. My University received correspondence from QQI NARIC Ireland via the Irish Universities Association (IUA) and I was fortunate to be invited to be the representative Irish HEI resonance group member, which I accepted.


Aims and Outputs

e-VALUATE aims to offer evaluators handling applications some practical, accessible information and guidance on academic recognition, validation and accreditation of new forms of open online learning – MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), SPOCs (Small Personal/Private Online Courses), and other forms of standalone online learning, etc. The target groups for the project are HEIs, ENIC-NARIC centres, students, online education providers, policymakers, and refugee organisations such as Kiron.

The project proposes to produce two main outputs: a Position paper and an Online Learning Information Tool for HEIs.

The position paper will aim to provide clarity and raise awareness about what is needed to ensure online learning is recognised for admission to a HEI or for exemption from parts of a formal programme of study. It’s aimed at policy makers and educational staff involved in online learning provision at HEIs, online learning platforms (MOOCs etc.), and other stakeholders such as government bodies, quality assurance organisations and university umbrella organisations.

The Online Learning Information Tool will offer practical and easily accessible information for the purpose of academic recognition of MOOCs, SPOCs, and other forms of standalone online learning. The tool will be geared towards use by practitioners in the field of recognition. Depending on the context and purpose of its use, this tool will be useful to a diverse range of stakeholders including:

  • University admissions office staff
  • University access office staff
  • Faculty course directors
  • Boards of examiners
  • Credential evaluators at ENIC-NARIC’s
  • Others
Quality assurance of open online learning

In a previous publication entitled ‘Oops a MOOC!‘  – a paper produced as part of the New Paradigms in Recognition (PARADIGMS) project – the e-VALUATE project coordinator, NARIC Netherlands, led a project aimed at developing minimum standards that MOOCs and in-company training programmes should meet for the purpose of recognition. The findings presented in the paper are also relevant for HEIs.

The paper proposed 7 Criteria for assessment, including descriptions and indicators, against which open online learning could be recognised by a credential evaluator:
1. Quality of the study programme
2. Verification of the certificate
3. Level of the study programme
4. Learning outcomes
5. Workload
6. The way study results are tested
7. Identification of the participant

As a subsequent second step, the paper proposed use of the traffic light model as described in the JRC Science for Policy Report (p.6). Each of the 7 criteria above can be strongly present (green), present to some extent (orange) or not present at all (red). It’s also possible that no information is available on specific criteria (no info). Therefore, by using this traffic light model in conjunction with the 7 criteria for assessment, it’s possible to begin to evaluate whether a particular form of standalone e-learning is more or less suitable for recognition.

e-VALUATE_traffic lights
Proposed Traffic Light Model Measuring the Level of Robustness of each of the 7 Criteria for Assessment. https://www.nuffic.nl/en/subjects/e-valuate/

If HEIs begin to openly adhere to these criteria for acceptance onto their study programmes then it further becomes beholden on e-learning providers who are interested in ensuring that students who receive further academic recognition from their e-learning courses, HEIs themselves included, to bear in mind these criteria and the presence of them when designing and developing their offerings so that they can ensure adequate and appropriate academic recognition for the awardees of their certificates.

I understand that the Online Learning Information Tool aims to build upon this previous work to be a practical, easy-to-use, interactive object, helping practitioners in the field of recognition to assess all forms of open online learning that they might encounter during applications admissions processes.

I’m looking forward to delving a little deeper into this at tomorrow’s work conference.

I’m falling a little bit behind on #EL30 at the moment, hoping to put some time aside to catch up properly in the coming weeks.

For the ‘Resources’ module of the course, Stephen set the following task for us:

Create a free account on a Badge service (several are listed in the resources for this module). Then:

– create a badge
– award it to yourself
– use a blog post on your blog as the ‘evidence’ for awarding yourself the badge
– place the badge on the blog post.

To assist you in this, you can see this blog post where I did all four steps with Badgr. (I also tried to work with the API, with much less success).

Source

I had previously created an account on Openbadges.me so I decided to use that badge service for this task. I’ve seen a couple of posts already from #EL30 participants that demonstrate how they created and issued their badges using Badgr, so this post will provide my experience doing it on a different badge service for comparison/anyone that’s interested.

Openbadges.me

There were 4 main tasks for me to complete on Openbadges.me in order to be able to successfully create and issue my badge on this blog post:

  1. Setting myself up as a badge issuer
  2. Creating or uploading a graphic to represent my badge
  3. Creating and Publishing my badge for issue
  4. Issuing my badge to a recipient (me! – but I can issue it to you too, read on ’til the end if you’re interested in adding this badge to your collection)

1. Setting up as a badge issuer

After logging into Openbadges you are presented with a dashboard area with a navigation menu to the left hand side. The main content area of the dashboard displays tiled flashcard-like blocks that each explain different things that Openbadges can be used for. The navigation menu on the left allows us to go to the areas of the site which will allow us to create and issue badges, so that’s where I begin.

Following Stephen’s useful blog post based on his experiences using Badgr, another badge service, I set about the first task – Setting up as a badge issuer. I selected the Preparing badges menu item and the Badge issuers sub-item. In the main content area I was presented with a pink button in the upper right-hand corner to “+ Create issuer”, as I hadn’t created issuers before. I clicked the button and followed the onscreen instruction to set myself up as a badge issuer, giving myself the permission to issue badges that I create.

Setting up a badge issuer
Setting up a badge issuer

2. Creating or uploading a graphic to represent the badge

As I didn’t have a pre-made graphic to use for my badge I decided to create one using the Openbadges Graphics library, which was accessible as a sub-menu item from the Preparing badges menu item.

Similarly, after selecting this sub-menu item I was presented with a pink button in the upper right-hand corner of main content area of the screen that prompted me to “+ Create graphic”.

The user interface was intuitive and allowed me to create and adapt a graphic of my own beneath 7 simple headings:

  1. Background
  2. Shapes
  3. Inner shapes
  4. Text
  5. Curved text
  6. Banners
  7. Icon
The Graphic builder interface

For my badge I used 3 of those headings – Shapes, Curved text and Icon. Once I was happy with the look of my graphic I saved it and was then able to preview it. The next step was to create the framework for the badge including the awarding criteria for someone looking to be awarded it.

3. Creating and Publishing the badge

It’s important to recognise that the graphic is only one component of the badge. Often, people can think that a badge is simply a .jpg or .png image, but it’s the metadata that we don’t always see that’s ‘baked into’ the badge  which is the most valuable aspect of it. This includes the criteria in order to be awarded the badge, any badge attributes (i.e. a badge awarded for completing 3 hours of CPD), the date of receipt, the date of expiry (if the badge needs to be renewed) the issuer details and the unique badge ID:

Adding primary badge details
Adding badge criteria
– the items that need to be accomplished in order to be awarded the badge
Adding badge attributes
i.e. An open badge can contain any number of attributes. For example, you may want it to represent 3 hours of CPD. To do this, you would enter the name as ‘CPD’ and the value as ‘3’.

I added the relevant details, criteria and attributes to my badge and also selected the graphic that I had created to visually depict it. I was satisfied with my badge so I clicked the grey ‘Publish’ button in the upper right-hand corner of the screen to finalise my badge creation.

Importantly, a badge can only be published if it contains valid name, description, issuer, criteria and graphic and once you publish the badge you cannot go back and edit it easily unless you unpublish (withdraw) it firstly which remove all the details, criteria and attributes you have added to it. This is important to bear in mind so if you are not sure about your badge I would advise using the pink ‘Save Draft’ button before making the decision to finally publish.

My badge summary including auto-generated badge ID on the left-hand side

4. Issuing the badge to a recipient

With the badge created the last step was to issue it to a recipient, in this case, myself. I clicked the Issuing badges menu item and the Manual entry sub-menu option. There were other options available to issue it to groups, via API or through rules-based issuing, but manual was the easiest option initially when I knew I was only issuing it to one person.

The badge I had created appeared here and once I moused-over it I was given the option to ‘Issue badge’ via email. I clicked that option and simply entered my own email address in the space provided, clicked ‘Add recipient’ and finally ‘Issue badge’. I immediately received an email from Openbadges.me prompting me to click a link to download my badge.

Email issued from Openbadges.me

And here is what all the fuss was about!

My #EL30 ‘Recognition’ badge – awarded for completion of the task set out by Stephen Downes

For those of you who may be interested, Openbadges.me also provides reporting functionality to keep track of who has been issued the badge and when it was issued, which is accessible from the main navigation menu beneath Reporting:

Badge reporting

Want to be a recipient of my badge?

Just leave a comment on this post with

  • a link to your own badge (as evidence that you’ve completed Stephen’s task)
  • the email address you’d prefer me to send along your badge to

and I’ll email you a link to download it.

 

Featured image:
 “Open Educational Resources – OER Rocket Badge with Moon 360×360 PNG” by Eugene Open Educational Resources is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0