Greetings and welcome to our next topic: Micro-credentials. Several micro-courses have already been prototyped in the OERu. These consist of a subcomponent of a regular postsecondary course, for example 1 of 3 credits in the North American system, 4 of 20 credits in the UK system, or 5 of 15 credits in the New Zealand system. Three or four micro-courses would be the equivalent of one postsecondary course in terms of workload (depending on the international region).
A micro-credential, for example an assessed "Certificate of Achievement" consisting of one credit, would be available for successful completion of a micro-course. For learners who take series of micro-courses, these could add up over time to full course equivalents. There are other options to consider, for example certifications for participation based on minimum participation metrics, such as a digital badge and /or certificate of participation.
An advantage of micro-courses could be to allow for a more flexible study approach, and they may well have appeal for those who are working their way back into a more formal study groove. Having participated in one myself (Scenario Planning for Educators), I was impressed with the amount of ground covered, and a serious project for summative assessment could be completed in a few weeks. It felt like a credible and solid chunk of learning, but without the duration and time commitment that a full course represents. The micro-course was not overly burdensome in terms of my day to day life.
Of course, if I had been seeking credit for completing the micro-course, I would have wanted to know that it was available, and that there was a way of assembling micro-credits into a coherent package that would lead to recognized credit from a receiving institution over time.
Perhaps the huge attrition rates typical of xMOOCs would be less of an issue in micro-courses, but of course that would need to be tested. From a curriculum planning perspective, series of micro-courses would need to be carefully structured with the bigger picture of credentials such as diplomas and degrees in mind.
Looking at this from an organizational perspective we should also consider whether the development of micro-courses lowers the barriers of entry to assembling OERu courses.
Here are a few questions to start the conversation. Please feel free to add more.
- What are micro-credentials in the OERu context?
- What are the barriers and opportunities for implementing micro-credentials for the OERu?
- Are micro-credentials an effective way to individualize or customize the curriculum?
- What will they look like and how will they work?
Over to you!
and thanks for kicking us off on this one.
In the UK, and the wider European HE network, this agenda has been around for a long time. Getting nations across Europe to agree on the size and level of credits has been a lengthy process, but following the Bologna Declaration of European ministers in 1999 (http://ec.europa.eu/education/higher-education/bologna_en.htm) and the Dublin Descriptors of 2004 (http://www.ecaconsortium.net/ecapedia/Dublin_Descriptors) we have moved into a common framework across the EU and other European countries. I'm putting that as context to attempting to answer your questions:
- What are micro-credentials in the OERu context?
Micro-credentials are recognition of learning on a smaller scale than general HE provision. They recognise learning in small batches, perfect for a model of course design which brings together learning from across many partners and beyond. In our experience at USW less than 4 uk credits (2 ECATS) are too small for effective assessment, except in subjects with rote questions and answers.
- What are the barriers and opportunities for implementing micro-credentials for the OERu?
Opportunities are to extend the reach of establish polices for accrediting learning to allow learners to process at their own speed not at the speed of the 'education industry' in gathering micro-credentials possibly towards an qualification or simply to amass credits.
- Are micro-credentials an effective way to individualize or customize the curriculum?
Yes, they allow for learner designed curriculum within a broad framework. They are fit for purpose for the learner, while enabling learners to achieve qualifications if that is their desire.
- What will they look like and how will they work?
Good question - a pan-European development may be easy with an emerging common educational system, but translation into Australian, New Zealand, Canadian and US systems (or beyond) are a real challenge. Something I hope OERu will take on as a key aim and target providing international solutions. In 1999 people in Europe thought Bologna was a dream, now it is reality. So things can change quickly with good will and commitment and I believe OERu has that.
The pan-European experience with the Bologna process provides extremely valuable experience in tackling these issues. We're pleased to have a number of European partners in the OERu network to help us resolve these challenges at an international level drawing on your pioneering work in this space :-).
I agree - 4 UK credits (2 ECATS) approximately 40 notional learning hours is about the smallest coherent size for meaningful assessment. The mOOC prototypes we have worked with to date range from 40 - 60 notional learning hours and are in the 4 UK credit ballpark or 1 North American credit. So what's interesting is that the micro-course / micro credential approach provides a viable solution to resolving the "credit" differences between North America, Africa, Europe and Australisia. So for example 3 mOOCs would equate to one course in North America, whereas 5 mOOCs would equate to 200 credits in your system, and 4 mOOCs would equate to a course in the Australian system. This will faciliate articulation at an international level at lower levels of granularity than a "year of academic undergraduate study" -- if you know what I mean.
The Commonwealth of Learning has also progressed impressive work in developing a Transnational Qualifications Framework which openly licensed, will provide a valuable resource in progressing our discussions accross Commonwealth member states. We have an OERu meeting at COL headquarters on 4 November as part of the 2013 meeting in BC Canada which the UNESCO-COL OER Chair network will facilate to progress these articulation discussions.
When moving closer to compentency based approaches -- learning hours are less important - but I think the micro course provides a workable solution to bridging these differences on a global scale. Another advantage of the OERu network because we currently span 5 continents.
It seems that the concept of a micro Open Online Course combined with micro-credentials is a step in the right direction for our network.
thanks for the link to the COL - that will be an important input to the debate.
Clive, rather than I will be with you in November, but we certainly have plenty of expertise in this area at USW which we can share. One of my colleagues has spent the last four years presenting Bologna to institutions across Europe based on our experience of implementing, so we would be happy to share that with the network.
The question remains - and I see others have now started to discuss it below - How do you build a qualification out of micro-courses, if someone wants a qualification. What is it a qualification in - the subject - a mix of the subjects studied - or a generic (and not useful for employers) title like 'Combined Studies' or 'Studies using OER' or equivalent?
Indeed -- How do you build a qualification out of micro-courses?
Wow USW's depth of experience in presenting Bologna accross Europe will be invaluable as we extend these principals on an international scale.
My gut feel is that we should avoid introducing a layer of complexity for the OERu network where we may not have the experience or intsititutional policies and practices in place to resolve at this time. AKA staying true to the OERu traditions of not innovating beyond our capacity to implement in the real world. That said, using an incremental design model to take us a few steps forward.
As the first increment or step in the process it would seem prudent to "restrict" the micro course concept to existing courses on the books of our partner institutions which could countribute to a Bachelor of General Studies or equivalent. In this way we keep the complexity within managable levels rather than trying to resolve the bigger question of how to build a qualification from micro courses. Getting the first step right (at course level) brings us a step closer to resolving the bigger challenge, but we can still operate within existing policies.
Does that make sense? Would that be a feasible way forward?
yes, micro-courses as steps to whole courses are more easily managed than the 'mix and match' John suggested - though his model is more exciting. You are right we should focus on practice as well as on future dreams. So what you suggest is a good way forward.
The Bachelor of General Studies awards are not well received in the UK, particularly by employers, which means that learners learning for fun don't mind, but those in employment looking to progress into work through part-time, flexible study need more clarity around the subject(s) of their degree to get the jobs they want. However, as you suggest, they are a way forward for OERu at present.
Yes -- I hear what you are saying about the Bachelor of General Study award not being well received by employers. That's a valid concern for our network. On the one hand the OERu needs to have a launch credential yet on the other, nothing precludes an OERu learner, for example, completing a number of OERu courses which lead into a more focused and "employer friendly" credential offered at one or more of our anchor partners.
I think the message here is that we should prioritise first and second year level course nominations that would maximise opportunities for a range of credentials for our OERu learners.
Valuable disscussion -- emphasing the need for our OERu partnership to think more carefully about programme of study and credential options.
My own practice of dipping in and out of these conversations may be a problem but I am still unclear why OERu needs to offer its own degrees at all...one of the things that first excited me about all of this was the idea of sharing among existing institutions...plus at least in the US things like accreditation would be a nightmare...even if OERu only offers and single degree...and, by the way, students here would have the same problem of the acceptability of a general education bachelor's degree...most employers are not impressed. So please go slowly if you go down the degree path at all.
Even though this is somewhat off topic, Haydn mentioning of problems with Bachelor of General Studies brings up the importance of names. I have known employers to question students, asking them, for example, if their degree in management science was the same as business administration. I also know of a university not getting government start-up funding because their faculty was called industrial technology and not engineering, despite having exactly the same curriculm. In other words, careful consideration must be made to giving names.
Just another thing to think about.
I agree with John...we must be careful about degree names...and even what we call our credentials.
I share your reservations about the Bachelor of General Studies not necessarily neing the most attractive credential from the perspective of many employers -- but we need to start somewhere.
To be candid, many OERu partners are justifiably conservative when it comes to opening up courses under open licenses, let alone the complexities of international course articulation. The impact of open models in the university sector is untested and we are erring on the side of conservatism. Many are critical of the traditional conservatism and rational approach of the university sector, but it is a useful to remember that the university is one of a handful of organisations which survived the industrial revolution. I'm optimistic that the university will survive the "knowledge revolution" and I think that the critical reflective approach of the academy is going to contribute to our future success using open education approaches in a sustainable way.
Since the inception of the OERu concept at the meeting in February 2011, we have headed the advice cited by Sir John Daniel (see video recording) namely that for an institution to be credible, it should not innovate on too many fronts. We have taken this advice seriously and judging by our progress this was well-founded advice. We're fortunate that Sir John Daniel will officiate at the official launch of the OERu on 1 November 2013 at Thompson Rivers University.
Choosing a Bachelor of General Studies as the inaugural credential was a carefully considered decision because this credential offered a number of significant advantages for the OERu partnership to progress our work:
The credential exists on the books of a number of our partners – no need to delay implementation working through approval processes for “new” credentials which can take up to 2-years in some universities.
The nature of a Bachelor of General studies provided greater flexibility to accommodate a wide range of subjects taking into account the reticence of faculty to open their courses. We get to work with organisational champions in taking the OERu forward.
First year credit from recognised OERu courses can migrate easily into other credentials offered by our OERu partners. Thus creating advantages for OERu partner institutions for OERu learners to matriculate at their institution. (Remember the OERu does not confer degrees -- our anchor partners do.)
A Bachelor of General Studies is not likely to attract millions of learners, but we will gain valuable knowledge and insights into refining the OERu model for scalable success in the future as we expand the credential base. We already have a 2nd credential donated by Otago Polytechnic, specifically the Graduate Diploma in Tertiary Education (This comprises the equivalent of a 3rd year of academic study.) So now it is possible for the OERu network to offer a Bachelor of General Studies (Vocational Education) offering a level of specialisation for many vocational educators who are aiming to achieve their first degree. Very often these are qualified trades people who have moved into tertiary education and needing to upgrade their qualifications.
While progress can be frustrating slow -- we are making sure that what we tackle is practically implementable.
To add to Wayne's insightful comments, it could well be that some employers will be attracted to the essentially multi-disciplinary nature of the Bachelor of General Studies, especially one where students have gathered credits from a variety of institutions worldwide. Further, the OERu project will provide an affordable pathway for transition from secondary to tertiary education, with students who are uncertain about their capabilities and/or interests able to gain valuable experience in a supportive learning environment.
Just want to note that you and I are on the same path. I actually agree with all of what you just said, including that the Bachelor of General Studies is the right option for OERu. In fact, I believe the problem with the acceptance of the credentials lies with the employers, not with the students, OERu, or any individual school.
We have our own challenges within the OERu -- a Bachelor of General Studies is not sufficient. We need more credentials that can be offered as open education alternatives. I'm pleased you raised the question -- ultimately choice of learning should be decided by the learner. The problem is that we in open education don't have much to offer :-(
We need to up our game and speed up the process anyway we can.
Hello all--I have been lurking off an on until now.
To come back to this question of the OERu issuing its own degrees: I don't know if this is common elsewhere, but Thomas Edison State College was originally set up in 1972 to provide services to students as a sort of clearinghouse, collecting transcripts and exam scores from various sources, adding in prior learning assessment where needed, sending students out to take missing courses elsewhere, and combining them all onto a transcript with which students could make the case for a degree. We still have no residency requirement, except in limited circumstances that would not apply here--meaning that we (and, I suspect, others in this group as well) could pull together the OERu courses and assessments deriving from them into a degree program for a fairly reasonable cost. In fact, we are working on something similar now with the Saylor Foundation, and I know my US colleagues are working on similar projects.
One clarification -- the OERu collaboration does not confer degrees, our anchor partners do. This gives our future OERu students considerably more choice for the institutions and degrees they want to pursue.
The history of Thomas Edison State College as a clearing house and providing assessment services is not unique. The world's first single-mode distance teaching university, Unisa (and one of our anchor partners) has similar origins.
The University of the Cape of Good hope established in 1873, as Unisa was formerly known, was originally an examining university for Oxford, Cambridge, University of London etc working in collaboration with the regional colleges in South Africa. When these colleges became independant univeristies, in a new role for Unisa emerged in 1946 becoming the worlds first single-mode distance teaching university.
The OERu is in many respects a network solution appropriate for the digital age helping our member institutions achieve their strategic objectives using open education approaches.
Correct, our member institutions will pull together OERu courses and assessments for local degreee programs at affordable cost. Your experiences working with the Saylor Foundation will be invaluable as we tackle solutions on an international scale.
Hi Haydn and Wayne hope you don't mind me barging here (not sure how I stumbled across this discussion). Not sure if it's relevant but discussion of the General Studies degree is relevant to the OU. We used to only have what are termed 'Open' degrees, so you could get a BA or a BSc depending on whether the majority of your topics were Arts or Science based. There has been increased demand for named degrees, as Haydn suggests, employers tend to prefer them. In the UK the new funding regime requires you to be registered on a named degree for the loans, so the pick and mix approach is being squeezed out. Having said that the open degree still remains our most popular degree, with about 30% of our students being registered against it (don't quote me on those figures).
So I think the freedom of the open model still appeals to a lot of learners, but funding regimes may put pressure on it from conventional unis. However, it strikes me that the OERu exists for this very reason, not to be constrained by these issues. So, an open 'pick and mix' degree might be a strong selling point for it.
You probably knew all this already, just wanted to say hi.
Thanks for popping in.
You raise a significant issue regarding the popularity of an "open degree" and corresponding tensions with government funding.
The beauty of the OERu model is that we can provide accreditation pathways for learners at significantly reduced cost without reliance on government subsidy for OERu learners.
When thinking about fiscal sustainability of low enrolment courses, the OERu model provides a viable solution for recognised institutions to diversify curriculum offerings in a cost efective way for courses where low student numbers would not be able to support the offering at a single institution.
I think you'e right the pic and mix degree does have a selling point in funding constrained environments.
Somethings to check on...
If I am not mistaken, a student has to belong to a program at my institution before PLAR can be done or before transfer of credits for a course can occur. So if you only take one course via OERu, none of the credentialling can take place. I could be wrong but sometimes there are more hidden complexities to investigate with respect to credentialling.
Plus PLAR is not "cheap" at my institution...I think it costs about the same as actually taking one of our courses...again, I could be wrong.
As you all probably know the US tends to be isolationist and our way of "counting" things like contact hours is idiosyncratic to say the least but in general US colleges and universities define a 3 credit course as 40 contact (i.e. seat time) hours with an additional hour or two of work for every "classroom" hour...reason I am mentioning this is that we could somehow use "hour estimates" to define the "worth" of various experiences.
In most cases in the US the "estimate of credit worth" is both an art and science...at ESC we use two dimensions. The number of credits has to do with the amount of work...and probably most professors determine that by "imagining" the amount of time it would take the typical intelligent person to complete the learning activities at a fairly level. We (I) then look at the difficulty of the material and use Blooms taxonomy to determine the kinds of thinking required for mastery to determine whether the learning is basic or advanced. The result is a learning experience (PLA, learning contract, or online course) that is listed by amount of credit and difficulty. For example, I would rate the mini-course I took last summer on scenario planning as about 2 credits, advanced if a student showed me what was required in it, demostrated fairly high level responses, and summarized his/her learning well...and if I added it as a section of one of the courses I design I would build 2 more advanced level credits around it to make a 4 credit CDL course.
I tend to think practically so I hope this example is helpful. JMcK
Thanks for launching the discussion on micro-credentials and micro Open Online Courses (mOOCs).
As part of our OERu prototyping excercise we conducted two micro-courses on Scenario Planning for Educators (SP4Ed) in collaboration with the University of Canterbury. Irwin, I enjoyed reading your reflections as a participant in the first SP4Ed 13.05 protype.
We then offered the same SP4Ed course integrated into a post graduate offering at the University of Canterbury (SP4Ed 13.07). This provided a unique opportunity for OERu to compare the behaviours of intergrating a mOOC within a course for registered students. In OERu language we call this "parallel mode", that is, where we offer a mOOC for full-fee registered students in parallel with the free OERu learners.
I prepared a short open report comparing these two SP4Ed micro courses. There is early evidence to suggest a research hypothesis that parallel mode delivery of mOOCs may contribute to increased retention rates for all participants for the duration of the course judging by page view metrics of the course pages.
It's too early to generalise, but Stephen Downes' notion of Dunbar's Number refering to the "maximum (theoretical) number of people a person can reasonably interact with" should be considered in conjunction with the critical mass of participant interactions to sustain a meaningful level for peer-learning support distributed across the internet. Integrating mOOCs within university courses for registered students is a smart way to generate win-win solutions for all involved. Registered students benefit from the interactions of an international cohort which is diffucult to replicate with traditional closed courses, while free OERu learners benifit from the "critical mass" of interactions which a unviersity course can generate through "required" participation. We need more research here.
I'd be keen to the views from the SCoPE participants on the data genrated from these two OERu mOOCs. What lessons can we learn from this experience for planning the OERu?
Thanks Wayne for bringing the two "scenario" experiences together...I loved the initial one and did participate more than I often do in MOOC's but there were some practical reasons why I did so that I believe may impact other adult learners as well...the main one was that the "scenario" course fell at a time in my busy professional life when I had the leisure to do it and didn't have to make excuses to anyone for taking the time. Most of the year, I have so many other demands that learning something "just for me" seems like a luxury...I know other adults feel that way too. On the other hand, the "credit bearing" version had just that...the possibility of credit and requirements to finish. Those two things alone would have tended to make me stick with it (if I were in need of credit). Like it or not credentials and even grades are very great motivators for most people (and acceptable excuses to give to all the people in our lives who say...oh you are only taking that course for your own benefit so, of course, you can drop it and do what I want you to do).
Another reason I spent the time on it (and am now joining this planning session actively) is that my Dean has given me permission to shift my scholarly work to OERu, MOOCs, PLA's etc. so now I feel that I am not just "goofing off" but doing something directly related to my work...as a result, I feel justified in giving it quality attention, not just a few volunteer minutes at the end of a tiring day. Bottom line...I don't think we should be at all surprised that cMOOCs work best when they are clearly connected to recognized credentials...it is just the way real life is.
In relation to your reference to the organisational perspective -- I'm wondering if there are tangible benefits for OERu partners relating to developing micro-courses and corresponding micro-credentials, for example:
- Is it organisationally easier for an OERu partner to stragger course development using micro courses (40 learning hours per course) when compared to a once-off full course of +120 hours?
- Would it be easier for OERu partners to integrate a mOOC within existing courses as local faculty gain experience and trust with the open model?
- Can the OERu leverage ecomomies of scale and economies of scope by sharing a mOOC hosted "centrally" but integrated into a number of local courses at partner institutions offered in parallel mode? Could we rotate lead facilitators across participating partners for each instance of the mOOC?
- Other ideas and opportunities for OERu innovation?
Speaking as a professor (not an administrator) for Empire State...Center for Distance Learning
- Is it organisationally easier for an OERu partner to stragger course development using micro courses (40 learning hours per course) when compared to a once-off full course of +120 hours? No please see answer to #2
- Would it be easier for OERu partners to integrate a mOOC within existing courses as local faculty gain experience and trust with the open model? I am responsible for course development for a significant portion of the CDL curriculum...it would actually be easier for me to incorporate them into a full fledged course...we have a rather well-defined process for course development, a set number of hours etc. I could far more easily just add in things to this regular schedule than try to do anything out of the ordinary...I am pretty sure my fellow content area experts would agree.
- Can the OERu leverage ecomomies of scale and economies of scope by sharing a mOOC hosted "centrally" but integrated into a number of local courses at partner institutions offered in parallel mode? Could we rotate lead facilitators across participating partners for each instance of the mOOC? Yes, I think that model has great potential. I have a course in community organizing in mind and I can definitely see a shared mOOC working for it.
- Other ideas and opportunities for OERu innovation? Not anything specific but I think the more flexible and the easier it is for us to plug into our regular systems, processes and cycles the better. I know that if I have to do anything too special to add something to a course I probably won't do it...the main problem is time and increasing bureaucracy as we have increased in size. Again...speaking as a senior faculty member with responsibilities for course development and revision. All the best...JMcK
We’ve learned from the successes of many Open Source Software (OSS) projects that the health of a volunteer developer community is a key element in successful project completion and maintenance. I think orienting much of our practice in the OERu around meeting the needs of volunteer course developer communities will benefit the OERu in the long run, and micro-courses could be a step in the right direction.
While folklore has it that developing with OERs is easier and faster than traditional practice, in fact the workflow of creating and/or finding, adapting and recontextualizing OERs can be a real challenge as it is quite different from traditional work patterns for educational developers. Also it takes time to learn to operate efficiently in a wiki – challenges include technical aspects of wiki syntax and page layout, structuring an entire course in a flat-file file environment, developing good communication habits that leave a trail for later joiners to pick up on, collaborating with developers who may have a different approach to the project, the need for developers to take on multiple roles where there are gaps in the community, and so on. Mentoring is critical in getting novices up to speed on all of this.
Developing one’s first course in this environment forces a huge learning curve, and by the end developers typically say they’d like to go back and re-do the project based on what they learned – if they had the time.
I believe then that the shorter development cycle of micro-courses can have multiple organizational benefits, including shorter learning curves and thus better courses sooner, more likelihood of a micro-community of developers to stay with a project to completion, a developer mix that includes the diverse skillsets needed to round out the team, and less burden for mentors to come alongside a group of novices and assist them through the development of their first course.
I agree with what Irwin and Wayne have said and I believe micro courses are possible and have a lot of potential benefits.
One reflection I have is about the order of mini courses that might be taken by students in place of one full course. Some full courses are organized in a certain order with skills building on each other...eg a Math course where a student might have to master some basic computational skills before attempting more complex tasks. So if a course is divided into smaller chunks, it might be important at times for students to take the smaller courses in a set order. I recognize that there are other courses where the order of the topics do not matter that much....and in those cases, more flexibility of offerings will be possible.
Also, learning outcomes and assessments that are part of a full course will now have to be divided in such a way as to match the credits of the microcourses...so it's definitely possible but it will involve a bit of design thought, especially if an exisiting full course is being repurposed into this new format.
That's a valid point - OERu partners will need to decide on how best to provide clear indications of the recommended sequence where OERu mOOCs build on the concepts established in other courses. Perhaps these could be indicated in the prerequisites for the course on the OERu website?
I think the most important consideration for the OERu is to ensure sets of mOOCs which lead to course credit. However, dividing full courses into micro alternatives may assist some OERu partners in staggering course development.
The design considerations are important because as you point out, the summative assessments will need to map to the specified learning outcomes for the course. This will require robust assessment design. It would be beneficial for the OERu network to establish the parameter guidelines for micro courses eg, recommended size, recommended assessment loads etc. These guidelines will simplify the learning design challenges and increasingly we could design mOOCs fit for purpose in parallel with the full course contributions.
Based on your experience working the the OERu Art Appreciation course -- do you have any thoughts on parameter guidelines for OERu mOOCs drawing on the value of hindsight?
Based on your experience working on the OERu Art Appreciation course -- do you have any thoughts on parameter guidelines for OERu mOOCs drawing on the value of hindsight?
I would say the mOOC should run for about 4 weeks to give time for activities/assessments, connections and reflection. The no. of learning outcomes and assessments will depend on the type of course and content, the amount of work involved for students, and what can reasonably be accomplished in the time frame. They should all include OER and give options for various types of learners…if possible, speak to cohort folks, as well as independent learners…or have various versions/modalities of the same mOOC. Prereq. knowledge and skills have to be clearly outlined in each mOOC. Although mOOCs are meant to stand alone, connections to other related mOOCs should be mentioned.
Thanks for that Gail,
Extremely valuable feedback from the perspective of someone who has first hand experience in designing and developing an OERu course plus authentic experience from the learner's perspective given your participation in the recent Open Content Licensing for Educators mOOC prototype. This discussion is helping us sharpen the focus for implementable mOOCs in the OERu model.
So to summarise the mOOC guidelines the OERu could think about:
Target a mOOC for roughly 4 weeks of learning interaction for cohort based offerings. That would fit rather well assuming approximately 10 hours of study per week which is pretty much in line with what many single-mode distance teaching providers use thus totalling about 40 hours of learning which seems to be the minimum for authentic and meaningful summative assessment. This would not preclude “continuous” or open registration alternatives.
The mOOCs should be designed to accommodate a continuum of learner needs, for example learners participating for personal interest who can sip and dip into topics of interest right up to learners studying for formal academic credit.
The ability to deliver OERu mOOCs where cohort learners registered for full time study could interact with OERu independent learners including those who are participating for personal interest.
Designing OERu mOOCs for reuse in different modalities, for instance, integrated into full-time study on campus plus free OERu learning (parallel mode). Thinking creatively we could also have one mOOC with multiple exit points, eg 1st yr bachelor's degree level, 3rd yr bachelor's degree level and master''s degree level moving towards a competency model. These mOOCs could cover the same topics, but the assessment will differ substantially depending on level. (This would not work for all disciplines – but certainly something we could try in subject areas where this could work.)
Clearly state prerequisite skills, for example social media skills with student support tutorials to help those who don't have these skills to get up to speed.
Partner mOOCs – that is the associate courses required for gaining full course credits should be clearly identified. This means that we must take course credit as the point of departure ensure that when a learner successfully competes the “set” they can get formal credit towards the courses leading to credible credentials.
Great summary Wayne! I think you hit all the main points...it also seems to me that you have a good template in the education scenario mini MOOC you have been working on.
The Scenario Planning for Educators (SP4Ed) course has helped us to refine a workable template for micro Open online courses. We also have the benefit of data and evaluations from the learners. With reference to your earlier post using the SP4Ed course as a practical example, we have valuable data to confirm the design metrics of the course.
From the open report:
The SP4Ed mOOC was designed for a total of 50 notional learning hours including the preparation time for the summative assessment assignment for offerings where the mOOC is embedded in a formal university course. The course was designed for 25 hours of teaching-learning interactions plus 25 hours for the final assignment preparation.
The SP4Ed 13.09 participants were asked to report the time they spent each day working through the course materials and activities. The weighted average was 2.3 hours for each of the 10 teaching days for the course, thus totalling an estimate average of 23 hours. The workload of the course falls within the specified design parameters.
Drawing on the data from our learners, the interaction-learning hours was in the ball park (aka 25 hours). Desiging a summative assessment assignment of +15 hours would bring us up to a total of 40 notional learning hours. The equivalent of 1 credit within a 3 credit course.
in general US colleges and universities define a 3 credit course as 40 contact (i.e. seat time) hours with an additional hour or two of work for every "classroom" hour...reason I am mentioning this is that we could somehow use "hour estimates" to define the "worth" of various experiences.
Let's take the example of 40 contact hours plus 80 hours (say two hours for every classroom hour) that would total 120 hours for a 3 credit course. This is pretty consistent with similar calculations we have done at our Canadian partners. So we could say, for example that 3 mOOCs could equate to 3 credits. So the math works ;-).
The closer we move to competency models, the mechanics of learning hours will become less important from an administration point of view. Eg in the US, programmes are funded / measured by "credit hours" and I know this is a topical subject in the US.
Competency based models versus credit learning hours is not an an "either or argument" in my view -- just different ways of looking at the problem.
The mOOC model generates the flexibility the OERu will need to manage international articulation without compromising pedagogical value of the design because because the micro course does not go below the "minimum threshold" for meaningful assessement and the assessment itself provides wiggle room to get the numbers to stack up for articulation / adminstration purposes.
The value of prototyping mOOCs is that we've been able to tweak and refine as our experience has grown since the first open course we offered in the WikiEducator community in January 2007.
The SP4Ed template is also pedagogically neutral - it doesnt attempt to dicate any pedagogical approach. Designers can use whatever flavour they want, behaviourism, constructivism, conectivism, free range learner - -whatever suits the purpose but the mOOC template can slot into existing credentialing models.
For those partners who want full courses -- that's fine because 3 mOOCs equals one North American course ;-)
Great comments. I would like to speak to this from the "trenches" as most of my summer was spent on course development and re-development as we moved our LMS to Moodle.. You said "While folklore has it that developing with OERs is easier and faster than traditional practice, in fact the workflow of creating and/or finding, adapting and recontextualizing OERs can be a real challenge as it is quite different from traditional work patterns for educational developers." For sure, this is folklore...our whole course development staff, not to mention the content expert folks like me, to a person feel that it is easier to develop our own material and design our own things than to spend the time culling through OERs...there is no way I could have redesigned nine courses this summer using OERs...our instructional designers say that as of now the OER repositiories are too hard to search...I would have to agree.
I feel sad to say this but I find doing things in wikieducator is hard too. It is easiest for me to use one system (which is why I am glad we moved to Moodle/Mahara) rather than back and forth among several. Honestly, I have a lot of things I have created and put under Creative Commons license that I would love to share but probably won't have the time or energy to do because the need to know and use two platforms.
I hope you don't mind my using personal examples but I think we need to bring some of the practical realities into our discussion. I can justify doing things in Moodle for ESC and then "giving them away" to others through Moodle compatible means. I cannot justify extra time to transfer the same material to a wiki...and I am very OERu and wikieducator friendly...my colleagues are even less likely to do it...and frankly the college is less likely to feel that it is a good use of their time.
Another comment on this:
You said I believe then that the shorter development cycle of micro-courses can have multiple organizational benefits, including shorter learning curves and thus better courses sooner, more likelihood of a micro-community of developers to stay with a project to completion, a developer mix that includes the diverse skillsets needed to round out the team, and less burden for mentors to come alongside a group of novices and assist them through the development of their first course.
I may be a bit confused on the terminology but in my environment, I could see developing a module or two for one of my courses that could then be made available for other partners or perhaps even learners to use OER...for instance, I just did two or three sections of a 2 credit course we offer on PLA essay development that might be very helpful to share with others who could then put them into their own institution specific context...but I would not have the time to put even a mini-course structure around them...so perhaps we are talking about something not as structured as micro courses...or maybe I am just stumbling over the word "course"...
I think there's room for both - i.e. one based more on an institutional sharing or repository approach - which has been around for a while now - and the other, more recently, on co-development in a collaborative environment with a larger shared objective toward credentials as in the OERu. Also, from an organizational perspective I'm thinking about what may work in a more formal educational enterprise such as a university, and what may be more successful in a.volunteer community such as the OERu.
That being said, I'm sure I'm not the only one here who cringes slightly when we find ourselves compelled to focus our discussions on learning in terms of courses, credits, contact hours and other such terms. It feels like trying to parcel out learning by the kilogram with the idea that somehow when we have filled up the bag we now have an educated student.... Nevertheless this work needs to be done so that we can offer coherent learning opportunities that also can gain the recognition of post-secondary institutions open to recognition of learning through the OERu.
There are are also some in the OERu camp who openly and with pride support courses, credits, contact hour equivalents, self study packets etc. Some believe that parceling out learning can be (has been and continues to be) a very effective way of teaching and there are many years of experience to back this up. We have many educated students who have learnt many thiings from the parcelling of learning. Most of us included. These parcels provide effective coherent learning opportunities.
Not to say that there aren't other alternatives (most unproven) that should be explored like personal learning environments, connectivism, micro credentialing etc. etc. As you quite aptly noted, there is room for both in the OERu camp.
You said: That being said, I'm sure I'm not the only one here who cringes slightly when we find ourselves compelled to focus our discussions on learning in terms of courses, credits, contact hours and other such terms. It feels like trying to parcel out learning by the kilogram with the idea that somehow when we have filled up the bag we now have an educated student.... Nevertheless this work needs to be done so that we can offer coherent learning opportunities that also can gain the recognition of post-secondary institutions open to recognition of learning through the OERu. I certainly concur with this. My doctorate is in Adult Education and my masters is in Counseling so every fiber of my professional being shouts independent, self-direction, self-structured learning etc. On the other hand, about thirty years in and around higher education administration says that the reality is credits, credentials, and some way of measuring them in terms of both depth and breadth (thus credits, approximate hours etc.)
I also think that OERu is a bit of a hybrid...for instance, I am both a volunteer in the OERu and a full time professor for one of the partners...and the more I can do to make the two coincide the better...thus, if I can design materials that benefit our matriculated (translate "paying") students and share them with the other Anchor Partners (and possibly directly with learners) I can afford to do it. If I am "only" doing something on a volunteer basis then it is likely to go to the bottom of the "to do" list. I am not sure if such time constraints affect open software developers as well but I am fairly sure I speak for others here...many of us would be glad to share as long as we get "credit" here...this is especially true of some our most creative professors who are still working their way through the tenure process and first and foremost have to show this institution that they are valuable contributors.
I get a bit concerned when we (OERu) counts too much on volunteers...as a person who is approaching retirement age and battles health issues I am afraid that there is not going to be much of me left to use in retirement...it is probably best to figure out how to get double mileage out of me in the here and now...and that means somehow taking institutional realities into consideration.
I am not sure if such time constraints affect open software developers as well but I am fairly sure I speak for others here...many of us would be glad to share as long as we get "credit" here...this is especially true of some our most creative professors who are still working their way through the tenure process and first and foremost have to show this institution that they are valuable contributors.
Having spent the majority of my career working at universities and trying to forward the open agenda I understand the challenges -- we can share battlescars in BC. When all is said and done, the OERu is making steady progress.
Out of interest, the majority of open source software developers are in full-time employment working in companies which understand the benefits of the open source development model. When I first moved to New Zealand, a little more than a decade ago, there were no open source learning management systems used as enterprise systems. Today, 70% of New Zealand's tertiary education providers use open source learning management systems. A few committed individuals can make a huge difference, even on a national level.
OERu is making steady progress - one small step at a time. Our OERu anchor partners agree to allocating a 0.2 Full time equivalent (FTE) staff member to work on their OERu contributions. Some insitutions allocate more time -- for example, Otago Polytechnic has the equivalent of about 3 FTE staff working full time on the OERu. I appreciate that at some instituions the executive signoff doesn't always filter through to the operational level in terms of recognition -- but we will get there.
One initiative to consider OERu and related discussions at the senior leadership level is the establishment of the OERu Coucil of Chief Executive Officers. The inaugural meeting will be hosted at Kwantlen Polytechnic University on 5 November 2013 after the anchor partner meeting. We have a good turnout currently with 11 senior executives attending this meeting and I anticipate that the number will grow by the RSVP date 0f 30 September. Another step in the right direction to help forward the integration of the OERu model on the campuses of many of our partner institutions.
Keep the faith -- were past the tipping point :-)
You make a good point
I'm sure I'm not the only one here who cringes slightly when we find ourselves compelled to focus our discussions on learning in terms of courses, credits, contact hours and other such terms.
but in a world where Government's, national and provincial, what standards and evidence of achievement - and particularly when we want to develop qualifications that can be made up of content from multiple partners - we are stuck with the language of courses and credit. It is not as engaging as planning and supporting the learner in their learning; so if we were only looking at adult CPD or upskilling it would not be an issue, but as we are looking at undergraduate studies we need to speak both a local and international language - however annoying it is at times :-)
I certainly understand, and I myself have worked in that environment most of my life. I guess I just hope that as we continue to plan the future of the OERu, we remain open to, and maybe continue to press the boundaries of, traditional ways of assessing and recognizing learning toward credible credentials. And I think in the OERu are doing that already. I see this as part of the potential for institutional tranformation through the engagement of partners and others with open initiatives such as the OERu.
Wayne and Irwin,
For mini-courses two questions come to mind.
1) Would it be possible to "mix and match" mini-courses?
2) What would be the miniunum size (in terms of percentage of a full course) to feasibly administer a mini-courses?
The duration of and credit attached to traditional post-secondary courses is tied more to their Lego-block efficiencies in facilitating classes, semesters and credentials for large numbers of students than either to meet the desired learning outcomes for a particular discipline or to follow the internal logic of a learning domain. So to answer both your questions, I think where a focus on certain learning outcomes for longer durations is appropriate, there is no reason that either a course should be longer or the curricular structure of micro-courses would come with certain recommended sequences based on the goals of the learner. But given my earlier comments on the organizational benefits of shorter courses, I would lean toward the latter option.
I agree, the arbitrary 20 credits we use as an institutional framework is based on us expecting students on full-time courses to do 120 credits in a year - and we divide that by 6 to get coverage around the subject. In some courses this split is obviously for campus based delivery over a liner course and should not constrain OERu courses.
In particular we have found that most 20 credit courses have been developed in the mind of the academic from a building box of content. So unpacking 20s into 5*4s or 4*5s has often been easier than building the 20 in the first place.
The challenge of "recommended sequences" remains - if the course is to be a micro assessed piece of learning then order might be completely student dependant as the structure of learning will reflect where they have come from and where they want to go. But that makes a big assumption of learner maturity and expertise. For many learners, particularly at the early stages of post-secondary learning, direction and guidance into the literacies of learning at this level are part of the requirement. Our challenge is to address both sets of learners (and others I've not yet imagined)!
From a previous life working across the 54 member states in the Commonwealth, 1200 hours of learning is pretty much the defacto standard for a full-time year of academic study. The differences between countries are usally the "standard" size of a course or paper, for example:
- In North America, a 3-year Bachelor's degree is 90 credits or 30 courses of 3 credits each.
- In New Zealand, a 3-year Bachelor's degree is 360 credits or 24 courses of 15 credits each.
In addition, degree study usually specifies the number of credits required at the different levels (1st year, 2nd year and 3rd year Bachelor's level)
What I like about the micro-course format is that it provides a useful mechansim for articulation at the year-level of study. At the micro level - -the difference between 40 notional learning hours compared to 50 notional learning hours is somewhat academic and these differences can be bridged by the notion of competencies (irrespective of the desigated learning hours.).
If we are working purely on learning hours -- it would appear that a +40 hour micro-course would faciliate maximum reuse within existing course structures for degrees on an international scale. Namely that 30 micro- courses would equate to a year of academic study. That seems like a doable solution for the OERu network to recognise a year of study, yet fit micro-courses into existing course / paper requirements at our instituions.
The PLAR / RPL experts in our networks will also provide good advice on how we can deal with these challenges.
So in theory it would be conceivable
"In North America, a 3-year Bachelor's degree is 90 credits or 30 courses of 3 credits each."
It's definitely conceivable. While most courses in North American schools are three credits, there are some that are one credit. For schools to make more extensive use of such shorter courses would be evolutionary, not revolutionary.
I am not sure where the 90 credit three year degree model came from. In most US colleges and universities the model is four years and 120 to 128 credits (Empire State College has 128 because students receive up to 8 credits for educational planning). At ESC most of our courses are 4 credits although you are correct that in most other the norm is 3 credits. Hope this sheds some light...the US higher ed system is confusing.
"I am not sure where the 90 credit three year degree model came from."
We were referring to North America. Canadians also use the semester-hour, but a few of their schools offer three year Bachelor's degrees that are 90 credits. Athabasca has a three year Bachelor of General Studies that is very permissive when it comes to transfer credit, for example.
Just for clarification, the idea of a three-year Bachelor program comes from the UK and Europe where the first year of the US system would be the last year of their high school. Also note that the US is not the only country that uses the 120+ credit, four year system. Many other countries, such as here in Thailand, use it too.
I spent a pleasant evening at a conference I was chairing last month with Bruce Chaloux of the Sloan Consortium and we spent time sharing how different our two systems were - even though fundamentally we are working towards the same thing. So it is not just the US system is confusing - all of our systems are confusing to each other.
as you probably know we in the UK have an undergraduate model that is the same as New Zealand - a bachelors degree with 3 years including 360 credits. However how these are split is for institutions to decide and some institutions split as 24 courses of 15 credits others 18 courses of 20 credits (as we do) or in some cases 12 course of 30 credits.
We are just launching a funded project with three South East Wales partners developing RPL for work-based learning and I expect synergies from that project and the OERu to be significant (as I'm project lead for both I certainly hope so).
You'd think we would have avoided a PLAR/RPL problem when 3 of the 4 words are the same. But as an institution which has a long record of using RPL I'd be interested to see if the A word is a philosophical barrier or simply a change of nomenclature. In RPL we would expect to include recognition of prior experiential learning as well as recognition of prior certificated/assessed learning. Hence I might read the A in PLAR to imply it was about recognising the assessment of learning rather than assessing through the process of recognising prior learning. I'd welcome some clarification from our PLAR experts. Until this moment I’d just seen PLAR as a different acronym for RPL, but I now wonder if I was wrong?
Good point: it's not easy to be first institution in the chain to recognize credit from experiential learning. It's always easier and safer to let someone else do that and then figure out a scheme to translate from one system of assessment and recognition to another. Less risky I guess - we feel most comfortable operating in the "credit environment" as I've heard it termed. Yet as higher education institutions, shouldn't we be able to excel at assessing all kinds of learning? Here's hoping the A in PLAR isn't seen as a Scarlett Letter in HE...
Every year for the last 11 years I've run two or three sessions a year for academic colleagues who are being challenged to assess and credit experiential learning, first in my role as Deputy Director of our Business School and now as Head of our Learning and Teaching unit.
I'd hoped it would have become so much a part of the culture by now that we would be sharing practice with each other. But every time it seems to come new to staff. Maybe this reflects the high turnover of academic staff and the lack of this approach across other Higher Education Institutions, but I'm almost bored of hearing myself explaining it now, perhaps I should have created it as an OER from the start so others would still be learning without me having to repeat myself :-)
But OERu and the RPL project gives me a good focus institutionally to reaffirm the agenda.
@Haydn Blackey PLEASE DO make it! re - "perhaps I should have created it as an OER from the start so others would still be learning without me having to repeat myself :-)"
And I am not sure about 'other places' but in Australia there are some auditors - ie the people who say - 'yes good job' or 'No you are out' (and versions along the scale :)) - who could may be also benfit from such a course ....
If i had a dollar (of any currency) for every time i heard 'an auditor' say ... "ummm that 'rpl thing' " (while looking like they are suckiing lemons ...) well ... you know the rest :)
Having said that - I do KNOW some 'institutions' - (said in a way that I LOOK like i am sucking lemons!) *think* it is a short cut to a quick, dirty, nasty buck ($ - in any currency). And THAT helps no one ...
a good reality check. I particularly like your comment:
Having said that - I do KNOW some 'institutions' - (said in a way that I LOOK like i am sucking lemons!) *think* it is a short cut to a quick, dirty, nasty buck ($ - in any currency). And THAT helps no one ...
Aren't they in for a big surprise when it is the opposite of a cheap and easy way :-)
Hayden, I wonder if part of the problem is that syndrome of expecting others to do it "the way we did it." In other words, it may be more difficult for educators who achieved their credentials and careers by traditional methods now to adopt different methods for their eventual successors. In the longer term, we will (one hopes!) eventually have educators in place who gained at least part of their education and credentials through RPL/PLAR - and then things may be different.
A good point Irwin,
I wonder if we down play this element of staff re-enforcing their own. One of my PhD students who successfully completed her viva yesterday (so I guess she is a student no longer but a graduand) had been researching student assessment – many of you will guess that the most significant staff driver for the form of assessment was "that's how I was assessed when I did my degree"!
As someone who studied via the UK Open University I suspect I am a keen advocate of flexible models of learning as my career in academia would not have been possible without studying while doing a full time job in industry. Perhaps that's what makes me such an advocate for flexible, responsive education - because I don't see any other way as practical or sustainable.
Hi Haydn: It sounds like you and I have a lot in common...did you know that there is a whole PLA-PLA/R network mostly here in the US through CAEL (which I think stands for the Council on Adult Experiential Learning)...it has a group on LinkedIn...Empire State College has also been editing a new peer reviewed journal on the topic...my colleagues Alan Mandel and Nan Travers are the editors. At any rate, I think it might be good to link into those networks as well. PLA is becoming much more important in the US than ever before...even President Obama knows about it and has mentioned it in his plans for higher education. All the best. Joyce McKnight
Thanks for that heads up Joyce - I just applied to join that group. I often use 'evidence' from LI within a person's portfolio for recognition :)
That's really interesting Joyce,
RPL is also becoming a topic that our ministers are talking about. Unfortunately though I think they sometimes see it as the 'quick and dirty' route to post-secondary education, as Kathleen mentioned, when it is often not.
Haydn, This is often a challenge I think.
Sometimes, once people in power hear or think ‘it is cheaper’ the classic situation where money drives the decision making / policy direction can take over, with not enough reflection on all the implications and consideration of all the variables at play.
While I do understand (in a fairly limited way to be honest) the issues of cost effectiveness / efficiency and maximising the outcomes and value of finite resources etc … being open to various options to help mix and match the best and right processes for different reasons and situations still must be the foundation I think.
Sounds a bit like the OERu .. does it? (Must be one of the reasons I like it here so much, and the great company too of course)
As far as my knowledge goes the two concepts are the same depending in which part of the world you're working. The philosophical debates are usually associated with institutions who do "so-called" RPL trying to map outcomes of individual courses to experience and calling this RPL. The PLAR/RPL purists don't like that stuff being called PLAR because its basically course assessment ;-). Speaking personally, its not an issue for me -- the more ways learners can earn academic credit the better in my view.
The beauty of PLAR/RPL is that is provides the flexibility for recognising both experiential learning and certified / assessed learning as a coherent system which leads to formal academic credit. We're very fortunate to have some of the world leaders in PLAR/RPL within our OERu network including the pioneer of individualised degrees SUNY ESC and institutions like Athabasca University, Thompson Rivers University and Otago Polytechnic and USW who all have progressive PLAR/RPL operations. We can definitely share notes and experiences to help us in using PLAR/RPL policy protocols for recognising OERu credits towards credentials. For partners who don't have existing PLAR/RPL systems in place we can help them get started. For example, Otago Polytechnic's PLAR policy is available under a CC-BY license and can be adapted to suite local needs.
I have been Watching, Analysing, Investigating, and Thinking – as in WAITing (ie ‘lurking’ but I really hate that term, so I made up my own!) and learning - & I was a virtual participant in the original meeting (can’t find the link sorry).
I have some things to say about PLAR/RPL but I am still working the ‘WAITing’ aspect of that.
But overall I am a STRONG, passionate and highly experienced Australian advocate owning a very small Assessment Only ‘RTO’ (Registered Training Organisation) operating in the vocational sector.
In response to Wayne’s comment above: here are the terms and definition of ‘learning’ as they apply to the Australian Context and maybe others … for RTOs in Australia these are embedded within our legislation via the definition in SNR3 (sorry to be so ‘parochial’ and I am sure all other jurisdictions have similar)
Learning means the process followed by a learner. There are three types:
(a) Formal learning refers to learning that takes place through a structured program of instruction and is linked to the attainment of a formal qualification or award (for example, a certificate, diploma or university degree);
(b) Non-formal learning refers to learning that takes place through a structured program of instructions, but does not lead to the attainment of a formal qualification or award (for example, in-house professional development programs conducted by a business); and
(c) Informal learning refers to learning that results through experience of work-related, social, family, hobby or leisure activities (for example the acquisition of interpersonal skills developed through several years as a sales representative).
I think an understanding of terminology, and in a perfect world, some kind of commonality, is really important.
I also want to say that Joyce McKnight (along with others) has been a bit of a hero or “from a distance” mentor (without her even knowing it) of mine and if ‘she’ wanted me to convert to the term “PLAR” I would in heart beat!
(‘converting comment’ is said with an attempt at humour I KNOW Joyce is not trying to convert anyone)
I prefer the concept of "Active observer" -- far better description of the "lurkers" who are watching OERu developments and have been participating in our OERu mOOC prototypes.
Great to have one of our "Active observers" from the very first meeting still with us. A great example of the value of open philanthropy, open planning etc. As Paul Stacey mentioned - "Distinctively open". I think we should use that strap line in the OERu launch website. I'll see what we can do to incorporate this in the launch website.
wish this had a 'like' button ... (yes FB indoctrinated person here - and let's not even go down the ‘emoticon’ pathway :)
I am humbled to learn that I am a mentor to you...how wonderful for me! I like your WAIT acronym...watching,analysing, investigating, and thinking...I will have to commit that to memory. As an adult educator, I also appreciated your succinct definitions of the three types of learning (I had them almost "pounded into" me as a grad student). PLA and PLA-R are actually new terms to me (for 40 years Empire State College used the term credit by evaluation and then someone told us that the rest of the world calls it PLA or PLA-R so we decided to join the world). At any rate, I am glad that there is someone else who is interested in assessing learning outside the classroom...and amazed and immensely pleased that you see me as a mentor! (Tons of smiles) JMcK
My pleasure Joyce :) I think it is interesting that these definitions are actually embedded within the legal framework RTOs must operate under.
I like that and I think it gives credibility to ‘informal’ learning in particular. One thing I am always mindful of tho is that in reality these can become entwined.
For example: Mary becomes the President of her local school council and has to do a ‘marketing plan’. She ‘runs around the internet’ learning how to write one. (or maybe she will come to the OERu). She also sees a seminar on marketing run by her local council and she attends.
She develops it and presents it to her committee. They work on it, implement it and enrolments go up the following year. She does such a good job she wants to help other schools and thinks ‘It might be good if I could show I know this stuff’.
She takes ‘the evidence’ of the above (plus other stuff) and goes to ‘somewhere’ and says . “Look I KNOW this and can DO this”
She is assessed and receives ‘a piece of paper’ certifying that she indeed does how to develop, implement, review and evaluate a marketing plan. This might just be a unit or maybe a couple of units and maybe a few years later she builds on that towards further ‘credentials’ maybe even enrolling in a ‘traditional’ formal learning course (or maybe not)
The best thing about the story above is both non-formal (seminar) and informal (real ‘life’ experience) can be ‘recognised’ (if she wants to) and then built upon, again if she wants to.
This to me is such an organic and real world learning experience. I still find some of my colleagues who find it hard to believe that unless Mary was taught (by them) HOW to write a Marketing Plan … then, well, she wouldn’t really know how to do it ‘properly’ ….. would she? :)
You know that 'LIKE' button you mentioned in an earlier post Kathleen - well I would be wanting to push it on this one.
It so mirrors my experience, half a world away, both as someone who has given formal credit for exactly the example you suggested based on non-formal and informal learning and as someone who finds colleagues looking at me strangely when they realise you can learn without having to be taught. And that supporters of learning is as valid an academic career path as standing up and talking!
This is my passion and I tend to get almost evangelical about it. (not saying that is a good thing)
I have so many stories, as do others I am sure. One of my favourites is old(er) bloke who ran a hugely successful tyre shop, but ‘didn’t do much good at that book learning stuff’, truly believed he wouldn’t have much evidence, then proceeded to overwhelm and delight me with his knowledge skills and overall competence in management.
When finally achieving a Certificate IV in Business, he got almost teary, was extraordinarily proud and later even enrolled in ‘formal education’ to pursue other avenues based on the fact that recognition gave him the confidence to do so. The process of recognition literally changed his life and the way he viewed himself.
I also should say I was the first in my family to be lucky enough to 'go to uni' thanks to the policies of the government at that time - & will remain forever grateful for that experience and opportunity. It changed my life.
So I really do value and support learning in all its forms and the wide and varied ways of assessing learning - if indeed, any (formal anyway) process of 'assessment' is part of the process for a person or situation ...
I am really loving this whole seminar overall. thanks to all for such interesting posts ....
yes so many impactful stories. We have someone working in the Quality Office in our own institution who had left school at 16 with little or no qualifications. He had become a junior at a small newspaper, they spotted his talent and appointed him as a journalist, before long he began to manage a team of 15 other journalists. Then he married and moved and found his experience without qualifications did not find him an easy next job. So he came here to work in a very junior admin post, but through his own commitment and capacity again was promoted time and again. It was a real pleasure to be able to accredit his work and life experience against the level 6, bachelors framework. He not only know it, he had done it too. Through the process he kept telling me he couldn't get recognition because 'everyone does the same' - the truth was, no they didn't! Of course based on that engagement with level 6 learning he has gone on to formal learning and is now studying a Masters in Business Administration.
It is a pleasure to share these stories and like you I have many more examples. I think it is why the OERu is so dead to me. My own commitment is because I am the first in my family to achieve higher education qualifications - and in my case I didn't 'go to uni' but had it come to me while doing a full-time job.
a clear and coherent overview, as ever. It is helpful to understand the context.
I just did a whole series of lectures on several different brands of PLA (or whatever letters you want to use)...course cognates...the kind that match existing courses, essays that justify college level credit even though there may not be an exact course match, and a kind of hybrid. In the SUNY system I "own" my lectures and I labeled them with the license so if you all want them I will gladly give them to you...just let me know where to post. JMcK
Hi Haydn: For years Empire State College has awarded credit for both course equivalency and for experiential college level learning. For almost forty of those years we didn't call it PLA or PLA-R, or RPL (which was new to me in this conversation) but credit-by-evaluation or CBE...we only changed that designation when we realized that the rest of the world was talking about PLA or PLA-R. It was kind of odd because we were one of the first institutions in the US (and probably the world) to actually offer such credit, but we spent so many years just serving students and generally "doing our own thing" that we found ourselves "catching-up"...that said I think that there may be three rather different learning experiences that can receive recognition...courses from non-accredited entities that match courses from accredited colleges, course equivalencies based on syllabi from accredited colleges demonstrating that the student has learned what s/he would have learned in class, and (this is the unique part) credit for high level learning that does not have a course equivalent anywhere but nevertheless is demonstrably advanced. It is a very interesting process for the evaluator...For instance,my most recent one as an evaluator is on Critical Race Theory and promises to be thoroughly fascinating and from what I can see from the student's description of his learning will probably definitely be worth the 8 advanced level credits he has requested. So bottom line, I don't think the letters really matter too much it's the spirit of the thing.
You are so right Joyce it is the 'spirit of the thing' - and as we talked above before (above?) - even when 'learning' is labelled (formal, informal, non-formal - etc etc) the reality is most learning actually touches on more than one at a time anyway ..
thanks for the explanation and for the clarity offered by your three models. Like you we have used all three as a means of recognising learning. I agree that the last approach is the ideal, though challenging to undertake it has rich rewards for the learner and the academic staff member.
Speaking of acronyms, right down the road from Empire State College, we've used CBE to mean "credit by examination"--following the same principles as ESC, but with an eye to developing scalable models for evaluating learning in some of the more common subjects. I love the intensive evaluation model for those interesting subjects (Critical Race Theory--wow!) that deserve individual attention, but having exams for subjects such as statistics or abnormal psychology can be a good way to evaluate learning without having to go in and evaluate numerous different courses in the same subject.
Good point Mikka--for those colleges that use exams, they are a good alternative since ESC hardly ever uses exams even in our online courses, that would not work for us...and I have taught here so long, I tend to forget that exams even exist...LOL (we usually use papers and, even more frequently projects tailored to the student's interests to preclude purchase of papers online).
Maybe I am just feeling grumpy Wayne--but you keep referring to North America and 90 hours...is the US not a part of North America? Perhaps more to the point, how can we fit in to the model? I have to "sell" this a bit here...and it gets complicated.
I think we (OERu) need to fit the US model as well as the Commonwealth models if we can...or at least I would very much like to fit in.
No need to feel grumpy. I intentionally chose the example of a 3-year 90 credit Bachelors Degree to highlight the issues and solutions which exist. The Transnational Qualifications Framework developed by the Commonwealth of Learning is designed to address these differences. That's our solution -- a wheel we don't need to reinvent because it is openly licensed.
North America provides an excellent example of how course articulation works across state and national borders using a "standard" credit system. US credits are readily recognised by Canadian univeristies because there is a common understanding of "3 credit" courses adding up to 120 credits for the more widely used 4-year bachelor's degree in the US (and Canada).
The 3 -year Bachelors degree is common in many countries of the Commonwealth (former British colonies.) and there are examples of 4-year bachelors degrees in this part of the world.
I do want to clear a common misconception about these differences and an illustration of the value of a Transnational Qualifications Framework (TQF) - John mentioned that first year of the US system would be the last year of high school [[in many Commonwealth countries]]. This is not true, In New Zealand for example, we have an optional Year 13 which is an "extra" year of high school. This is not a replacement for the first year of university study to make up the "difference" between a 3-year and 4-year Bachelors degree. Year 13 is an option used by many New Zealand students to widen their range of credits providing wider choice and options for tertiary study. Year 12 high school graduates can gain entry into first-year university study in New Zealand. This highlights the importance of level descriptors in the TQF distinguishing, for example between the learning outcomes for high school, 1st year degree, 2nd year degree levels etc.
In Commonwealth countries which use a 3-year bachelor's degree, we would not allow entry into Master's degree study without the "additional" year. We have what is known as an "Honours Degree" which for practical purposes is the parallel of the 4th year of a Bachelors Degree in North Amercia. Some Master's programmes will allow 3-year bachelor degree graduates entry into the programme, but these Master's courses will typically embed an additional year (the "4th year") within the Masters degree.
Joyce -- in short the US system does map internationally, but I was using the example to highlight the importance for the OERu to adopt a TQF so that we are comparing apples with apples (so to speak) when managing course articulation on an international level.
This is less complicated than it appears. All OERu anchor partners will have internal mechanisms and policy protocols to recognise offshore study for learners who migrate to their country having completed a number of credits offshore. We just need to agree a common language for levels, hours of study and/or competencies for the OERu courses we develop and agree to cross credit. Thats what the TQF will do for us.
you probably know this already, but for clarification your comment:
In Commonwealth countries which use a 3-year bachelor's degree, we would not allow entry into Master's degree study without the "additional" year. We have what is known as an "Honours Degree" which for practical purposes is the parallel of the 4th year of a Bachelors Degree in North America. Some Master's programmes will allow 3-year bachelor degree graduates entry into the programme, but these Master's courses will typically embed an additional year (the "4th year") within the Masters degree.
Applies to many commonwealth countries and to Scotland, but not to England and Wales where the 3 year qualification is a Honours Degree.
You made my day! Had a good chuckle. In jest, given my Scottish blood from a few generations ago -- I was hoping that this finer detail would be overlooked. Trust our Welsh freinds to see the error in my ways ;-).
Well I'll bow to the superiority of Wales -- we don't have any OERu partners from Scotland yet :-(.
On a more serious note -- more justification for our OERu network to be thinking about a transnational qualifications framework.
glad I made you laugh - it is always a pleasure and a relief.
On a more serious note -- more justification for our OERu network to be thinking about a transnational qualifications framework
And if OERu can achieve that alongside its other developments we will have made a great breakthrough.
Thanks from me Haydn...as one of the few non-Commonwealth folks in this discussion I was totally lost when Wayne started talking about "North American" three year degrees...the US has none of those...although we do have ways high school students can take college level courses at times and we do have a few blended bachelors and masters programs but those are few and far between and vary from institution to institution. It is becoming clearer and clearer to me how different the US system is and how "institutionally individualistic" we are compared to the Commonwealth and perhaps to the rest of Europe as well. Individualistic rebels to the end...I guess.
Another US-based person chiming in--I think one difference between "standard" 120-credit US degrees and 90-credit degrees or 3-year degrees in much of the rest of the world has to do with our General Education requirements. This harks back to a discussion on one of the other forums about the value of a General Studies bachelor's degree, which is apparently quite low in Europe and many other places. In the US a Liberal Studies degree does have some acceptance, in part because we have the idea of a core of knowledge that any bachelor's-level graduate should have. There is certainly a lot of tension at the moment between proponents of liberal arts education and those who believe higher education should be more closely tied to specific fields of work, but it's an interesting discussion. The relevance for OERu, I think, is that, at least in the US, many potential courses could be used either towards the core of a specific degree or towards General Education requirements for any degree--so such courses would likely be more broadly useful than highly specialized ones.
One thing I've always admired about the US higher education system is the wide spread philosophy of a liberal studies education.
Speaking from personal experience, my base degree was a vocational degree preparing me for the Accounting profession. This is served me well, but if I reflect on my work over the last decade, I would have been better prepared for my task with a liberal studies foundation. I do think there is value in a Bachelor of General studies -- and as you point out, OERu courses can be used towards specific degrees.
We should keep the "reuse" scenario of OERu courses for specific degrees in mind as a potential filter for nominating OERu courses.
Hi John, good questions.
One of the advantages of the micro course model is the ability to "mix and match" in areas of study suited to this model. It is potentially a great way to customise and diversify curriculum in a cost effective way.
Drawing on my experience in designing a few OERu prototype mOOCs, I think there is a theoretical minimum size which relates to sufficient "learning hours" for meaningful summative assessment in relation to expressing a value judgement against the graduate profiles for academic credit. It seems that 40 to 50 notional learning hours is about the minumum functional size (about 30% of a North American 3 credit course). This concurs with Hadyn's UK experience where going smaller becomes pedagogicaly too small for sensible summative assessment. That said, the nature of an open delivery model is that learners can sip and dip into topics of interested which be much smaller chunks of learning.
What did you have in mind with the mix and match concept?
What are micro-credentials in the OERu context?
- Not sure if OERu is willing to go in a competency-based direction but if so it seems natural to link a micro-credential to acquisition of one or more competencies. I see others in this forum have suggested this too.
What are the barriers and opportunities for implementing micro-credentials for the OERu?
- Atomizing the curriculum into bite size (1 credit?) units seems sensible and provides students with a more flexible start/stop schedule for learning. It also provides greater opportunity to mix units from multiple sources together in creative ways. The downside to short start/stop units is that on exit the student may never return or continue.
Are micro-credentials an effective way to individualize or customize the curriculum?
- I'd love to see students given the option of mixing the micro-units together in a way that works for them. This could include sequence and overall credential design.
- I'm currently doing quite a bit of work on the US DOL TAACCCT program where the emphasis is on stackable/latticed credentials that meet growth industry needs. An approach like that could work for OERu too. I'm especially interested in the potential to design OERu learning that has industry input and meets employability needs. I expect OERu learners will also be interested in attaining employment goals through their learning.
Paul...your idea makes a great deal of sense...as long as there is some way of guiding the students on the implications of their choices.
Overnight I received this email and request from Paul West to post to the forum.
Paul was the visionary behind the development of COL's Transnational Qualifications Framework which the OERu partners will be discussing at the meeting on 4 November 2013.
Message from Paul
Going from 90 to 40 hours per course is not a disruptive change. 40 hours in not "micro"! It feels like "almost the same" level of commitment as a college course.
Contrast this to iTunes disrupting the music market by moving from albums to single songs.
If you are committed to 40-hour courses, I would remove the word "micro" and references to small size from your messages. I would concentrate on how real and serious courses are, or even how close to existing college formats they feel.
Avoid the the uncanny valley: not being different enough, but not being quite the same as traditional courses.
Maria thanks for mentioning the "uncanny valley" term. It's new to me but it seems there's definitely a place for it. It reminds me somewhat of the creepy treehouse effect in mandated social networking dominated by faculty. In both cases, to counter these effects the suggestions in this article make sense to me.