Who says higher ed learning can’t be fun? One of the newest tech projects to make waves, Mozilla’s Open Badges, will bring you back to those gold-star-sticker days—but with a mission.
Mozilla’s free new open-source project is called Open Badges, and if you’re unfamiliar with it, its purpose is to help people issue, earn, and display learning and skills badges across the web. For the higher ed professor, this could be a positive game-changer. With grade inflation, test curves, and the “everyone deserves an A for effort” mentality changing the meaning of grades, badges could be a new measurement of learning and success. Whether posted on social and job networking sites like LinkedIn or tumblr, printed on resumes and job applications, or mentioned on a portfolio, badges could soon be popping up soon all over the place.
Professors at Indiana University at Bloomington and Purdue University have already started using badges in the classroom, handing them out to students who have mastered certain skills or sections within a course. Before entering college, high schoolers can present their badges in lieu of certain courses, or as a supplement to their transcripts, thereby proving their mastery. For job seekers about to end their college journeys and make their way into the work world, students having certain badges denoting expertise in necessary on-the-job skills could mean the difference between getting that interview and getting rejected. MOOCs could benefit too, as could course host schools: For online course attendees, having a badge showing successful completion could be beneficial to both the attendee and the host school.
The badges just might be here to stay, too. Open Badges has received positive word of mouth from U.S. Secretaries, NASA administrators, and, of course, project financial backer the MacArthur Foundation. Plenty of research has gone into these badges, so don’t assume anyone can get them from anywhere; the badges are full of metadata, giving anyone who looks a taste of when, where, and how the badge was received, along with test scores, questions, and information on the badge issuer.
Badges may be based on the days of fun and chores in kindergarten, but with modern-day uses and technology to back it up, users of Mozilla Badges may start to see 21st century uses that could change how we view MOOCs, graduates, and applicants alike.
The third year of SXSWedu proved to be a huge success, with technology-driven discussions, job and college fairs, and innovative ideas being exchanged during this five-day conference and festival.
For those not familiar with the event, SXSWedu is a conference centered around innovation in education, and is held in Austin, Texas in conjunction with the popular SXSW music and film festivals. Though a relative newcomer in the field of educational conferences, it has made great strides and is fast becoming a well-known name for educators and students alike. The conference was attended by students and industry specialists, but teachers (both K-12 and higher ed) made up most of the thousands of guests.
The big topics of discussion for this year’s conference? MOOCs and UGC. There were multiple discussion sessions on MOOCs, one of the most interesting being the keynote discussion being between Andrew Ng and Anant Agarwal—co-founder of Coursera and CEO of Edx, respectively. They discussed current challenges, including security concerns, worries of course authenticity for both the student and the offering school, and issues revolving around turning courses into real credits and programs—such as the case with a student transferring or starting to attend a university in person. One accomplishment in the MOOC field is an integrated platform that allows faculty to share digital media and materials, thus integrating social networking in the learning model and simultaneously getting students to create content.
UGC, or User Generated Content, was discussed in a variety of ways throughout SXSWedu. From flipping the classroom and peer-to-peer learning to community building and learning through digital media, UGC is an ever-emerging area of focus for the modern-day classroom. High school teachers, for example, are finding success through creative homework assignments that require the students to self-police each other. Since young adults are already using social media networks like tumblr and YouTube, why not use them as tools for assignments, content creation, and more? There’s already a YouTube/EDU channel that focuses solely on educational videos created by both faculty and high school teachers. Logan Smalley, director of TED Ed, moderated an exciting panel prepping everyone for the launch of the new TED Ed site, which will make sharing and building online assignments with TED Ed videos easier than ever.
SXSWedu 2014 and future education conferences will surely see even more new technologies, ideas, and interactive sites. Perhaps there will be an academic social network that provides a secure and private way for students and faculty to create and share content. Maybe someone will build a definitive site designed to empower and teach faculty about every emerging technology before their students know more about it than they do. Whatever happens in this next year, at Barnes & Noble College we’re excited to be on the front lines, bringing you the most exciting innovations.