Most of us are likely familiar with the concept of Open Badges and the potential they have to impact learning. But Open Badges, by themselves, have some limitations. This has led to the creation of a recent initiative—Open Pathways.
Leading this initiative – which makes it possible to connect digital credentials from different organizations – is Wayne Skipper, founder and CEO of Concentric Sky, and a key player behind the open source project Badgr. You may recall he was a guest on a previous episode of the podcast where he talked about digital badges and the open badging movement.
In this episode of the Leading Learning podcast, Celisa talks with Wayne about Open Pathways, including their potential benefits and applications, as well as how they are changing the game when it comes to learning and education.
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Read the Show Notes
[00:18] – Highlighted Resource of the Week – Exploring the Fringe: Flipping, Microcredentials, and MOOCs – a free white paper that discusses three emerging formats—the flipped classroom, microcredentials, and massive open online course —and then looks at when each might make sense for an organization to pursue and factors to consider before jumping on the trendy bandwagon.
[01:23] – A preview of what will be covered in this podcast where Celisa talks with Wayne Skipper, founder and CEO of Concentric Sky, and a key player behind the open source project Badgr, about the emerging Open Pathways initiative for connecting digital credentials from different organizations.
[03:21] – Introduction to Wayne and some information about his background and interests.
[05:36] – What are Open Pathways? Wayne explains that it’s helpful to first understand what an Open Badge is and the difference between that and a digital badge. He says an Open Badge isn’t just a picture, it’s actually a representative of a learning achievement with data baked into the image with everything inside of it that’s needed to verify it. They are a way of representing learning achievements – both formal and informal – and putting them into the same landscape so that we can describe learning more broadly. Although Open Badges are useful, there is an issue of what to do with them once you acquire them, particularly because if you share them online such as in LinkedIn, there isn’t a way to verify them. Wayne talks about how Concentric Sky led the development of Open Badges, and as they were building an understanding of the digital credential landscape, they identified a pretty major gap—the ability to describe credentials in terms of each other—, which is why they proposed the Open Pathways standard.
[08:46] – Wayne further clarifies that Open Pathways allows you to create a learning tree, or simple hierarchy, which aligns badges to every element of that hierarchy, so you can actually take each tree and describe it in terms of the badges that are associated with each learning element. He explains the limitations of platforms stacking credentials and says Open Pathways allows you to think of each badge as the terminal node of a pathway. So now rather than just that badge representing an individual attainment, you can actually understand the structure of every sub-competency that went into it. This means that badges can then be mixed and matched from all issuers and platforms into pathways which themselves can stack— and they can then also be linked from context to context.
[12:01] – You’ve described Open Pathways as a complete game changer in the field of digital credentials. Will you talk about how you see Open Pathways changing the game and what you think is the timeline for that game-changing and maybe what traction Open Pathways has already gotten? Wayne explains that beyond Open Pathways allowing you to mix and match credentials in a truly open fashion, they are changing the game because they also allow you to align to competencies in a way that can deliver on the promise of open education. As far as the timeline, Wayne says they’ve been working on the standard and the software behind it for about a year and they’ve recently submitted everything for a version 1.0. They are also doing major implementations in Europe, the Middle East, and California.
[15:43] – You’ve described Open Pathways as filling a gap—is part of what revealed this gap just the growth in the number of badges? Wayne recognizes that is part of it but there are other tools other than Pathways that make it possible to actually determine the relative value of badges. To do this, he says they are actually working on a badge search engine tool called, Badge Rank (analogous to Google’s Page Rank). It ranks badges on a number of different criteria to sort through the noise. One of the main things they’ve written into Open Badges 2.0 is the notion of endorsement because one of the key signals of the value of a badge is whether or not people find it valuable. So endorsements and outcomes of pathways are key when it comes to describing the relative value of a badge related to another badge.
[20:19] – How might an association or another business in lifelong learning make use of Open Pathways? Wayne shares that he recently gave a presentation on YouTube which covers in detail a number of use cases but in general, a few uses for Pathways are:
- Being able to tie learning that happens offline/small accomplishments with learning that happens online. Pathways allows you to do this in a meaningful way by building greater descriptions of the learning accomplishments of your members.
- Getting information about how your badges are used.
- Creating a competency framework to describe how credentials relate to each other—and that span industries.
[27:16] – What’s going on in learning these days that most excites you? Wayne shares that two things stand out to him:
- The Guided Pathways initiative which involves work with a lot of community colleges—the notion that they can provide more meta-structure to the student experience in a way that helps them understand and give them agency is very exciting to him.
- Co-remediation which is the notion that you can assess somebody in real time and give them a directed learning activity to help them master that in parallel with the work they’re doing – you have to take a project-based learning style approach to show people how to use a skill in context and remediate right there, in context.
[29:43] – What is one of the most powerful learning experiences you’ve been involved in, as an adult, since finishing your formal education? As a general rule, Wayne shares that Concentric Sky doesn’t generally hire junior-level employees or offer internships but a few years ago a 14 year old contacted them and asked for an interview. They were so impressed with him that they actually created an internship for him and he ended up working with them for 4 years before going to MIT. This inspired Wayne because they would never have hired an intern and it was such a positive experience.
[32:06] – How to connect with Wayne and/or learn more:
- Website: https://concentricsky.com/
- General info about Concentric Sky: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Concentric_Sky
[32:53] – Wrap Up
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[34:22] – Sign off
For other episodes related to digital badges and credentials, check out: