While parts of higher education struggle with a new push for the implementation of Learning Analytics, Evidence of Impact, and older but stronger implementations of outcomes assessment, other parts of higher education are entering the brave new world of assessments for prior learning, and credentialing of open education. The recent announcement of the Badges for Lifelong Learning Competition, has raised the level of enthusiasm and energy towards credentialing learning in new ways–that is outside of a formal degree process. “Badges are a new assessment tool that will help identify skills mastered in formal and informal settings, virtually and in physical spaces, and in schools, workplaces and communities.” Both of these diverse focuses point to an struggle within Higher Education: the struggle to define its future, perhaps to even insure its own existence.
Along with the Badges for Learning program, there are a number of other initiatives that warrant our attention and particularly that of the OERu. OER University is an outgrowth of the Open Educational Resource Foundation. The aims of OERu are the following:
- Will design and implement a parallel learning universe to provide free learning opportunities for all students worldwide with pathways to earn credible post-secondary credentials.
- Offer courses and programs based solely on OER and open textbooks.
- Design and implement scalable pedagogies appropriate for the OER university concept.
- Will implement scalable systems of volunteer student support through community service learning approaches.
- Coordinate assessment and credentialising services on a cost recovery basis for participating education institutions to ensure credible qualifications and corresponding course articulation among anchor partners.
Coming on the heels of the growth in Open Access, Open CourseWare, and OERs, this is a significant undertaking and one that will have an impact on educational practices worldwide. I would not claim it will eradicate the institution as we know it, only that it will impact it.
One way it may have a significant impact is on the employ-ability of individuals who’ve received credentials through OERu. Could it be the employers may be just as attracted to these individuals as those who tout a more traditional degree? My thoughts are that they would be foolish not to. A piece of paper and a string of letters after a person’s name, does not guarantee that they will make a good employee. It does not guarantee their ability to think outside the box, to be self-directed, to be innovative, or even to be intelligent in an effective way.
The anchor institutions will spend two days in November considering how to develop their model. They will look at ways that effectively and accurately assess student learning, and the whole process will be transparent (another hallmark of openness). Even non-members can participate and help guide the future: http://wikieducator.org/OER_university/2011.11_OERu_virtual_meeting_participants