Do you have questions about micro-credentials and digital badges?


Micro Credentials 2

Further thoughts on micro-credentials and digital badges

A while back, NZQA were looking for consultation on micro-credentials. I wrote about my views here. These views haven’t changed drastically.

But they have continued to evolve and everywhere I go people seem to want to talk about micro-credentials.

Here are a few further thoughts.

What’s the difference between digital badges and micro-credentials?

At the moment I kinda use digital badges and micro-credentials in more or less the same way.

I see a badge as one element, perhaps of a series, that might go into a micro-credential. For me, a micro-credential is a kind of meta-badge that you get on completing the requisite badges.

Imagine a coffee card that gets stamped each time you get a coffee. And then when the card is full, you get the reward.

That’s how I use the words badges and micro-credentials.

What are the rules for badging and using micro-credentials?

One thing seems clear to me at the moment. And this is that micro-credentialing and digital badges are currently the wild west and people are still making up the rules.

In Aotearoa New Zealand, the agency that handles quality assurance around qualifications – the NZQA – is likely to make up their own rules soon.

Others will make up their own rules too. You can follow others’ rules or you can make up your own as well.

I’d prefer to make up my own rules. Whether anyone pays any attention to anyone else’s will reflect the authority that sits behind the badging or credentialing body.

NZQA has had a monopoly on the old-fashioned kind of badging and credentialing when it comes to school-related training.

My prediction is that they will lose this monopoly and just become one of many players in the credentialing game. In other words, expect disruption and fragmentation here (as well as everywhere else).

In NZ, how should micro-credentials and digital badges interact with NZQA?

This is not advice. These are just my thoughts right now.

  • Badging and micro-credentials should be independent of NZQA unit standards and NZ qualifications.
  • Badging and micro-credentials should be aligned with relevant aspects of NZQA unit standards and NZ qualifications.

This arrangement would retain independence from government agency bureaucracy but allows for others to use badges as evidence towards NZQA accredited qualifications and standards if and when needed.

This shifts the burden of compliance to NZQA accredited providers whose core business is in assessing NZQA qualifications.

A good example would be with regards to cultural competency training and assessment.

Training and assessment by third-party providers such as iwi-based organisations could lead to digital badges and the award of a micro-credential backed by the tribe.

With some clever thinking, badges could also align with relevant aspects of key qualifications and or assessment standards.

For example, there are four adult teaching qualifications that all contain a cultural competency component of some kind. Currently, training related to this is generic and usually done badly.

An iwi-based model backed by a series of digital badges but aligned with NZQA requirements could provide a win-win-win solution.

How can we align digital badges and micro-credentials with NZQA requirements?

Again, not advice, but I would:

  1. Spend time mapping NZQA qualifications and relevant unit standards against the relevant outcomes. For example, the cultural competency outcomes relating to values, knowledge and practice.
  2. Spend money on graphic design for a smorgasbord of digital badges that look really great.
  3. Spend time finessing very clear and concise outcomes for the training that relates to each badge.
  4. Encode badge meta-data with these clear and concise outcomes.
  5. Trial all of this in real-time with non-expert but interested participants in a range of contexts including ITP, Wananga, ESOL as well as all the normal ones.
  6. Evaluate participant data and fine tune this for further iteration and roll out.

What are some good platforms for experimenting with micro-credentials and digital badges?

You can find a list here maintained by the Mozilla Badge Alliance. However, I like this one:

I’m using this at the moment to make a variety of “proof of concept” badges for a few different groups. I like it because it has blockchain integration.

Here’s a very basic example I made to illustrate how it works:

Awesome

How do I get started with digital badges?

You can have a look at how I got underway here:

  1. Digital Badges – Part 1: Getting Started.
  2. Digital Badges – Part 2: Earning Your First Badge.

What were your recommendations to the NZQA on micro-credentials?

Here’s my response in full to the NZQA survey on micro-credentials. The questions that follow are theirs but the answers are mine.

Views on Micro Credentials from the NZQA Paper

  1. Are the views expressed in this survey:|
    • My own personal views.
  2. Do you think that recognising micro­credentials within New Zealand’s regulated education and training system would be useful?
    • Yes, to a point. NZQA is historically slow to move from a provider perspective. Developing and using micro credentials is part of remaining agile in a very fast-paced business environment where training and/or recognition of competency is required. The danger of NZQA getting involved is that it puts the brakes on fast-paced innovation.

      Also, those involved in currently delivering (or wanting to deliver) the best, most well known or most useful micro credentials are unlikely to be interested in dealing with another layer of bureaucracy in the form of NZQA compliance. The best independent systems will have their own quality assurance processes already built in.

      However, there may be a legitimate place for micro credentials as part of RPL procedures in existing TEOs who which to use them as components or pathways inside larger credentials such as NZ Certificates, Diplomas and degrees.

  3. Is “micro­credentials” the most appropriate term to be used in New Zealand?
    • Yes. But it’s good to highlight the other terminology that is in use as you have in the white paper. People are confused easily.

      Digital badging is just another name for the same thing but points more clearly to the relevant platforms like the one run by Mozilla. These platforms, by the way, operate on their own rules outside of the educational regulatory compliance.

  4. How suitable are the characteristics of micro­credentials for the New Zealand education and training system?
    • Very suitable for some things. But it would be a mistake to apply some kind of blanket “across-the-board” rule for this. It needs to be case by case and fit for purpose-driven by business, industry, community, iwi or other groups who seek to create or leverage the benefits and opportunities.

      I think the burden of bureaucracy should be on the TEOs who want to use micro-credentials and digital badging as RPL or similar components of other qualifications.

      Then let business, industries, others and the market decide what is quality and what is not. Some will align with TEOs and others will not

      There could be discussions between the industries, businesses or community micro-credential deliverers and the TEO accredited providers… but it would be crazy to let increased regulation and compliance shut down an innovation like this.

      I’m in favour of an “unbundled” education model for this that would allow separation of information content, training delivery, assessment against standards and various forms of credentialing (both formal and informal). This allows individuals and groups to specialise.

  5. What additions and changes, if any, would you suggest to the characteristics of a micro­credential? Please explain the reasons for your suggestions.
    • Don’t let regulation and compliance shut down innovation and agility in business and industry contexts. Keep the rules to a minimum and keep the conversation going with providers who exist in the wider training ecosystem outside of NZQA.
  6. Do you agree that the recommended minimum credit limit of 10 credits is appropriate for micro­credentials?
    • I suppose. But only if you do away with the outdated requirement for 1 credit to equal 10 notional hours of training. This is old-fashioned thinking and a contradiction of any kind of standards-based approach to assessment and credentialing. If someone meets the standard for X with evidence, then they meet the standard X. They don’t need 10 or 100 hours of training if they already proved that they met the standard.
  7. What measures can you suggest to manage the possible proliferation and duplication of quality assured micro­credentials?
    • Learn from industry and business. This kind of learning is hard for government agencies because regulatory control allows for some courses, programmes and providers to succeed that should fail, and for others to fail that should succeed.

      There are already existing models that you could be looking at and trying to understand why they are successful. Microsoft is one but there are others. Are there a proliferation of providers delivering TESLA electric car repair certification?

      The test of a valid micro-credential should be whether it has a current or (guaranteed future) paying customer. No customers = no business model = failure = try something else as fast as possible that people actually need.

      Also, in the interests of staying agile, micro-credentials are unlikely to remain static. However, the effect of NZQA on a programme is to try and lock down how the information, training, assessment and credentialing works. This may have been useful in the past, and tools like the EER process force providers to examine if their services are still fit for purpose, but unless this is streamlined I think you’ll just get a micro-certificate rather than the kind of micro-credentials and digital badges that people are discussing internationally.

      For the existing successful micro-credentials at the moment, NZQA is actually irrelevant.

      But if you want to link these into larger NZ qualifications then the equivalency plans should work. In fact, why not just apply this same thinking to new or existing micro-credentials in NZ as well?

      As a business owner and entrepreneur, I cannot think of many good reasons creating an NZQA approved micro-credential if I already had access to a good market of people who would pay for it plus the backing of industry or other groups who would support a non-NZQA micro-credential.

      Perhaps accessing visa approval from immigration for overseas students could be one reason. But the nature of a micro-credential means that someone could most likely complete it within the timeframe of a tourist visa. Developing levers for NZ to bring in highly skilled labour in the high-tech industry could be a good use-case for involving NZQA if was going to result in work visas being approved.

      Another good reason for involving NZQA could also be in the interests of securing TEC funding for the micro-credential. However, TEC is already funding organisations outside of NZQA by working directly with employers (Employer-led workplace literacy) and some iwi (SAC funding).

      Extra NZQA compliance costs around “recognising” digitally badged training doesn’t add much real-world value that I can see. It just perpetuates the already entrenched “do-I-get-credit-for-that” mindset that so many learners have grown up with through the NCEA system.

  8. To what extent should micro­credentials be embedded into the New Zealand education and training system? Please explain the reasons for your view.
    • Here you’re referring to the system under the control of NZQA’s regulatory powers. Micro-credentials could be embedded to the extent already discussed above that TEOs can work to recognise them via RPL or other equivalency procedures in order for learners to use them as components bearing credit value in larger already established NZ credentials.
  9. Do you think that micro­credentials developed by organisations other than New Zealand tertiary education organisations should be recognised
    • Yes, of course. Some already are. But the burden of bureaucracy around recognition should be on the TEOs who want to use them as components inside their own courses. For example, if a university MBA programme is sending students to an iwi organisation for training purchased as part of the MBA, this training could take the form of digital badges or a micro-credential. But it should be the job of the university to enable the recognition to make the pathway work.

      In addition, given the nature of student debt resulting from university study and the fact that outside of key professions, many degrees are often irrelevant or become redundant once someone starts working, I think that we’ll see greater fragmentation of training and credentialing.

      I’d rather hire someone with the right attitude and a very focused skillset. This is a growing trend as the number of businesses signed here attest.

  10. Do you think that determining the equivalence to the NZQF of micro­credentials developed by organisations other than New Zealand tertiary education organisations would be useful?
    • Yes, but depends on what they are. Pick up the best and highest quality ones and weave those into our qualifications to create interesting pathways that better serve learners and at a lower cost.
  11. What challenges do you think recognising micro­-credentials as part of New Zealand’s regulated education and training system present? Please explain how you think these could be addressed.
    • We can’t even get people to understand how unit standards work. So people will misunderstand what micro-credentials are. They will also be confused about what digital badging is and other related processes and terminology.

      There needs to be discussion around digital badging platforms and how these operate differently to just creating smaller versions of things like the existing NZ certificates.

      There also needs to be a wider conversation about using micro-credentials outside of NZQA compliance and what the differences or advantages/disadvantages might look like.

      If you want to take micro-credentialing seriously, NZQA should also be part of the discussion around using blockchain technology in the creation of durable records of learning for things like digital badges and micro-credentials, especially where the ownership of the information sits with the learner rather than in a centralised database.

  12. Do you think that the proposed amendments to the Rules support the recognition of micro­credentials within the New Zealand education and training system?
    • Yes. Because this may open up new kinds of funded training for underserved groups of learners.
  13. Do you agree with the proposed amendments to the Rules?
    • Yes, but I can think of many examples where businesses, industries or communities may seek to set up their own micro-credentials outside of this system.

 

 

 

How Should We Evaluate Our Training?


Kathy Sierra Post UX UX

I’m changing how I think about course evaluation… And how everything should be evaluated.

Here’s a new set of questions. Try them out for yourself after the next training session you deliver. Or attend.

Or after any new experience:

  • What did that experience enable?
  • What can I now do?
  • What can I now show others?
  • What will I say to others?
  • How am I now more powerful?

Or if you’re someone involved in designing something new… Or re-designing something. And your results are tied to the results of your users, then what matters is what happens when their experience with your training course (or product or service) is done.

Here are the same questions in their original form.

  • What did that experience enable?
  • What can they now do?
  • What can they now show others?
  • What will they say to others?
  • How are they now more powerful?

These questions come courtesy of Kathy Sierra and her excellent book: Badass: Making Users Awesome (p.56). There’s a link to the book here on Kathy’s blog.

Kathy calls this the post-user experience user experience. Buy the book. It’s awesome.

5 Questions That Will Make You Uncomfortable If You Work In Education


It’s an uncomfortable business

uncomfortable

Working in education is a tricky and often uncomfortable business. Especially if you want to get paid… And if you work in education sometimes even just using words like money and customers make you feel uncomfortable. You’d better click away now if you’re offended already.

The “Customer” is not a straightforward matter

bad-customer-service

Still, it gets worse, one part of the problem is trying to figure out who your actual customers are. And this might sound kind of strange, but it’s not a straightforward matter. And your main customer might not be who you think it is.

If you’re like me, you have different kinds of customers. All at the same time. These different kinds of customers often have different (and possibly contradictory) needs and expectations.

Paying versus value creation

paying

So how do you figure out who these customers are? Well, you can start by asking these two questions:

1. Who’s paying?

2. Who are you creating the most value for?

You might not need to, but sometimes you may need to decide if your main customer is EITHER the person or organisation that you are creating the most value for, OR the one who is paying you the most. This can be important depending on what key deliverables are for your work.

The tension

eliminate-tension

There is not always a tension between who’s paying versus who you’re creating the most value for. But sometimes there is. People have different needs and wants. So, how will you deal with this? There’s only one answer:

  • Embrace the tension

The Money

money

One way to start thinking about this tension is to follow the money. Ask yourself the question again: Who’s paying?

If your education programme or training is mostly (or completed) funded or subsidised by a government department or similar agency then you better start thinking of them and treating them like a valued customer. Their investment is paying for or subsiding your delivery, outcomes, and probably ensuring that you can pay the rent.

There’s nothing like the promise of continued employment to incentivise your work…

Value

value

However, there’s still the issue of value creation. One way of defining a customer is to determine who you are creating the most value for. Which of these groups are you creating the most value for?

  • The funding agency or other investors?
  • Your learners, i.e. the ones in front of you in the training environment?
  • Your learners’ employers?
  • Your learners’ learners, staff, or clients (if you’re working with tutors and trainers like we do)?

It’s complex

complex

So… are your learners the ones allowing you to pay your bills and meet payroll? For us, it’s more like our learners (and their learners) are the combined end-users of the training that we deliver. They don’t pay, but we do create value for them.

Our customers then are actually a combination of our learners’ employers and a government funding agency (these two groups pay for the training together) as well as the learners themselves (who are non paying customers).

So… understanding who your customers are and getting paid in the education business is a bit more complex than just shipping widgets.

It’s seldom a simple business transaction. The main thing to realise is that organisations and government departments that fund education and training are like venture capital investors. And learners can be customers too, even if they are non-paying customers.

Questions

reductionism

Finally, after you’ve figured out whatever complicated and often contradictory mixture of customers you’re attempting to create value for, you also need to ask these questions for each customer group:

3. What do they really want?

4. Are you really delivering the right results?

5. What’s the return on investment for each?

6. Who’s getting the best return on investment?

So, tar and feather me with the brush of economic reductionism… These last questions make me uncomfortable. But they’re great questions to keep asking.

Numeracy diagnostic questions: Before there was the Assessment Tool there was this…


Before the assessment tool we had this handy set of questions (see the Youtube clip below). You can still use it and it works great…!

Just click below to watch it as a movie with 5 sec intervals between questions. No audio on this one. If you use it with your learners just read the questions out loud to them. If I get time I’ll record one with audio as well.

Each pair of questions for each section focuses on one step from that particular Number Progression.

Just a note: The questions in the Place Value Progression – that’s the middle set of questions – start at step 2. That’s why there are less questions. This implies that the other knowledge from Number Sequence and Number facts for step 1 is already in place.

If you are working on your NCALNE (Voc) qualification, this diagnostic could be part of your work for Assessment 4 which is all about Knowing the Learner and undertaking literacy and numeracy diagnostic assessments.

If you have a Mac you can download my Keynote file for the slides here:

I also have a PDF version that you can print out and use as a paper-based version of the diagnostic. It’s the same as the images below – 2 pages:

Hat tip: Thanks to Janet Hogan for her initial set of slides for this. Also, you can find this content in the Teaching Adults to Make Sense of Number to Solve Problems support guide for the Learning Progressions.

Num Diagnostic pt 1Num Diagnostic pt 2

Printable learner attitude questions for reading and maths for adult literacy and numeracy learners


There are some great resources in the Learning Progressions for Adult Literacy and Numeracy. Unfortunately, many of them are simply buried.

Here’s my variations on a couple of things that I think are really useful: Learner attitude survey questions for Maths and Reading.

Just click the links below to open them as printable PDFs. The images below are just screenshots. Here are the download links:

If you’re doing your NCALNE (Voc) professional development you may want to consider using these as part of your diagnostic assessment. And depending on your timeframe, perhaps again after you’ve delivered the teaching interventions that you’re working on.

Let me know if these are useful.

maths

reading