Current attitudes about open flexible learning pathways – where do they fit in?
We have to trust each other in order to create authentic learning pathways…..
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Part of the research process to discover current trends in open badges included asking k12 institutions, consultants, industry leaders, community associations and higher education leaders where learning pathways could “fit” in the system. This is a brief “informal” overview, in my opinion, of key points that came up as I asked guiding questions about the integration of formal and informal learning, learning pathways and how open badges could be applied to k12 institutions and Higher Ed, industry and community association leaders.
An essential element of learning pathways is that they need to be supported throughout all the systems. This means that there needs to be more communication, support and transition between k12, Higher Education, industry (the workforce) and community. Everyone mentioned communication, trust and credibility in order to connect as one system.
The common agreement was a need for a currency that offers credibility for evidence of learning. Open badges were supported by most people because of the ability to increase the credibility factor of informal learning. The badge represents something.
Another common question was around collaboration. There seemed to be a lack of trust between the different stakeholders and an apprehension about working together. Learning pathway programs could offer an opportunity for all stakeholders to build relationships and authentic learning opportunities. For example, many industry leaders commented on their attempt at collaborative Higher Education projects. Their frustration was over the student choice of projects, rather than an industry choice so that the project could actually be applied to authentic industry problems. Alternatively, Higher Education leaders mentioned that industry did not seem to want students for projects if their companies were big and successful. Students were often welcome as interns for small start ups, but Higher Education needs partnerships and regular collaborative project programs to support scalable and sustainable learning programs for students. Industry leaders generally felt that they could make more of an impact with high school students than Higher Education students, because they could influence and encourage youth’s passions at an earlier age.
Industry and community associations felt that open badges would be most successful in high school ( or lower) as a means to give evidence of their skills, passions and experiences outside of k12 institutions. The open badges represented learner potential. After high school, open badges seemed to be more representative of how a learner could use their badges to attain employment. The emphasis on passion or student interest was not as important for job training.
Finally, many people felt that learning pathways and the collaboration of industry, community and educational institutions could support learning for more than “just” the students. Industry and community mentors could support teachers and instructors. In addition industry and community leaders could learn about current trends and new or different perspectives. Learning Pathways could provide a means for many learners to learn together – through collaboration and digital integration of evidence of learning anytime and anywhere.