Transforming Scottish Education through a Digital Badge Learning Ecosystem

A great example use case of a national digital ecosystem platform is Education and how it can be enhanced through Blockchain Digital Badges’.

In his Alastria presentation Carlos Pastor introduces their idea of a ‘National Blockchain Network’, a shared blockchain infrastructure co-owned as a non-profit by a consortium of relevant industry and government organizations.

Education is a great example use case of where this platform could be applied, to harness technologies such as the Blockchain, and apply them to the digital lifecycle of academic credentials.

As Digital Skills Scotland reports, Scotland faces a skills shortage challenge that would hamper our ambitions to build a world leading digital economy.

Furthermore and particularly concerning is Scotland’s general education performance, their PISA results pointing to declining performance in key subjects like Maths and Science. In comparison Estonia, renowned for their digital capability, have leveraged this technology to achieve astounding levels of success on the same rankings, first in Europe. Indeed they describe it as a platform for enabling an ‘Education Nation’.

Therefore Scotland has the simple opportunity to emulate success proven elsewhere, Estonia offers a blueprint to repeat. Harnessing modern digital learning platforms can address Scotland’s challenge, and overall presents the country with the opportunity to modernize not only what we learn, but how we learn, and transform our entire approach to education.

Blockchain-Enabled Digital Certificates

The types of innovation that seem to be focusing on this type of use case include ‘Blockcerts‘, an open source blockchain project for enabling a Universal Verifier that will verify any Blockcert issued by any institution, anywhere in the world.

Via their Medium article UniversaBlockchain explore the scenario of Blockchain in Education.

They highlight keynote problems like the high rates of medical school diploma falsification as pain points a technology like Blockchain is ideal for tackling in some form, among a wave of other transformative benefits for the sector as it ripples through all workflow areas related to HR, resume checking, et al.

Athena builds on this some, notably detailing the core signature process that underpins the integrity of the record, as a comparison to traditional paper-based approaches:

  • Blockchain-enabled digital certificates are immutable and cannot be forged
  • The records are stored on a distributed ledger, hence certificates can be only evaluated by anyone who has access to the blockchain
  • Since the records are stored in a shared distributed ledger, the certificate can still be validated even if the organization that had issued it no longer exists
  • The digital certificates stored in the ledger can only be destroyed if all the copies in every system are destroyed.

Badges and Certificates – Foundations for a Digital Learning Ecosystem

This capability would ideally go hand in hand with ‘Digital Badges’.

As Hastac explains :

A digital badge is a validated indicator of accomplishment, skill, quality, or interest that can be earned in many learning environments. Open digital badging makes it easy for anyone to issue, earn, and display badges across the web—through an infrastructure that uses shared and open technical technical standards.

Open digital badging makes it easy for anyone to issue, earn, and display badges across the web—through an infrastructure that uses shared and open technical technical standards. Organizations like Credly facilitate their universality across industries.

Participants earn points for various activities and achievements, which you specify both in terms of the goals and also the number earned. You can then also define Ranks, how you progress overall as a result of earning these points, and that can be reflected through a Leaderboard, showcasing the core motivation context.

With these types of technology foundations the question about and process of forming an ‘ecosystem’ is examined through asking about how academic institutions and commercial organizations want to interact, notably in areas such as ‘recognizing’ the credentials of others in the ecosystem.

For example employment roles that require a very specific, up to date course qualification, such as ones related to operating the latest machinery, or the prerequisite high school grades for access to a university course.

Endorsements 2.0

In Endorsements 2.0Taking Open Badges and E-Credentials to the Next Level, the author explores exactly this challenge, looking at how a student uses their HIPAA certifications and as a way of explaining the The Open Badge specification, and its purpose to provide this type of assurance network.

So in addition to the document integrity aspect, there is also there is a broader conversation about shared curriculum and opportunities for new models of learning in general, which can be conceptualized through ideas about how Digital Badges can underpin transformed approaches and a collaborating ecosystem.

Educause Review covers some examples of universities now blending digital badge schemes into their awards programs, and the World of Learning blog writes about that second perspective of cultivating a surrounding vibrant ecosystem, utilizing and enabling uptake of the badging systems.

In their review of Open Badges the The Chartered Institute for IT concluded they represented the Future of Professional Development:

“Without doubt, digital badging represents the way forward for the recognition of skills in the same way as a CV does today.

and that –

However, the lack of a common skills definition framework will lead to challenges with being able to compare achievement across badge issuing organisations. A competency framework such as SFIAplus could be of significant value to digital badging going forward.

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