Digital badging at The Open University: recognition for informal learning

Law, Patrina and Law, Andrew (2014). Digital badging at The Open University: recognition for informal learning. In: The Open and Flexible Higher Education Conference 2014: 'New Technologies and the Future of Teaching and Learning ', 23-24 Oct 2014, Krakow, Poland.



Awarding badges to recognise achievement is not a new development. Digital badging now offers new ways to recognise learning and motivate learners, providing evidence of skills and achievements in a variety of formal and informal settings. Badged Open Courses (BOCs) were piloted in various forms by the Open University (OU) in 2013 to provide a digital acknowledgement for learners’ participation in three entry level, unsupported courses: Learning to Learn and Succeed with Maths Parts 1 and 2.

The desire to build on the OU’s badging pilots is informed by research (Perryman et al., 2013; Law et al., 2013) into the motivations and demographic profiles of learners using the free educational resources which The OU makes available through its OpenLearn platform. This research activity was repeated in 2014 and found that an increasing proportion of informal learners are keen to have their informal learning achievements recognised.

This paper outlines how the evaluation of the 2013 pilots has informed the development of a suite of free employability and skills BOCs in 2014 that are assessed through the deployment of Moodle quizzes. It also discusses why the University sees the growth in free, ‘soft’ accreditation to be of strategic importance against a backdrop of MOOC providers issuing certification for fee. The BOC project, which aligns with the University’s Journeys from Informal to Formal Learning strategy, will help to provide accessible routes into the University for students who might not otherwise have the opportunity to participate and supports The OU Charter to promote the educational well-being of the community.

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