SSSC Open Badges
Towards the end of February I spoke to Keith Quinn, Learning & Development Manager (Digital Learning) and Rob Stewart, Learning and Development Adviser at the Scottish Social Services Council offices in Dundee.
More than 200,000 people work in social services across Scotland; the workforce includes social care workers, social workers, social work students and early years workers. SSSC are responsible for registering the workforce, making sure that they meet the standards set out in the SSSC Codes of Practice. As part of its support for the professional development of the social services workforce SSSC has developed the SSSC Open Badges website.
Currently 107 different badges are available through the platform. The underlying pedagogic model is based on using badges to recognise situated learning. Badges are awarded for reflecting and acting on learning not simply for attendance or participation. Assessment and verification of reflective activity is carried out by employers, line managers and sometimes by SSSC staff. Social care organisations can register with the system and are allocated a unique code. Learners can then submit the code for their particular employment and will be assessed by someone with knowledge of their context. This decentralisation allows the system to operate at scale, SSSC sample to ensure consistency of standards.
One of the challenges for SSSC is developing a culture in which online learning is seen as engaging and relevant. They are aware that many learners identify online with tick box approaches and so in developing the use of badges that recognise reflection and reward active engagement they are ‘trying to break what’s in people’s heads about just clicking …’. They have deliberately avoided quiz-based assessment. In part this is a challenge about changing perceptions, however, it is also about supporting learners to develop their skills. Support is offered for reflective writing but learning can also be evidenced in other forms, for example using video. The learning and development team are also actively engaged in supporting and modeling good practice in digital learning design.
Organisations can use the SSSC platform to badge their learning materials. Currently ten are doing so and the figure is likely to rise to around fifty in the next twelve months. To date 830 badges have been awarded and the number is rising rapidly.
If you have an interest in professional development and in the use of micro credentials for professional learning I’d strongly recommend browsing the SSSC site. The short video explaining what digital badges are and can do is particularly good.
Pete Cannell for the OEPS team