Blog Archives

Open badges – new developments

I attended the mini conference ‘Open Badges: what, why and how’ at the University of Dundee on 19th June.  Dundee is working with the Universities of Abertay and Aberdeen, under the aegis of the QAA Scotland Transitions Enhancement Theme, to explore the use of Open Badges.  The focus of the project is on transitions from university to employment and the use of badges to recognise employability skills through extra- and co-curricular activity.  The University of Abertay already has some really interesting experience of using this approach with their LLB students. The conference also included presentations from Grainne Hamilton on her work at Digital Me and Doug Belshaw who looked at the future of Open Badges in a talk titled ‘Open Badges in Higher Education: 2.0 infinity and beyond!’.


Doug Belshaw speaking at Dundee Conference, image by Pete Cannell, CC0

Still on the theme of transitions the Open University’s suite of Badged Open Courses (BOCS) on OpenLearn.  There are now seventeen available.  The majority are concerned with supporting transitions from informal to formal learning.  However, the latest addition to the collection is ‘Succeeding in postgraduate study’ aimed at supporting the transition from undergraduate to postgraduate study. Whilst this free, openly licensed course was written by the OU, it will be of interest to colleagues across Scottish higher education and applicable to any student making the transition to postgraduate study in Scotland. The selection of Badged Open Courses on OpenLearn Create also continues to grow, including the OEPS collection.

Pete Cannell


Caring Counts in the Workplace launch, Glasgow: 8 June 2015

by Beck Pitt and Caroline Anderson (OEPS project)

Beck, Bea and Caroline were at Citizen M, Glasgow on Monday for the The Open University (OU) in Scotland’s symposium to launch Caring Counts in the Workplace, an exciting new open educational resource (OER) to enable managers to support carers in balancing their caring and work roles. Nicely timed at the beginning of Carers Week and also in the year that Carers Scotland celebrates its 50th anniversary, the day brought together carers, support workers and employers to learn about the new course, find out more about how it was developed, its benefit to both employer and employee, and its potential for transforming lives. This post aims to act as a snapshot overview of some of the rich and interesting discussion and events from the day.

Caring Counts in the Workplace builds on the success of, and accompanies Caring Counts: a reflection and planning course for carers, which launched in July 2014 and was created in conjunction with 20 carers (“developed with and for carers”). Caring Counts in the Workplace is created for managers and policy makers and developed in collaboration with the Equal Partners in Care (EPiC) project (Scottish Social Services Council and NHS Education for Scotland) and with Carers Scotland, the course is aimed at employers who recognise that fostering an environment where every member of staff feels supported in the workplace is good employment practice, and who understand the benefits of having carer-supportive policies. Both courses provide the opportunity to earn OEPS open badges which demonstrate that you have participated in the course.

James Miller (Director of the OU in Scotland) and Jamie Hepburn (MSP, Minister for Sport, Health Improvement and Mental Health) kicked off proceedings. Jamie Hepburn reiterated the Scottish Government’s commitment to carers and young carers, to supporting them to ensure they have the same opportunities to fulfil their potential, balancing their life goals with caring, and creating carer-friendly communities. The Minister talked about the Carer Positive kite mark, a Scottish Government funded initiative operated by Carers Scotland which currently involves over 50 organisations across Scotland, before congratulating the OU on achieving the first ‘Engaged’ level of the kite mark. The OU is the first of Scotland’s universities to achieve the Carer Positive kite mark, and Tony O’Shea Poon accepted the award on behalf of the Open University. In his thanks Tony highlighted that the rights of the carer must be aligned with the responsibilities of the employer.

Next we heard from Professor Allison Littlejohn (OU) on research highlighting Ten things skilled professional learners do differently before a range of speakers officially launched Caring Counts in the Workplace. During this session we heard from carer Lesley Bryce who talked about her own experiences: from recognising herself as a ‘carer’ to the impact that Caring Counts: a reflection and planning course for carers had on her.  As Lesley has described it elsewhere:

“I think you definitely lose confidence if you have to give up a career, for whatever reason. Reflection helps you realise your potential, which can get lost in your caring role” (p8, Open Pathways to Education).

We also heard how Caring Counts in the Workplace is already having an impact: Seonad Hoy of social housing provider the Wheatley Group reported that 10 managers had already signed up to participate in a pilot of the course whilst ongoing support for carers at the organisation includes events during Carers’ week and flexible working practices. Wheatley Group are also actively working towards progressing to the next level of the Carer Positive Kitemark. The need for employers to support carers in varied ways was also highlighted by Gill Ryan who noted that the Scottish Courts Service provides services such as free Power of Attorney to its employees.

After lunch we heard about the amazing work of the Bridges Programmes which has been supporting refugees and asylum seekers in Glasgow since 2002. Maggie Lennon highlighted the importance of reflection for everyone they support and described the role and impact of the Reflecting on Transitions OER (also carrying OEPS badges) which was developed to enable their clients think about their current situation, previous experiences and think about next steps.

Prior to the plenary session, where we explored next steps and takeaway points, a number of parallel sessions enabled us to explore different initiatives in more depth.  Participants had the opportunity to hear more about the content and structure of the new Caring Counts course, find out more about Carer Positive and the Kitemark and the new Open Pathways to Higher Education which has been designed to help support learners explore OER available on the OU’s OpenLearn platform in a structured way. The session also introduced the idea of Open Learning Champions and supporting others use of OpenLearn materials.

Beck has produced a quick Storify to capture in more depth the speakers’ thoughts and participant contributions and the research team are looking forward to working with Lindsay Hewitt and the Caring Counts team to document the impact of Caring Counts over the coming months. Presentations, photos and more from the day will also be available via the Caring Counts blog shortly and we’ll be adding further resources, blog posts etc. on the event as they go live!


The realities of badging

‘Taking Care of Business’: The Realities of Badging

by John Casey, City of Glasgow College

John Casey facilitates deep discussion in the second badging workshop

John Casey facilitates deep discussion in the second badging workshop

I facilitated 2 workshop sessions on the ‘reality of badging’ as part of the Opening Educational Practices in Scotland Advisory Forum that happened in Edinburgh on Monday 13th October. For those of you who are new to the idea of using digital ‘badges’ to evidence learning, check out the weblinks at the bottom of this post. It was a fascinating day, starting with an overview of the project followed by a keynote ‘big picture’ view of the state of open education by Prof. Martin Weller from the Open University entitled ‘The Battle for Open’. In his talk Martin argued that there were a number of competing narratives at work about the future shape of open education.

A key recurring narrative Martin identified was one aligned with commercial interest that pushed the idea of a ‘crisis’ in our (public) education systems to which the answer was invariably a technical and commercial fix. While stressing that he had no objection to private companies supplying services to the education sector (they always have done), Martin reminded us that the potential global education market was estimated at being many trillions of dollars and it is naïve to think that open education is somehow a ‘commerce free’ zone.

As it happens, Martin’s observation were borne out in some of the discussions about badges, where people in the community education sector had been using commercial badge services (notably and were now coming to think again about the long-term ‘business’ of issuing, earning and using badges – hence the title of this post. In many ways this is a good thing and shows that the use of badges is maturing and moving from a technical innovation at the edges of education to the mainstream.

The second badging workshop

The second badging workshop

Our discussions on badges started with a ‘reality check’ session that asked what the participants knew about badges. Most were already aware but some had not heard of badges before. So, in each session Doug Belshaw of the Mozilla foundation and Fionnuala Carmichael, Manager of JISC RSC Scotland provided a quick overview of badges. In essence badges are a digital format that can record and share people’s learning achievements (in the form of a graphic ‘png’ image file that also has readable information about the learning embedded inside). Badges were originally developed by the American Mozilla charitable foundation and you can find more information at this link

One thing that became clear in the discussion was that take-up, practice and understanding was widely different – natural in such a new development. It was striking that the two main uses of badges was seen in (i) accrediting informal learning such as work experience and so called ‘soft skills’ with a view to entering formal education and (ii) of evidencing professional development. There was little sign of educational institutions planning to use badges in conjunction with their formal certificated offerings, with some participants expressing disquiet at that prospect. In connection with this there followed a discussion about the innate conservatism of our education institutions and the long known problem of getting agreement to the accreditation of prior learning. It is worth recording that a representative of the SQA (Scottish Qualifications Authority) was strongly in favour of FE colleges using badges to ‘enrich’ their formal qualifications and provide additional evidence to employers about a candidate’s skills, experience and employability.

It was suggested that getting institutional professional and educational development units to use badges to accredit their own courses for teachers would be a powerful way of spreading awareness and acceptance of the concept, a participant from Glasgow Caledonian University describing their use of badges and the development of a toolkit. In fact the two main VLEs  (Virtual Learning Environment) platforms in use in Scotland (Moodle and Blackboard) already have badge-making engines built in and ready to go. So, perhaps, the obstacles to this are not technical but rather cultural?

A striking and encouraging example of the use of badges for professional development was described by a participant from Abertay University who was working with the Law Society of Scotland to accredit and accept the use of 4 badges to provide annual mandatory CPD (continuing professional development) courses for lawyers. As with the case of teachers described above, examples of the uses of badges for accrediting professional development in this way can only be a good thing for driving the acceptance, credibility and adoptions of badges in general.

A theme that emerged strongly was how badges (by being linked to individuals, learning, certification and institutions) neatly act as a ‘lightening rod’ to highlight many of the issues facing education and training as we move further into the digital realm. Examples of this were about the long-term ownership and management of the badges, currently the Mozilla Foundation provides a long-term place (called the ‘backpack) where individuals can ‘park’ their badges and manage who can see them. But Doug Belshaw, from Mozilla, observed that the expectation was that institutions and commercial providers would provide their own systems, this led to some discussion about the possibility of Scottish solutions.

Another lightening-rod issue related to the use badges was how they highlight the challenges relating to ‘digital literacy’ at both a personal and institutional level. At its simplest this means how we manage and control our digital ‘stuff’ over a lifetime, something we all struggle to do. On a more personal level is the issue of how we use badges to support and manage our different online ‘personas’ – both professional and personal.

So, to sum up, it looks like badges are here to stay, although there is much more to be done. It was good to see a diverse attendance, especially from the community sector. As these sessions were part of an advisory forum, here are some ‘take-home’ messages for the Opening Educational Practices in Scotland project to think about as it makes plans for the future:

  • It would be useful to provide a library of case studies to help individuals and institutions make sense of badges and see how they might best make use of them – both in ‘plain English’ and in technical terms
  • Develop and provide guidelines for dealing with public bodies and private companies supplying ‘paid for’ services related to badges (including privacy issues)
  • Provide (or link to) toolkits and guidance for adopting badges in different sectors (Schools, FE, HE, Community Education, Commercial and Industrial etc.)
  • An ‘aggregation’ service or ‘index’ that links to the UK and global open education initiatives using badges. This would be useful for newcomers, researchers and practitioners alike to help situate their work with badges in the diverse wider open education context.

Useful links and further information

There is a JISC RSC toolkit on badges and JISC RSC Scotland convenes the Open Badges in Scottish Education Group (OBSEG) with members from schools, further and higher education institutions, educational agencies including the Scottish Qualifications Authority and Education Scotland, professional bodies, employer bodies, national and local government, Open Badge projects such as DigitalMe’s Badge the UK and Mozilla. For more see below:

The Mozilla badges website:

Jisc Badge System Design Toolkit:

JISC Open Badges in Scottish Education Group: 

OEPS advisory forum and project launch

The formal project launch and a keynote by Professor Martin Weller headline the first
OEPS advisory forum meeting on Monday 13th October 2014 in Edinburgh. The aim of the project advisory forum is to create a dialogue between the Opening Educational Practices in Scotland project and key stakeholders in Scotland and beyond.

In addition to Martin Weller’s keynote and the project launch, the programme for the day includes plenaries, a panel session and workshops. The workshops will explore some of the detail of different facets of the project and these will be followed by an interactive session when we will actively seek your ideas, advice and feedback.  The hashtag for this event is #OEPSforum14.

This face to face event is free and includes lunch. You do need to register in advance if you wish to attend.

The programme of the day:

10:00 – 10:15 Welcome by Dr James Miller, Director OU in Scotland
10:15 – 10:30 Formal project launch by Laurence Howells (Chief Executive of the Scottish Funding Council)
10:30 – 11:15 So what is OEPS all about and what is the project going to achieve?
Panel: The OEPS Project Team
11:15 – 11:30 Refreshments
11:30 – 12:15 The Battle for Open by Professor Martin Weller
Institute of Educational Technology, The Open University & ICDE Chair in OER
12:15 – 12:30 Plenary
12:30 – 13:00 Lunch
13:00 – 13:45 Workshops*
  • a. Open educational practices in the workplace
  • b. The OEPS online hub
  • c. Open educational practices in a widening participation context
  • d. The realities of badging
  • e. Informal learning for professional development [cancelled until Spring 2015 Advisory Forum due to illness]
13:45 – 14:30 Workshops repeated*
14:30 – 15:30 Over to you: a highly interactive session to gather your thoughts and seek your advice
15:30 Thank you and Close, Tea/coffee

* You can choose a total of 2 workshops – one in each session

Eventbrite - OEPS Advisory Forum

For more information, contact:
Kate Signorini, Interim OEPS Project Manager
Tel: 0131 549 7162 (internal ext: 71162)
Email: and
Follow us on twitter @OEPScotland



Open Badges at eAssessment Scotland

‘Do open badges count’ is the central question to be explored in a seminar on accreditation in open education given by ALT’s Martin Hawksey at the eAssessment Scotland 2014 conference in September.

The seminar will examine the motivations behind badges and the effects of open badges, such as ‘situational awareness’ and Supporting Personal Knowledge Graphs (Siemens, 2014). Recently the Association for Learning Technology (ALT) has implemented a set of Mozilla Open Badges to accredit learning on its Open Course in Technology Enhanced Learning (ocTEL) by awarding weekly badges for various tasks including ‘checking-in’ and completing some predefined learning activities.

This seminar takes place during the eAssessment Scotland Day Conference on 5th September at the University of Dundee – see eAssessment Scotland 2014 is also offering an online conference from 8th – 12th September

Free online course for carers

Caring Counts is a self-reflection and planning course developed with and for carers. Working with carers and carer’s organisations, The Open University in Scotland has developed a badged free online course to support carers to reflect on their caring journey and identify the skills and abilities they have gained and continue to gain in their caring role.

The course features the stories and experiences of a range of carers from very diverse backgrounds and caring circumstances, who share their lives in text and on film. Users have the option of completing a series of quizzes to gain a digital badge marking their achievement in completing the course.

This course is for carers of any age and at any stage in their life or caring role, it is flexible and adaptable to fit into your training and support programmes.

As well as helping carers recognise and value their skills and experiences and suggest opportunities for learning and other ideas for personal development, the course includes detailed information about career planning for those thinking about employment, or those thinking about returning to work and/or study that they may have had to put on hold.

Learners can gain a Caring Counts digital badge which recognises their learning through completing online quizzes that lead to a digital badge that acknowledges successful course completion. Digital badges are a useful way of demonstrating participation and recognising informal learning.

The OU in Scotland are working with a range of partners at national and local levels to support carers and carers centre staff to make full use of the course as well as to develop professionals’ knowledge and understanding of carers’ experiences.

You are welcome to explore the course and share details about it with others, or talk to the course team about opportunities for training and development and how they might be able to support you to make the best use of this free online resource.

Caring Counts is available at

The Open University supports carers in a range of ways, which you can read about in this leaflet designed for carers – the OU in Scotland are sending copies of this leaflet to carers centres across Scotland.

Strengthening open educational practices in Scotland

The Opening Educational Practices in Scotland (OEPS) project is pleased to welcome you to our blog.  OEPS aims to facilitate best practice in Scottish open education.  It plans to enhance the Scottish tertiary education sector’s capacity and reputation in developing publicly available and licenced online materials, supported by high quality pedagogy and learning technology.

Funded for 3 years by the Scottish Funding Council, this project provides an opportunity for the higher education sector in Scotland to build on its collaborative ethos and establish a support network for best practice and innovation in developing open educational resources (OER).

There is a great deal of activity already going on in Scotland but it is often fragmentary and is not widely recognised or understood.  OEPS plans to build on existing work and resources, acting as a catalyst for developing a strong Scottish identity in Open Educational Practice.  OEPS will contribute to the new QAA Scotland enhancement theme on transitions.  It will also facilitate working across boundaries to develop new forms of engagement between higher education and third sector organisations, unions and employers.

The opportunities opened up by online resources raise important questions of equitable access and social justice, as use and participation is not automatic just because OERs are available.  The open educational practices (OEP) around development, use and reuse of OER can be more important than the content.  Working in partnership with organisations in the workplace and community settings, OERs can be used flexibly to offer new pedagogically sound models of learning and make them more accessible.

High quality online content is necessary but not sufficient for OER to contribute to widening participation. We will focus on practice and how can we make effective use of content, for widening participation, transitions and supporting social and economic priorities.  OEPS will attempt to model the principles embedded in the Open Scotland Declaration, and it also aims to bring communities of practice together.  This means joining learning technologists with widening participation practitioners, linking both to educational developers and all concerned with enhancing student learning.

The project is organised around six themes: widening participation, rural sustainability, transitions, schools, cross sector and economic priorities.  It has eight primary objectives which include sector wide analysis; events (awareness raising); online hub and development test bed for Scottish OER; targeted new or reworked content; quality, accreditation and badging; developing the concept of ‘open’; developing an evidence base and evaluation of economic models.

Work is being initiated across all these themes, including:

  • The creation of a space in OpenLearn Works that will provide a sandbox for development across the sector.
  • Exploration with HEIs and sector wide bodies into developing new materials and practices in the areas of energy, sustainability, marine science, NHS and Social Services.  These discussions are at various stages of maturity but are likely to involve both the creation of targeted content and partnership work to improve take-up of existing content.
  • The launch on June 9th of a new, badged OER for Carers, created in partnership with carers and carers organisations.  This is the first badge carrying the imprint of the OEPS project (it will be available in the early summer).
  • Development of additional material for the Self Directed Support OER[1] produced by the OU with support from the Scottish Government.
  • The launch of a new OER on rural entrepreneurship[2] and plans to pilot approaches to working with SMEs in the Highlands and Islands and South West Scotland.
  • The production of a series of Badged Open Courses (BOCs) on using OER, widening participation and employability which will be available to the HE and FE sectors for use and re-versioning.
  • Production of a scoping report on the state of play with OEP in Scotland.
  • Development over summer 2014 of a series of good practice case studies that will be shared through a variety of media including the OEPS website.

We welcome your comments and contributions to Opening up Educational Practices in Scotland. You can email us at and or join the conversation by responding to this blog.