Digital credentialing and its potential impact on HED is being keenly observed by those of us providing badged courses in support of employability and learner skills. The work that IMS is leading looks set to join up a wide range of international initiatives and hopefully provide a much-needed framework for digital badging.
Historically, traditional educational models have placed great value on the educational process: quality faculty, great students, a strong curriculum, and excellent facilities often characterize this process model. Increasingly, however, emerging educational models focus on the results of the educational process in the form of demonstrated competencies and seek to express those competencies in the form of digital credentials.
IMS Global members, leaders in innovative educational models, are working collaboratively to understand and drive the latest trends via the IMS Learning Impact program, established in 2007. Progressive educational technology solutions developed within the initiatives noted here and in future digital credentialing projects will enable programs to assess and award credentials beyond the traditional transcript. Such credentials enable institutions and learners to differentiate themselves in an increasingly competitive world.
IMS + Open Badges = the IMS Digital Credentialing Initiative
The IMS Digital Credentialing initiative heralds a new phase in IMS Global's continuing commitment to enabling open architectures that simplify the adoption of innovative educational models. IMS Global has been working together with the Mozilla Foundation and Collective Shift/LRNG to help ensure the sustainability of the future Open Badges ecosystem. Effective January 2017, IMS Global will assume responsibility for the continuing evolution of the Open Badges specification. Read the press release and Open Badges transition FAQ.
As the world's leading educational technology standards body, IMS Global is uniquely positioned to guide the evolution of the Open Badges specification. IMS Global is committed to furthering the adoption, integration, and transferability of learners' digital credentials within and across institutions, alternative educational opportunities, and employment centers. Digital credentials have the power to change the way we think about and represent learning, experiences, achievements, skills, and competencies. Consequently, by expanding the scalability, adoption, and intrinsic value of digital credentials like Open Badges, IMS is helping to strengthen an ever-growing ecosystem.
The Open Badges working group will be guided by strategies developed by the Open Badges executive board comprised of IMS members who are key stakeholders in the ecosystem: badge issuing and display platform suppliers, educational institutions from K-20, and non-traditional educational opportunity-providers. Public community contributions, an important part of Open Badges development, will continue to have a voice through the Open Badges community council.
Conformance certification is an essential aspect of a successful technical specification. To achieve portability and transferability, issuing platforms must scrupulously adhere to the standards' requirements. Ensuring the Open Badges platform issues a certified compliant badge is critical to ensuring the learners' control over their digital credentials.
Two complementary digital credentialing projects are also underway: the IMS eT project which makes use of the Open Badges standard as key component of its technical underpinning to represent a CBE-capable academic transcript; and the Open Badges Extensions for Education (OBEE) which augments the existing Open Badges metadata with important accreditation and assessment information, to help employers and others better understand what was required to earn a badge.
Additional future projects under consideration by the executive board will include Caliper for Open Badges. Providing actionable data about Open Badges in use has the potential to provide transformational insights into the ecosystem, and guidance for institutions, badges issuers and employers alike. IMS Global believes the Open Badges standard will form the basis for 21st century digital credentials.
IMS is a contributing member of the Credential Transparency Initiative
Open Badge Extensions for Education (OBEE)
The Open Badges Extensions for Education (OBEE) initiative is aimed at advancing understanding and adoption of Open Badges in the education sector through demonstration projects and pilots. The charter of the task force is to identify, define, and develop the framework, common language, and supporting interoperability specifications necessary to clearly transmit the meaning and value of post-secondary digital credentials to the employment community.
The overarching strategy for this effort is to work within the existing framework offered by Open Badges specification and use the "extension" capability which is designed to support exploration and evolution. Therefore this effort is creating new and innovative components for the Open Badges specification.
In 2016 the group’s work has centered around exploring how the addition of “Issuer Accreditation” and “Assessment” extensions to the Open Badges specification might help communicate the rigor with which badge earners’ activities were scrutinized before a decision was made by the badge issuer to award the badge. The Issuer Accreditation extension will provide a reference to a single or multiple accreditation bodies that certifies the badge issuer. The Assessment extension will provide information about single or multiple assessments that are required as part of the badge issuance process.
While work is underway with Credly and Badgr to implement a prototype of these recommended OBEE extensions, in parallel the task force is working on a research project, to work with employers on understanding more about the potential value of badges to communicate badge earners’ skills as well as identifying where there are gaps that OBEE extensions might fill. Data from this research is expected to be available in early 2017. The team is hoping both to validate the current approach as well as get guidance from employers on next steps for the OBEE work.
Our teams consist of a variety of post-secondary institutions, platform providers, researchers, subject matter experts, and employers—all of whom are interested and committed to the evolution and use of digital credentials and the final specification will be added to the IMS list of certified product specifications, to help the Open Badges project meet its long term credential transferability and portability goals.
Building a CBE-Aware Ecosystem
Along with a vibrant consortium of education institutions and forward-leaning suppliers, IMS is taking the lead in this effort with its Competency-Based Education working group. Together with members of the Competency-Based Education Network (CBEN), we are designing a CBE-aware ecosystem that leverages the technical groundwork of Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI). The IMS Competency-Based Education LTI standards will provide integration services that support the unique characteristics of CBE, enhancing the capabilities of the existing education enterprises designed around courses and credit hours.
CBE programs share many common characteristics focusing on learner outcomes, but the programs are not monolithic nor "cookie cutter," and technology solutions for CBE have been slow to emerge. To quick start a program of solutions, IMS and C-BEN joined in the Technical Interoperability Pilot (TIP) project and undertook five solution use cases that represent common issues supporting CBE. The goal of the project is to quickly identify essential data attributes that are shared among the diversity of programs and to develop requirements for expanding on LTI. The five solution use cases are:
1. Manage Competencies - provide the ability to manage competencies in an integrated database with a unique identifier and version control, where competencies are related to courses where appropriate.
2. Evaluation Results - the ability to transmit competency evaluation scores from an LMS to SIS or system of record so results can be reported on a CBE-based transcript.
3. Program Information - create an interoperability standard for extracting CBE program data to a financial aid system or service that supports self-paced programs, also known as a non-term calendar.
4. Measures of Interaction - use Caliper Analytics to capture points of student and faculty interaction for subsequent aggregation into an enterprise data repository.
5. CBE eTranscript Publishing - develop a prototype for a comprehensive student record, and pilot eT, a digitally signed, web-based CBE transcript which can be viewed and securely shared by the learner with employers and others.