Open Badges Learner Story | Acting to Improve

For week 2 of our Semester of Learning at P2PU we are looking at Learner Stories – imagined examples of how our learners might benefit from our use of the Open Badges scheme.

I’m interested in the scheme mainly from the point of view of learners participating in my on line Classroom Displays Training course. I introduced the course to meet the practical needs of teaching assistants who find themselves needing to improve their display skills. This has now expanded to also help librarians, NQTs, returning teachers and overseas teachers who want fresh ideas.

The main product is a portfolio of displays they have created that demonstrate the display theories and techniques learned during the course. This is not an accredited course and that is deliberate on my part. I wanted to cover a range of useful and practical skills that people actually need in the workplace and using a loose framework work to the current needs of the learner. Answering the question “What is the next thing need to learn?” rather than meeting pre-ordained performance criteria. Each learner can work at their own level and go as deeply into the topics as their interest (and current need) takes them.

Aside -Do you sense the frustration of the NVQ tutor here? You should!

As it is an on line course they may have learned a range of other skills that are not shown by the portfolio.

They may also learn

  • To use email effectively for learning and reflection
  • To manage their on line learning
  • To use digital cameras to document their learning
  • To use Flickr and other photo sharing sites to store their portfolio of work electronically
  • To use sites like the Classroom Displays Flickr Group as an archive of ideas to build on.
  • To use a forum, an email group, a blog and blog comments, or other online interactions to discuss and reflect on what they are learning.
  • To work collaboratively online to improve each other’s ideas for displays.

I can see that some of these could be covered by the use of the Open Badges scheme. I am going to try to explore this further with a Learner Story. This is totally fictional, a thought exercise.

Paulo – a fictional learner’s story

Paulo ( Image leads to photo source – openmatt blog “badges in the real world”)

  • Paulo is 28 and came to the UK 10 years ago
  • English is his second language and has already achieved Level 2 English at his local college.
  • He has been a stay at home dad for the last 3 years
  • He likes technology and computers and has used a single dad’s forum for support while he was at home.
  • He enjoys taking photos with his phone
  • He recently got a job as a teaching assistant in a local primary school
  • He likes working with the children but he is really unsure about how to tackle classroom displays.
  • He is going to do his Level 2 Supporting Teaching and Learning next year but that says very little about displays and he needs practical help now.

How Will Open Badges Help Paulo?

Paulo talks to his line manager and tells her he wants to sign up for the Classroom Displays course. As it is inexpensive the school agrees to refund him the fee.

Open badges help Paulo because:

  • He can collect badges for completing tasks and reflections within the displays course
  • He can also quickly achieve badges that give credit for his current technology skills
  • He can get further badges for improving those skills
  • He can get acknowledgement and a badge from his peers for his reflections
  • Through the process of peer review and assessment, giving and receiving badges, he can gain confidence and improve his self esteem as a learner.
  • He can gain proof of valuable transferable skills .

Paulo adds his badges to a Linked-in profile and to his Blogspot photography blog.


Initially the course and the badges help Paulo feel more confident about his role in school. He starts to look for more opportunities to use his technology skills and continues to collect badges via relevant courses on the P2PU.

Eventually he starts to look beyond the teaching assistant role as his life circumstances change. The badges show the skills Paulo has acquired since his formal education. Skills achieved both through work and  through his informal personal learning. These hard and soft skills are difficult to capture in a traditional CV. This could open new employment opportunities, encourage him into higher level formal education or give him the confidence to set up his own business.

Reflecting on the Learner Story

I had a couple of ‘aha’ moments when I read through what I’d written. My first thought was uncertainty about the application of the badges to the main topic of the course. I usually issue a certificate of participation to learners who complete the course tasks. It details the modules covered in the course. Not everyone who takes the course actually wants one. Some teachers in particular are just taking the course for their own reasons and do not feel the need to document their learning in that way. However, learners like Paulo, whose schools are funding the course, do need proof that they have participated. So my first question is:

Would it be possible for the Open Badges to replace my (very informal) certificate?

I am hopeful that this might be the case.

My second ‘aha’ moment came when I was looking at the incidental learning outcomes of the course. This reminded me of the dreaded end of year self-assessment units and in particular the ‘graduate skills‘ section of my degree. (note to self – remember to move all this to my own hosting soon!) It would have been so much easier to collect badges as I went along to evidence my learning of technology skills. For me they became the most interesting and worthwhile parts of the degree. Blogging, wikis, on-line courses all became major areas of interest for me and eventually part of my income stream but they were never regarded as very important by the people in charge.

That phrase sparked the next ‘aha’ moment. Badges put learners ‘in charge’ of their own learning and that is exactly what I think most learners on my course need.

I have minor qualms about a couple of aspects of the scheme.

The first is mercenary but still important to me. I need to be paid for my time facilitating courses. If my learners drift off into P2PU where does that leave me?

My second  worry is will UK employers actually see the worth and point of badges? There will be questions about rigour especially for peer awarded badges. Might they go the way of ‘continuing education credits’, which used to be, and I think sometimes still are, given for attendance at CPD courses?

Phew – this post is far longer than I intended but worthwhile I think. Good to exercise the little grey cells occasionally!

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