"Accreditation is formal certification by a third party or intermediary (institution, community of practice, guild, etc.). Accreditation implies that the receiver meets the standard of the accreditor."
In this section we will begin to think about the idea of open accreditation; what happens if a learner wants to prove, or evidence, what they know or have learned in an open education context? How can they gain a culturally valued credential that will be of practical use in the job market, or for entry to further or higher education for example?
Begin by reading the Friesen & Wihak (2013) and Schmidt et al (2009) papers. These will form the main basis for this resource and, although they are not necessarily about Open Badges per se, they provide a useful backdrop to the debate around badges and accreditation. The two papers take very different stances on the solution to the accreditation problem:
The disaggregation of education
Notice that Schmidt et al (2009) discuss a future where the "core services of the university might evolve as independent elements in an open education ecosystem" (p 6). The first, open content, has been around for over a decade (in the form of OERs and OCW); the second open access (to tutor and peer support) is arguably achieved via MOOCs; leaving open accreditation as the final unsolved component. D'Arcy Norman expands on this idea, calling open accreditation "the elephant in the room":
An aside on open access (further reading):
In case you are interested, the following articles discuss issues around 'open access' in education. Butin discusses the impoverished interaction provided by some of the commercial MOOC providers and makes suggestions for how this could be improved, whilst Knox considers the notion of 'open processes' and a more critical consideration of the interaction between technology, society and education.
Breaking the accreditation monopoly
Where Friesen and Wihak (2013) see the social capital invested in university degrees as stemming from "economies of scarcity", others - particularly with the advent of Mozilla's Open Badges initiative - have characterised this as an accreditation monopoly. Audrey Watters (2011) points out that Mozilla's 'open' platform "has the potential to challenge those who've long controlled what constitutes accreditation and certification." Indeed, in an interview with the New York Times, Erin Knight, the Mozilla Foundation's senior director of learning, positions Mozilla's Open Badges' as a challenge to the accreditation monopoly, echoing Mozilla Firefox's challenge to Microsoft's browser monopoly:
“the browser was the first example where there was a monopoly and we decided to provide an open-source alternative.” A system whereby only accredited colleges can offer valuable degrees, she says, is a “shared monopoly across education, where you have to go down a very prescribed path to get learning that quote-unquote counts. We want to open that up.”
The key readings are:
Questions for reflection