Drumbeat/p2pu/Assessment and Accreditation/Project Background

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P2PU/Mozilla Open Accreditation Project


Open accreditation, loosely defined, refers to the option of obtaining publicly viewable, third-party-certified evidence of having acquired certain types of skills and expertise without depending wholly (or perhaps even in part) on the formal educational system. There are several drivers for our interest in an open accreditation system:

  • The existing accreditation system for higher education, which is mostly funneled through formal educational establishments (though increasingly, also through for-profit and virtual institutions), frequently does not result in a good professional fit between employers and employees.
  • Existing systems of accreditation are very expensive.
  • Existing systems of accreditation are difficult to audit, and difficult to evolve quickly as needs change and better assessment models emerge.
  • Ownership of educational data currently resides with the accrediting institutions, rather than with the learner, limiting possible pathways to educational attainment and disempowering people from taking control of their own learning needs.

The growth of the Internet and new models for peer learning offer the opportunity to construct and evaluate new systems of "open accreditation," which may help to resolve the challenges listed above. Specifically, Peer to Peer University (P2PU), an online community of open study groups for short university-level courses, and Mozilla, a non-profit organization that promotes openness, innovation, and opportunity on the Internet, are working together to evaluate and pilot possible options for open accreditation. A pilot project has already begun, focused on Open Web Skills, which include competencies of special interest to the open-source Mozilla community, and which is being taught through the P2PU platform.

Tentative work phases

  1. There is currently considerable interest in these ideas, especially with the upsurge in education and training demand due to the economic depression and changing jobs landscape. It is our desire to network broadly in this work, but that poses some challenges of its own, especially around nuances of terminology, regional or cultural differences, and different motivations. For example, the following terms overlap substantially (and have been used semi-interchangeably already) yet can also drive quite different lines of thinking: accreditation, badges, competency, reputation, portfolios, validation, credits, degrees, certification, endorsement, assessment, etc. It's not necessary that we all come to some agreement on precisely what these terms mean, and how they factor into the emerging (Web-enabled) educational ecosystem, but individual projects and pursuits will have to concerns themselves with definitions.
  2. In collaboration with existing communities of practice, we plan to research alternative accreditation options, including possible existing model (or anti-model) systems in and out of formal education, competencies and metrics of interest (via authentic assessment), plans of action for adoption and endorsement, and suitable early-adopter disciplines and communities. This work will inform the choices made for the Open Web Skills pilot, and the courses in P2PU will inform the field. We will ground this work by building off a map of open web competencies built around web standards and those skills that are in high demand by industry, which is being developed by the Mozilla Foundation in collaboration with Opera and others.
  3. The Open Web Skills pilot has already begun, but future iterations will be more fully ensconced in a research framework (see item 4 below). Indeed, P2PU, and this pilot project, represents an extraordinary opportunity to test our thinking in the real world. We are also planning to reach out to potential endorsing agencies; for the sake of the Open Web Skills pilot, we will be focused on employers of people with accredited open web skills.
  4. A major benefit of open accreditation is the potential to capture data from the (formative) evaluation process which can inform us as to the validity and reliability of different types of assessments for different needs. In this manner, authentic assessments can be developed and implemented in appropriate courses such that competency-based open accreditations fall out naturally from the course structures. It is our contention that some subset of the suite of evaluations oriented towards open accreditation is likely to be superior to existing accreditation processes, especially for open web skills. The prior work is intended to set the stage for both focused discussions on further developing the Open Web Skills course in P2PU, as well as broader discussions around open accreditation generally.

Blog postings on these topics

More musings on the challenges we face