SCORM in a TinCan?

In a previous post on The Experience API I gave my overview perspective on the work that is occurring in that project as it moves towards standardisation. A couple of issues were left hanging so this post will follow up on those…

There seems to be some confusion regarding SCORM and the xAPI. It has been suggested in various places that “Tin Can” or The Experience API (xAPI) is a replacement for SCORM. This is not actually true from the discussions, evidence and information that I have seen. The xAPI replaces one part of SCORM, the tracking function, and depending on implementation can both externalise it from specific applications (LMSs for instance) and also enable it to be used in many new contexts.

I recently read a post by Kris Rockwell which I found very interesting. It provided an innovative example of using the xAPI to track activity when an RFID chip is scanned.  The first part of the post again seemed to suggest that the xAPI is a complete replacement for SCORM (maybe I have just misread the intention…) which is not the case. It is better by far than previous tracking offered in SCORM which Kris points out very clearly, but there are other aspects of SCORM that are not addressed at all by the xAPI.

As the acronym suggests, the Sharable Content Object Reference Model (SCORM) originated mainly from the need to shift content objects from one application (normally an LMS) to another without redoing the content. The xAPI does not address content interoperability at all, so that requirement remains, or must be reframed for a full solution to be enabled. There are various approaches for the content piece and while it was functional in the past, my least favourite approach is that of shifting packaged content from one location to the next. It no longer suits many scenarios. If one has to withstand audits against what content was delivered to a particular group of learners and how they performed afterwards to substantiate the validity of a training activity in a legal forum, then packages of content might be perfectly reasonable. In most other situations that type of audit is never performed and more flexible content models are of higher value. In addition, packaged content does not support interoperability from a content lifecycle perspective, only from a publishing perspective.

In the past, it has been difficult to align more flexible content models with tracking. There have been some stellar examples of what can be done but they have not gained sufficient traction in the market. The xAPI could be a solution for tracking in content models for single source publishing, for instance. In that context the alignment of single source publishing with tracking would enable content to be delivered to any device or application and still be tracked consistently. Something that has not been easily possible previously although a very innovative platform called “Inetoo” achieved it using Connexions XML and a front end client. Inetoo provided rich analytic data that responds to many of the needs of learning communities.

Another point that was raised by Kris and then is more thoroughly dealt with by Eric J Fox is that of the validity of the data being tracked and its relative significance. This is an issue that has been shared by more than just these two bloggers. There is no need for me to make further comment because Fox’s post deals with “Self-Report vs Automatic Recording” and the issue that “Correlation does not equal Causation” more than adequately. Instead I will add my vote to their comments and pick up a different issue.

As mentioned in my first post on The Experience API, flexibility can compromise interoperability. The reason is because you structure your own “records statements” to suit your own requirements to track what a learner has done. The flexibility means the xAPI can be used very broadly but the choice of one organisation or community to structure their statements potentially differently to any other may result in a lack of shareability or reusability of that data across different applications, communities or platforms. This is not new to the domain of metadata where many different schemes exist. If we consider that a learning record produced using xAPI is metadata about a learner’s activity in the context of a particular community, it is easier to take a metadata view towards supporting interoperability of the resultant data across applications and communities.

As an architect, this is most critical in the design phase. When you understand what communities, applications and platforms may need to work with learner record interoperability you can design an implementation that will take that into account from the beginning. That approach will become increasingly important as we move towards adaptive learning, “big data” and learning analytics.


Several benefits and issues have been raised with the xAPI. While a number of people have pointed to possible points of failure or difficulties with xAPI, all have nonetheless advocated the value and the importance of this work. I add my voice to theirs and look forward to the new things, new learning models, new platforms and capabilities that will evolve based on the capabilities that are realised with the xAPI. The xAPI is not intended to be a 1:1 replacement for SCORM but it does remove many of the barriers that previously made SCORM that bit more difficult in the wider context.

The Experience API

The Experience API that forms part of the ADL Training and Learning Architecture was a project that emerged from the ADL Workshop held in Pensacola in October of 2008. The theme was to define SCORM 2.0 and attendance at the workshop was preceded by nearly 100 papers on that subject contributed from people around the globe. The original project name was The Tin Can API. This project, in the tradition of ADL, identified existing relevant work rather than starting anew. As a result, they built on the existing work of Activity Streams.

In a nutshell, the Experience API provides a method to record the activities of a user and store them in a Learning Record Store. In basic terms, this replaces the SCORM action of page and assessment tracking and has the potential to externalise that function from applications like the Learning Management System (LMS). This is particularly useful because any user activity that can be logged, can be sent in the form of a “record” of that activity and stored in any application that fulfils the requirements of a Learning Record Store. Equally, any other application within a learning platform can easily access that data. Something that was very difficult in the past.

It also has the potential to resolve a number of other issues that had been problematic in SCORM, but rather than repeat the very good and simple explanations here, please see the materials on the Tin Can API and Experience API sites provided earlier.

While it is still early days in relation to the work and examples available from implementing the Experience API, or xAPI as it is becoming known, there is a great deal of promise. There will also, however, be some careful thinking required around the implementation. xAPI is very flexible. The problem with flexibility is that it requires more thought and planning than something that is locked down. Anything that is not locked down can ultimately can have an impact on interoperability.

This is no different to what has been experienced in the past with metadata schemes and interoperability. In fact, it is useful to consider the “learning records” as metadata about activities connected to a learner in the context of a particular community. This perspective may assist in planning implementation and also highlight considerations concerning interoperability across communities, if that were important. I’ll try to say a bit more about that in a subsequent post.

For anyone interested in adaptive learning models (there are several approaches) and interested in designing and building modular and flexible learning platforms, the xAPI work is certainly worth investigating.

#CFHE12 Week 3: Commerce, Collaboration and Disintermediation

The Underlying Theme

The content collection for Week 3 was very thought provoking in a variety of ways. While the obvious overtone was that of renewed investment into educational innovation by venture capital sources, the undertone was really about sorting out the difference that would make to the status quo. Again, everywhere you find the theme of change cropping up outside of education it is because the general idea is that education is ripe for disruption. Inside, of course, it is certainly not generally agreed, but this is a pattern we have seen in music, newspapers, publishing and retail in the recent past, so no real surprise there. At a glance, it seems that education has enough in its favour to stay mostly in tact but a more sustained inquiry does not necessarily arrive at the same conclusion.

So far it seems that almost all of the big name consulting companies have tabled reports about the requirement to change higher education. In Australia in 2011 Ernst & Young released their Higher Education and the power of choice report under the general banner of “University of the Future”. Many of the same issues are cited in that report as have been elsewhere. At the same time, the emphasis of the report still seems to assume less disrupted models for higher education than are really possible. There are also some glaring omissions and some factors are inappropriately de-emphasised but that may be more of a viewpoint issue.

Given that one of the pressures generally accepted is a shift towards private enterprise taking a bigger share of the education dollar, the big questions for me are:

What is the most disruptive change that could impact higher education?

Are all of the companies funded by venture capital necessarily disruptive?

What creative models may increase the relevance of higher education even, if the role changes?

Things that didn’t change higher education

In the past there have been many technology and content initiatives that have changed some part of higher education, however, they have not disrupted it. The incursion of technology such as Learning Management Systems changed the way universities did things, but they were never regarded as a threat. Many technological developments have been created from a sustaining innovation perspective to support the current models. Open content in all its forms (OER; courses; etc) have also been more of a blessing to higher education than a threat. The current hype about MOOCs is like an amalgam of open content and technology with a free delivery system. Again, this on its own is not likely to disrupt higher education.

So what then could shift the balance of power? The thing that students need most from higher education is, as John Seely Brown called it, “the tradable token”. The accreditation that some level of appropriate knowledge, and hopefully capability, has been achieved that has prepared them for the workforce. While higher education may reject this utilitarian aspect of their mission, consider what might happen if that tradable token (or collection of them) could be sourced from elsewhere?

Already there are many individuals that have become a part of the workforce as the result of industry/vendor certification. So, what is the value of a degree? Why not just collect enough “badges” and ignore higher education.

The value of a degree

The biggest value of a higher education degree is its focus on graduates that are well-rounded, creative thinkers that are ready to take a broader role in society and their various jobs and in their ability to adapt to unknown futures (see the review of Bowden and Marton, University of Learning – or better, read the book!). Currently, there is no “badging scheme” that includes these facets holistically. In the different roles in which I personally have employed people, I have always sought to employ team players who may not necessarily be the prima donna performer but have the ability to adapt to unknown futures. These are the virtues espoused by many higher education institutions. So are universities untouchable?

Collaborate or be disintermediated

In short, no they are not. Just because badging schemes and alternative accreditation providers have not yet focused on the range of ‘soft skills’ and holistic knowledge needed to ’round out’ individuals, does not mean that they will not in the future. This is the one area that can shift the balance between universities and private enterprise. That, and the acceptance of employers of the alternative accreditation scheme. There is a difference between being a computer science graduate and then being employed as a system administrator compared to someone that has only done a vendor’s certification. The breadth of knowledge, experience, critical and creative thinking that comes with a degree is of significant value both employer and employee.

If however, alternative accreditation schemes started to include certification that contributed to ‘well roundedness’ then the position of universities could shifted, along with their relevance. It is important to remember that in this model badges are unlikely to come from a single provider and that certification may not  come from the provider of learning. Learners may source the learning experiences from open courses, open resources or other training providers and then be certified by an accepted private certification organisation. (There is a large discussion around the role of competency-based learning in this model, but that will be left for another [too long] post.)

Competitive strategy to disruptive innovation

Christensen et al make the important point that traditional incumbents are not likely to compete successfully against disruptive innovations. The logic for that statement is compelling and logically sound so I will not re-iterate but rather recommend reading some of Christensen’s work. The optimal strategy to combat disruption is to establish a subsidiary competitor that can compete with the business model and ethos as the disruptor. In a local context in Australia the easiest success to point towards is that of Qantas and Jetstar. Faced with low cost airlines, Qantas created Jetstar to compete on the same terms. This has been very successful. Qantas’s struggle for profitability is in the international space in which Jetstar only partially competes and the international carriers have some different characteristics.

The lesson here is that maybe higher education needs identify if and when a viable alternative accreditation scheme appears and develop something more like a “Qantas/Jetstar” approach. (It is important to note the characteristics of disruptive innovation during such an evaluation.) That may also require collaboration with higher education competitors and with alternative providers of content, open courses, alternative accreditation schemes and testing/assessment centres, some of which will be private enterprise providers.

National Competitiveness

There is another factor that give higher education a different edge in the competitive stakes. It is in the national interest for higher education to persist in a way that builds and sustains national competitiveness. (Not that it looks that way given some government behaviours…) That means that where some businesses may fail earlier, there will be a sustainability effort that preserves the status quo longer than would otherwise be the case. This is also evident from the resistance to regulatory change and funding models for higher education. Again, these are set to maintain the current state.

When considering national competitiveness, however, it is important to note the criteria that are important. It is about having the right knowledge and skills in the workforce for any nation to compete successfully on a global stage. Those skill sets are not uniform. They vary according to the national assets, priorities and capabilities. Given that focus, if private enterprise and alternative accreditation systems are able to better align with that agenda then we may see change and disruption occur a great deal more quickly.


Higher education is not likely to go away any time soon just the same as other disrupted businesses have not necessarily gone away. We still have a music industry. There are areas in which newspapers and publishing that are still competing effectively, and retail probably will not go totally online for the foreseeable future. The roles and dominance in each of those areas has changed significantly, however, and it remains to be seen what the new role of higher education will be in the post-disrupted state. It would appear likely higher education will be forced into different collaborative models with private enterprise. A range of new business will grow around that disruption and some existing businesses in the ecosystem will experience greater growth. So far that has been the observable trend in such disruptions.

Again, it should be emphasised, as has been done in previous posts, that none of this is really new, “it is just not very evenly distributed” and that the disruption comes from the “evening out”, not some technological wizardry or as yet unseen invention.



Why #CFHE12 is not a MOOC!

As you can imagine, writing this with the awareness that it may be read by even a few people in the Siemens, Downes, Cormier MOOC, The Current/Future State of Higher Education is a bit more like skating on thin ice than I care to think about. More importantly, the purpose is not to question the value of MOOCs or Connectivism or the course creators. This is about understanding [my own] learning in the context of MOOCs relying on some consideration of accepted practice in relation to higher education courses, and then comparing these inputs with the experience so far in undertaking #CFHE12. From there I hope to gain further understanding into what contributes to effectiveness in a MOOC and how they may become a useful and accepted part of the future of education.

The Premise and Origin of MOOCs
George Siemens in his interview with Howard Rheingold makes many points that are interesting in terms of the origin of MOOCs, the learning theory embedded within them, the technologies, interactions etc, and even alludes to how they may be sustainable in current higher education models. The most important aspect for this post concerns the idea that MOOCs are essentially an “amplification” of the course being experienced by the enrolled students in a class and that this can occur at “little or no increase in cost”, provided of course, the labour intensive activities such as tutoring, assessment marking etc are not made available to non-enrolled learners.

This means that since the MOOC is simply an “opening up” of the course, the course itself should be mostly the same for non-enrolled learners that will not be assessed or credited as enrolled students. The sustainability of this type of cMOOC is made possible because delivery of the course is effectively paid for by the enrolled students. (This is a different financial model to xMOOCs.) In return for “subsidising” the non-enrolled learners, the enrolled students receive the full support entitlements, will have their assessment works graded and will receive credit. (These factors point to the potential for value-added (or Freemium) models for higher education courses.) The enrolled students also get access to a large and experienced knowledge network from which they can crowd source information and compare their own understanding. Since that aspect actually works both ways, it is a very useful win-win scenario.

It’s not about “Massive”
“Massive” is a relative term. A course that is highly specialised and/or at an advanced level may be described as massive with a few hundred students whereas a foundational course at first year level may not be considered as massive until it includes tens of thousands of students. In either case, however, the hype about “massive” emanated from the “opening up” of the course and the potential it represents for non-consumers of education, not the actual numbers themselves. While course numberers are relevant in addressing the inability of our current education models to scale (see reports at UNESCO UIS, OECD), the attribute of massiveness is not the greatest value of a MOOC. Of course, having said that, one of the values espoused in connectivist (and connectionist) approaches is that the size of the network of people involved will, up to a point, have an impact on the variety of knowledge sources, and therefore, network value.

What is a Course?
There is no doubt that #CFHE12 is both Open and Online but is it a course? In higher education there are accepted requirements for a unit of study to be accepted as a course or subject for credit towards an award. I randomly selected some examples of information that conform to University Guidelines for Program Approval with the only selection criteria being an education course that is local and one that is at Athabasca University, for obvious reasons. (TCHE2112 Orientation to Teaching at RMIT; and, MDDE601 Introduction to Distance Education and Training from Athabasca University)

Courses are required not only provide the general course information but also information on the objectives (goals), learning outcomes, learning activities, resources and assessment. (The formal versions of these actually become a legally binding contract between provider and student.) Good course outline documentation assists learners in managing their learning and in understanding the relationship between the learning and the assessment. The Centre for the Study of Higher Education at the University of Melbourne provides Core principles of effective assessment and points out the benefits to learning that can be achieved through well structured assessment.

While there is no assessment component to #CFHE12 for non-enrolled learners, the absence of the framework for learning that is normally associated with a course does [in my experience] negatively impact learning. I accept that the “Learning Activities” are one way in which learning is assisted but they are different. They would most likely not constitute the same form of assessment tasks undertaken by enrolled students.

A more direct criticism of #CFHE12 would be that the “Learning Outcomes” are not all learning outcomes. They are a mixture of activity description or syllabus and outcomes statements. This together with an absence of assessment information makes it difficult to understand from a personal perspective whether one actually is likely to have achieved the course objectives/outcomes.

It’s not about Connectivism!
Before I get the flood of an email from the person who may have read this… The criticisms above are not from a lack of understanding of the way cMOOCs are intended to work, or the opportunity to “find our path through the chaos” as we proceed to acquire new knowledge. My key point is that the way this MOOC is structured, it could not be regarded as an authentic course by higher education standards and approval requirements. If MOOCs are not authentic then they cannot be regarded as a viable replacement for traditional online courses. In a sustainable model for MOOCs (or any other form of open education) it would be expected that while the opportunity to undertake an authentic learning activity may be free, the things that incur costs at a ‘per student’ level will be offered as value-added services, and this should be the only difference. This approach is clearly stated in the commercial or xMOOC business models. Notwithstanding any of that, the primary requirement should be around an authentic substitute for a course.

The enrolled students vs the non-enrolled learners
Given the situation described above, and that it is assumed that the enrolled students will be doing assessments, it would be interesting to know the nature and structure of those assessment tasks. On balance, the non-enrolled learners would have to treat this MOOC as a crowd sourced research activity rather than a “course”. That does not detract from the substantial value of interacting and learning in #CFHE12 but it does, at least in my mind, assist in defining the difference between those types of activities. On that basis, I would have to say that #CFHE12 is not a MOOC (course) for non-enrolled learners.

Of course, I may have all of this completely wrong and would welcome criticism and feedback.

There are also some definite implications for the future higher education and its structure and organisation if MOOCs or similar open education approaches were to be incorporated into the normal operations of institutions.

#CFHE12 – Some highlights from Week 1

Working out how to drink from the fire hydrant is probably the most important skill for a cMOOC. But then, that is the way of the web… You can’t engage with all of it, so you have to find the best way to discover and engage with the things that advance your personal journey. In that context, I have found it difficult to connect with many of the points of view. On the one hand this is good because it makes me question why the connection is not established and if that points to some deficiency in my own concepts. On the other hand, it does less to advance the thoughts in what I have already decided is important. Those being the key factors highlighted in my previous post, and more importantly, considering both the ecosystem view and the pressures for change as a whole rather than the likelihood of any one of them being the sole driver of change.

Below are listed some of the contributions I have enjoyed the most, so far…

1. Scott Studham’s “My thoughts on MOOCs”

Overall Scott’s messages tended to resonate well with my own thinking. (That may be bad news for him!) The rethinking of the roles of teacher and learner and the pathways to knowledge acquisition were expressed in ways that I found interesting, especially in the context of the post as a whole.

His best insights for me were:

“In the wake of recent news regarding low cost certification and credit options associated with MOOCs, it is clear that faculty individually need to reconsider how they utilize their time with students, and institutions needs to consider the value proposition of a residential campus experience.”

“[The educator will]… be willing to be a facilitator and participant, rather than the center of focus in the classroom.”

“Graduates must be able to assimilate vast amounts of knowledge, and apply that knowledge in a way that will allow them to to work on jobs that they were never trained to work on.” (This is very consistent with earlier research by Howard Gardiner, John Seely-Broan, Ference Marton, Dolence and Norris, etc)

“MOOCs pressure higher ed in significant ways.  The extraordinarily rapid development of low-cost proctored exams and credit acceptance calls for institutional response.  Students who demonstrate knowledge competency–no matter where they picked up the knowledge–will receive credit for it.  Students will have access to individualized learning paths and differential tuition options.  How will we respond?”

2. Bryan Alexander’s “Back in the MOOChouse” was a really good perspective overall and as “Brainysmurf” commented, a good description of what is like to learn in constructivist MOOCs.

3. RJHogue’s “Ease-of-use and usefulness as Measures of Attrition in MOOCs” raises some good points. So far the insertion of D2L into the cMOOC space has not provided a productive outcome. This is not a negative comment on D2L as an LMS platform, but this exercise seems to me to be an action research project on the part of D2L so that they can build their own MOOC platform in the future. Unfortunately, we are the guinea pigs in this (if that is what is happening) and that is not a positive experience as a learner. The LMS platform was found to be a distraction by Siemens in previous cMOOCs when using Moodle, so why now use D2L when it is not specifically built for this type of learning model. A bit annoyed at that…

There has been a lot of useful general discussion and the Diigo group has a great links, but these were a few of the ones that stood out for me so far. I still have to catch up with the recorded webinars, so they are next on my list. it will be interesting to see what impact the expected attrition will have the ability of the stayers to keep going with the flood and how much of the dialogue will keep the objectives of the MOOC in focus. I guess that also depends on how you interpret them, and I am thinking about that more broadly myself.

“Where to next?” we may ask…

#CFHE12 – Establishing the Baseline…

*(This is not a normal post. It is long and is a personal collection of the baseline issues)

There were many reasons to join the Current/Future State of Higher Education MOOC. While I have been following the development of the ‘MOOC’ (as cMOOC) from its origin in connectivist learning theory, for a host of reasons I had not joined one until now. With much of what is happening, this is now central in my daily work concerning transformation across education sectors.

If one has an involvement in educational technology at all, it is almost impossible not to be confronted by the debates raging as to whether MOOCs are a fad or if they will fundamentally change education. The fact that there is debate about that topic probably means the answer is already “yes” and it’s purely a matter of scale. While some investors have big bets on the survival of xMOOC-based businesses that will not make their revenues directly from learning, one would have to say that the jury is going to be ‘out’ for some time on xMOOC’s in general.

In the context of the journey of this course, I thought I would collect some thoughts to act as some form of personal reference point for the ways in which my own thoughts, opinions and knowledge will change between now and whenever ‘then’ might be. So, here are some basic inputs, some of which are evident in various ways in the readings for the first week and others that will no doubt come later.

1. The role of technology in transformation
There is so much being said about the technology piece related to MOOCs that I thought it useful to reground myself in this. For the most part, technology itself does not transform anything. It is probably best regarded as neutral and a catalyst. Genuine transformation is stems from what we actually do with the technology. We know that can be either positive or negative depending on your stakeholder view and whether it actually changes ‘your behaviour’ in enough people to make a difference. There will be more about technology later so for now, it is suffice to say that changes in the methodology of learning change learning, it is not changed by the technology itself. This is not to undervalue the enormous capabilities afforded by Information and Communication Technologies but just to recognise their role more correctly.

2. Pressures to transform
In all the arguments people make about whether some new technology will change education, the one argument I cannot recall hearing is that education is in a perfect state and it should be preserved. The current arguments emanate from a variety of stakeholder views from which the incumbents may be comfortable with more or less change, or from different types of change, but there seems to be an overwhelming case for change. Given that, I am also reminded of the words by Dolence and Norris (1995) that encourage us to understand the difference between change and transformation. The pressures to transform are already well documented but in short can be listed as: (a) an inability to scale education to meet global demand; (b) education is too expensive; c) emerging models for accreditation will displace current models; (d) dissatisfaction with the majority of current institutions has increased sufficiently for alternatives to be both viable and attractive; (e) the proportion of non-consumers ready to engage with [inferior?] alternatives is sufficiently high to propose a disruptive threat of economic significance.

3. Learners are the key to change
While a lot of warm and fuzzy statements are made about student-centricity and the importance of students in the mix of education, I am not convinced that the actions play out in accordance with the “intentions”. The trends I am noticing most right now place a different perspective on the way I see learners (they are only students when they are engaged in an education sector, and students is a subset of learners) selecting where and how they will learn. I also see these perspectives first hand in myself, as well as through behaviours that are more broadly expressed. It is not what one would call hard-core, empirical evidence, but then, I have not found that anyone has researched this to any great extent. Some of things that are quite noticeable are:

a) learners rejecting the concept of paying for content (viz. the growing preference and proliferation for OER rather than commercial content, and MOOCs themselves as a logical extension of that)

b) learners (and students) are increasingly less inclined to pay for seat-time because it does not inherently provide value, but would rather pay for the ‘tradable token’ (refer to Seely Brown, Duguid, et al) that has value in the marketplace (this needs to be balanced by the elite university case for “the experience”, which has validity)

c) learners needs and behaviours are significantly impacted by their geographic location so we should not consider them globally as “the same”

d) if learners, students and the job-market begin to find acceptable alternatives to university accreditation, then the current position and role of universities will change

4. The problem with isolating problems
One of the most significant difficulties in interpreting the current state and/or “predicting” the future of higher education is that we tend to isolate problems and deal with them individually rather than taking a more holistic or ecosystem-based view. Many of the arguments are concerned with the potential of MOOCs to replace our current [higher] education sector. On this basis it is relatively easy to create sufficient doubt that the status quo is under threat at all and that everything will just go back to normal when the fad dies down. If one considers the current pressures in total rather than individually, however, both the status quo and the projected future may be be seen to fit more comfortably within a spectrum that varies from modest to extreme change, all of which are to some extent plausible. So if we add collect the “pressures to transform” together, along with others identified along the way, then we will more realistically determine not only the current state but also have a clearer picture on what things are likely to trend and what those trends will be.

5. Not much is new, but the distribution is beginning to even out
This is a reference, of course, to Gibson’s now famous, “the future is already here; it’s just not very evenly distributed”. (I continually appreciate the insight Gibson shared so well with all of us.) So… free content is not new and free courses are not new (viz. OER initiatives in their different flavours including OCW; wiki-types; OpenLearn; etc). Alternative accreditation, certification and badges are not new (vendor certifications; professional certifications; etc). The external source of accreditation authority is not new (professional associations actually determine the validity of a certification not higher education itself; Nursing boards; other medical “college” certifications; engineers; accounting etc). Private providers of education taking business from all eduction sectors is not new (private tutoring; for-profit universities; registered training organisations; etc). Importantly, the flow is not all in one direction either, because universities providing corporate education programs as part of wider degree programs is also not new.

Many other elements we are considering are not actually new, but what is new is the alignment and the “evening out” or distribution of some of the things that have been done in the past. One could argue that maybe this is the secret to the future of universities and the long awaited alignment of certification and qualification (university degrees) may actually become a reality as a form of universities striving to make themselves more relevant to the future. In that model, what would be the difference between a collection of badges and a degree? How should universities recognise and extend on badges rather than fight against them? Most importantly, how will universities develop sustainability as the present versions of the future become more evenly distributed?

6. Indicators of transformation (not change or innovation)
There is a difference between change, innovation and actual transformation. They are interrelated but not the same. The question is, how will you know if something is actually transformative rather than innovative or just changing? As for the interrelationship, transformation requires incremental change because you can’t do it overnight, but unless you have a vision of what the transformation will be, change may take you in no particular direction or even tear away at the strategic objectives of transformation. Still, the question remains, how do we know it when we see it?

Having been interested in educational transformation for some time, I developed my own set of indicators. It will be very interesting if these stay the same by the time we get to the end of the discussions in this MOOC. In my current thinking, the indicators of transformational objectives are:

a) Does the “business model” of education change?
We currently operate on a “seat-time” model (funding in most educational systems and sectors is aligned to students in seats per unit time). Most corporate training operates on that model as well, so education sector is not alone in that one! Breaking this out-dated approach is the most essential step in achieving transformation because it opens the potential for recognition and accreditation to align to different principles. We can stop forcing students to “learn” what they already know. We can effectively recognise informal and prior learning because we release the dependence on the financial imperative of seat time. Through this, the shift to assessment and accreditation will take dominance over staged sages, and a vast scope of alternative learning opportunities will come more clearly into focus (like MOOCs and OERs and just the learning we do every day).

b) Does the system for measuring attainment change?
If the role of assessment and accreditation is going to somehow take precedence over content dissemination in classrooms (physical or virtual), which is a natural consequence of open courses and open education, then how do the current education sectors deal with that as a form of recognition of prior learning (RPL), include recognition of informal learning (RIL) and provide the required credibility in the metrics for assessment and accreditation? In my thinking so far the only viable metric becomes a focus on some sort of capability (competency) framework. It does not matter if one calls it competence, capability, or ties a closer relationship to outcomes or whatever term is acceptable to a particular sector, the principle is the same. You have to somehow measure that an applicant for your accreditation of badge or degree, has achieved the criteria your organisation has specified, and can actually *do* what is required. This again changes many things in our current models. If I publish the criteria for granting my award to the standard applicable to my organisation and you pay me a fee for that assessment, do I care where or how you learned? This approach, again, is not new. I can remember having these discussions in the late nineties with people like James J O’Donnell (at Penn in those days), Jerry Maddox from Penn State (two of the first people ever to do web-based courses), and Mike Zastrocky of Gartner Group. We agreed that this was somehow inevitable in the future, with the caveat that the elite universities globally would probably not accept that change and would still remain viable. Strangely, it is the elite universities who choose to educate the world but not give accreditation to learners that are not their own students that is actually forcing some of this change into the higher education sector. More on this issue is bound to come up during the MOOC.

c) Does the transformed state of the organisation engage in free learning
A logical extension of a) and b) above is the shift to free courses and free resources. The most likely model has already been alluded to by the xMOOCs where they may be able to give the courses away for free but may also consider fees for value-added services (amongst other things). Nonetheless, the model really only plays through well if the reliance on simple revenue from “taught courses” is broken. This does not mean that such things play no part in the transformed organisation, only that it is no longer the primary source of revenue (or funding, as the case may be).

d) Is there an emphasis on more creative learning activities and greater empowerment of the learner?
For many years the call to be “the guide on the side” rather than “the sage on the stage” has been made. While our current institutional models do not prevent this from occurring they certainly do not encourage it. In the new context, however, where the local “teacher” is somewhat overshadowed by students’ opportunities to learn with the best minds in the world or the resources upon which they themselves have created (eg MIT OCW as but one example) the “sageness” of the local teacher is somewhat diminished. What then, is the role of the local “teacher”. Necessarily it switches to someone that can guide the less experienced minds to find their own understanding and knowledge (and in constructivist theory, build their own personal learning environments and knowledge networks) around the subject matter.

As learning progresses in this MOOC, it will be interesting to see what criteria I am able to add, remove or refine in Point 6 above…

The perspectives above not comprehensive, nor are they detailed. As the journey through CFHE12 continues these will be refined as part of, or as a result of, the personal learning that takes place.


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