Mozilla Foundation continues to lead the way in developing the infrastructure to support earning and displaying badges. We are likely to see first the wider implementation of badging pilots along with other forms of alternative credentialing. The promise of badges remains great but whether they will be accepted as valid recognition of learning remains to be seen. Thus far, adoption of badge accreditation has been limited and understanding their motivational status for students remains a challenge.
The recent SURF Trend Report identified research that suggests MOOCs can make use of learning analytics to give instructors a better sense of whether learning objectives are being met. However, most informal assessments taking place within MOOCs are arguably optimistic with respect to the efficacy of multiple choice questioning or peer-assessed writing exercises. While learning analytics can be effective they risk providing learners with feedback that is less balanced than a human tutor and thus requires learning to be self regulated (Nicol & Macfarlane-Dick, 2006). One blended approach to integrating is set out in the Innovating Pedagogy report published by The Open University. The key challenge is to ensure that provided support does not overwhelm either student or tutor. Confidence based marking (which integrates game mechanics) and the OpenMentor assistance system (which provides benchmarks for feedback) illustrate ways in which assessment is becoming more formative, and shaping the learning process.
It remains to be seen whether approaches like these will be adopted by MOOC platforms but there is some evidence to suggest that they are increasingly seeking to embrace formal assessment through partnership with examination bodies for assessment or through remote monitoring which enforces exam conditions. At present, there may be reason to think that existing assessment within MOOC is suboptimal. According to a report in the Chronicle of Higher Education many students are using plagiarism to get through assessments in their MOOC rather than using them for evaluating their own learning or to self-motivate. This appears to be the case even when there are no credits associated with passing although in Brazil possession of MOOC certificates of participation have been shown to have value on the job market (Inamorato dos Santos, 2011).
The Phonar and PicBod open courses in Photography at Coventry University offer a different perspective on assessment. All class content is licensed CC-BY-SA and this enables opportunity for collaborative learning, repurposing, building narratives and understanding, and having feedback in the open from both tutors and peers. The courses have been popular, with many thousands of students. The organisers have indicated a willingness to participate in OERRH research and although future activities have yet to be agreed it is likely that it will be possible to get some data from students on these courses.
Next steps for OER Research Hub will include further desk research into badging as well as inviting Doug Belshaw, Badges and Skills Lead at Mozilla Foundation, to write a guest blog post on motivating informal learners through soft accreditation following his OER13 keynote presentation. A question on motivation for OER study use is included in the our survey bank, and may yield insights into learner motivation.