I just had a very interesting conversation with Danny King, CEO of the open learning recognition platform, Accredible. This young startup company aims to provide a new way for people to get credentials for their open, online learning, by providing tools to enable certification for successful performance in MOOC assessments, as well as a platform for MOOC learners to showcase their open learning achievements to potential employers or education institutions.
Danny’s ambition is that credentials for higher education should ultimately be fundamentally transformed so that the credential itself contains evidence of the learner’s abilities, rather than simply relying on the brand name of the university for credibility. This is technically feasible now, and we are already seeing the idea being implemented in the form of online badges (such as via the Mozilla Backpack Open Badges initiative); however, these initiatives provide a relatively low level of formal recognition in comparison to diploma and degree certificates.
One of the key obstacles to be overcome when credentialing online learners is providing assessment that is robust enough to assure potential future employers/ education institutions that the candidate did not cheat. To this end, the student’s identity needs to be verified, and there needs to be some form of supervision during the assessment. Identity verification can be done using Coursera’s Signature Track technology, and companies such as ProctorU offer real-time monitoring of students taking assessments via web-cams. However, these services come at a cost – for Signature Track it is between 30 and 100 USD per course, and online proctoring costs more.
Accredible is planning to offer an alternative method called ‘self-proctoring’. The idea is that an open learner could choose to do an exam any time that suits them. Upon starting the exam, a recording of the student’s screen and face would be activated. At the end of the exam, the recording would be summarised into a 2-minute time lapse video, which would be embedded in the certificate awarded. The cost is likely to be around $5 per certificate. This would offer students flexibility (they don’t have to do the exam in real-time) as well as affordability, while the time-lapse video would provide direct evidence of how the student behaved during the exam to anyone who views the certificate. Of course this system is not as watertight as an onsite exam, but it provides a level of rigour in assessment that may well be sufficient for many employers and education institutions. I’m looking forward to seeing self-proctoring launched.
My discussion with Danny King was held as part of the OpenCred study, which I am working on with colleagues at Leicester’s Institute for Learning Innovation, for the EU Joint Research Council’s Institute for Prospective Technological Studies (IPTS) OpenEdu project. This blog post reflects my personal views, and not those of IPTS.