MOOCs, SPOCs, Badges, and Blockchains: Highlights from EAIE 2018

The European Association for International Education (EAIE) Conference was held in Geneva, Switzerland from September 11-14. Our Senior Director of Evaluations, Margaret Wenger, attended and we asked her to tell us about the conference.

MOOCs and SPOCs

Two sessions on Thursday morning at the EAIE conference gave an interesting glimpse into the future of documents and credentials in international education.  The session “From MOOCs to more: recognition and access to higher education” addressed ways in which massive open online courses (MOOCs) and small private online courses (SPOCs) can broaden access to higher education for some underrepresented populations like refugees; another perspective was given by a credential evaluator who has worked on developing best practices for evaluating non-formal and non-traditional credentials. 

Models were shared by Bas Wegewijs, the presenter from NUFFIC, as ways to recognize open learning, including the “traffic light model” and criteria for evaluation of MOOCs. Recommendations included balancing the added value of assessing a MOOC against the time needed, and making an inventory of trustworthy providers and high quality MOOCs. 

The other presenter, Hannes Niedermeier, representing Kiron Open Higher Education, described how his organization employs MOOCs and SPOCs to help prepare refugees for traditional higher education programs. This preparation includes assessment of skills and prior education, an online study phase of foundation modules and subject-specific modules based on the assessment, and eventually application to a HEI leading to an academic degree. The three phases are named “Orientation,” “Study,” and “Transfer.” The presenter also described their quality assurance process through which they build trust in their programs, as well as partnerships they’ve developed.

The session concluded with five case studies the participants were asked to work through, involving different scenarios of applicants with open online course work. 

Digital Student Data

Following that session was one entitled, “How digital student data drives recognition (and the other way around)”. One of the presenters gave background information on how the issue of digital student data (DSD) has been addressed at EAIE, and eventually developed into the Groningen Declaration Network (GDN). Several ways in which the GDN furthers recognition are by eliciting demonstrations by DSD depositories, bringing in open badges and microcredentials, and by exploring blockchain. Signatories engage in pilots and share the results, and GDN stakeholders involve international organizations such as the European Commission, International Associations of Universities, UNESCO, and others. 

Different models for sharing DSD were described, including depositories such as the Norwegian Diploma Registry, badges, and microcredentials, and a look into the future of combining the functionality of open badges with the security of blockchain. "refugees face challenges such as... a lack of access to documentation or other confirmation of qualifications, while needing mobility and portability."

Next, a representative from NOKUT in Norway described their efforts in developing the EQPR – European Qualifications Passport for Refugees. Many refugees face challenges such as unfinished qualifications and a lack of access to documentation or other confirmation of qualifications, while needing mobility and portability. The process for obtaining the EQPR was described - it includes a combination of assessment of available documentation, analysis of the qualification, and a structured interview. The outcome is an advisory statement which can be used for employment, further education, and other purposes. 

Development of the EQPR is in its second stage, which involves input from the Council of Europe, and support from the UNHCR and other organizations. The plan is to incorporate digital solutions. 

The third presenter described the Erasmus+ DigiRec project. The project, led by the president of the ENIC bureau, the president of the Lisbon Recognition Convention Committee, EMREX, and the executive director of the GDN, led to a white paper on the link between recognition and the use of electronic student data. Among the findings were that the majority of paper-based ENIC-NARIC offices are attempting to digitize, and a few of the centers are issuing digital evaluations, using various technologies such as secure PDFs and blockchain.  

The session ended with several possible scenarios resulting from the move to electronic student data. One of the scenarios was the possibility that electronic student data drives credential evaluation out of business because of automatic recognition built in to the process. Another scenario was that electronic student data drives recognition (and the other way around); the final scenario was that electronic student data drives credential evaluators crazy! Most of the attendees hopefully agreed that the second scenario is the most likely. 

Margaret Wenger is Senior Director of Evaluation. She has been with ECE since 1990. She is a member of the Standards Committee of the Association for International Credential Evaluation Professionals (TAICEP), and is the TAICEP representative on the Groningen Declaration Network Task Force on Verification Policies and Best Practices.

 

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