Case Study Talentcampus
Richard van Ommen is director of an independent advising company that connects education, government and businesses in the region of Oss. They help the municipality to make Oss a 'learning city' which will be well prepared for the future. They have a holistic approach in which they work with as many stakeholders as possible in order to support Life Long Learning covering formal education and non-formal and informal learning.
Open Badges are used as a tool to make skills visible and Talentencampus Oss uses Open Badge Factory as their badging solution.
Examples of places where badges are implemented or where they will start using badges are; educations for different 'new' construction jobs (for example making cement floors) in cooperation with VET and business; different associations around the city; different courses, like arts, new languages, etc.; library.
In addition, the company speaks with primary schools on how to use badges to make the transition to secondary school better.
Richard states that badges can democratise learning. He isn't afraid that many different badges will be a problem; a badge has its worth in the context where it is issued. A badge should always be made and issued in tune with the business. The social impact of this badge is personal; it will give the earner more self-confidence and tangible evidence which can be used in job interviews. Whilst not advocating the use of AI in matching people to the labour market, Richard nevertheless feels that digital badges can facilitate skills-based hiring.
Behind every badge they use in Oss is a rubric; you need to know when you will issue the badge. Advice is to make sure that the learning criteria for each badge is well-described. An important factor for success is to create ‘continuous learning lines’; it’s all about learning and developing and linking a badge to this. Everyone has ideas about skills learning and making skills visual; but badges aren’t seen as a possible solution at first. At first they are perceived as an interesting idea, but not as a solution. It’s too new to grasp the whole concept at once.
Richard was in formal education for 35 years. He states that a lot of learning outcomes in formal education are subjective, for example internships. In formal education there is traditionally a lot of resistance to other organisations who give out certificates, however nowadays the formal system sees that they were wrong about their initial impressions about digital credentials. The benefits of giving recognition to micro units of learning are becoming more known, however there is still a contradiction; On the one side is the acknowledgement that formal diplomas no longer suffice, but on the other hand, is the unwillingness to give up issuing formal diplomas. a possible compromise according to Richard is for diploma’s to stay with badges complementing them.
Although the company also works with employers, Richard comments that many employers are only focused on profit and do not have the focus on training their employees well. HR is a lot of administration and not much about learning and development, but that badges may be a way to help change that.
Steps that are important to take are; the recognition of Open Badges by the national government. To grow, digital credentialing needs to come on the political agenda.
Richard hopes that in 5 years there will be an acceptance of badges in society in which education is better aligned. That skills will be better recognised and the labour market will accept the value of some digital badges. He hopes more cities in the Netherlands will cooperate in this, thus also nationally it will become better known.
Richards fear for badges is that commercial organizations will take over and the open learning approach will lose its value. Badges should always be used to activate people to further development. Active projects with badges should work together at a National level.
5 years ago Richard was involved with a project in formal education bridging VET and Higher Education to make learning accessible and to motivate students to learn. He then learned about digital credentials and saw them as the missing link for giving recognition to smaller learning units. He saw that Open Badges could be the solution for many issues being faced.
Richard invested his own company money in the beginning as they believed in the product. He bought a license to issue badges and started with issuing badges for one event. This raised privacy issues and changed to Open Badge Factory platform which is European and in line with privacy in the EU. Although Richard had no clear strategy at the start of his project, Learning City of Oss is now co-financed by the municipality and the province of Brabant. The province is very much interested in scaling the use of open badges to other cities.
Talentencampus worked on creating awareness and an environment of ‘be a part of it or be left out’ and after some time there came acceptance and people came back asking ‘you were telling about badges…
In Retrospect... Lessons learned
At first Richards goals were to change the country, then he thought to change the province, then he started with the city of Oss. Begin small and spread from there.
Believe in it and invest the needed effort. In formal education Richard was very busy with day to day stuff and the must do’s; now he is outside and can help change the formal education to slowly go into a different direction. Badges can help to accelerate the process.
Inform others and expect resistance: organisations need time for acceptance. When an organization starts with something new you have to deal with changing a culture; you need to guide the process until it is implemented. A director can understand the concept of Open Badges, but that alone doesn’t make it work. Each organization needs a tailor-made approach; when an organisation does not have a culture to educate and develop their personnel, it takes more time to implement badges then an organisation that already has this structure of learning and developing and only has to get used to the digital badge.
Start with it in an agile process.
You need ambassadors for your case to keep motivated, make others curious and include them in the movement.