Open Accreditation

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From the Open Education Primer:

"Degrees are a statement of quality and a commentary on competence. The person hiring you doesn’t have to know your teacher or what kind of person you are. Instead, they just have to trust the system and the institution that grants the degree. While this scales up nicely it doesn’t necessarily mean that you can be a useful contributor to society.

Open accreditation is the recognition of the interplay between formal and informal learning. The recognition of informal learning is already embedded within the post-secondary institions of several provinces in Canada through prior learning assessment and recognition programs. This is a process that helps adults demonstrate and obtrain recognition for learning they have acquired outside of a formal educational setting. Open accreditation merely takes the idea to its logical conclusion.

“Let’s say you’re active on Twitter and Facebook and eventually a group of people get to know you even though you aren’t necessarily an expert, don’t have a degree, you’re actively engaged in it, you’re talking about it, you’re writing about it. After a period of time you become an informal expert on those areas,” says Siemens.

Of course, you don’t have to be active in Twitter and Facebook to develop your reputation. Instead, you merely have be participating in any shared public social space. Degrees are recognition of what you did five-to-ten years ago, but your reputation is a recognition of what you’ve actually done and what you’re doing right now.

“Look at programmers. Tons of people who have constructed influential programs didn’t get a degree in programming. They’re producing something of value, people use it and it makes a difference. Their competence is determined by your reputation in that community,” says Siemens.

This is a bit out there. Of all the open education principles this one is the furthest away from the mainstream. Institutions aren’t going to be rushing to scrap one of their most important metrics in how they receive funding. Businesses expect them and society at large probably isn’t ready for it. However, we have to start having these conversations in order to progress." (


Jenny Hughes outlines the characteristic features of such a system:

"Reliability- it should be based on an assessment process that yields the same results irrespective of who is conducting it or the environmental conditions under which it is taking place.

Validity- Face validity implies a match between what is being assessed or tested and how that is being done. Content validity means that what you are testing is actually relevant, meaningful and appropriate and there is a match between what the learner is setting out to do and what is being assessed.

Replicablity- Ideally an assessment should be carried out and documented in a way which is transparent and which allows the assessment to be replicated by others to achieve the same outcomes.

Transferability- Although each assessment should be designed around a particular piece of learning, a good assessment system is one which could be adapted for similar situations or could be extended easily to new activities.

Credibility- People actually have to believe in your assessment! It needs to be authentic, honest, transparent and ethical.

Practicality- This means simply that however sophisticated and technically sound the assessment is, if it takes too much of people’s time or costs too much or is cumbersome to use or the products are inappropriate then it is not a good assessment system!

Comparability- Although an assessment system should be customized to meet the needs of particular learning events, a good assessment system should also take into account the wider assessment ‘environment’ in which the learning is located." (


Summary of the debate around the idea here at

For an Open Achievement API

Here’s a quote by David Wiley:

“Maybe instead of hacking WordPress, we should be hacking degrees. Anyone up for a completely informal, completely open, homemade certificate-style diploma? A handful of courses offered by all of us - take intro open ed from me, connectivism from George and Stephen, media studies from Brian (you know you’ve always wished he would teach it), and then complete three cumulative edupunk projects under the tutelage of the Reverend, D’Arcy, and Tony.

Open accreditation may be much closer than we think. We just need to continue to find creative ways to hack our courses into the existing university systems around the globe. At the same time, we need to establish a recognizable brand name for the collection of courses we would offer, so that folks will have heard of them. Until then, we’ll have to ride the strength of our names.”

One of the interesting proposals in this debate comes from Tony Hirst, who proposes a Open Achievements API:

“a far more general “Open Achievements API” might actually be something quite useful. As well as describing formal awards, it could also optionally refer to informal achievements, or “trust measures” such as eBay seller rating, Amazon reviewer rank, World of Warcraft level or Grockit experience points.

In a sense, an Open Achievements API could complement the Google Open Social API with a range of claims a person might choose to make about themself that could be verified to a greater or lesser degree. The Open Achievements API would therefore have to associate with each claimed achievement a “provenance”, that could range from “personal claim” through to some sort of identifier for securing an “official”, SSL transported verification from the body that presumably awarded the claimed achievement (such as a particular formal qualification, for example).

By complementing Open Social, the Open Achievements API would provide a transport mechanism for associating CV information within a particular profile, as well as personal and social information. If it was supported by informal learning environments, such as the School of Everything, OpenLearn, or SocialLearn, it would allow informal learners to badge themselves with a portable record of their learning achievements (much as OU students can do with the Course Profiles Facebook Application).” (

See also David Wiley's

Approaches to Open Credentialing

Open Credentialing Federation

What's an intermediate proposal? Creating an Open Credentialing Federation.

This would start with reputed organizations. It could involved OCW/edX institutions like, Harvard, MIT and UCBerkeley. But it's likely to come from others.

The Federation, which credentialing organizations could join, would establish open standards for various credentials. edX schools offer free completion certificates. But they intend to charge a fee--to fund their non-profit. A similar fee would sustain the non-profit federation, among other revenues.

Smaller name credentialing organizations have an incentive to federate. It's hard to compete with big names. Federating would provide a bigger name, more economic, political and socio-cultural clout. Similar to Tony Hirst's "Open Achievement API", it could offer more granular recognition of competencies as yet another competitive advantage. Diaspora integration would take things even further.

More Information

Detailed treatment in the following article: Peer-To-Peer Recognition of Learning in Open Education