The idea of Open Badges in the context of continuing medical education first occurred to me during a project meeting where I am a consultant responsible for developing an eLearning module in Articulate Storyline. The LMS that is being used by the organization is dated, such that it only allows me to send a pass/fail message, and no other learning analytics. As a result, we decided that hosting our own solution made sense. Then we discussed the idea of using email as a way to track learner success and a collection of other learning analytics. One big advantage to not using the LMS is that the learning material could then be placed on a public Internet site – available to anyone who wanted to take it, not just those who were part of the organization. The manual issuing of certificates of completion based upon the received email message works for the organization itself, but it doesn’t work for anyone who is taking the course from outside of the organization – that is when it occurred to me that this would be an ideal application for digital badges. A week later, my thoughts on this were confirmed when Mehta et al (2013) talked about Open Badges in the article “Just Imagine: New Paradigms for Medical Education” which was published in the October issue of Academic Medicine.
In Canada in the 90s medical education began the move to a competency-based curriculum through the creation of the CanMEDS Project (Frank and Danoff, 2007). In recent years, there has been a push to create more self-paced eLearning curriculum to support the development of learner competencies that align with the various roles in the CanMEDS curriculum framework. Further, the rhetoric around eLearning in Canadian Universities emphasizes a desire to make the content sharable, in order for the various eLearning projects to have a larger impact. With the desire to make eLearning accessible to anyone, comes a desire by the learners to earn credit or recognition for having completed the eLearning modules. Some form of recognition or evidence of competency is needed for practicing physicians, residents, and medical students, who are required by either the Royal College or their university to meet specific education requirements. I propose that open digital badges in conjunction with open access to eLearning modules could provide an efficient and effective way for Universities to share their eLearning curriculum while allowing learners from anywhere, not just the host university, to have their learning recognized.
To gain a deeper appreciation for Open Badges, I am taking the MOOC titled “Badges: New Currency for Professional Credentials” hosted by WCET, Mozilla, Blackboard, and Sage Road Solutions. Although the course is almost officially completed, they have designed the course to allow learners to start at anytime and work through the content at their own pace. As an added touch, you can earn badges for completing each of the course challenges. You can access the course for free from: https://badges.coursesites.com/. I hope that as I work through the course material and challenges, that I see a clearer path to implementation of Open Badges for one of my ongoing eLearning development projects.