From education to employment

OpenLearn awards its 250,000th digital badge

OpenLearn, the Open University’s free learning platform awarded its 250,000th free ‘digital badge’ to learners this week, a recognition of professional development and commitment to studies.

The badges, launched in 2015, are one of a kind – the first Open Educational Resource (OERs) with digital recognition. There are now 80 free badged courses on OpenLearn, covering subjects as diverse as forensic psychology and effective communication in the workplace. After completing all sections of the courses and passing quizzes, learner’s badges are publicly visible from their OpenLearn profile and can be shared through LinkedIn and other eportfolio platforms.

The beginning of the pandemic in 2020 saw a huge rise in users of OpenLearn and in the number of badges being awarded, as many people made use of their time to upskill, reskill and retrain – or just explore their love of learning. The 12 months from March 2020 saw more than 110,000 badges issued and daily visitors to the site as much as quadruple as learners sought out free learning.

A selection of the OU’s free employability courses on OpenLearn were among those selected by the UK Government to support furloughed workers, through schemes such as the DfE’s free digital and numeracy training tools and Scotland’s My World of Work, and continue to be championed still today.

Dr Patrina Law, Head of OpenLearn at the Open University, explained how the world of education is changing more widely:

“This week sees us reaching the remarkable milestone of having issued our 250 thousandth digital badge via OpenLearn badged courses.

“The world of education is constantly evolving, and the trend of bite-size learning has evolved to meet the fast-paced, on-the-go nature of modern life, allowing learners to fit studies around busy schedules. Digital badging is a technology that has emerged alongside this trend and is having a significant impact on education.

“As digital representations of skills or achievements earned by learners, they are becoming increasingly popular as a way for learners to demonstrate skills and knowledge to employers or other organizations. The Open University, through OpenLearn, has pioneered this technology in education, issuing digital badges via free courses, worldwide.”

Patrina added:

“As we consider this achievement ourselves, we are minded to reflect on the body of learners worldwide who have benefited from this technology and this approach that serves a broad audience.

“From the OU’s own students to learners in or out of employment seeking to improve their prospects, young and old, and to forced migrants taking advantage of this digital, verifiable form of educational endorsement will travel with them on their journeys through life and employment.”

Ahead of the upcoming Learning at Work Week, of which OpenLearn is a partner, it will be hosting a free lunch and learn webinar to help explain the benefits of digital badges to businesses and their employers, on Tuesday 9 May. You can also read Dr Patrina Law’s article on ‘How to make the best of your digital badge’ on OpenLearn.

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