EDEN, the European Distance and E-learning network, is hosting the European Distance Learning Week (EDLW) for the third time in cooperation with the United States Distance Learning Association (USDLA). The week supports and gives access to daily online webinars and panel sessions with expert scholars and practitioners on open educational research and online learning topics.
In the context of recognition and validation of skills and competences, the line between non-formal and formal education is becoming very thin, as education has enlarged to encompass many different aspects. Is this the dawn of a new era for education? This is one question that EDEN attempts to answer through its webinar on informal learning, non-formal learning and micro-credentials, new forms of small certified experiences, competences and skills which have been acquired through practical experiences rather than through the traditional higher education path.
In recent years many projects to develop validation and recognition of competences from virtual, non-formal an informal learning have seen the light. One of them is ReOPEN, the Recognition of Valid and Open Learning which aims to create tools to help recognise prior and non-formal learning through designing platforms for non-formal open learning curriculum (e.g. MOOC) development with learning validation and recognition instruments in place, such as learner credentials, digital badges, learning path recognition and assessment tools.
For instance, digital badges are gaining traction in education, when a learner can earn badges in different settings such as a university classroom, participating in a MOOC or a training course provided by a professional organisation. In theory, digital badges can enable learners to enhance their lifelong learning competences and help them to increase their chances of entering the labour market.
However, one of the main issues regarding digital credentials is the limited output and access to underlying information or lack of technical standards for credential information. As Ildiko Mazar, Research & Development Associate from the Knowledge Innovation Centre explains in the webinar, a typical candidate spends 3-4 hours researching and writing an application while 72% of employers spend less than 15 minutes reviewing one application, leaving the question of whether credentials are useful in today’s selection process.
SOLIDAR Foundation supports the promotion of national recognition and validation of non-formal and informal education for all to help integrate newcomers through skills and competences acquired in a lifelong learning framework. However, to lead this in a productive way requires connecting employers, learners and institutions, giving new forms of credentials their value to allow all participants to collaborate based on real-world information and a minimal administrative burden on both sides.