Tag Archives: competencies

What am I doing here? 2. Open Competencies Network⤴

from @ Sharing and learning

I am continuing my January review of the projects that I am working on with this post about my work on the Open Competencies Network (OCN). OCN is a part of the T3 Network of Networks, which is an initiative of US Chamber of Commerce Foundation aiming to explore “emerging technologies and standards in the talent marketplace to create more equitable and effective learning and career pathways.” Not surprisingly the Open Competencies Network (OCN) focuses on Competencies, but we understand that term broadly, including any “assertions of academic, professional, occupational, vocational and life goals, outcomes … for example knowledge, skills and abilities, capabilities, habits of mind, or habits of practice” (see the OCN competency explainer for more). I see competencies understood in this way as the link between my interests in learning, education, credentials and the world of employment and other activities. This builds on previous projects around Talent Marketplace Signalling, which I also did for the US Chamber of Commerce Foundation.

About the work

The OCN has two working groups: Advancing Open Competencies (AOC), which deals with outreach, community building, policy and governance issues, and the Technical Advisory Workgroup. My focus is on the latter. We have a couple of major technical projects, the Competency Explorer and the Data Ecosystem Standards Mapping (DESM) Tool, both of which probably deserve their own post at some time, but in brief:

Competency Explorer aims to make competency frameworks readily available to humans and machines by developing a membership trust network of open registries each holding one or more competency frameworks and enabling search and retrieval of those frameworks and their competencies from any registry node in the network.

DESM was developed to support data standards organizations—and the platforms and products that use those standards—in mapping, aligning and harmonizing data standards to promote data interoperability for the talent marketplace (and beyond). The DESM allows for data to move from a system or product using one data standards to another system or product that uses a different data standard.

Both of these projects deal with heterogeneous metadata, working around the theme of interoperability between metadata standards.

About my role

My friend and former colleague Shiela once described our work as “going to meetings and typing things”, which pretty much sums up the OCN work. The purpose is to contribute to the development of the projects, both of which were initiated by Stuart Sutton, whose shoes I am trying to fill in OCN.

For the Competency Explorer I have helped turn community gathered use cases into  features that can implemented to enhance the Explorer, and am currently one of the leads of an agile feature-driven development project with software developers at Learning Tapestry to implement as many of these features as possible and figure out what it would take to implement the others. I’m also working with data providers and Learning Tapestry to develop technical support around providing data for the Competency Explorer.

For DESM I helped develop the internal data schema used to represent the mapping between data standards, and am currently helping to support people who are using the tool to map a variety of standards in a pilot, or closed beta-testing. This has been a fascinating exercise in seeing a project through from a data model on paper, through working with programmers implementing it, to working with people as they try to use the tool developed from it.

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Indiana Appathon Credential Data Learn and Build⤴

from @ Sharing and learning

This week I took part in the Credential Engine’s Indiana Appathon in Indianapolis. The Credential Engine is a registry of information about educational and occupational credentials (qualifications, if you prefer; or not, if you don’t) that can be earned, along with further information such as what they are useful for, what competencies a person would need in order to earn one and what opportunities exist to learn those competencies. Indiana is one state that is working with the Credential Engine to ensure that the credentials offered by all the state’s public higher education institutions are represented in the registry. About 70 people gathered in Indianapolis (a roughly equal split between Hoosiers and the rest of the US, plus a couple of Canadians and me) with the stated intentions of Learn and Build: learn about the data the Credential Engine has, how to add more and how to access what is there, and build ideas for apps that use that  data, showing what data was valuable and potentially highlighting gaps.

circles and lines representing entity-relationship domain modelsI was there as a consequence of my project work (supported by the Credential Engine) to represent Educational and Occupational Credentials in schema.org, with the aim of helping  people understand the benefits of putting credentials on to the open web. Cue my chance to reuse here my pictures of how schema.org can act as a cross-domain unifying schema for linked data and how different domains link together from Education to HR.

I’ve been involved in a few events where the idea is to try to get people together to learn/discuss/make, and I know it is really difficult to get the right balance between structure and flexibility. Too much pre-planned activity and delegates don’t get to do what they want, too little and they are left wondering what they should be doing. So I want to emphasize how hugely impressed I was with the event organization and facilitation: Laura Faulkner and colleagues at Credential Engine and Sonya Lopes and team at Learning Tapestry did a great job. Very cleverly they gave the event a headstart with webinars in advance to learn about the aims and technology of the credential engine, and then in Indianapolis we had a series of  activities. On day one these were: cycling through quick, informal presentations in small groups to find out about the available expertise; demos of existing apps that use data from the Credential Engine; small group discussions of personas to generate use cases; generating ideas for apps based on these. On day two we split into some ‘developer’ groups who worked to flesh out some of these ideas (while the ‘publisher’ group did something else, learnt more about publishing data into the Credential Engine, I think,–I wasn’t in that group), before the developer groups presented their ideas to people from the publisher group in a round-robin “speed-dating” session, and then finally to the whole group.

I went wanting to learn more about what data and connections would be of value in a bigger ecosystem around credentials and for the more focussed needs of individual apps. This I did. The one app that I was involved with most surfaced a need for the Credential Engine to be able to provide data about old, possibly discontinued credentials so that this information could be accessed by those wanting more details about a credential held by an individual. I think this is an important thing to learn for a project that has largely focussed on use cases relating to people wanting to develop their careers and look forward to what credentials are currently on offer that are relevant to their aspirations. I (and others I spoke to) also noticed how many of the use cases and apps required information about the competencies entailed in the credentials, quite often in detail that related to the component courses of longer programs of study. This, and other requirements for fine detail about credentials, is of concern to the institutions publishing information into the Credential Engine’s registry. Often do not have all of that information accessible in a centrally managed location, and when they do it is maybe not at the level of detail or in language  suitable for externally-facing applications.

This problem relating to institutions supplying data about courses was somewhat familiar to me. It seems entirely analogous to the experiences of the Jisc XCRI related programs (for example, projects on making the most of course data and later projects on managing course-related data). I would love to say that from those programs we now know how to provide this sort of data at scale and here’s the product that will do it.., but of course it’s not that simple. What we do have are briefings and advice explaining the problem and some of the approaches that have been taken and what were the benefits from these: for example, Ruth Drysdale’s overview Managing and sharing your course information and the more comprehensive guide Managing course information. My understanding from those projects is that they found benefits to institutions from a more coherent approach to their internal management of course data, and I hope that those supplying data to the Credential Engine might be encouraged by this. I also hope that the Credential Engine (or those around it who do funding) might think about how we could create apps and services that help institutions manage their course data better in such a way that benefits their own staff and incidentally provides the data the Credential Engine needs.

Finally, it was great to spend a couple of days in sunny Indianapolis, catching up with old friends, meeting in-person with some colleagues who I have only previously met online and doing some sightseeing. Many thanks to the Credential Engine for their financial assistance in getting me there.

Photo of brick build building next to corporate towers
Aspects of Inidianapolis reminded me of SimCity 2000
White column with statues
Monument in centre of town
plan of a city grid for Inianapolis
The original city design plan (plat)
Photo of indoor market
One of the indoor markets
Fountain and war memorial
The sign said no loitering, but I loitered. That, in the background, is one of the biggest war memorials I have seen

 

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