Tag Archives: Credential Engine

What am I doing here? 1. Credential Engine⤴

from @ Sharing and learning

January seems like a good time to review the work that I am doing at the moment. Rather than try all of it in one post, I’ll take it one project at a time. This one is about my work with Credential Engine, a US-based not for profit that aims to provide information about educational and occupational credentials on offer and the things related to them. The aim is to empower learners with the information they need to make decisions about their educational options.

(Note, I think of educational / occupational credential as synonymous with qualification, and tend to use credential as a shorthand for that.)

About the work

I provide consultancy to Credential Engine on their RDF vocabulary, CTDL, the Credential Transparency Description Language. I’ve been associated with CTDL for longer than the Credential Engine has been around: I was on the technical advisory committee for the precursor project, CTI, the Credential Transparency Initiative, seven years ago.

[Aside, fun fact: the first job I had in learning technology was in another CTI, the Computers in Teaching Initiative. Yes this was a factor in my agreeing to serve on the advisory committee.]

The CTDL is key to Credential Engine’s mission to make credentials more transparent by providing more information about how to obtain them, for example who offers them, what competencies (knowledge, skills, attributes) are necessary to earn them, how are these competencies assessed, what opportunities are available to learn them, and what are the likely outcomes (in terms of things such as employability and salary) of possessing the credential. As such CTDL describes a lot more than just the bare details of a credential, it goes far beyond into organizations, competencies, learning opportunities and outcomes data. In fact, by CTDL we actually mean three related vocabularies:

  • CTDL, itself which covers the core of credentials, courses, pathways, organizations;
  • CTDL-ASN, an extension of the vocabulary for competency frameworks and related entities developed for the Achievement Standards Network;
  • QDATA, for quantitative data about outcomes.

As well as the bare vocabulary definitions we also provide a Handbook with sections for each of the vocabularies, covering how the terms are designed to be used to meet various use cases.

About my role

My first contract with Credential Engine was to set up and lead the EOCred W3C Community Group to improve and extend Schema.org’s capability to describe educational and occupational credentials. CTDL was created following the same model as schema.org, and Credential Engine were keen to keep the two languages harmonized. The outcome of that project was the schema.org EducationalOccupationalCredential class and related terms, and some documentation from the working group about the how to address the use cases we identified.

More recently I have been working more closely with the core Credential Registry team on developing CTDL. They have well-established policies and procedures  for updates, which include setting up open working groups to “socialize” major proposals. While I have been working with them we have produced major updates to address Credit Transfer, Education to Work relationships, Educational Pathways, Scheduling Patterns, Approval Lists, as well as many minor tweaks on an almost monthly basis. Coming soon: assessment rubrics.

One of the things that I really appreciate about the Credential Engine work is that it gives me the freedom (or lets me take the liberty) to explore new RDF-related technologies that might benefit CTDL. The best example of this is how I have been able to build some working knowledge of SHACL as part of our thinking on how we express the CTDL data model and applications profiles of it in such a way that data can be validated. This has helped me justify my (otherwise unfunded) contribution to the Dublin Core Tabular Application Profile work. Other examples come from wanting to make sure CTDL is used as widely as possible, include contributing to the W3C Verifiable Credentials for Education community group, PESC’s work on transcripts and ETF training events on linked data.

Best of all, Credential Engine have a great team, it’s a pleasure to work with them.

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New work with the Credential Engine⤴

from @ Sharing and learning

Credential Engine logoI am delighted to be starting a new consulting project through Cetis LLP with the Credential Engine, helping them make credentials more transparent in order to empower everyone to make more informed decisions about credentials and their value. The problem that the Credential Engine sets out to solve is that there are (at the last count) over 730,000 different credentials on offer in the US alone. [Aside: let me translate ‘credential’ before going any further; in this context we mean what in Europe we call an educational qualification, from school certificates through to degrees, including trade and vocational qualifications and microcredentials.] For many of these credentials it is difficult to know their value in terms of who recognises them, the competences that they certify, and the occupations they are relevant for. This problem is especially acute in the relatively deregulated US, but it is also an issue when we have learner and worker mobility and need to recognise credentials from all over the world.

The Credential Engine sets out to alleviate this problem by making the credentials more transparent through a Credential Registry. The registry holds linked data descriptions of credentials being offered, using the Credential Transparency Description Language, CTDL, which is based largely on schema.org. (Note that neither the registry nor CTDL deals with information relating to whether an individual holds any credential.) These descriptions include links to Competence Frameworks described in the Credential Engine’s profile of the Achievement Standards Network vocabulary, CTDL-ASN. The registry powers a customizable Credential Finder service as well as providing a linked data platform and an API for partners to develop their own services–there are presentations about some example thrid-party apps on the Credential Engine website.

I have been involved with the Credential Engine since the end of 2015, when it was the Credential Transparency Initiative, and have since worked with them to strengthen the links between the CTDL and schema.org by leading a W3C Community Group to add EducationalOccupationalCredentials ot schema.org. I’ve also helped represent them at a UNESCO World Reference Level expert group meeting, helped partners interested in using data from the registry at an appathon in Indianapolis.  I have come to appreciate that there is a great team behind the Credential Engine, and I am really looking forward to continuing to work with them. I hope to post regular updates here on the new work as we progress.

There are strong linkages between this work and the other main project I have on talent marketplace signalling, and with talent pipeline management in general; and also with other areas of interest such as course description  and with work of the rest of Cetis in curriculum analytics and competency data standards. This new project isn’t exclusive so I will continue to work in those areas.  Please get in touch if you would like to know more about partnering with the Credential Engine or are interested in the wider work.

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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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