Community Op-Ed: A Meshing of Mediums

This week’s guest post is from Leah McVie, educator, photographer, and open ed enthusiast. She is an active P2PU DIY U participant who is diving into the open badges community. She is currently exploring ways to mix the open education philosophy into institutional practices. She blogs on


When I go to work I have access to a variety of food options, nice architecture, and some of the most interesting minds in my area. I get to hear stories from people who are from all over the world and the extraordinary projects they are working on. I love working on a campus.

My mind is a peculiar place to be at this point, though- straddling the line between my interests of open resources and do-it-yourself learning and the refined world of higher ed. But, I do believe both have their place in education and it’s up to a new round of innovators to sort out the options and find ways for the two worlds to work together.

The two do not have to be mutually exclusive and there is a lot they can do to help one another. We need to show colleges how to utilize and give back to open resources, allow people to learn from the course materials on their own time, and then set up a system for people to pay the college for credit, if they need it (MITx). Colleges can set up a program to help faculty cut student costs by using open textbooks, software, and resources to prep for classes. They can allow any member on campus, regardless of rank, to propose a course or degree. Lastly, they can create a learning community through gamification and badges (an alternative form of accreditation).

Colleges can also set up professional development opportunities for staff and faculty, and link the credit (badges) to professional rewards. Connecting with the surrounding community is a topic listed in most college strategic plans and by hosting a virtual community with a company like, colleges can provide personal development opportunities to people on campus, as well as in the community. Colleges can champion an effort that helps current students, alumni, staff, and the community engage in lifelong learning.

The problem with all of these suggestions is that there are a lot of hoops to jump through on any campus. This is why instructors, students, and community members are turning towards open platforms to pilot these initiatives. They can easily use places like Google Groups to form a class community, P2PU to form a study group, or Udemy to set up a class. However, at most colleges, the people who take part in learning opportunities do not receive college credit. (I say ‘most colleges’ because there actually are colleges out there that already are evaluating these alternative learning options and giving credit for participation.)If all of these alternative learning experiences tie into a new form of accreditation like the badge system, it will make it that much easier for colleges to be able to examine the work put in, which can save graduates time, money, and effort spent on coursework they may already be familiar with.

So what exactly could be done to mesh these world together? 1. Colleges can utilize and feed back into open resources, which will end up saving them time and money. 2. Colleges need to come up with a track that doesn’t charge for the ‘college lifestyle’ (clubs, sports, events) for those who simply want to learn. 3. Colleges should employ an alternative means of crediting learning within their own body of students, faculty, staff, and community through a system like open badges.

If you work on a campus like I do, I hope you’ll consider submitting a proposal addressing a few of these points.

Leah MacVie

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