A distributed certification

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This is summary of the models of certification presented at DrupalCon London by Heather and Dominik. I've drawn them out here in some more detail to explain the relationship between the constituent parts. Please view that presentation http://tinyurl.com/drupalcert1

Models of certification and alternatives

Below, we look at a simplified model of traditional systems of certification.

simplified model

This roughly describes the models of the well known commercial certifications such as Cisco, Microsoft or Adobe; and is also the same followed by large open source projects such as Zend certification, Red Hat, Canonical, LPI, and so on. 

  1. We can see the learning materials for courses and even self study can be validated against a central curriculum. A curriculum defines what should be covered, and yet it doesn't restrict the teachers/trainers from expressing their own creativity in making materials and classroom delivery. 
  2. The learner next takes some kind of assessment. These may be paper based or performance based exams. We can note here that other forms of assessment are valid. 
  3. This then leads to certification, held by the learner. 
  4. Ideally, there is also some accreditation body which oversees the quality of the exams, and verifies the credibility of the certifying body. 
  5. Then, it is becoming common practice that there be some kind of online validator to check the credentials of the learner so an employer can then confirm just who is certified. 
  6. Finally, there is often some kind of way to see a listing of those who have been through certification. 

Together, these components satisfy the needs of the community: by ensuring the quality of the materials and delivery through a valued curriculum and accreditation oversight. They satisfy the needs of the learner by providing a summative assessment of "where I'm at now", with a verified public listing and validated certification check. These components also satisfy the needs of a client in verifying the skills of staff or vendors, as well as providing a vouched-for listing of individuals. 

Finding appropriate models

How can we set up a certification system for the Drupal community which is flexible enough to respond to the moving drop, be respectful of the open source process, and still provide the rigor and validity of a commercial system... while still keeping it affordable for participants and appropriate to their level?

In some cases- all of the Curriculum, the syllabi, the course materials and delivery is done by one group or organization. These are monolithic and costly undertakings that take literally years to set up. The most rigorous of those assessments, performance-based evaluation, is also the most costly and time consuming to administer and take, yet it is only required for the most complex of tasks.

Within those systems there exist a variety of levels of achievement. This accommodates those who only need to know a particular system on a surface level and those who need to know the minute detail of every possible permutation of the system. The assessments for those levels are applied as appropriate to the depth of complexity. There isn't one exam to rule them all. 

You may know of many other variations and alternatives. For example, there are exams which have no curriculum; there are certifications with no exam;s; there are entire systems with no accreditation oversight; nd there are public listing services with none of these components. 

I presented some of these examples in my presentation with Dominik Lukes at DrupalCon last week. I presented a variety of examples, and plotted them on a scale. For example Typo 3 Integrator - is a paper based exam administered at community events, €200 to take, and it doesn't expire. The corollary for Integrator in our community would be 'site builder'. Code Poet is an example of a loose reputation system. They ask can you spell WordPress correctly first of all, and do you have a page showing your WordPress work? It is moderated by humans yet we could still say the main focus is on reputation, not skills and is on the looser end... On the other side, "tighter" we have Red Hats examples of performance based exams. These are more costly and the barriers are higher. Certified to Rock is reputation based completely. CTR doesn't currently claim to be a validation of someone skills or knowledge in specific areas, but provides a quick metric of their involvement in the community. From that we can extrapolate their knowledge of Drupal.

Finally, of the models I demonstrated, Mozilla's Open Badge API was one that might be most peculiarly suited to our own needs. We could potentially even leverage their API and connect to the wider world of open source web skills development.

scales of certs or vouching

What's our situation?

Currently within the Drupal community we have a variety of opportunities for learning. Learners guide themselves in an ad-hoc manner looking for tutorials which solve a specific need. They might follow through books and online training, self-paced. They can take classroom courses; both short term or semester long courses. However, there are only a few assessments available, possibly only now available for those taking courses in the context of a degree in formal education. There are some proofs such as 'certificates of participation' provided upon completing a training course. 

Yet, this doesn't quite provide a comprehensive learning experience. New end users and developers to Drupal are both unsure of where to start. They can miss some important steps in learning Drupal which cause them incredible frustration later. And those with more experience are unsure how to develop their skills and expand what they have.

Worse, there are still massive gaps in the courses and learning materials available. Training providers and popular books seem to tread similar areas, leaving some big gaps to traverse. Yet the training providers, bloggers and authors can't quite see where these needs are.

Alternative model

What if the learning opportunities referred to the same community curriculum and spoke the same language in terms of navigating through one's learning experience? What if we had an alternative model which would allow for a variety of assessment methods, a variety of service providers while overseen by a community based shared curriculum and an oversight group to accredit the assessments and the providers? 

If we pulled out those stacks and looked at how they worked, we could see that the various learning opportunities would lead to appropriate assessment methods as relating to the level of the learner's experience as shown on the curve earlier.

Formative assessment could help learners find out what skills gaps they have, and summative assessment would be a declaration of their skills up to a certain point. The evidence or outcomes would also be appropriate to the assessment. Then the evidence could be federated in a system where a learner could display their chosen achievements. Community oversight could be a form of qualified accreditation. 

Who benefits?

  • The main beneficiary of this "small pieces" approach is the learner. The learner can avail of a variety of learning opportunities, then receive assessments to get feedback on their progress. She can also then choose to display her progress on her profile and begin to accumulate verifiable proof of her experience or skills.
  • Potential clients or employers can find it easier to locate the individuals they need. It can also be easier for them to trust the information a potential employee is sharing.
  • The community also benefits because we can see what skills are in shortage, and where to redouble efforts in growing the community.
  • As well this creates a field where a variety of providers can create opportunities and sustain businesses which focus on training or assessment while working closely with the community. Rather than a system where only a few organizations or companies dominate the space.
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Comments

Wow.

Alex UA's picture

Heather- I don't have a ton of time to respond to this right now, but this is AMAZING! Thank you for putting this together- it's an amazing start and it seems like this could be just the start we need to push this forward. One thing I'm particularly happy to see is the presence of a Guild. I think this should probably be cross-posted to the Guild group so that all interested parties see it: http://groups.drupal.org/guilds.

Again, this is a truly remarkable start, and thank you for all the time you obviously spent pulling it all together!

Alex Urevick-Ackelsberg
ZivTech: Illuminating Technology

OK! I will add this to

heather's picture

OK! I will add this to Guilds!

I wanted to accommodate the fact that we can have multiple ways to learn, and life-long learning. I'd like to also give the community initiatives some momentum.

This distributed concept is really lifted from the Mozilla Open Badge API to recognize informal and life long learning. I think this is a model for the future, and potentially a huge innovation, cost saving and more effective. And, technically, we could also work with Mozilla's API.

The key is the "roadmap" - http://groups.drupal.org/node/172429 I have outlined the initial start, the open curriculum. It's bounded, elegant and (I think) straightforward. And I think Phase 1 will be FUN!

We attempted this last year and constantly got mired in process and philosophy discussions... and then pulled into details of 'learning objectives'. I try to demonstrate above we can tease out the main subject areas and get something flexible and useful.

I got some great advice from Leisa and Angie on leading an initiative... Roadmap > Project > Tasks... seems so obvious :)

Drupal Training & Certification Summit?

Alex UA's picture

Are you planning on attending any upcoming US camps? (BADCamp? Pacific-NW Drupal Summit? Others?) If not, would you be open to applying for a DA Community Grant to attend? I'd love to try and bring together those who have an interest in seeing this happen--a Drupal Training & Certification Summit?--sometime in the not-too-distant future. This is a big topic, and I feel like if we got the right group together in person we could build the consensus necessary to get a large portion of the community's buy-in.

Alex Urevick-Ackelsberg
ZivTech: Illuminating Technology

It is impressive

mixel's picture

Nice post heather, I'm exited to see how you will push this forward, it looks like a huge effort.

I like the idea of a distributed certification, does "Open Badge API" mean it can be integrated in a Drupal module? I'm not familiar with it.

I'm also wondering if some of that distributed intelligence research would come handy, I'm not exactly sure what or where it could help, but maybe I find some connection when this project continues.

@Alex - wow what a cool idea.

heather's picture

@Alex - wow what a cool idea. I would love to do that! I will see if my boss will fund me first, but then if not, I will see if this is something the Community Cultivation grants would like to support. That would be cool. I'd like to run it like a make & do action sprint.

@ Mixel - I think I need to make the roadmap more clear. I see the 1st part as being something quite straigh-forward. Requiring effort, yes, but a smll team would be able to manage it.

Also- someone asked on Twitter about the kind of support Mozilla's Badge API has. I wanted to share this info about issuers, which also includes universities at this stage.

This is from Mozilla's Badge documentation about "Use Cases" https://wiki.mozilla.org/Badges#Use_Cases

* Open education training & courses
* Example: Web Developer Training
* Partner: Mozilla / P2PU School of Webcraft
* Informal learning outside of schools
* Example: Afterschool programs, museums and libraries
* Partner: The MacArthur Local Learning Networks & You Media Centres
* Formal Education
* Example: Badges for learning and achievements in formal higher education courses
* Current Implementations: Badges for courses at Quinnipiac University. Arizona State University is including badges on transcripts in addition to completed courses and final grades.
* Community Affiliation and Reputation
* Example: Earning badges within a local art community to signify identity and reputation in that community, can then carry across communities

This is very exciting.. lots

eric_sea's picture

This is very exciting.. lots of possibilities. I agree with Alex regarding the scope and the efficiency of pulling a summit together. It would be great to have a couple of few days to really focus on the many pieces which can and should come together here. I also think there was good value in the curriculum chats we had after SF-con and wonder if it would make sense to try to do the same leading up to securing funding for and holding a summit. Really nice work Heather!

prototyping

niccolo's picture

this is really inspiring and I will use this model for a couple of non-Drupal domains i.e. sustainability & cooperatives

I wonder about implementation; OpenScholar, ELMS and then there is Moodle (and Sakai)

could we make a distro, a Features set? leverage an extant platform ...

am actually helping write a training package for a Drupal subject at a community college and this is very useful

good work

I think this makes a ton of

greggles's picture

I think this makes a ton of sense and provides a platform for a lot of great benefits to the Drupal community and beyond.

The folks from Certified To Rock are definitely in favor of this kind of distributed certification system and will do what we can to help build and support it.

@ Eric - I would love to meet

heather's picture

@ Eric - I would love to meet face to face too.. but it takes so long to get people together, logistically... :( I want to start soon!

@ Niccolo - great ideas! Ideas for implementation will be in "Phase 2" of the project. This is really important to focus on what is achievable. I have prepared a Roadmap here: http://groups.drupal.org/node/172429
I think the roadmap shows that even if Phase 1 was only finished it would be a decent contribution on its own. But we have to keep focused. Last summer, the previous attempts floundered when we spent time thinking about implementation too early.

@ Greggles - that is great! Thanks for the vote of confidence. It was all the hard work and research you've done which have made this direction an obvious choice. Let's see what we can do!

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davidjohn865's picture

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