DML Research Competition on Badging proposal: "Opening" Open Education

The skinny

Digital Media and Learning Research Competition on Badging and Badge Systems

Now for some background

The Digital Media and Learning initiative was launched in 2006 by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation to help understand how digital media and technologies are changing the way young people learn, play, socialize and participate in civic life. This initiative has spawned a large number of research and learning projects, including the Open Badges work I’ve participated in over the last couple of years.

Over the last 4 years, the DML group has been running various competitions to encourage research and collaborative projects in this area, and last fall I decided to take a stab at one. Through some round-about networking at P2PU, I got linked up with Luka Carfagna, a sociology PhD student at Boston College, to submit a proposal to the DML research competition on badging.

A seemingly unlikely match, Luka brought her chops in the Bourdieusian framework for social inequality in education and I had been deeply interested in identity formation through learning (scroll to: sunflower experiment). Our shared love/hate relationship with open learning systems was the catalyzer for the whole project and while our initial proposal made it to the finalists stage of the competition, it went no further.

So, with that said, we’d like to share the proposal with the open community, because we’re interested in continuing our conversation about learners’ cultural capital (education, intellect, style of speech, dress)[1] and how it impacts the way they curate their own open learning experiences. We feel this is an underdeveloped area of inquiry, and would like to hear some other people’s thoughts on it.


The proposal

“Opening” Open Education: Understanding the Effect of Cultural Capital on Open Learning Trajectories

Luka B. Carfagna, Boston College

Pieter Kleymeer, University of Michigan

Executive Summary and Research Questions

From DIY U (Kamenetz, 2010) to eduX, the education world is abuzz with innovative experiments to address class inequalities in post-secondary education. Proponents of open education cite its potential to “open up” education by providing learning experiences that are typically free or low cost, peer generated or maintained, and shared worldwide through Creative Commons licensing. With so much energy, creativity, and so many education evangelists behind the movement towards open education there seems to be very little room to ask the critical but necessary question “Is open education open to everyone?”

There are obvious barriers to “opening up” open education, like access to the internet and language. However, an underdeveloped area of inquiry in this field is how user capital, specifically cultural capital, serves as a barrier to learning in the open education space. Bourdieu (1986) argues that cultural capital consists of non-financial assets that contribute to a person’s status and social mobility in society. From studies like Lareau’s Unequal Childhoods (2003), we know that low cultural capital (LCC) students experience a sense of constraint in the classroom while high cultural capital (HCC) students experience a sense of entitlement. In exploratory research, we have noted that cultural capital is affecting how learners choose their learning opportunities, how they curate their experiences, and how they make connections between their learning and economic lives. These curated learning opportunities and experiences are examples of learner trajectories – learning paths of individuals or groups of people. Open education systems have the potential to tailor learning trajectories to individual dispositions (Thomas and Brown, 2011), but if these trajectories are reproducing inequality through cultural capital then they may be no better than traditional education. Therefore, we first propose to ask: How does cultural capital influence learner trajectories in open education?

Digital badging has emerged as a method for expressing these trajectories on platforms such as Khan Academy and Codeacademy. Currently, many implementations of badges have focused on demarcating milestones or expected achievements in a prescriptive learning path. How prescriptive these achievements (and represented competencies) are is dependent on the community standards of whatever group or organization is issuing or awarding the badges. Other badge implementations, such as P2PU’s badge pilot project, have swung the opposite direction, letting individuals identify and describe their identity through badges. This type of learner trajectory focuses more on growth process than goal attainment. Because it is not tied to a preconceived path, it allows for more flexibility in how it is defined and how communities might value that growth. There is great potential for this type of badging to sidestep traditionally replicated inequalities and raises our second research question: How can learning platforms use badges that are sensitive to variance in capital to reconceptualize learner trajectories?

Background and Significance

In addition to cultural capital theory, we incorporate work on the new economy and identity theory into our framework for learners. New Economy scholars have criticized the American economic model as unsustainable and argue that to build a new economy, we must also build the education system that complements it. The 2008 financial downturn left countless Americans jobless and youth have suffered some of the highest unemployment levels since the downturn, despite having high levels of education, and subsequently high levels of student loan debt (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2010; US Department of Education, 2011). Open and connected learning have been heralded as ideal models for teaching and learning 21st century skills in a volatile economy. However, unless open education is truly “open”, it will do no more than replicate existing inequality. Sociologists have long described ways that cultural capital in education can reproduce inequality (ex: Bourdieu, 1984; Lareau, 2003; DiMaggio, 1982; Dumais, 2002). Yet, new economists like Schor et al (forthcoming) and Johnston and Baumann (2009) argue that cultural capital has changed since theorists like Bourdieu first articulated the concept. As cultural capital shifts in the new economy, pathways to distinction could either adapt to preserve existing inequality or open up and democratize. In education, badging is akin to the abstract process of distinction Bourdieu describes. Badging operates as a marker of growth for individuals on open learning platforms and has the potential to provide a democratic pathway to identity distinction for open learners. Identity theory suggests that individuals are constantly sensing their environments, interpreting feedback on how their identity is perceived, and then comparing that perception to social and cultural standards the individual has adopted (Burke and Stets, 2009). While identity theory does not draw explicit connections to inequality, as part of the learning and self-identification process, we can see a point at which badging can be used to embrace and reflect variations and shifts in cultural capital (in both the user and the environment).

P2PU is using badging to promote 21st century skills like collaboration and project-based problem solving as well as content-specific competencies like Java programming. P2PU also offers the learner the unique opportunity to create her own learning and identity trajectory from passive observer to participant to mentor and teacher. With its large user base, collaborative organizational environment, and pilot badge program, P2PU is an ideal open education community in which to explore how cultural capital is influencing learner trajectory and how badging that is sensitive to capital can be used to reconceptualize learner trajectory. Through creative and rigorous social scientific research we have the opportunity to better understand learner trajectory as a feedback loop between self and environment. Open and connected learning is just as susceptible to the mechanisms of inequity as any other learning model, if such mechanisms are left taken-for-granted and uninterrupted. Our proposal aims to interrupt one potential corruptor of open education: cultural capital insensitivity. This research could provide groundbreaking steps towards designing a 21st century learning model that not only fits our vision for a new economy, but does so with intentional awareness and intolerance for 20th century inequality.


Bourdieu, Pierre. 1984. Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste. The President and Fellows of Harvard College and Routledge and Kegan Paul Ltd.

Bourdieu, Pierre. 1986. “Forms of Captial.” From Handbook of Theory and Research for the Sociology of Education. Ed: J.G. Richardson. New York: Greenwood Press.

Bureau of Labor Statistics. 2010. College Enrollment and Work Activity of High School Graduates 2009. Retrieved (

Burke, Peter J. and Jan E. Stets. 2009. Identity Theory. New York: Oxford University Press.

DiMaggio, Paul. 1982. “Cultural Capital and School Success: The Impact of Status Culture Participation on the Grades of U.S. High School Students.” American Sociological Review 47:189-201.

Dumais, Susan. 2002. “Cultural Capital, Gender, and School Success: The Role of Habitus.” Sociology of Education. 75.1: 44-68.

Johnston, Josee and Shyon Baumann. 2009. Foodies: Democracy and Distinction in the Gourmet Foodscape. New York: Taylor and Francis.

Kamenetz, Anya. 2010. DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education. Chelsea Green Publishing

Lareau, Annette. 2003. Unequal Childhoods: Class, Race, and Family Life. Berkeley, CA: The University of California Press.

Schor, Juliet et al. forthcoming. “An Emergeing Eco-habitus: The Reconfiguration of Cultural Capital Practices among Ethical Consumers.” Journal of Consumer Culture.

Thomas, Douglas and John Seely Brown. 2011. A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change. Createspace.

U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. 2011. 2008–09 Baccalaureate and Beyond Longitudinal Study (B&B:08/09): A First Look at Recent College Graduates (NCES 2011-236).


© 2012 Carfagna and Regents of the University of Michigan


Help us translate educational videos about microbiology and disaster management from Michigan, Ghana, and East Africa

NOTE – On March 22, 2013, I posted a follow-up with results from the translation campaign.  We are still inviting volunteers to continue the translation progress. We launched the translation campaign with the post below:

Calling all linguists and polyglots worldwide! Among the many collaborative projects for Open.Michigan there are two that we would like to bring to your attention:

  • a collection of 12 clinical microbiology videos, which were co-authored by professors at University of Michigan and Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Ghana in 2009. Collectively, these microbiology videos have over 500,000 views on YouTube. The videos are shared under a Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial 3.0 License.
  • a collection of 19 disaster management videos, which were jointly authored in 2009-2012 by the East Africa Health Alliance (a consortium of 7 schools of public health including Makerere University in Uganda, Jimma University School of Public Health in Ethiopia, Moi University in Kenya, University of Nairobi in Kenya, National University of Rwanda, Kinshasa University in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences in Tanzania), Johns Hopkins University (USA) and Tulane University (USA) – with some formatting and publishing support from University of Michigan. The lectures were designed to be used across the East Africa region, but their current English-only captions and narration make them largely inaccessible to regional French- and Swahili- speaking countries. The videos are shared under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

In order to further expand the global impact of these videos, we are launching a campaign to attract volunteers to translate the video captions from English into other languages – using YouTube and Amara to streamline the process. (We even used the YouTube remix feature.) The videos vary in length, with the shortest at 46 seconds and the longest at thirteen minutes. All of the translations will be shared under the same Creative Commons license as the original video. The transcripts and video descriptions will acknowledge the names of contributing translators.

Our priority languages are French, Portuguese (Brazil), Spanish, and Swahili, but we encourage all languages. (We have computer-generated translations in those 4, plus 31 others.) 

So, please, volunteer some of your time, flex your language skills, and earn some recognition and a line for your resume or professional portfolio. Your contribution will certainly have a significant impact on increasing the portability and visibility of these learning materials around the world.

If you’re in the Ann Arbor area, stop by the Translate-A-Bowl Friday, February 1 – Sunday, February 3, 2013, organized by the University of Michigan Language Resource Center, to translate the videos alongside your multilingual peers from University of Michigan and the local community. The Translate-A-Bowl will include these videos as well as other resources to translate.

(NOTE: If you’re not in Ann Arbor or you already have weekend plans, no worries. You can participate remotely wherever and whenever works for you. Read on.)

Sign up to translate the captions

Request access through our signup form. After an editor grants you access to the captions, you’ll receive email notifications with links for the languages that you requested.

Anyone who has edit access to captions for a particular video can also invite others to translate the same language for the same video. To invite others to a particular video, click on a caption link for which you have permission. In the YouTube translation editor, go to File > Invite people. Click the “Send Invitations Button” to send them an email with the link. (For more details: see Google Translate Toolkit: Collaborators help.)

All translations will be sent to the video owner to review before they are publicly viewable on the video page.

How the translation process works

First, request access through our signup form. Next:

  1. Open a web browser – preferably Chrome, Firefox or Safari. (The YouTube video editor will not work in Internet Explorer.)
  2. Open the Google Document with the video and caption links. Find your video of choice and click on the link for the desired language.
  3. This will open the translation editor. (If you click one of the 35 languages listed, it will open YouTube. If you select “Other”, it will open Amara. The instructions below are for YouTube. Amara is similar but doesn’t provide the computer translations as a guide.)
  4. For each segment, you’ll see the start and end time, the English transcript, and the corresponding computer translations for the given language from Google Translate. In the textbox, you can edit the translation. Click the Show/Hide Toolkit button in upper right corner to show/hide the Translation Search tabs at the bottom. You can click “use suggestion” if the computer translation is correct. Each caption allows multiple people editing simultaneously.


  1. If interested, for each segment, you can also use the play button to hear the English audio. You can use the eraser button to clear out the translation for that segment. Alternatively, go to the File menu and select Undo to undo the previous action. Once you are content with the translation for the given segment, click the Next arrow > to store your translation and proceed to the next segment. (see screenshot below).


  1. Once you’ve completed all segments for the video, click the “Publish to YouTube” button. This will send an email to the video owner that there’s a pending translation waiting to be approved and published. This also updates the progress bar at the top to 100% (see screenshot below), so that other translators can see that the translation is complete.


Ready… Get set…


U-M Collections Managers Learn about Contributing to Wikipedia

University of Michigan (U-M) collections managers and staff recently attended training workshops that demonstrated how to enrich Wikipedia articles through contributions from and about U-M Galleries, Libraries, Archives, and Museums (GLAMs). Collections managers and staff from a diverse range of campus cultural institutions, including the Kelsey Museum, the Bentley Library, U-M Special Collections, Matthaei Botanical Gardens, Museum of Anthropology, Internal Medicine, and others attended the workshops, which included an overview of Wikipedia’s GLAM-Wiki initiative.

As described on their Wikipedia page, “The GLAM-Wiki initiative (Galleries, Libraries, Archives, Museums with Wikipedia; also including botanic and zoological gardens) helps cultural institutions share their resources with the world through collaborative projects with experienced Wikipedia editors.” Whether they were interested in the GLAM-Wiki initiative, or just an intro to Wikipedia, the workshop participants took advantage of this opportunity to learn how to bring their subject matter expertise to Wikipedia articles that feature content relevant to their collections.

The training, which had a much larger enrollment than organizers anticipated, had to be split into two sessions. As the representative from Open.Michigan, I co-presented one session with Chris Leeder, a U-M School of Information doctoral student who attended the GLAMCamp training offered by the Wikimedia Foundation. The second session was led by Ye Li, an associate librarian at the Shapiro Science Library, and a U-M Wikipedia Campus Ambassador.

These workshops also introduced participants to how Wikipedia editing works, community best practices, and how to create high quality Wikipedia articles. Participants discussed and followed along during an introduction to Wikipedia editing demo, where they learned how to create accounts and how to make basic edits to articles. (Follow this link to view the workshop slides.)

Wikipedia in the Classroom

Using Wikipedia editing as a teaching tool is a way for students to improve the quality of Wikipedia articles as they’re learning a topic, and is a venue for increasing students’ information literacy and credibility evaluation skills.

So in addition to our GLAM-Wiki interests, Chris, Ye and I have also been advocating for increased awareness and support for Wikipedia editing in the classroom. For example, Chris is leading a Wikipedia editing workshop in the School of Information’s undergraduate “Introduction to Information” course this semester. And Ye supports courses using Wikipedia editing assignments across Department of Chemistry, School of Natural Resource and Environment, School of Social Work, and American Culture.

Learn more about Chris in a recent spotlight in UMSI Monthly. Learn more about the U-M Wikipedia in Education efforts Ye has been supporting by visiting her Wikipedia user page, and check out this previous post to review some of my past efforts.

Attention U-M Wikipedians

Workshop participants learned about the recent media coverage surrounding U-M School of Information student Michael Barera, the first Wikipedian in Residence at a presidential library. You may have read about Michael in the New York Times, Chronicle of Higher Ed, and the Detroit Free Press. So U-M Wikipedians take note, and get involved!

Contact us here if you’re interested in connecting with one of the GLAMs on campus.

Happy editing!

dScribe, now at Peer-2-Peer University!

We did it. From our wiki to the world, we’re opening up dScribe: our original, student-centered OER creation process and training. Check out our new P2PU course – dScribe: Peer-produced Open Educational Resources. This course is designed for anyone interested in a peer-based approach to sharing (or training others to share) their teaching and learning resources with the world. Topics covered in the course include the basics of OER, useful tools and processes for creating and publishing OER, sharing philosophies, and Creative Commons licensing. This course will lead you through creating an OER and get you ready to share it on popular platforms (such as and iTunes U).

Learning by teaching

While Open.Michigan has been using the dScribe process for five years, we’ve converted it to a P2PU course as a simple framework for the School of Open community to build from. In other words, we want your help. There’s space for interested folks to create and then add new challenges that dive deeper into the course’s topics. So don’t hold back – contribute by editing the course itself, by adding relevant resources, by creating new challenges at P2PU, or by posting challenge ideas and outlines in the discussion sections.

Look for the red “Create Challenge” buttons. Contribute your knowledge and expertise by adding your challenge(s) in these locations.

A bit of history

As some of you may already know, Open.Michigan has been working with Creative Commons and P2PU to launch the School of Open. For those of you not familiar with P2PU; P2PU is a place for people to work together to learn a particular topic by completing tasks, assessing individual and group work, and providing constructive feedback. (CC BY-SA: P2PU has all kinds of courses and challenges, some are out there on their own, others are related to specific P2PU schools, such as the School of Webcraft, the School of Social Innovation, and the School of Open.

Next up

The School of Open will officially launch in March of 2013, so look for more updates at Creative Commons and P2PU. The dScribe course will be just one of many new ways to engage in the School of Open and we intend to continue working with P2PU and Creative Commons to build a larger community of open experts through peer learning.

Enjoy Five U-M Courses on the Go with iTunes U app

Open.Michigan and Michigan Creative worked together to publish five openly licensed University of Michigan courses on iTunes U. The courses, which are also freely available on, can now be viewed on iPhones, iPads, and iPod touch mobile devices using the iTunes U app. The iTunes U app allows learners to add notes to lecture materials and to download content to their mobile devices on demand. Here are descriptions and links to the courses on iTunes U and on Open.Michigan:

Corporate Finance for Health Care Administrators

a logo for the corporate finance for health care administrators itunes u course

This course concentrates on corporate finance topics. It aims to impart an understanding of how finance theory and practice can inform the decision-making of the health care firm. (CC BY-NC-SA Jack Wheeler)
iTunes U | Open.Michigan

Introduction to Information Studies

logo for intro to information studies iTunes U course

The vaunted Information Revolution is more than Web surfing, Net games, and dotcoms. Indeed, it is the foundation for an economic and social transformation on a scale comparable to the Industrial Revolution of the nineteenth century. This course provides the foundational knowledge necessary to begin to address the key issues associated with the Information Revolution. (CC BY-SA Robert Frost)
iTunes U | Open.Michigan

Introduction to Statistics and Data Analysis

logo for intro to statistics iTunes U course

This course covers applied statistical methodology from an analysis-of-data viewpoint. Topics covered include frequency distributions; measures of location; mean, median, mode; measures of dispersion; variance; graphic presentation; elementary probability; populations and samples; sampling distributions; one sample univariate inference problems, and two sample problems; categorical data; regression and correlation; and analysis of variance. (CC BY-NC-SA Brenda Gunderson)
iTunes U | Open.Michigan

Laboratory Methods for Clinical Microbiology

Logo for Lab Methods for Clinical Microbiology iTunes U course

This comprehensive module explores common laboratory experiments for microbiology, including microbiological stains (e.g. Gram stains), assessing the accuracy of diagnostic tests, measuring antibody response to infection, and detection of microbial antigens, and nucleic acid amplification (e.g. Polymerase Chain Reaction). (CC BY-NC Yaw Adu-Sarkodie, Cary Engleberg, Charles Agyei Osei)
iTunes U | Open.Michigan

Structures 2

Logo image for structures 2 iTunes U course

This course explores the basic principles of elastic behavior for different materials such as wood, steel, concrete, and composite materials and compares the properties and applications of materials generally. Additionally, it investigates cross sectional stress and strain behavior in flexure and in shear, and torsion as well as the stability of beams and columns. The qualitative behavior of combined stresses and fracture in materials is also covered. (CC BY Peter von Buelow)
iTunes U | Open.Michigan


image showing all U-M courses in iTunes U app library
U-M courses in iTunes U app library.
image showing the info page for Laboratory Methods for Clinical Microbiology
Info tab for Laboratory Methods for Clinical Microbiology.
image showing selection of a lecture video within the Posts tab.
Selecting a lecture video within the Posts tab.
image showing how videos are displayed in iTunes U app
Watching a lecture video.

The flexibility of Creative Commons licenses allows us to take advantage of opportunities to increase the visibility, audience, and features of the openly licensed content within our collection. Redistributing these courses on iTunes U is a perfect example of this, and we are delighted to bring some of the Open.Michigan collection into this space.  Please download, use, share, and comment on these courses!