I am excited to kick off the new year with a post about Discovery; a brand new product we are developing with the Open Badges team in partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
The product includes a directory of badges that are connected to career pathways, whose content we are developing in direct collaboration with industry partners. With a primary audience of pre-college youth, these pathways will link to specific learning experiences and career goals. At the core of the project is the idea that there are different types of pathways and that those can be personalized to meet individual learning needs.
The work is largely built to address the needs of two groups; a) employers who are having a difficult time identifying qualified employees, and b) youth who often don’t have access or exposure to the multitude of career opportunities available as they are looking to enter the job industry.
At the core of what we are building is the idea of a recommendation engine powered by a directory of badges. Through a system of granular tags that are clustered into larger categories, the engine helps learners identify skills and career pathways within the ecosystem. Meanwhile it gauges what learners are interested in order to provide content that meets those needs
I would love to bring up as a reference (and influence) Alexis Macdrigal’s fascinating article about Netflix’s recommendation engine that appeared in The Atlantic a few days ago. Fascinated by the niche granularity that appeared when browsing Netflix’s library, Macdrigal decided to break it apart in order to understand how its algorithm works. In the process he worked with Iain Bogost to make a Netflix Title Generator that might give you highly tweetable genres like “Secret Society Sci-Fi Movies Based on Classic Literature Set in Asia From the 1930s.” The gist of the article is that Netflix uses a sophisticated “microgenre” system featuring a combination that includes user input to provide highly personalised recommendations. Based on that data, Netflix gets insight on what kinds of movies its audience will like - and even uses that information to produce new series like “House of Cards”.
If the Directory is the pillar behind what we are building, pathways are the elaborate exterior; they helps us tell a fuller story of what is possible for learners who are embarking on a journey towards a fulfilling career.
Imagine yourself as a brave explorer living somewhere in Europe in the 1400s. Maybe you come from a long family of explorers, maybe you are the first one in your family to ever aspire to embark on a long adventurous journey. In any case one sunny day you pack your musty trunk and take off. You decide that your final destination will be India or wherever most explorers in your time period seem to be going. As you begin your journey, you first encounter small towns and then bigger cities. Some of these cities you like more than others. In some you decide to take a break and build a castle or start a farm. You make friends along the way and exchange explorer stories with them. Eventually you reach the sea. You take a guess that India is probably too far away to swim to, so you work hard to build a boat and then sail off into the ocean. At this point you encounter the pirates of the Caribbean or other sailor-types who don’t talk much, like Robert Redford. Meanwhile you probably take a bunch of wrong turns in the ocean, discover many deserted islands and often think about giving up. But you stick to your goal and finally arrive at your destination. It has been a long journey and you are tired but happy; you have just discovered a new land(!) who might even be named after you one day, or after that bloody cousin of yours Americus Vespucius who likes to take credit for everything. The bottom line is that you are a legit explorer now, and you might decide to embark on more journeys or settle in the new land.
As a learner taking on a career journey we want to encourage you to take on an explorer’s mindset. We want to build a tool that will help you discover new learning opportunities that connect to careers. And because we realise that there is not one single path that leads a young learner towards a job, we are creating highly customizable and personalized pathways that allow for different points of entry. Those include space not only for the skills that you need to succeed in a job field, but also for the narrative that comes along with taking a pathway: the friends, obstacles and pivotal moments that helped the learner find and achieve their goals.
We are hitting the road working on these ideas OpenBadges-Style by building an alpha version and testing it relentlessly. In specific this is what we are setting out to build in the next 5 months:
- A basic directory of badges that provides personalized recommendations for career pathways.
- A set of customizable career pathways to be developed in direct collaboration with industry partners and mentor organizations.
If all this sounds interesting to you (and we sure hope it does) you can find the project on Github, get project updates on one of our upcoming Community and/or Research calls, or follow the stellar team developing (and thinking a lot) about this project ; Carla Casilli, Emily Goligoski, Sunny Lee, Mike Larsson, An-Me Chung, Lucas Blair, Grainne Hammilton, Chris Macvoy and the lovely folks at Achievery. In the meantime I promise to give regular updates over here over the course of the next few months :)