Webinar: Skills & Competencies for Knowmadic Workers

Life in the 21st Century has become international, multicultural, and inter-connected, requiring new skills for educators to succeed. What are the so-called “21st Century skills,” and which key conditions are needed for the development of these skills within and outside of formal educational settings? Learn what it means to learn in a “knowmadic” society [eBook], and explore the shift from what we learn to how we learn in this free, online webinar.



Event co-sponsorsEducation Futures LLCMinnesota Association of School AdministratorsTIES education technology collaborative, and Whitewater Learning

Twitter hashtag for discussion#knowmad

[Source: Cross post from Education Futures]

Can MOOCs offer new patterns of knowledge accreditation?

To what extent Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs) could diversify the existing mechanisms of skills recognition and knowledge transfer? Lack of evidence in this field make challenging to distinguish between speculation and reality. However, there are promising potentials in tools such as the “Verified Certificates” to become a new academic accreditation and therefore an instrument to ‘bridge’ between educational institutions, companies and governments. This presentation aims to retrieve and compile useful sources to better understand the potential of MOOCs in order to enhance employability in emerging and developed economies around the world.

MOOCs are a relatively recent online learning phenomenon. During the last months they have generated considerable media attention and interest from Higher Education Institutions (HEI) and venture capitalists, who see a business opportunity to be exploited. The expansion of MOOCs has opened up discussions about their transformative potential to HEIs by opening up the possibility of online learning and Open Educational Practices (OEPs) as strategic choices for the future (Yuan & Powell, 2013). One of the business adopted suggests that everyone who registers for a course is not charged but those who seek credentials certifying that they have mastered the content are charged a “small fee” for such certification (Bowen, 2012).

Pros Cons: Some accounts of MOOCs are positive: they provide novel educational formats (Haywood, 2012); they open up learning to more people (Mackness et al., 2010), improving quality, reducing cost and speeding up certification (Shirky, 2012).  However, MOOCs also attract criticism. A recent survey of UK university vice chancellors indicates that only 8% think it is highly likely that MOOCs will lead to reduced fees for “HE services” (Morgan, 2013). While some academic institutions, such as the Open University in the UK, see MOOCs as a prioritization of quantity over quality (Bean, 2013), others note the extremely high level of dropout (Zellner, 2013; Parr, 2013). MOOCs have also been criticised for adopting a knowledge transmission model that lacks any innovation (Cuban, 2013). Among others, there are two problematic elements in this debate. It has been stated that MOOCs play a key role in providing opportunities for engaging in lifelong learning outside of the confines of an institution (Kizilcec, Piech, Schneider, 2013). In that sense, MOOCs are praised for being a transformative force for the existing education market, providing more flexible methods for skills and knowledge recognition (i.e. signature track, competency based credentials, independent commercial examiners, open badges, etc.). There is still a lack of research exploring the extent to which these more flexible models of certification are acknowledged by employers (Gorissen, 2013). The second challenge is to develop an empirical study focused on the understanding of MOOCs in non-English-speaking communities. Since “language differences, cultural barriers, local relevance of materials, access concerns, and the availability of adequate technical resources (infrastructure)” (Klemke et al. 2010) can hinder a broader adoption of these kind of open education initiatives, it is important to conduct research in this area in order to establish how some of these barriers may be overcome (Hatakka, 2009; Rossini, 2010; Klemke, Kalz, Specht, & Ternier, 2010).

Emerging economies: Most of the literature that discusses the applicability of MOOCs in ‘developing regions’ primarily addresses problems associated with connectivity and broadband, however there is evidence to suggest that the problem might not only be technical, but that there are more complex issues including institutional, cultural, contextual and even pedagogical factors that make MOOCs not necessarily an ‘exportable’ solution.

In sum, a number of key questions need to be addressed:

  • To what extent are MOOCs perceived as a beneficial innovation?
  • Should one-size-fits-all vendor-designed massive courses become the norm?
  • What are the barriers when foreign educational models are adopted in different cultural settings?
  • To what extent a “local” customization of these courses and certificates should be developed?
  • What benefits/challenges are observed by the education and employment sectors?
  • How are non-traditional forms of knowledge transfer valorized from the employer’s perspective?
  • Can the ‘soft certification’ contribute to meet the local demands of employability?
  • What recommendations should be adopted in order to consolidate MOOCs?


* This text is an excerpt of a larger document written by Dr. Edgar Gómez Cruz and the author of this blog.

Social media a tool for connecting formal and informal learning

Social Media Use

The increasing adoption of mobile devices facilitated by the accumulative acceptance of “social networks” (far beyond the Facebook world) is becoming characteristic of modern societies.  A recent study (conducted  by Telefonica Foundation on the 5 continents) indicates that Millennials (people between 18-30 years all) are online an average of 6 hours per day. That figure is equivalent to 168 hours per month or 84 days per year. In other words, young people spend 2.8 months a year online. These figures not only reflect the relevance of digital technologies in everyday life but also indicate a potential changing pattern in the way people communicate and share information with each other.

In a similar way that the boundaries between being off and online are becoming increasingly blurred, the distinctions between using social media for personal or professional use is becoming less clearly defined. In that sense, the ongoing use of social media has growing relevance and importance for everyday and lifelong learning practices.

For instance, the British National Oxford Internet Survey (OxIS) shows that internet is progressively becoming a key source of information. Interestingly, one of the more evident changes during the last decade or so can be observed in the accumulative volume of online self or informal learning activities such as: finding or checking a fact or looking up a definition of a word, followed by investigating topics of personal interest.

Despite the notable interest in open learning practices such as the massive open online courses (MOOCS), it could be argued that ‘online learning’ is becoming an everyday life activity. To what extent are people aware of these micro but continuous informal learning practices (such as watching a lecture, reading an e-book, translating contents, discussing the result of a survey or criticising a theory via forums, chatrooms or blogs)?

Digital companies such as LinkedIn, the Mozilla foundations or DIY.org are promoting all sort of online badges aimed to bring visibility and recognition to some of these informal learning activities. It is still to be explored if some of these ‘soft skills’ will be recognised by the employment sector.

Additionally, from the formal education and training point of view, it will be interesting to see how social media is embedded into formal and non-formal learning practices. The adoption of new ways of using social media provides plenty of opportunities to enhance the access to formal education resource. At the same time, social media offer novel possibilities in order to expand and diversify the learning opportunities. Samples of the latter are: Open Badges, ED TED, Khan Academy community, Coursera Meetup, a few others are described at Open Michigan, etc.

Important contributions in this field can be learned from people like Zane Berge (UMBC), Neil Selwyn (Institute of Education, University of London), Sebastian Thrun (Stanford University and Udacity) or Keri Facer (Education and Social Research Institute at the Manchester Metropolitan University).



Future Internet Assembly: ‘from the lab into the real world’

According to Wikipedia User-centered design is a ‘multi-stage problem solving process that not only requires designers to analyse and foresee how users are likely to use a product, but also to test the validity of their assumptions with regards to user behaviour in real world tests with actual users’. The idea of  placing the user at the centre of the process has been increasingly acknowledged as a ‘good practice’ in the design and implementation of technology and services. However, that practice is not necessarily adopted in the industry, probably because is a complex task, time-demanding, it requires multidisciplinary interventions and also it need to be done with some level of consistency (one single survey or focus applied to users might be almost relevant).

During the next Future Internet Assembly (Dublin, Ireland on 8th, 9th and 10th May) we will participate in the session “Linking user populations to novel networks in Future Internet research programmes” in order to discuss this topic and exchange perspectives with a broad range of communities.

“Many ‘Future Internet’ projects face the challenge of scaling-up the innovative internet services that they developed or experimented with in their projects. Such scaling-up requires large-scale adoption by stakeholders, especially by engaging (local) communities of users and engaging (local) businesses and entrepreneurs. In this workshop, we will address this challenge. We will share insights and practical experiences, regarding human-centred innovation and business modelling. As a participant, you will increase your understanding of possible approaches for successfully scaling-up innovative internet services: ‘from the lab into the real world’.

This initiative is organize in by Experimedia and in collaboration with members of Future Internet Socio-Economics (FISE) community.



Internet Science and the shift in academic knowledge landscape

Banner Internet Science

Last week was the first International Conference of Internet Science, hosted at Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium for Science and the Arts, Brussels. The event was truly  international and remarkably cross-disciplinary. Here a Twitter summary of the tweets feeds (#icis2013) of these says.

These day our paper “Digital Scholarship: Exploration of Strategies and Skills for Knowledge Creation and Dissemination” which explores opportunities and some of the transitions that the academic world is facing in the digital times. Openness, digital scholarship, co-authorships, new models of knowledge creation and dissemination are discussed in this paper co-written with Concepción Naval, visiting fellow at Balliol College here in Oxford.

Below the presentation (in Slideshare) and the summary of the article (already available at the Social Science Research Network open access repository).

ABSTRACT: Widespread access to digital technologies has enabled digital scholars to access, create, share, and disseminate academic contents in innovative and diversified ways. Today academic teams in different places can collaborate in virtual environments by conducting scholarly work on the Internet. Two relevant dimensions that have been deeply affected by the emergence of digital scholarship are new facets of knowledge generation (wikis, e-science, online education, distributed R&D, open innovation, open science, peer-based production, online encyclopedias, user generated content) and new models of knowledge circulation and distribution (e-journals, open repositories, open licenses, academic podcasting initiatives, etc.). Despite the potential transformation of these novel practices and mechanisms of knowledge production and distribution, some authors suggest that digital scholarship can only be of significance if it marks a radical break in scholarship practices brought about through the possibilities enabled in new technologies. This paper address some of the key challenges and raise a set of recommendations to foster the development of key skills, new models of collaboration and cross-disciplinary cooperation between digital scholars.

Suggested Citation:

Cobo, Cristobal and Naval, Concepcion, Digital Scholarship: Exploration of Strategies and Skills for Knowledge Creation and Dissemination (April 12, 2013). International Conference on Internet Science Conference Proceedings, Brussels, April 9-11, 2013. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2249794

#Knetworks: Educational Innovations Beyond Technology


Picture taken by Vyacheslav Polonski

Last week was the closing meeting of the research project KNetworks.The event that took place at the Instituto Superior Técnico (Lisbon). The meeting was a good opportunity to present some of the main outcomes and lessons learned of this multidisciplinary and international collaborative research. This initiative was funded by the European Regional Development Fund (Atlantic Programme).

In this opportunity my presentation was focus on the transformations that Higher Education sector is facing. The analysis highlighted some of the key transformations identified during the period of this project (2010-2013).

Some keywords of the presentation are: Higher Education, Open Access, Open Publishing, Digital Identity, Liquid Times, Knowledge recognition, disintermediation, Moocs, Creative Commons, Open Badges, Skills, and Human Capital.

High-tech companies looking to hire people with soft skills for innovation

Emerald Group Publishing and its journal On the Horizon just released our article: “Mechanisms to identify and study the demand for innovation skills in world-renowned organizations

[Excerpt] “Since extensive studies have been carried out to establish the relationship between functional skills, economic performance and workforce this research analyzed the need of soft skills for innovation among world class organizations. A comparative analysis was performed to explore the type and extent of soft skills for innovation that are demanded in recent job vacancies promoted in worldwide recognized organizations”.

Three of the six organizations included in the study are high-tech companies. The  world recognized organizations studied are Greenpeace, World Bank, OECD, Google, Apple and Samsung.

Title: Mechanisms to identify and study the demand for innovation skills in world-renowned organizations
Author(s): Cristobal Cobo, (Oxford Internet Institute)
Citation: Cristobal Cobo, (2012) “Mechanisms to identify and study the demand for innovation skills in world-renowned organizations”, On the Horizon, Vol. 21 Iss: 2
Article type: Research paper
Publisher: Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Abstract: Purpose - This paper explores the interrelationship between the fields of education and workforce in the context of post-industrial societies. We analyzed key challenges associated with the match (and mismatch) of skill supply and demand between education and the work force.

Design/methodology/approach - Using a ‘purposeful sample’, this study provides an evidence-based analysis that explores how and to what extent soft skills are currently required by world recognized organizations such as Greenpeace, World Bank, OECD, Google, Apple and Samsung.

Findings - After a revision of different perspectives to identify and categorize the key skills of the 21st century, this study describes seven non-technical cognitive and social key skills called soft skills for innovation.

Research limitations/implications - After exploring a small sample size on recent job vacancies promoted by six major international organizations, this study analyzes the current demand for soft skills for innovation such as, collaboration, critical thinking, contextual learning, searching, synthesizing and disseminating information, communication, self-direction and creativity. The methodology adopted and the data retrieval process can be replicated with either a larger sample or more focused workforce sectors.

Practical implications - The described ‘skills mismatch’ emphasizes the importance of creating different strategies and tools that facilitate the recognition of skills acquired independently of educational contexts.

Originality/value - Finally, this study provides evidence-based information (data available online) that can contribute to rethinking curriculums and exploring ‘blended’ models that mix real life and teaching contexts stimulating the development of soft skills for innovation.

Here the headlines of the conclusions:

  1. Soft skills are increasingly becoming hard skills.
  2. The commodification of education and flexible delivery.
  3. The ‘Tower-of-Babel’ problem, in which people use identical words but mean different things.
  4. Lifelong and self-learning in a complex world.
  5. A knowledgeable workforce with re-skilling and relearning capacities.
  6. Planning for uncertainty and recognition of soft skills.
  7. Innovation often requires a departure from conventional approaches.


If MOOCs are the Answer, What Is the Question?

Above the slides of a talk I gave today. The topic was ‘future trends on education‘, rather than technologies the idea was to focus on other time-tested dimensions which are relevant for the education. The plan was also to adress some of the drawbacks and pitfalls identified on MOOCs and other recent trends in online education.

Ironically, this talk was given in the first MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) organized by the the University of València (more information in Spanish). So, I have to say the experience was 2x more interesting.

The slides were made with Goodnotes (app). The title was borrowed from an article published by Harry E. Pence.

Here some of the sources used in the presentation:

Time to rethink education?

I was thrilled by the invitation of IB. I was invited to speaks at the 2012 International Baccalaureate conference for the Africa, Europe and Middle East region, held in Madrid. It was simply a privilege to have the possibility to stand in front of several hundred teachers from all around the world who are eager to explore new ways of understanding education.

This multinational audience of educators was ready to accept the challenges that I presented. During my conversation with many of them I learned that several communities of teachers were already exploring a number of initiative focus on fostering a ‘culture of innovation’. It was also a good news for me to learn from the adoption of some teaching techniques that aim to develop skills for globalization within and beyond the formal learning environments.

Finally, I founded some connections between that vision and the EU Initiative on “Opening up Education” a public consultation that highlighted the importance of opening up content, learning and collaboration (pdf). The time will show if the new education strategy launched by the European Commission on November 2012 called Rethinking Education goes in a similar direction or not.


Open Educational Practices in European and Latin American Higher Education institutions


The term Open Educational Resources (OER) was coined in 2002 in discussions at the Forum on the Impact of Open Courseware UNESCO. It describes “the provision of educational resources on open license, enabled by information technologies and communication, for consultation, use and adaptation by a community of users with non-commercial purposes”.

In June 2012, Community OER and UNESCO celebrated 10 years in the area of Open World Congress of Educational Resources in Paris, where the Declaration REA Paris 2012 was formally adopted. This calls on governments around the world to establish the adoption of open licenses for sharing knowledge produced with public funds.

This trilingual Compendium (written in English, Spanish and Portuguese) aims to fill part of the need for institutionalized information, and aims to discuss in a clear, didactic and realistic way, the experiences of selected higher education institutions who have offered OER. This document provides a unique approach. It combines remarkable initiatives in the institutional development of REA in Higher Education institutions in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Spain with experiences from Higher Education institutions and universities from Brazil, Mexico, and Ecuador, which serve to enlighten the compendium with their innovative ideas and projects.

This document has been developed in close collaboration with experts, researchers and decision makers from more than 10 universities in order to provide a global perspective of the OER movement. Some of the more relevant trends identified in this study are exemplified by a broad range of initiatives, including: change in the organizational culture; flexible certification; new business models; middle term institutional strategy; incentives policy; use of non-commercial open source or self-develop platforms; focus on champions; decentralized – federated solutions; open standard, bibliometric criteria; search engine optimization; community building and peer-based collaboration; quality assurance; repurposing and licensing; and open publishing policies.

The cases included in this study are:

  • Unicycle OER Project, Leeds Metropolitan University (UK)
  • OpenER, Open Universiteit (Netherlands)
  • Openlearn,  Open University (UK)
  • University of Alicante’s Open Knowledge Strategy (Spain)
  • Open Educational Practices, UTPL (Ecuador)
  • TEMOA, Tecnológico de Monterrey (México)
  • CEDERJ – TECA, (Brazil)
  • Institucional Policy Of Open Access, OUC (Spain)
  • OpenSpires, Oxford University (UK)
As follows the interviews included (podcast available):
  • David Kernohan, Programme Manager, e-Learning, JISC
  • Faraón Llorens and Juan José Bayona, University of Alicante’s,
  • Fred Mulder, UNESCO Chair in OER.
  • Mary Lou Forward, Executive Director OpenCourseWare Consortium.
  • Pedro Aranzadi, Managing Director of Universia Spain
  • Robert Schuwer, Associate Professor at the Open University of the Netherlands.

Dr Andreia Inamorato dos Santos (Universidade Federal Fluminense, Brazil)
Dr Cristobal Cobo (University of Oxford, UK)
Dr Celso Costa (Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)

 *This initiative was supported by the OportUnidad project.
[To download the file: Please access the SlideShare service and click on 'Save'].
To get the Paperback, (216 Pages) go to LuLu.