This paper examines existing and potential scalable approaches to formal assessment and accreditation to digital learning, comparing and contrasting such uses with more traditional approaches. Unbundling of services, so that assessment & accreditation are separate from teaching and support, makes OER much easier to implement and build upon. There is little requirement for physical space, so it can grow in a similar fashion as that of many Internet platforms. This of course makes OER much more scalable than physical institutions can compete with. While international or even national accreditation & assessment services are not currently widespread or easily accessible, developing a robust system that can service thousands or even hundreds of thousands of students could change the dynamic of access to post-secondary education. All of the technology is already available, such as payment systems, content management systems, and exam taking.
Lessons learned so far from key initiatives in this area are discussed, proposing tentative guidance for policy makers and various stakeholder groups in this area. Currently, the greatest potential and demand for OER: is in non-OECD countries; at non-traditional institutions; at institutions with PLAR models in place.
Breaking down institutional silos is still a major issue before a large-scale OER/PLAR/RPL system is in place. In terms of cost-effective and sustainable approaches to student support, peer-to-peer learning support models were considered to be the most effective, followed by support from retired academics or other volunteers, and the design of system to enable senior students or graduates to provide support for junior students. As for the types of assessment methods that would most likely be used in the future recognition of prior learning via portfolio assessment and course-based portfolios were both considered appropriate, as well as automated online assessments.
The greatest barriers to participation in open assessment and accreditation practices identified were the lack of availability of committed staff members to support such activities, and the potential costs of redeveloping courses as open educational resources. Lack of support for OER-based courses from senior management was a significantly greater concern for participants from traditional education institutions than for those from institutions with open policies, and was perceived to be a more significant barrier within public than private institutions. These findings suggest that institutions that already have policies that support open assessment and accreditation practices will be able to easily align the implementation of collaborative OER courses with existing policies and processes.
The key institutional success factors for the provision of open assessment and accreditation services appear to be a strong support base within institutions ? both in terms of leadership and resources, and an existing culture of openness, including policies and practices around the creation and use of OERs, as well as policies that enable either open access or recognition of prior learning via credit transfer or PLAR. Institutions that are already characterized by these features are likely to be best placed for the implementation of assessment and accreditation of OER-based learning, and could provide models for other organizations