Impact of a UCISA bursary…six months on





Roisin Cassidy
Technology Enhanced Learning Advisor
York St. John University




In June of last year, I was fortunate to be awarded a UCISA bursary to attend a conference of my choosing. The purpose of the bursary fund is to provide UCISA members with the means to go to an event that they would not usually have the opportunity to attend. Six months on, I’ve reflected on the impact of the ePIC 2015 conference on my institution and my own development.

I chose the ePIC conference (8-10 June, Barcelona) because its two main strands of open badges and eportfolios aligned with my interests and current priorities in my role as a Technology Enhanced Learning Advisor at York St John University.  Three days of presentations, workshops, posters, and networking events addressed a whole gamut of badge issues, including the value and devaluing of open badges, options for issuing and displaying, and approaches to meaningful design. The purpose and value of eportfolios was scrutinised, and theoretical models and implementations were presented. Attendees spanned the school, further, and higher education sectors, as well as national representative bodies and international humanitarian organisations.  Throughout the conference, I tweeted useful resources and projects at the #ePIC2015 hashtag, and my thoughts on individual sessions can be found on my three blog post reports and Storify of the event.

The benefits of attending were evident later in the summer, with the launch of a collaborative open badge project at my institution. At the time of the conference, I had been approached by our Student Services team about the potential for open badges to be used as a means of recognising the work of Residential Support Assistants (RSAs) at the University. RSAs are generally second- and third-year students who are appointed to help provide a safe, supportive, and inclusive living environment.  The role is one of responsibility, leadership, and teamwork, and the University is keen to acknowledge these students’ contributions to life in the Residences, and to enable them to articulate their achievements in the future. Prior to the conference, the badge pathway, criteria, and means of issuing were all yet to be decided, and the final outcome has been heavily influenced by my attendance. A collection of five badges aligned to the RSAs’ training sessions, and the skills, values, and attributes they are expected to exhibit, were designed. The badges can be earned in any order, and culminate in a York St John Residential Leadership Award milestone badge – a model frequently discussed at the conference. You can read more about the project on the York St John TEL Team’s blog.

Residential Leadership Award Badge Pathway

Residential Leadership Award Badge Pathway






ePIC 2015 also served as a forum for launching the Open Badge Passport (OPB), which is a free, open source, cloud-based service allowing individual users to receive, share, and organise their open badges, and the Open Badge Factory, a badge issue and management service based on the Mozilla open standard, and operating a freemium model. York St John subsequently purchased a licence for the Open Badge Factory, initially for use for the RSA badges, but our collection is growing. Amongst other positives, this approach enables students to easily apply for badges with supporting evidence, and the evidence can be reviewed by the Residences Officer before issuing. It also allows for the creation of milestone badges, where several badges contribute to an overall award or badge. So far, the system has proved very useful and intuitive. Our next step – once the plugin has been tested further – is to integrate the Passport with Mahara so that students can easily display badges in both.

Since attending, I’ve been able to incorporate examples from the conference into subsequent open badge information sessions that I’ve delivered to staff, and referred to ongoing projects (for example, JISC’s Prospect to Alumnus (P2A) project) which could raise the profile and currency of badges amongst UK employers – something badge sceptics (rightly!) query regularly. I was also energised to begin a review of ePortfolio use at York St John, particularly its use and impact as an assessment method, and attempted to recruit a student researcher to work alongside me on this. Unfortunately, there were no takers for the role and it has since stalled, but I haven’t abandoned the idea yet!

The conference was smaller than expected, the positive side of which was more opportunity for prolonged discussion in a smaller crowd. As a result, I’ve widened my network of open badge enthusiasts, and have several contacts I can draw upon for support as I navigate new territory. If you’re a newcomer to open badges, I recommend following the work (and Twitter accounts!) of these badge enthusiasts:  Serge Ravet (conference organiser), Eric Rousselle (CEO of Discendum Inc., makers of Open Badge Factory), Don Presant, Doug Belshaw, and Fiona Harvey.

I’ll also be attending the upcoming Open Badges in Higher Education Conference (8 March, Southampton), where I expect to catch up with many familiar ePIC faces – hopefully see some of you there!

Many thanks again to UCISA for sponsoring my attendance.

Interested in applying for a UCISA bursary? Then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme 2018.

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