Inspiration Behind Learning Labels

Thursday, 01 November 2018 1689 Views

I got the inspiration for learning labels (Skills Label) as I was working on tasking in an application (Skills Based Approach). I wanted to reduce typing of information for each task, so with a learning label, one person creates the label and the information becomes available to all the users.

As I worked through the concept, I saw the potential of a learning label – a standard representation of learning expectations as a display. I decided to move forward with intellectual property (IP) protection for the technology. Two prior art searches (2016 and 2017) did not reveal any close matches. A market analysis conducted by me and business students found competing services (at some level), but there is clearly a niche and differentiation for the learning label technology.

I hear the remark: “So these Skills Labels, they are like nutritional labels but for learning (education)”. As I made clear the inspiration did not start with a nutritional label. Though later it had some influence. A nutritional label is a highly effective standard display, it: reads well – understandable to children to adults, informs, creates uniformity (measurements), and aids in making a basis of comparison. And these are also target attributes of learning labels.

I think the learning labels have significant other attributes:

  • Optimized for a digital experience. They are interactive, scalable vector graphics that appear well on any device.
  • Data can be interpolated over time. As learners consume resources, the data collected from the learning labels becomes available.
  • Link to standards. Most set of standards should work with learning labels.
  • Learning gain calculated as a number. Each label has calculated Skill Points to represent learning (the return part of a ROI).
  • Interface to manage labels. Separate interfaces for learners and practitioners to manage labels.

Back to the nutritional label discussion. They are a very big deal. Most countries in the world have a ‘nutritional facts label’. In the United States, the label was mandated for most food products under the provisions of the 1990 Nutrition Labeling and Education Act (NLEA), per the recommendations of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (according to Wikipedia). Now, it is ubiquitous. Children are taught to read the labels in school. Many of us make decisions on what we eat based on the information on the labels. Each of the past three administrations (Bush, Obama, and Trump) has in some way conducted policy based on these labels.

Might be thinking grandiose, but I think there could be similar benefits with learning labels. I think there is so much happening in education and higher education, there needs to be some way to standardize a display of learning expectations; this does not mean to standardize the learning itself, but rather, how it is represented. How do we track learning across education, higher education, and career stages? How do we manage the distribution of various learning standards? How do we verify learning resources do what they are supposed to? Is it possible to put learners (including children) in control of deciding what learning experiences they want to do?

Thinking in skills and their methods and applications – the foundation of the labels – is the answer to many of these questions. I think being able to plug in any set of learning standards makes the labels powerful – districts, states, and countries can use their own standards. (One of the objectives of Common Core was to unify the education system, but in the intervening years states have been modifying their own versions of the standards.)

The learning label concept is a stable, online website application (with supporting API). It is currently free to use. Looking for partners, investors and practitioners to keep this moving forward.