EASY & The Big Red Button

The Big Red Button image

We are presenting at this years OER18 conference in Bristol. We pick up a theme of using Clipper for assessment that we started at a conference on widening participation at the Open University a couple of years ago – that was called The Big Red Button you can see the presentation here. To this we add the idea of open educational approaches pioneered way back in the 19th century by the University of London. The idea is simple – there should be open assessment / examination services provided by ‘closed’ education providers – where anyone can be assessed for a small fee. This decouples teaching from assessment completely. It’s not for everyone, but we think it is a valuable option that should be available more widely. Of course that would need political backing to require educational institutions to offer such a service – thats why this is presented under the ‘politics of open education’ strand of the conference. EASY stands for Evidencing and Assessing Skills for Youth, we are proposing that this would be a worthwhile means of providing assessment of vocational skills for assessment offsite and would be a good way of opening up vocational education – which has been rather neglected by the open education movement in the UK.

Here is the abstract for our presentation:

This presentation proposes changes to vocational education, based on open educational innovations from 1858 [sic!], as implemented by the University of London External Programme (Daniels, et al. 2009) and established technologies. Namely, the separation of assessment from teaching and the use of video evidence in assessment. Based on these prior activities:

Using video for assessment has become a viable alternative to traditional academic ‘pen and paper’ assessment instruments e.g. MCQs or essays, that can prioritise written communication abilities of learners over skills ability. Our response to this is converting the Clipper video software into a skills assessment and portfolio toolkit, aka ‘The Big Red Button’ and deploying it in a community education context in the EASY project (Evidencing and Assessing Skills for Youth), as an OER (Hewlett Foundation, 2016).


To benefit non-traditional learners and improve existing ‘closed’ educational systems, a powerful force of change is the attainment of ‘official qualifications’, as education (mostly) revolves around the certification of learning. Our intent is to move discourse about widening access forward; to ask critical questions about ‘access to what?’

An obstacle is that certification of learning is traditionally tied to teaching – an essential part of the current ‘political economy’ of education. Despite it being possible for learners to be assessed on their skills and abilities, by arranging assessment without undergoing instruction, in practice this does not happen to any great extent. This critique in no way undervalues traditional approaches to education, but they are not suitable for everybody. This is particularly important in a social context of ‘permanent austerity’, where vocational qualifications can have major impacts on individuals’ life chances.

Challenging this status quo meets the forces of inertia and entropy, common in educational systems (as in 1858 London). Thus, innovating open educational practices externally in the community with the EASY project and at the same time linking them to the attainment of ‘proper’ official qualifications is a sensible approach. Such qualifications have a socio-economic ‘currency’ that electronic badges alone do not have. However, combining both could maximize benefits to learners and providers


Daniel, J. & Kanwar, A. & West, P.& Uvalić-Trumbić, S. & Alluri, K & Menon, M. (2009). Open and Distance Learning in a Changing World: Selected speeches of Sir John Daniel and colleagues 2007-2008. Vancouver: Commonwealth of Learning.

The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. (2016). OER Defined. San Francisco.

Casey, J., Calverley, G., Greller, W., & Uhomoibhi, J. (2010, 26-28 May). e-Portfolios for Learning and Development: without constant internet or electrical grid access. Presentation at the 5th International Conference on ICT for Development, Education, and Training – eLearning Africa.