Barbara Moser-Mercer, Directrice of Inzone recently presented an insightful case study of MOOCs in war-ravaged zones (at the UCL Bartlett seminar on MOOCs). She raised a number of issues, including assessment, and the need to recognise and certify learning in fragile zones such as refugee camps. (And it might be useful to try to extrapolate this to other fragile zones, and marginalised communities - such as the unemployed youth in the EU, see the comments on zero growth elsewhere in this wiki).

The self-mapping and self-evidencing (open assessment) model does offer enormous potential for bridging the gap between actual learning (from JuaKali enterprises in Kenya to Somali refugee camps) and actual accreditation. It is alive and well in the UK, but is not energetically promoted - it costs the student less (but generates less revenue for the institution), by generating more accreditation for the time spent at university than regular courses. This should be something to celebrate! The return on investment for the student and society is much better, but for the university its much worse, they get paid for student attendance and throughput, on site. These interests just part ways.

Intermittent internet access is the rule in many fragile, marginal communities, but even this provides an intermittent window to interact with other people and institutions. Anyone can use free platforms like Dropbox and arXiv (the preprint platforms for academic articles in physics, etc) to upload their materials, at whatever stage it is in their writing. These platforms offer good, secure buffer zones for the store-and-sharing of knowledge and information. And arXiv, particularly, is also a store and feed-forward platform, as it interfaces with 'printed' journals.

The point is that these might be the kinds of affordances that could be strung together with learning-mapping, to create some small, but secure, bridges out of the conflict 'buffer zones', for accreditation, certification, and professional progression.

As Barbara pointed out, there is a need to contextually ground mapping solutions for open learning. Such solutions need to be built up in local institutions, although they may unfortunately just be poor clones of whichever donor country happened to offer support for education in their last funding round. UK development aid, for instance, seems to have become more politicised (in terms of the current government's priorities) than ever, and Futurelearn is pedagogically impoverished, and does not even address the needs of the UK universities, which is why many of them are not buying into it at all.

Experience in the UK shows that although there is an overarching UK accreditation format that all Higher Education institutions have to comply with, individual universities (e.g. Portsmouth, Middlesex) that offer self-mapping and self-evidencing courses for students, do this as individual institutions, not in country-wide (or Bologna-wide) frameworks, although the bigger framework/s are always kept in (the back of the) mind.

There are (as always) benefits and drawbacks to going either the country/region-wide route with self-mapping and self-evidencing, or going the individual institutional route. But there are some hard lessons to be learnt from recent elearning initiatives in the UK. A few years back the UKeU was launched, as a new platform for elearning across the UK, with the UKeU as the new 'brand' and platform, offering a range of courses from UK universities. It crashed within 18 months, partly because the pedagogy and software platform wasn't up to the task, but more importantly because people did not want a 'UK' degree, they wanted a degree from a particular institution: Oxford, UCL, LSE, etc. 'UKeU' had no brand recognition, and therefore no value as currency.

Summative assessment is always raised as an issue, and it is quite valid. However, it might be useful to start quite modestly, and explore the ways in which self-mapping and self-evidencing are already working in practice, and see if any of these examples might inform practice in fragile zones. It is of course the case that a key element of the 'evidencing' loop is a 'recognised', objective, person in the workplace (or 'life-place', perhaps, in fragile zones), who can vouch for the authenticity of the student's practice, and learning. That is difficult, but I dont think its insurmountable. It does add yet another task and responsibility to already stretched workers in these resource-strapped environments.

The footprints approach started as a way to describe what happens in 'new-open' learning spaces, but has developed into a palette for mapping out personal experience and development in the new-open (or emergent) learning, which requires much more self-organisation, and agency than a conventional course, which are really difficult in zones in which basic confidence and self-esteem is already under threat. But there is always the possibility of cross-fertilisation between the confidence gained in learning, and its application in social action. Many donors have had to be convinced that the 'content' of the course was not necessarily the key value for the community in such zones: self-confidence and agency have much wider value and 'currency', and many of the best 'students' often move on to something quite different, often elsewhere.

In open, emergent learning, the ability to describe, explore, and share these aspects of personal development, using visualization tools such as footprints (or any other method) might be a value in its own right.