OpenCred Study


The OpenCred study was carried out by the Institute of Learning Innovation at the University of Leicester in collaboration with the European Commission's Institute for Prospective Technological Studies (IPTS), from May to November 2014. Its purpose is to inform IPTS’s OpenEdu project, which is investigating the challenges and opportunities in the recognition of learning achievements via open learning with the aim of supporting policy development at a European level.

The OpenCred research team (Gabi Witthaus, Mark Childs, Bernard Nkuyubwatsi, Grainne Conole, Andreia Inamorato dos Santos, Yves Punie and Jonatan Castaño Muñoz) investigated practices, attitudes and rationales for the types of recognition awarded for open learning, the factors that influenced decisions in this regard, and the contexts in which non-formal, open learning was recognised.

The study started with a desk research phase, which sought to identify the ways in which the main open education collaborative networks, consortia and platforms in Europe offer recognition for open learning. The concept of recognition was broken down into different levels of formality, with reference to some key recent discussion documents in the literature, and descriptors were given for each level in the resulting hierarchy. Various European open education initiatives were then described in terms of this hierarchy of levels of formality of recognition. The researchers also carried out four in-depth case studies to investigate the experiences of a small number of participants in open education in Europe from different perspectives. Six interviews were held: two with teachers based in higher education education/research institutions, two with MOOC learners, and two with employers/employer bodies that are beginning to recognise non-formal, open learning.

From the data gathered in the desk research phase and the case studies, it became apparent that the following three elements of open learning had a significant impact on recognition of open learning: robustness of assessment, affordability for the learner, and eligibility for assessment and recognition. To illustrate the relationships between these elements, two tools were developed:

  • a matrix indicating the typical relationship between assessment and recognition
  • series of diamond-shaped graphs representing the tensions between formality of recognition and the other three elements (robustness of assessment, affordability for the learner, and eligibility for assessment and recognition).

Graphs were generated for a number of open learning initiatives, and were then clustered into groupings with similar shapes, forming a typology of recognition types across different open education initiatives. It is anticipated that this typology will facilitate ongoing discussion and comparison of recognition practices as they emerge and evolve in the rapidly developing field of open education.


Example of a MOOC with robust assessment paid for by learners

University of Osnabrück MOOC on iversity: ‘Data Structures and Algorithms’

Source: OpenCred Study of the OpenEdu Project

Example of a typical MOOC with little or no recognition

Croatian Academic Research Network (CARNet) MOOC: ‘Creating Courses in Moodle’

Source: OpenCred Study of the OpenEdu Project



Project Leader (ICT for Learning & Skills): Yves Punie

Project coordinator (OpenCred): Andreia Inamorato dos Santos

OpenEdu research team: Andreia Inamorato dos Santos, Jonatan Castaño Muñoz, Yves Punie