What does it mean to be an ‘expert’ in the web era?

I’m participating in an event today at TORCH (The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities). This blog post is for my notes. The day consists of brief presentations and expert panel discussions.

Update: the ‘canonical’ document for today’s proceedings is here

Doug Belshaw Dr. Doug Belshaw
Web Literacy Lead
Mozilla Foundation

Twitter: @dajbelshaw

Brief presentation

What we do and why?

Practice based presentations of formal and informal continuous learning experiences; new forms of academic visibility; new means of knowledge recognition/certification; and open access and open educational practices.



  • Mozilla is best known for Firefox
  • Global non-profit dedicated to the open web
  • Driven by a mission, backed by a manifesto



Web Literacy Map v1.1 - competency layer

Web Literacy Map

Open Badges anatomy

Open Badges

  • The Open Badges Infrastructure (OBI) is a web-native, decentralised form of credentialing
  • Metadata-infused digital image that can be displayed anywhere on the web
  • Incubated by Mozilla, now spun as the Badge Alliance (non-profit)
  • Many different applications (e.g. formal/informal education, service industries, medical)
  • International working groups currently being set up. I’m co-chair of the Digital / Web Literacy working group.

Experts panel discussions

What does it mean to be an ‘Expert’ in the web era and what is the value of the form of learning/accreditation you provide or promote?

The panel discussion will review and critique emerging learning opportunities and flexible knowledge recognition initiatives, exploring how the Web influences our understanding of what it means to be an ‘expert’ and the manner in which universities and disciplines should respond to the new currency of the Web. The goal is to develop themes and opportunities for future research.


  • My father used to always say, “Beware of experts, son! ‘X’ is an unknown quantity, and ‘spurt’ is a drip under pressure!”
  • Our learning theories are useful, but need updating. See, for example, Connectivism.
  • Howard Rheingold’s book Net Smart is a great overview of what it means to successfully learn and live on the web.
  • We should review the Web Literacy Map to make it the best it can be.
  • Mozilla’s focus is on the web, but ‘digital’ pertains to more than just this. I wrote my doctoral thesis on digital literacy, and released v0.99 of an iterative e-book on The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies


  • How can we upgrade credentialing for the web?
  • What happens when we give students devices where they’re forced to accept Terms of Service (ToS) to even participate in learning? (Australia example)
  • How do we avoid outsourcing our data (and then our decisions) to megacorps owning and operating huge silos of data?
  • Is Higher Education (and education in general) about value for money?
  • What’s the value of face-to-face versus online learning? Is blended always best?

Finally, while writing this post I came across Brian Lamb’s amazing keynote write-up. It’s worth spending an hour or so with that post and the things Brian links to. :-)