‘Badges’ have long been used as a motivation and reward tool in many different disciplines.
Remember achieving that 50m swimming badge before sprinting home to ask your mum to sew it on your soaking trunks? Or, gaining that 'First Aid' badge at Girl Guides and feeling a sense of immense pride.
In more recent times, maybe you unlocked an achievement on a popular game or gained a badge for winning 10 online games of pool in a row. The idea and principles of 'motivation through reward' have remained consistent throughout the years, but how can we use them to encourage digital learners?
A digital, standards-based, open accreditation framework called Open Badges might help.
So what is an Open Badge?
Well, in its most basic form, an Open Badge is a digital reward which can be stored inside a student's ‘digital backpack'. The badges can be achieved by completing tasks and goals set by an issuer, such as a learning provider (awarding badges for achieving soft skills) or a website (for completing an online task), basically anyone who wants to keep a user motivated and interested. The issuer creates the criteria needed for the user to achieve the badge. This is embedded inside the badge in the form of metadata, along with who issued the badge, when it was issued and an expiry date if relevant.
The Open Badges Infrastructure (OBI) - which is being developed by the non-profit Mozilla Foundation and shaped by an international community of developers - can be used to issue, display and earn the digital awards. If you want to look at some examples of badges in action a number of organisations, educational providers and communities such as NASA, the Clinton Global Initiative, De Paul University, DigitalMe and the City of Chicago are actually already using Open Badges to reward and recognise a variety of skills and achievements.
How are people using them?
Scotland’s interest in Open Badges has been growing - the opportunities offered to improve traditional accreditation routes are an appealing thought.
Borders College in Scotland has been piloting the use of badges using Moodle. They have developed three badge levels (Bronze, Silver and Gold) allowing students to be awarded their first badges for best practice in Moodle use. There is also a higher level badge (Platinum) which is available to both staff and students who are considered to show outstanding contributions to the use of technology in the classroom.
One potentially more radical element of the pilot is that students have also been given the opportunity to vote for the lecturer they believe displays the best use of Moodle across their course. The intended outcome of this aspect of the project is that lecturing staff will also receive recognition for the time and effort they invest in using Moodle, which will hopefully encourage an increased use of innovative techniques.
The College will be gauging the impact of the pilot over the coming year but have let us know that so far students are enjoying the opportunity to gain recognition for aspects of their learning that would not traditionally have been rewarded or recognised in a formalised way.
How can you start using Open Badges?
We have a wealth of information, resources and case studies on Open Badges which may help you:
- Mozilla’s Open Badges site - where you can find out how to use the Open Badge Infrastructure to earn, issue and display Open Badges
- Badge the UK - Official site for the Badge the UK project
- Open Badges case studies
- Jisc RSC Scotland Open Badges - information on the Jisc RSC Scotland’s Open Badges series, how we support Open Badges developments in Scotland and instructions on how to accept one of our badges.
You can always contact your local Jisc RSC for further information.
What do we think will happen in the future?
We recently held a Jisc RSC Scotland event where college staff worked with Mozilla Badges and DigitalMe (winners of the DML Competition ‘Badges for Lifelong Learning’ and one of the leads on the Badge the UK project). We noticed a consensus that it would be useful to bring together interested parties to identify areas where Open Badges could add value to education in Scotland and to co-develop such badges.
This has since resulted in the formation of the Open Badges in Scottish Education Group (OBSEG), which will perform an overview and mapping function of Open Badges developments in Scotland.
The OBSEG hopes that through the input of representatives from a variety of educational institutions and agencies in Scotland, it will be able to consider synergies between different stages on a learner's formal and informal learning journey and contribute to the development of a badge eco-system within Scotland.
Our hope for the future is that Open Badges become embedded within learning and this national approach is used as an example that can be put in place worldwide!