TL;DR version: Documentation of the graphics, design choices, and rationale of iterations of the open badge initiative we're completing for use in the Online Research & Media Skills learning community.
As I have documented through a series of blog posts, we’ve been working on developing an open badge initiative. The badges will connect with completion and serve as credentials or identification for individuals that have completed the ORMS Massive, Open, Online Community that we have been developing. The focus of this work will be to provide educators with an opportunity to build the knowledge, skills, and dispositions necessary to embed technology into teaching and learning. The ORMS MOOC and these badges will also provide educators with a chance to guide their colleagues through the modules and build up these skills.
The purpose of this blog post is to document the evolution and development of the graphics we ultimately chose for our badges. These badges were collaboratively constructed by a group of graduate students in the pre-service teacher program enrolled in my Instructional Technology in Today’s Classroom course. The graphics for the badges were designed and revised by Todd Jokl, Associate Professor and Chair of the Art & Design Department at UNH.
The initial series of drafts of the badges resembled a flag, or pieces of tapestry. In these initial mock-ups the intent was to emulate the regalia and decorations that are used in educational ceremonies.
From Flags to Flags
The second series of drafts continued to use the themes of flags, but moved to only including one flag per badge. The rationale for this change was that we wanted to highlight each and every achievement by participants in the ORMS MOOC. In the earlier design, the badge only looked complete when it included all of the threads of the other badges. In this second series of badges, we still continue the theme of flags, but the individual levels of completion are more pronounced.
Moving From Flags to Cards
In the third iteration of the design elements of the badges we moved from flags to cards. The rationale for this change was that the design team began thinking about how these badges would fit with each other and “interlock”, or connect with each other. In the ORMS MOOC, there are a series of five badges that participants can pledge for. After earning the badges, we started thinking about what the next steps for participants might be. At the same time, as the main administrator of the Community, I wanted to find a way to promote ownership of the community with others. As a result we developed a system in which participants can “level-up” and become leaders, or mentors in the group. In investigating this work I reached out to experts on gaming and participation to identify ways in which I could authentically increase participation and a sense of community. I’ll share that work in a later post.
Edits and Revisions to the Badges
After reviewing the last series of mockups, we decided that this was the direction that we wanted to head for our badges. The design for the badges was minimalistic, flat, and representative of the themes of each of the modules in the MOOC. Online Collaborative Inquiry included two arrows pointing in different directions. To us this indicated a “conversation” or interaction between ideas or individuals. Online Reading Comprehension included three parallel lines. This graphic was representative of a section of text that participants would have to read. Online Content Construction included a “plus” sign from mathematics. To us this graphic indicated the basic notion of an individual adding to, or constructing online content.
There were several problems with this last set of badges. The first was that Multimodal Tutorial and Digital Identity were not clear at all. The graphic and design for the other badges was representative of the goals or focus of the modules. We wanted to identify a graphic for each of these that was as clear as the others. We also wanted the colors of the badges to balance out and not use duplicates. Finally, the title for each badge was not needed on the badge. That will be included in the metadata for each badge.
Revisions to Multimodal Tutorial
In refining our badge for Multimodal Tutorial we looked at several design options and themes. These included a refined “plus”, or a “cross.” The rationale for this is that we wanted to mimic the look of the Red Cross logo, with the intent that a teaching resource could provide help or assistance for others. We finally moved on to a “play” sign, or the graphic for “greater than.” This graphic was selected because it represents the ability to “press play” on a video, or audio element of a learning tutorial. Additionally, we included a sense of empowerment in thinking that participants could “press play” on their own learning as a result.
Revisions to Digital Identity
The revisions to the Digital Identity badge were the most contentious in our design process. We also solicited the opinion of three different groups of experts in the field three different times to identify the best option. Originally we thought of trying to use the graphic of an “eye”, or a “finger print”, or a “bar code.” After reviewing a series of mockups of the finger print and the bar code it became apparent that the decision was between the finger print and the bar code. I was on the side of the bar code, the remainder of the design team was in favor of the finger print. Their argument was that the bar code was too impersonal and not representative of the aspects of identity that we wanted to promote. In the focus groups with the content area experts we identified the possibility of using a representation of a QR Code as a compromise. In the end we selected the QR code as a representation of digital identity.
Final Series of Badges
The final set of badges includes all five badges from the five modules in the ORMS MOOC. Upon completion of these five badges, the meta-level badge is unlocked. This badge allows members to guide others through the MOOC. At this point the meta-level badge is referred to as the “mentor” badge…but that is not set in stone. With the Mentor badge you are allowed to guide others through the MOOC, but you cannot award badges. After leading one group through, you can “level up” again. At this point you would earn what is referred to as the “shepherd” badge. Again, this name is not set in stone. With the Shepherd badge you can award badges, edit the community, and guide participants through the MOOC.
The final steps will include edits and revisions of the ORMS MOOC to add in the badges and Mozilla Web Literacies. Additionally the connections to the Common Core State Standards will be included. Finally, the badges and learning community will be reviewed by members of the Mozilla Open Badges and Web Literacy initiatives before finally launching this work.