Considerations on Hosting an Open Badging Initiative

Considerations on Hosting an Open Badging Initiative

TL;DR Version: In this blog post I synthesize and share some of the feedback and commentary I've had while to make sense of the deletion of our open badges. This situation has been beneficial as it points to another layer of questions and considerations we must have while developing an open badge initiative.

In the last blog post I detailed “challenges” associated with launching our open badging initiative. Put simply…they were deleted. As a result I promptly sent a message out via Twitter, and posted to the Open Badges Google Group. After the last blog post, I’ve had a ton of people reach out to me with support, and possible next steps. To be honest, at this point I don’t know what the next step is. I do know that I will continue to research and investigate open badges…among other things. I’ll push to use these with teachers and students in hybrid learning spaces in and out of school. I’ve learned a lot about badges…and I still have many more questions. I consider that to be a great thing. To that end, I won’t/can’t share my next steps in thinking about where I’ll re-launch our badges. I have some ongoing dialogues with some people about badge hosting that I want to see through to the end. After that I’ll come back here with a blog post for those of you that are following along…and thinking about your own badging platforms and initiatives.

In this post I’ll share some of the feedback I received and some of the commentary associated with this feedback. I think it’s all very helpful for those of you invested in this kind of work. If you’ve followed along my journey in open badges, you’ll know that I’ve spent a lot of time, Tylenol, and thought trying to figure out badges, motivation, and potential. I didn’t see this last detour coming where I would fall flat on my face. I view this somewhat as a blessing. I think that I have the (limited) tech-savvy and ability to research alternatives and rebuild. As an early adopter, and someone that lives in a “beta” world…I’m used to things blowing up. I view this as a positive because I hopefully can steer around these issues..and help others do the same. So…enough about the logic…let’s get to the good stuff…

Where I went wrong

The main reason that my badges were deleted is that I loaded them into badges.mozilla.org. I do have an account with Mozilla, I also have an account (which may not be vouched on mozillians.org. Pretty much what this all means is that because I’m not (or my badges are not) related to Mozilla Corp, or community…these were deleted. To help me understand all of this, Les Orchard stepped up and stated that he believes that he deleted them from their system. Les also indicated that badg.us (his project) also is not appropriate for hosting and launching badging initiatives for others. I did not use badg.us, although I would have as it looks just like badges.mozilla.org.

To help find other badging platforms, Les (and others) have suggested viewing the following Google Doc. It is a collaboratively constructed resource that identifies potential spots to host your badging initiative. At this point I am investigating the options available on the Google Doc. I’m also considering just hosting the badges from my this WordPress blog using WPBadger. The reason is that I know (for the most part) that it will remain online and available.

Considerations while developing badges

To help others understand and develop their own badging initiative, I put together a “Make with Me” for the Connected Learning community, and included a Hangout and Coggle mindmap. I originally thought that I had most of the answers needed to develop and award badges. Through this experience I realized how much I didn’t consider. As I re-launch everything I’ll continue to revise these earlier materials…and host another Hangout-on-Air to explain things. Basically, the considerations that I needed to make all focus on knowing about where you are hosting or saving your content. In the remainder of this thread I’ll share some of the discussion I had with Les Orchard in the Open Badges Google Group. I parsed out the salient pieces of the discussion. Visit here for the full thread.

Ian: I would also humbly suggest that the organization of badges, and the intention of badges (and the badging platform) to be a bit more clear. I can (and will) go build my badges in a different environment. But, I wouldn’t want to get someone really excited and invested in developing badges…have them go develop them…and then have it disappear. IMHO we need all the “inertia” we can in developing and rolling out badging systems.

Les: So, I think this should be a big set of concerns for people planning badges. What *did* you know before rolling things out? What made you decide to rely on badges.mozilla.org? Did you discover who runs it? How is the service funded? Did you find a description of purpose or policies? Is there an assurance of privacy for users or longevity for the contents of the site? What convinced you that this was a good place to build?

Both badg.us and badges.mozilla.org are part- to no-time solo efforts for me, and both are under-developed and neglected. Honestly, I don’t think either site looks like a thing anyone should use for serious work. I never promote the sites, and I actively dissuade new people from using badg.us when asked.
badges.mozilla.org was just changed to require a vouched profile on mozillians.org before allowing badge creation. Hopefully that reduces confusion there. As for badg.us, I’m thinking about closing the site entirely. I’ve just been kind of letting the site coast while I’ve been busy with other things, hoping the amateur-hour appearance of the place would be a deterrent until / unless I found more time & motivation to work on it.

Ian: These are great questions that you’re asking…and I agree that I (we all) should be asking these questions as we consider, develop, and launch badges. The truth is that I didn’t ask any of your questions. That’s not to say that I haven’t thought about badges, or the complexities behind them. All of my thinking over the past year as we’ve been developing them centers on the value in badging systems, what to badge, defining badges for myself (and organization), defining the metadata, and then development. I never put any thought…or believed that I had to…in the location where I hosted them.

I think much of this has to do with my naïveté in terms of the badging ecosystem and practice. I spent a lot of time developing badges, and to me the after thought was just uploading and awarding them. Because they’re so “new” (at least in my world…and the spaces I exist in) I went to badges.mozilla…started uploading them, learned a lot from this initial experience…and moved on. Because badges.mozilla seemed to be associated with Mozilla, and because Mozilla seemed to be behind most of my research into badges, they seemed credible and trust-worthy. Please don’t take my use of the word “seem” as denigrating in any way. I’m trying to get at the root of appearances, and mindset…as I believe Les is trying to get at the root of.
 
So, I trusted badges.mozilla. I built my initiative there. I used it because of a veneer of credibility and trust that was provided just because it was overseen by Mozilla. In presentations and talks about badging systems…this was also true from participants. When I would discuss the logic, theory, or metadata behind my badging system, it garnered interest on everyone’s part (at least those that didn’t immediately discount badges). And, the fact that it seemed a little more credible because you could click on the badge and go right to badges.mozilla…that added tons of credibility.

Next Steps

I value the support that Les and other individuals in the open badging community have given me. I don’t think I’m alone in my thinking about these issues. I consider myself to be a reasonably savvy web literate individual. I think I’m also at the bleeding edge of what could/should be done in these online environments. Mozilla has already started to tweak some of the aspects of badges.mozilla.org to make it a bit easier to understand…and a bit more difficult for people like me to open up a badge shop. 🙂

I also believe that others in the open badge community also are learning from this instance. In scrolling through some of the more recent posts there are many more individuals looking for guidance in developing their own badges and initiatives. One of the main challenges in this work is that (for the most part) there really isn’t a comprehensive set of starter documents that can be used to understand all there is to know about badges. Also, as I stated in the beginning of this post, there is much more research and work to be done in badges and badging systems. Hopefully this series of blog posts will help us on our way. Until that point…I just want to get my badges online again.

 

Image CC by alanstanton

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