Friday, December 2, 2011

Come get your badges!

Rhizomatic Week Achievement in Change11
An interesting brainstorm item on gaming, motivation and achievement came up while reading and commenting on Jaap's blog. This particular blog is about badges (or achievements) in MOOCs. Interestingly enough I also saw Dave Cormier's tweet about having a badge on his blog (seemed like a tongue in cheek post). Serious, or not, I've included the image in this post.

In any case, if you scroll down Jaap commented:
In my opinion badges are not fit for MOOCs. Mobimooc did give a certificate for students that finished the MOOC and published, etc. (Ignatia, if you read this, thanks)
Maybe, a badge would destroy the fun of paricipating.

which was followed by Jenny's comment:
Sometimes formal recognition stifles growth. Sounds counter intuitive but how often does fame smother new talent? Can a badge become an end in itself and diminish the creativity within the person? For that matter, does an artist seek a badge when moved to paint, a poet to write a poem or a child to build an even higher tower in the block corner?
This got me thinking.  I was typing out a response, when I thought I ought to elaborate more.

I can certainly see what people mean when they mention formal recognitions stifling growth in a MOOC. I can see situations where people who are happy to dip in & jump out not participating at all because they won't get a badge for that (or can they?). This of course means that people aren't going after the knowledge, but rather they are in it for the recognition or the badge. Perhaps this is true, but those looking for achievements are a different demographic than those who dip in & jump out as they need to, so I am not sure that such a comment can be generalizable. I would say that achievements/badges have the potential to stifle growth, but the caveat is that they might stifle growth if they are done poorly.

So my next line of thought was that a parallel exists between this and video games where some people (not all) go through the motions of the game just to get all of the achievement badges. What if there were formal recognitions in a MOOC, but they were not advertised, think of them as an easter egg. These achievement badges could be developed and locked behind a vault and the criteria were only revealed after the MOOC was completed.   Then you could have multiple badges for a MOOC indicating things like the following:

  1. Participation in ¼ of the weeks (whichever way you measure that)
  2. Participation in ½ of the weeks
  3. Participation in ¾ of the weeks
  4. Participation in 100% of the weeks
  5. Completed a project relating to the MOOC during the time of the MOOC and getting it peer or evaluator evaluated (examples ds106 and mobimooc)
  6. You participated in #MOOCHashTag on Twitter
  7. You @replied to someone in the MOOC (and used the #MOOCHashTag)
  8. Your tweets were re-tweeted at least x-times
  9. You posted at least x-blog posts during the MOOC
  10. You commented at in at least x-different-blogs during the MOOC
  11. You contributed something to the diigo/delicious bookmark sharing of the MOOC
  12. You participated in x-discussion on the MOOC discussion board (if you are using LMS or Google Groups for example)
  13. You facilitated a week in the MOOC
  14. You completed the insert-Theme week of MOOC by passing some criterion (I guess this is an example for Cormier's "Rhizomagic" badge)
  15. Your posts were given more than 3 stars (assuming you are using and LMS, with post-rating-stars or "likes" enabled, and fellow participants can like or rate your posts)

The list can go on and on and on and on... There can be few, or many badges for a MOOC.  The idea is that MOOCs can "retire" their old badges after they've been given out and the MOOC is over so that people who take future MOOCs (like Change12 if there is a Change12 for example) don't take advantage of the system and game it to just get badges.  Think of foursquare and badges that were only available during certain events (like 140conf). This can be done with MOOCs as well :-)

I know that not everyone likes the idea of badges and achievements - but not all achievements detract from the activity, and not all achievements create an environment where the activity is secondary. It's all about how you plan and execute things - implementation is key.
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