Monday, January 6, 2014

New Year, New Badges!

"Design Gold" badge

Happy and Prosperous 2014 to anyone who is reading this :-)

Since it's a new year, and the semester is starting in about a month's time, I've decided to spend the month-and-a-half between semesters thinking about the course that I teach: The Design and Instruction of Online Courses, a course for graduate level instructional design students.  I was first assigned the course last year, and having been familiar with it (even though I had never been the instructor of record before), I wanted to start experimenting with badges then-and-there.  Of course, things weren't ripe just yet, so I decided to focus more on the day-to-day stuff for my first semester and have a look at the reading material each week.  I decided to put my creative energies into testing out a weekly recap podcast as a way of reaching out to learners in the course.

With the course materials kinda set (still tinkering with a few learning modules), and the podcast idea sorted out (more or less), I decided to take the chance and implement some open badges in this course.  I experiemented with three platforms: credly,, and Purdue's Open Passport, and in the end I decided to go with credly. I had met Jonathan from credly a while back and I felt that I had more rapport with him for platform improvements, if I had any suggestions at the end of this trial.  One of my biggest design decisions was what sort of badges to offer; what made sense for the course, and to offer badges that don't receive a "so what?" from the learners. For example, if you receive a badge called "Online Course!" where the student earns it for successfully creating an online course, that, for me, would be a "so what?" because students need to create such a deliverable to pass the course.  If you get a passing grade for the course, it's the same as earning that badge.  In other words, there would be duplication.

So, instead of focusing on badges that are tied to the course's learning objectives, I decided to try out badges that are more attitudinal in nature, and thus mostly optional. So, if they are optional, why bother?  Well, as I have explained to some former students, I wish that there were a way to give an "A+" to some students because they really go above and beyond the requirements of the course.  This is done either by being a great classmate and helping out peers, or by delving into the additional readings and really making use of them, or going above and beyond the requirements of the final project and fine tuning their final deliverable to have a nice polish to it. Now, I could make some of these things required, but the truth is that some things you just can't assign a grading rubric to and still expect non-mechanical responses.  That said, I decided to reward students in three ways with badges.

First, a known badge is the LMS initiate badge. Now, it should be understood that by designing an online course in an LMS you should know something about that LMS, but I thought I would formalize this with a badge.  The point of the course is not to learn how to use an LMS, but it's a good by-product of the whole process, and something that is of potential interest to employers.  So the first badge, that you receive if you complete your final project, is this LMS initiate badge.  I have a few different badges for a few different LMSs.  Students will receive one of these badges based on the LMS they chose to use for their course.

Second, comes a competition. Over the past few semesters I've seen many students give their fellow students kudos for a job well done in designing and developing their course.  Since this seems to be the norm, I plan on implementing an anonymous vote where students can vote for their top 2 student-produced courses.  The top three courses will get a badge indicating the results of this vote. "Design Gold" will go to the first place course, Design Silver and Bronze, will go to the second and third place respectively.  As instructor, of course, I will vet the course (just in case there is any voting tampering ;-) ), but I expect things to go smoothly.

Finally, I have some easter egg badges.  These are badges that will be secret and will only be released to earners  after certain criteria are met. These are mostly attitudinal badges that indicate qualities that employers might value.  As I said above, you can't make everything have a grading rubric, and some of these attitudinal elements need to be genuine from the learner's side. They shouldn't be done just to just check off a box in a grading rubric.

I think that if I present my findings at JISC RHC YH this summer I will reveal what the remainder of the badges are.  If I teach the course again, I might keep the secret badges a secret for another semester.

What sort of badges do you use in your classes?  What, if any, has been the effect?

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