The School of Open Badges (aka the Evolution of Open Badges 101)

Back in April of 2012, I developed a course on P2PU called Open Badges 101. People from all over the world signed up for it to learn more about open badges. Although I developed it as a very basic personal challenge to learn more about open badges, I was amazed at the wide variety of disciplines (programmers, educators, technologists, etc.) represented in the roster. It launched me into an unexpected community of people who, like me, love to learn. I was encouraged to create more courses on this topic by the wonderful open badges folks at Mozilla and in the open badges community.

Fast-forward 8 months and a few conversations later with Peter Rawsthorne (partner-in-crime) and everything is finally in place to begin working on more courses. A collection of courses, in fact, that will become part of the new School of Open Badges on P2PU. The ‘courses’ will really be set up as ‘challenges’ on P2PU, meaning people can enter at any point and complete the work on their own time. (P2PU ‘courses’ rely on the structure of a time period, where ‘challenges’ rely on each individual to rely on their completion rate and motivation to progress.)

After a few discussions about the topic on the open badges community calls, Peter wrote a blog post where he detailed the upcoming process which would involve:

  1. flower petal ‘metaphor’,
  2. no prescribed journey, and
  3. and ‘nomenclature’ naming.

We worked and tweaked the original diagram, tracks, and challenge titles. The most recent version has us sticking with our flower petal design, but we reverted back to suggesting tracks and paths for participants because of a few issues that we couldn’t resolve:

  1. These challenges will be meant for different audiences (everyone, individuals, institutions, and programmers). Not all of the challenges will be relevant for all audiences. Although individuals can enroll in any of the challenges they wish to attempt, we don’t want individuals to feel discouraged because they can’t pinpoint the challenges that are relevant to them. This is why we decided on ‘tracking’ the challenges.
  2. These challenges will be challenging at different levels within these audiences/tracks and some are considered pre-requisites to others. Similar to the non-track issue, we wouldn’t want an individual to feel discouraged because they enrolled in a course without the pre-requisite knowledge and were having difficulties. Although an individual can enroll in any of the challenges they wish to attempt, we decided to stick with the ‘school course’ (101, 201, etc.) naming convention for this reason.
  3. We stuck with the ‘school course’ naming convention because it is the one individuals are most familiar with (going with letters just didn’t seem right because the challenges needed to also belong to tracks). Also, it will be part of the ‘School of Open Badges’.
Below is the latest version of the flower diagram with challenge names and definitions.

Secondly, I drafted out the badges and course graphics for each challenge using the flower palette.

Next up- we will be working on the curriculum for each challenge. Please reach out to Peter or myself and let us know if you’d like to pitch in and lend a hand on any of these challenges.

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  1. Leah – This is great. I like the way you’ve broken it down into different levels. As feedback, I was initially confused by the term “Individuals” (aren’t we all?) and you could consider changing it to learners. The course sounds like it is focused on helping individual learners earn and display / manager their badges.

    Let us know (on the community list) how we can help.


  2. Hey Phillip, Thanks for the feedback. This is the kind I was hoping to receive. I’ve noticed that there are two distinct vocabularies used to describe stakeholders- one for P2PU and another used by the open badges community/Mozilla. It’s funny being a ‘layperson’ straddling these two lines between the communities, as an ‘outsider’. I like your suggestion for ‘learner’ here (very P2PU). In the open badges community, they would probably suggest ‘earner’. I’ll bring this up on both calls this week. Perhaps that label just needs to say learner/earner to represent both communities. :)

  3. Leah! You are my hero. I love the different audiences. This is a genius way to think about onboarding folks to badges.

    A few notes:

    Pedagogy: How do you envision introducing people to the different theories of motivation and assessment behind badges? Do you plan to introduce folks to several preexisting models?

    Design: in thinking about the audience of who is coming–developers, institutions, what have you–I wonder if a flower is the best metaphor? It definitely has the delightful texture of Leah Macvie *all over it* but I wonder about it’s connotations to others.

    Email or holla with any follow up. :)

  4. Thanks so much for the great ideas Vanessa! Pedagogy— what is that?!! Kidding. I actually had some similar questions floating in my head. I was thinking of creating some sort of generic video of diagram that walks individuals through the basics and could be available in every challenge. Some questions to answer including yours:

      What are badges?
      Where did badges come from?
      Who do badges help?
      What theories/models do badges address? (motivation, assessment, documentation)

    The flower concept is something Peter came up with I believe before I even developed 101! It was used for a while to describe the open badge process within the Mozilla community. I took the concept to what you see today…to the next level. At first I wasn’t sure either, but because of its deep roots, it has grown on me.
    Can’t wait to hear you on the call tomorrow!!

  5. This looks really great. I am thrilled that you and Peter are moving forward with this project and I will be an eager participant when the courses are completed.

    I would say that if institutions and their respective representatives are part of your target audience, you may want to consider modifying the graphics to reflect something that individuals associated with these types of institutions would be more willing to display on their website or in their backpack: more neutral colors, etc.

    Love what you’re doing.


  6. Love this post! And great to have the endorsements / questions from Vanessa and Philip. I also used the term Learner rather than individual for the badges I will be issuing for an two week seminar I am doing on digital badges.

    I also struggled with the flower image, yet it naturally grew out of discussions with the Mozilla Open Badges team. Each element actually maps to the biological part of the flower, this was suggested as a way to get away from the leveling… anyhow, I really like where it has ended up. I hope we will grow an amazing garden of flowers which contains a great variety with very deep roots. All good.

    Awesome Post Leah…

  7. Thanks so much Katie for taking the time to comment! We’ve received a few comments about the graphic and colors, so I think I am going to take a second look at them next week. I think there can be a more ‘serious’ way to represent the flower…for example, the edelweiss, the manly German mountain flower, is a flower taken seriously. Thanks for your thoughts.

  8. Thanks Peter. We received some really great comments and I have some ideas for ‘upgrading’ the graphics. Will be working on it next week…

  9. Hey there Leah,
    As one who took part in your Open Badges 101 course on P2PU, I look forward to seeing what you roll out in the future! This is an arena with enormous potential for affecting our approach to education and the more accessible we can make this to the general public the better the chances for this initiative to blossom! Last week I presented a session on the Badge movement at the Christa McAuliffe Technology Conference in NH and the audience, comprised of a wide variety of teachers at all levels of K-12, was very receptive to the philosophy and recognized the potential impact in their own classrooms. I’m excited to see where we can take this! Can’t wait for more!

  10. John, thanks so much for taking the time to write in an offer your comments. I am happy that you encountered a receptive bunch- I would love to see your presentation! I think most individuals involved with K-12 and academia can picture the potential of informal learning and the philosophy of alternative forms of credit, such as open badges. The big looming question is how to come up with a sustainable model to support the growth of a school/institution- something many of the MOOC groups are dealing with now (Coursera, Udacity, etc.). I plan to focus past this for my dissertation: how can we help HR and Admissions offices to translate this alternative credit coming down the pipeline? This is an interesting time for education and learning- such a fun place to be right now!!


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