ALT Innovates: Views on institutional deployment of digital and Open badges

There was a recent question on the ALT-MEMBERS mailing list about the institutional deployment of digital and Open Badges. Issues raised included maintaining institutional branding and quality assurance. Having used Open Badges as part of ALT’s Open Course in Technology Enhanced Learning (ocTEL) here were my thoughts:

We used digital badges as part of ALT’s ocTEL course. Part way through the course we developed a tool which would let students export the digital badges as Open Badges. This wasn’t by design as we wanted to only issue Open Badges from the beginning but it wasn’t possible, but as it turns out this wasn’t such a bad thing because we found digital badges appeared to work just as well in terms of motivation as Open Badges(plus digital badges were easier to support without having to explain how the Mozilla Backpack worked). Another thing we discovered was how important the student email address was when issuing Open Badges to Backpack. The Backpack uses a single email address for the person, no aliases, and this has to exactly match the email address the Open Badge was issued to. So if your aspiration is to allow students to collect badges from different sources, not just your institution, you need to issue badges to an email address they are likely to keep (in ocTEL we allowed people to enter the email the badge should be issued to).

In terms of institutional approaches I’d be very reluctant to wrap digital badging completely in institutional bureaucracy. Badges are useful in trying to reinforce positive actions/behaviour and work best when you can be responsive. If you limit opportunities for the types of activities or actions you’d like to reinforce you’ll most likely break badges. I’d be looking at models where departments and individuals can create any badges they like that are clearly not accredit by the institution, with the option of a level set of badges which are clearly accredited/branded as part of the awarding institution. Overall I’d be very cautious about issuing Open Badges just yet but still think there is a lot of very useful scope in digital badging. [A recording of a presentation I did about ocTEL and badging is here ]

Martin Hawksey Chief Innovation, Community and Technology Officer, ALT

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