I have to admit that I have avoided OpenBadges until now, mostly through rightly or wrongly correlating them with gamification. I am not big on -ification of any kind but take particular issue with the addition of superficial motivation layers over unchanged, non-game-like content and the awarding of badges just for the hell of it (or under the guise of ‘engagement’). Which means I have mostly discounted the existence of OpenBadges.

Until now. Most of you are aware that for the last while I’ve been dabbling in wholly online delivery of professional development via Coffeecourses (which I realised to my dismay the other day is probably an accidental MOOC of sorts). However one sticking point with it has been the ability to track completion and offer credentialling. The use of e-commerce software means registration can be easily tracked, but so far completion has been an honesty system of sorts, given that commenting on each activity is optional. However a couple of weeks ago I read this post by @marksmithers, who is perhaps one of the few people around who is more skeptical than I am about things, which made me rethink my stance on OpenBadges and badges in general. Effectively they are a simple method of scalable and sustainable (in that they can be automated) micro-credentialling, and don’t necessarily have to have anything to do with gamification at all.

So – I’ve started to play. I’m investigating WPBadger, which integrates with OpenBadges, and BadgeOS, which lets you create open badges (which are not Mozilla badges) that are shared via Credly. With any luck this will allow me to award automated credentials for completing coffeecourses. Ultimately it would be excellent if one could collect such badges, and badges from other professional development, and aggregate them towards a ‘proper’ credential like a GCHE – but I suspect that’s crazy talk. At any rate, watch this space. Or more accurately, this space.


Sarah Thorneycroft (@sthcrft) · May 21, 2013 at 1:44 am

Adventures in credentialling: OpenBadges, open badges and un-gamification http://t.co/D1Z9KS46DR

David Jones · May 21, 2013 at 5:03 am

Like you I’ve been cynical. Cynical enough that I’ve thought of doing something with badges just to cash in on the next fad and see what can/can’t be done.

One of the problems I’ve had with badges as credentialling – and something reading your post has help crystallise – is the potential gulf between the bottom up use of badges versus the top-down approach to traditional credentialling.

If I integrate effectively (easier said than done) badges into my course, how then do I get folk further up the credentialling food chain to recognise these badges. I don’t imagine my students will care much unless they are recognised elsewhere. Will the folk completing your coffee courses really value the badges if they can’t get some recognition toward a GCHE?

That implies having to have some standards or adopt someone else’s badges, which to me raises the spectre of the problems faced by OER as consortiums and OER warehouses were set up to make a bottom up thing work in a top down world.

Be interesting to see how folk like you and @catspyjamasnz solve/think about this sort of problem.

    Sarah · May 21, 2013 at 11:12 am

    Re: badge value/credentialling, I agree. However we have a compulsory program for new staff here of which coffeecourses are a part and we do have issues with completion tracking for that. So there’s at least partial motivation. The aggregating to a ‘proper’ credential is just a pipe dream atm. I think, despite the doomsayers, it will be a very long time before things like this on the internet force the hand of universities and anything changes re: top-down credentialling.

      Guido Gautsch · May 21, 2013 at 12:10 pm

      Are you running your coffeecourses in Moodle? 2.5 brings open badges support, which I’m keen to try out. I’m also running a lot of PD at my work and it would be good to keep track of things. Then again, I feel like I’m teaching the same people how to create labels every year and they still can’t remember how to do it, badge or no badge >.<

        Sarah · May 21, 2013 at 10:53 pm

        Coffeecourses are run through WordPress not Moodle. Just means I have the freedom to install, test and upgrade things at will rather than wait for enterprise decisions. As it is I doubt we’ll see 2.5 until next year.

          Guido Gautsch · May 22, 2013 at 1:03 am

          Sounds interesting, Sarah. Can non-UNE folk check them out too?

          Sarah · May 22, 2013 at 1:31 am

          Indeed you can, just follow the Coffeecourses link in the post. They’ve always been completely open.

          Mark Smithers · May 22, 2013 at 10:50 am

          Hi Sarah,
          Is coffee courses run on a UNE domain? You can run Moodle 2.5 on a hosted server for $5 per month with $20 a year for a domain name. The openbadges implementation in M2.5 looks really good from the testing I’ve done so far.

          Sarah · May 22, 2013 at 10:34 pm

          Coffeecourses is a microsite run on external hosting, mapped to a UNE domain. I could easily hang a rogue Moodle off it but time and inclination are limited. We’ve got a local test instance of 2.5 so we can play, but Moodle doesn’t really do what I need it to do in terms of Coffeecourses, hence using WordPress. I do agree the badge integration looks nice though and has some interesting possibilities.

    Mark Smithers · May 22, 2013 at 10:59 am

    Hi David,

    Agreed but I also think it’s possible that certain badges will become more valued than others over time based on the reputation of he badge awarder. Which is pretty much how HE works now only in future there will be many more providers and badges will be much more granular. Incidentally, the granularity of badges is valuable in helping others determine the badge owners true skills, competencies, knowledge, understanding, achievements and experiences.



      Sarah · May 22, 2013 at 10:44 pm

      Interesting you mention reputation, because there’s reputation and then there’s reputation. It also depends on whether we’re talking institution or individual. For instance, would a Coffeecourses badge be a UNE badge, or a Sarah Thorneycroft badge? As an example, someone like you may value a badge from my personal brand because you value my reputation in the space I work in, but somebody from a traditional academic background may not value my reputation at all. And you may make a different choice again if the badge is an institutional one based on institutional reputation.

      I’m going to stop there because this is probably turning into a whole other blog post, but it’s certainly interesting food for thought :).

Doug Belshaw · May 22, 2013 at 1:03 pm

Hi Sarah! Great to see you experimenting with Open Badges. Give me a shout if you’ve got any questions! 😀

Joyce Seitzinger · May 23, 2013 at 10:28 am

Hi all,

I’ve been playing around with badges for PD too, and like you Sarah, am playing with Credly for hosting and WordPress for setting tasks/assessments. The Credly badges are open badges in that you can send them to your Persona Backpack (It takes a few tweaks in your Credly account.)

As far as getting them recognised further up the chain, the Open Badges team is working on endorsements of badges, where orgs will set up trust relationships. Carla Casilli’s excellent blog goes into depth, but Scott Leslie summarised some of it here http://www.edtechpost.ca/wordpress/2013/02/20/badges/

The thing Ive been struggling with is the learning design (smaller tasks, more flexibililty, larger environment, more complex interactions?) when you move to badges. As I said, I’ll post my questions on that soon…

    David Jones · May 23, 2013 at 11:14 pm

    Thanks to Joyce, Mark and Sarah for responding. Thanks for the pointers to folk thinking about this, some more reading to engage with.

    Without having read this work, my pessimism remains. I believe much of my cynicism arises around the higher ed sector and formal use of badges. Badges bring into question many of the current organisational assumptions around learning and credentialing. Credentialing in particular is almost the last bulwark of the traditionalist in higher education. You can change anything else but….

    Given this, I still feel it possible (likely?) for badges to end up much like OER is now within higher education. i.e. institutional leaders talking it up while the institutional policies prevent and a few folk just do it. At best the institutional interpretation of OER (or badges eventually) will be mutated almost beyond recognition of the original ideals. And OER is potentially an innovation that higher education leaders should like (free content, save money), whereas alternatives to credentialing will be seen as a direct challenge (by some).

    Of course, there also the likelihood that higher ed will just be worked around as the infrastructure and support that folk like Mozilla put in place make it easier for others.

    I believe my cynicism about higher ed institutions/management is showing.

    On the plus side, I look forward to seeing all the neat stuff you cool kids do and seeing what I can learn and apply in my own context.

Joyce Seitzinger · May 23, 2013 at 10:32 am

Oh also, we really need to bring Doug out here. He explains the badges like no one else, and can talk digital literacy to us at same time.

Anyone running a conference? 😉

Ryan Tracey · June 17, 2013 at 11:31 am

Good on you Sarah for exploring open badges!

I too am seriously considering using them at my workplace to complement employee training.

Implementing badges 1: adventures in drop shadows | mind the gap · January 7, 2015 at 1:08 am

[…] visible, not in adding bribery layers under the guise of gamifying. I’ve nutted this out a few times before, but TL;DR gamification bad, microcredentialling good. A taxonomy gives those who are none […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *