Open Badges in Bb Open Education #GCUGamesOn

GCU Games On Gold Medal
GCU Games On Gold Medal

Our online event GCU Games On is now in it’s final week. Each week we have been giving participants the chance to win digital medals which are actually badges but as the event is about the Commonwealth Games it was too good an opportunity to use the term medals. Open Education from Blackboard has an integrated badges functionality with Mozilla open badges allowing participants to publish and share badges into their own Mozilla backpack.  So far so straightforward? Well yes and no.

Creating and issuing badges with Open Education is pretty straightforward using  gradecentre.  Adding metadata is easy, and unless you knew, you wouldn’t actually realise that’s what you were doing (always a good thing with metadata).  You can customise your badge (remember to use a .png file) or use one of the templates provided in the system.  We have 3 medals/badges (bronze, silver, gold)  but  decided to only make the last (gold) one a “proper” open badge.  Why only one I hear you ask? Why not all of them if it is so easy? Well, there are a couple of reasons.

Firstly we developed this “event” pretty quickly and we wanted it to be as easy as possible to get the almost instant gratification of winning a badge – which seems to have worked.

It’s really it’s that pesky email authentication thang in Backpack.  You need to use the same email address in both systems to enable your badge to publish into in your backpack. Which is fine up to a point. If you’re like me you probably have at least a couple of email addresses, and you probably use them for specific purposes.  When I set up my Mozilla Backpack I used a now defunct email address. So what’s the problem, just update your email address in your backpack I hear you cry. Well, yes, except finding where you do that isn’t that straightforward, you have do it before you log in and (well certainly when I tried) the option to do that doesn’t always appear, you can’t change settings when you are logged in. . .

Our “event” is not a course or one of those M things. It’s about trying to allow people to have a positive and fun online learning experience.  I’m sure just reading this all is a bit time consuming and a bit dull. We didn’t want to have to write extensive guidance about authenticating/creating a back pack. Our participants can just win their medal, and print a certificate (btw we aren’t charging for that like some others!) Then if they choose to, they can select the publish to Mozilla option. I suspect most won’t take this option as we deliberately haven’t given explicit information or guidance on it. However, a couple of people we do know have tried and are having mixed results. There seem to be some issues with using browsers other than Firefox, and quite a time delay. As is the way with these things, there’s not a consistent error and some people are able to do things today that they couldn’t yesterday  . . .

However, overall issuing badges through the open platform does work and we have learned a lot about the practicalities of creating and issuing badges within Blackboard. The 2014 update will have the same badge functionality, as does Course Sites.  If you want to see how it all works you can register and see if you can be successfully in our fiendishly tricky gold medal quiz challenge here .

If you have any experiences/thoughts/tips about badges then please let me know in the comments. Finally here’s my medal in my backpack (click on the image to go to my backpack page).

Mozilla back pack screenshot

Reusing Open Resources with a dash of learning analytics

Following the special edition of JIME, the whole book, Reusing Open Resources, is now in print and available here.  It includes a chapter on Analytics for Education written by Lorna Campbell, Martin Hawksey and myself. It’s almost a year since we wrote the chapter so its not completely up to date, but I think it is still a very useful overview.

The book editors, Chris Pegler and Allison Littlejohn have done a great job putting the book together. It offers a fresh perspective on the reuse of open resources for learning by placing learning and learners (rather than resources) as the central focus and by taking into consideration all forms of open learning, formal, non-formal and informal learning, not only open education. Like them, I hope the (sometimes opposing) views expressed in the book feed into debates across the related fields of education, professional learning and lifelong learning.

Screen shot of book homepage

Open, agile, fun collaboration #BYODL and #GCUGamesOn creative challenge

One of the great things about working openly is that is leads to all sorts of serendipitous collaborative opportunities. Last week we had a lovely example of that when we were able share a joint creative twitter challenge between our online event #GCUGamesOn and the latest iteration of #BYOD4L.

Friday was the final day of #BYOD4L and the focus of the day was on creating.  We thought it would be fun to get participants to share a sporty/keep fit photo and provide a way to be creative and have some Friday fun. As both our online events are very flexible it really only took a quick skype call to add this activity to both.

Sue has collated the responses in to this storify.

The #BYOD4l & #GCUGamesOn Creative Challenge Storify
The #BYOD4l & #GCUGamesOn Creative Challenge Storify

ALT Learning Technologist of the Year: I've looked at things from both sides now.

I have written a short piece for ALT’s online newsletter about my experiences on both sides of their Learning Technologist of the Year award. The full article is available here. And here is a version of it, with a photo that somehow got missed out in the article.

One of the highlights of last year for me was winning ALT’s individual Learning Technologist of the Year Award. As a winner I’ve also been part of the judging panel for this year’s awards. In this post I’m going to try and share some of my thoughts from both sides of the competition fence.

Martin Weller has recently written a blog post about awards in which he captures how many, myself included, feel about awards: 

“I’ve never been one for awards really. My view has been that the people who get them tend to be the people who least deserve them, often because the people who deserve them are too busy doing the actual stuff to bother chasing awards” 

But as Martin acknowledges, after winning an award things do change. He then goes on to highlights some of the benefits of winning awards.

“1)They act as a shortcut – instead of explaining why something/someone is doing a good job you can just say ‘award-winning’. 

2) It helps – we have researchers on the project and this may help get further funding to keep them, or enable them to get other jobs. Being sniffy about awards seems churlish then.

3) It felt nice – it’s not all about the altruism I’ll admit, it felt kinda nice to be given an award, even if I couldn’t be there to collect it.”

Never having really won anything in my life, I was totally thrilled to win the ALT award. Not least due to the fact that it was recognition from my peers. The timing was almost perfect for me too as it coincided with a major change in my career. It was a really lovely bookend to my time working at Cetis. It also helped when I was starting in my new job as it was something quite impressive to put in my staff bio. I now also have something in the awards section in LinkedIn, which previously I never really understood the point of :-)  

Winning is one thing, but as they say, “you’ve go to be in it to win it”.  Entering competitions is daunting and time consuming. One of the reasons I really enjoy working in the learning technology community is the lovely people in it. Those I most admire tend to be the most modest about their achievements and contributions. However this is not a good thing when it comes to entering the ALT Learning Technologist of the Year Award.  This is where you really need to forget modesty and take the opportunity to share and celebrate your achievements. At this point I should need to confess that I didn’t actually write my own entry. My colleagues Lorna Campbell and Christina Smart conspired, took the time to fill out the form, and then told me when they had sent off the entry form. That gesture in itself meant a huge amount to me too. 

Being part of this year’s judging panel has given me another perspective on the awards and the selection process.  After an initial sifting to ensure entries meet all the entry requirements, the completed written entries are judged using a relatively simple but clear marking process. The top scoring entries from that process are then invited to an interview, where they are asked to do a short presentation and then answer some set questions, which are again scored by all the judges. Once all the shortlisted entries have been seen, the decisions are made about the winners.  

After a very long but very enjoyable day going through this process recently I have some tips for those of you who maybe think about entering but never get round to it.

  • Don’t just think about it, enter the competition.
  • Do think about entering a colleague(s) (with or without telling them)
  • Don’t leave it till the closing date to write your entry.
  • Don’t assume that judges will understand your context, explain with specific, easily understood examples and evidence what you have done/ are doing. Highlight student /staff engagement and feedback. 
  • Don’t be modest.  If you are selected for an interview you have already proved that you are doing outstanding work, so take the opportunity to celebrate it, yourself and your contribution to the community.
  • Do be incredibly proud of being shortlisted – the competition is tough, particularly this year.

You never know, you too could have blue paper signs left in your wake! 

My Blue  (Paper) Plaque
Picture of my blue plaque










See also a recent blog post by ALT President (Claire Donlan): ‘ALT Learning Technologist of the Year Awards – interviews and judging

Where Sheila's been this week: APT Conference, University of Greenwich #uogapt

I’ve been quite busy over the last few weeks, but I did manage to get back to the day job earlier this week and attend the  APT Conference at the University of Greenwich. There was a really great programme and I found every session I went to really informative. Unlike keynote speaker Stephen Downes, I don’t record every presentation I do, and despite his best efforts to convince us all to do so, I’m not going to start anytime soon. However,  I do try and reflect on every conference presentation I make, and every event I go to, and at the very least share my slides openly.

The theme of the conference was Connected Learning in an Open World, and Stephen got the day off to a great start with his keynote, where he challenged the traditional role of HE institutions, the cost of education, how current business drivers /models are trying their best to make us pay for open.  This is my sketchnote of the talk. As ever a larger, CC version is available by clicking on the image.


#uogapt 2014
visual notes from Stephen Downes Keynote,











My colleague Evelyn McElhinney and I presented our work on mapping student’s online residency.  Since my last post we have conducted another workshop and some more issues, particularly around the use of online spaces are emerging.  As we work with students getting them to map their use of online spaces, it is becoming apparent that there is currently a lack of useful utility type services in terms in access to our educational spaces compared with other “real life” utility type services.  This is raising questions for us in terms of thinking about what kinds of services we need to develop. We need to make sure access to what Mark Stubbs calls the “hygiene  factors” i.e. timetables, reading lists and our course material is easy, but that the learning activities themselves are still challenging. I’ll elaborate more on this in another post

Space and place was something that came up in the final panel session, which I was roped into. I firmly believe that traditional campus based institutions do have a future. People want to go to University, there is more to the HE experience, and indeed any kind of learning than content and courses.  Successful interactions (and not just educational ones) require confidence and social skills. In an online context these are even more crucial.  As anyone who has been on any kind of online course, never mind a massive one, online education can be a lonely experience.

I had to leave the panel a bit early to catch my flight home, and of course it was just as things were starting to get interesting. One particular set of questions from the floor centred on the perceived “best of breed” approach of the Oxbridge tutorial system. We can’t replicate that everywhere, and like many I don’t think we should be. I’m not sure if that type of experience really does much more than continue the power of the old boy network, which given the current state of the world isn’t doing that well unless you are part of that club or rich enough not to need to care.  Along with everyone else who went to the session on Digital Dissidence and CVs (creative visionary spaces), I was really impressed by Anthea, a recent Greenwich graduate, as she showed us via music, video and images how she had been encouraged to express her professional knowledge and herself in a truly multimedia and meaningful way.  Mark Webb’s innovative program exploring cultural diversity in relating to professional development is something I can see working in so many contexts, but I doubt that there would be such richness in an Oxbridge class, and it is more the poorer for that.

Thanks to everyone involved in organising the conference and to all the presenters.  I really hope I can get back to Greenwich for next’s years conference.

Here are the slides from our presentation.

GCU Games On – open and online, and not an "M" word in sight

A couple of years ago at a Cetis Conference Professor Patrick McAndrew said that perhaps we needed to concentrate more on the open and online and less on massive and courses. Wise man, that Patrick. That notion has stayed with me and today I am very excited as we are doing exactly that.

Over the last month (yes that’s right, 1 month) we have developed an open, online event around the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games called GCU Games On. Let me be very clear, this is not a course and most definitely not a MOOC. Rather it is about bringing people together to in an open online event to celebrate, explore and share experiences during the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games. Many of our students and staff are (and have been) involved in various aspects of the development of the Games, and will be very active over the Games themselves. Instead of just creating something for our GCU community we thought why not open it out to anyone and everyone who is interested?

So we have developed a 3 week event, which will hopefully provide a fun way of bringing people together share their experiences during Glasgow 2014,  enable participants to experience a little bit of online learning. Each week we have a number of simple activities including a digital wishing trees. And because it was just too good an opportunity to miss we’re also doing the badge thang and giving people the opportunity to win bronze, silver and gold digital medals (aka badges).

In some ways we have broken every rule in the design book. We have developed (and are still developing) this in a very short timescale, at a time when most of our University colleagues with specialist knowledge have been on leave; we haven’t got a target learner in mind; we’re taking a very broad brush let’s just try and get some participation approach; we’re in the middle of our VLE upgrade; and oh yes, I forgot to mention we’re using Blackboard’s new open education platform which will be officially launched in on July 16th at BbWorld. It has quite possibly been the most exhilarating and scary thing that I and my colleagues Jim and Linda have ever done. But it has also been really good fun.

Until last week we really just thought it might be a proof of concept project which would have been really useful in itself. The colleagues we have been working with have reacted really positively and we couldn’t have got to this stage without them.  We’ve also had great support from Blackboard. We couldn’t even have thought about doing this without the knowledge that we had an open platform that we could use. Originally we were planning to use Course Sites.

In many ways this is an experiment for us. We aren’t ready to develop one of those “m” things. But this model of very agile, light touch activities, tapping into social media around a major event could possibly be more useful for us.  Our event starts next Wednesday, 16th July but you can enroll here from today.

As ever I will be sharing our experiences on the blog, but I would love it, dear reader, if you would sign up and join us for #GCUGamesOn too.

Here’s our teaser video (no Professor videos in our event!)