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.
Now a silver medal! Could be addictive, this achieving thing. #GCUGamesOn
— Wilma Alexander (@Rwamalam) July 24, 2014
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).