BadgeMaker is ready to launch
It’s been a while since we updated the story of our BadgeMaker project. What follows is the transcript of the presentation given to the UFI VocTech Showcase in London on September 28th and at the Open Badge Networking Group in Glasgow on September 29th.
It’s been a hard journey, but we’re getting there. The UFI Charitable Trust funded the project and their unwavering support as we hit roadblocks has been invaluable. Throughout the project, Borders College have involved their learners, lecturers, digital learning and IT teams to make the project deliver real impact for future learners.
Showcase new skills
Inspired by Scout badges, Open Badges are an international standard to inspire people to learn new skills, recognise and showcase those skills, in particular to employers. BadgeMaker’s brief was to support innovation champions in Borders College to build an Open badge prototype.
We worked with learners and lecturers to explore how Colleges can use badges to challenge users to try new skills, like submitting their assignment as a podcast instead of a written paper for example. The co-design with young people showed that open badges help learners put their learning experiences in perspective, use them as assets to reach their objectives for their next destination.
Identify the barriers
We also worked with lecturers and managers to identify the barriers to adoption, in this case around buy-in, resource and technical constraints. The insights from the business case and stakeholder research moved us away from a commercial solution to a free open source Moodle plugin to improve the Open Badge experience.
Crafting an original approach
There isn’t a single Open Badge solution for all organisations. We want to look at the needs, constraints and opportunities and support each organisation into taking their first steps into digital badges. We want to guide to the platform most appropriate for them – as a short, medium or long-term solution – and fill the gaps in the offering if need be. Offering the best possible solution in this initial implementation is key to building support.
Instead of bringing people to an open badge platform, we see potential in bringing open badges into their existing learning environment. It allows users – from learners to educators and managers – to experiment with badges, to observe the benefits and deal with the barriers one by one. We know that openness, innovation and out-of-curriculum activities could be challenging. For this to work, our research has shown the benefit of free and open source solutions as any outlay – no matter how small – can be a barrier.
Free and open source
By making the Moodle BadgeMaker plugin free and open source, we hope it will allow the 200,000 College learners in the 26 Colleges in Scotland who use Moodle (and eventually 3,000 organisations in the UK) to experience open badges. The plugin opens access to the criteria and the evidence so that learners can showcase their skills and the quality of their work to prospective employers. It also allows Colleges to embed badges throughout Moodle to increase take up. It shows the progress with the number of badges increasing in the dashboard.
Sometimes innovation is the small stuff
Focusing on such a small change isn’t an easy choice for designers who live and breathe UX and end-to-end user journeys. Free open source isn’t an obvious choice for a small business focused on sustainability. In this case, it was all about impact and the hundreds of thousands of learners who don’t have access to Open Badges because their institutions can’t afford it. Sometimes innovation is the small stuff.
On 29th September 2016, we officially launched BadgeMaker with College representatives and people interested in the Open Badges arena. Dr. Doug Belshaw, our keynote speaker, presented the past, present and future landscape for OpenBadges. Robert Stewart from Scottish Social Services Council told his story of developing Open Badges and lessons learned. Anne and Marie shared our BadgeMaker journey and a demo video. The launch ended with a workshop led by Marie for participants to experience the open badges process by reflecting on skills they used during a transitional points in their life using our Skills Story Tool. A detailed blogpost is coming soon to recap the launch.
Watch our BadgeMaker demonstration video:
Plans for the future
Our long-term goal is to embed open badges throughout the College experience inside and outside the Curriculum.
- Test the development with more Colleges to strengthen it
- Publish the plugin openly on the Moodle directory
- Expand the partnership to more Colleges
- Design a toolkit to help other organisations explore badges independently
- Continue fostering the Scottish Open Badge Network
- Develop new functionalities
- Find partners who are interested in supporting open source innovation in Colleges and Moodle
- Look outside of Colleges at organisations who could use open badges to motivate young people, accredit and share their skills: schools, volunteer groups, charities, universities and employers. Signpost them to the solution the most appropriate for them and continue filling the gaps wherever we need.
Open badges really fulfil their potentials when we can build a complete picture of our learning journey throughout our lives.