Call recording: https://archive.org/details/April9CommCall
This week on the Community Call we looked at some of the common challenges and lessons learned from those who have developed / are developing badge systems in the new ecosystem.
Our Global Coordinator Jade worked with HASTAC’s Sheryl Grant to draft our initial case studies, which are published on the Summit to Reconnect Learning website. Nate Otto has been working with Dan Hickey and a team of researchers at Indiana Univeristy on the badge Design Principles Documentation project, which has looked at the badge systems developed by the grant recipients from the fourth DML Competition, “Badges for Lifelong Learning.” Nate has also started writing a set of working examples from these 30 grantees.
They were joined by a number of representatives from the organizations interviewed for both sets of case studies to dive into some common road blocks and lessons learned that might help future badge system designers.
It was great to hear people sharing their experiences on the call - click the link at the top of this blog post to listen to the call in full, or read on for a summary of the discussion!
Common Challenges and Concerns
There were many questions and concerns about how to start developing a badge system by those we spoke to. Here are three of the most common challenges foreseen or encountered as organizations began designing their systems:
This was a particular concern among those in schools and colleges, where faculty and staff are already very busy. How can an institution begin to integrate badges that require some level of staff engagement in such a way that is seen as valuable and rewarding to the staff?
- Lack of technical resources
This was a common challenge faced by early adopters of badges across numerous sectors. As much of the open badge standard requires some technical knowledge, many organizations recognized they would need someone on their team to provide technical support, or to form partnerships with another organization.
The recent release of BadgeKit was a result of acknowledging the technical barriers to badge issuing. Future versions will include even more features and accessibility, making it easier for organizations to join the ecosystem.
- How to ensure badges have value
Badge value (or rigor) is a concern of many who are new to the ecosystem. Carla Casilli recently laid out her thoughts on the ‘myth of the lightweight badge,’ where she argues all badges can play a valuable role in identity building as well as showcasing skills and recognizing various forms of learning. Many organizations developing badge systems had to address the question of whether their badges would be valued - by students, or teachers, or employers - and, in some cases, how to ensure their value extended beyond the learning environment.
Think about the potential for your badge system to expand, but don’t try and do too much, too fast. Start with the basics, the minimum you want to achieve with your badge system, and once you’ve built a strong foundation, it will be easier to expand. That could mean starting with one class or grade before expanding to badge an entire school, or focusing on a certain type of professional development or informal learning exercise before encompassing others.
It’s exciting to think of the many possibilities for badges when starting out, it can feel overwhelming to try and develop a system that covers everything from the beginning. Break it down so that your system development happens in stages, allowing you to build a robust foundational badge system and address feedback and potential problems before expanding.
- Focus on goals, and identify ‘success’ for your badge system
For badges to be valuable, they must be tied to valuable experiences. By thinking about the learning or development objectives for your badge system, you can think about the kinds of activities, criteria, and evidence that will be suitable for your community, whether that’s in a school, workplace or network.
Think about what it will mean for your badge system to be successful. Will it mean that students gain academic credit for informal or out-of-school activities represented by badges? Or is it a way for teachers (and students) to track students’ progress? Do you want your staff to be recognized for their professional development in a way they can show to employers and peers? Or a way to identify workers whose skill sets align with industry standards?
Once you’ve outlined your goals and identified what ‘success’ means for your badge system, you can start to think about how to get people there, and the role badges will play in that progression.
- Know your resources and limitations
As well as technical barriers, there are other potential limitations to consider, including time, money, and people needed to develop your badge system. This is a good reason to start small - the more complex your system, the more costly it will be to implement, so again, think about the minimum successful foundation of your system. This will give more time to gain wider acceptance, support, and resources for future expansion.
- Think carefully about partnerships
Partnerships can be immensely valuable in building a badge system, whether they provide technical support, funding, or endorsement of badges. However, it is important to make sure you find the right partner for your organization. Take your time, do your research, and find the partner that is best suited to your needs (or restrictions.)
- Think about existing frameworks
Badges are often slated as a disruption, designed to act instead of current methods of credentialing, when they often play a supplementary role. If your school, workplace, or network uses existing frameworks or standards to guide learning or development, this could be an asset. Not only can these structures potentially add value to your badges, they also provide a map of what is already there, so you can identify places where your badging objectives overlap, and gaps your badges can fill.
- Allow more time than you think you’ll need
Cliff Manning once wrote he suffered from “Badge Eye," a condition where he sees badges everywhere, and many badge enthusiasts and evangelists find themselves in similar situations.
As badges are a relatively new concept for many people, you may find that your team and community need time to “buy in” to the idea. Give them time - and provide resources to help educate, inform, and support those in your organization you want working with the badges.
Allow more time than you think you’ll need for faculty / staff / student / administrative / stakeholder buy-in. The more support you have going in, the smoother the process is likely to be.
If you are starting to develop a badge system - or thinking about it - there are many places to go for support, guidance, advice, and resources. We listed them in a recent blog post, and we’re easily reached by email at email@example.com
Good luck, badge pioneers. We look forward to seeing more exciting badge systems emerging!