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  • Doug Belshaw 2:39 pm on May 23, 2016 Permalink | Reply  

    Badging for Student Motivation 

    A couple of weeks ago I made notes and comments on Part 1 of Digital Badges in Education: Trends, Issues, and Cases which dealt with trends and issues. Part 2, which I’m turning to now, focuses on ‘cases’, with this particular sub-section looking at ‘Digital Badges for K12 Learners’. These are examples of badge projects in action, including that featured in Chapter 12 (‘College and Career Ready: TK-12 Badging for Student Motivation’).

    After some standard background to the project, the chapter takes an interesting turn

    In focus group conversations, the philosophical questions quickly arose: What is worthy of a badge? Some administrators wanted to ensure that every student earned a badge and thus advocated for a low threshold for issuance. Each student would earn a badge for taking a particular standardised exam, but their level of achievement would be indicated with a different badge color… However, when we recalibrate do the purpose of the badging program, tied to our college and career readiness initiative, we came to the consensus that “Proficient” or “Advanced” scores should be our target. Since badging was designed as a student motivation component, cheapening the badge such that everyone earns a badge every time would defeat the purpose.

    This is a classic case of creating a false dichotomy and not really understanding the affordances of Open Badges. Using badges solely for their motivating power is likely to lead to diminishing returns but, more importantly, badges are not simply ‘digital certificates’ or ‘digital gold stars’. Reducing badges to this level is shoehorning an analogue mindset into a digital world.

    Open Badges are a learning currency. Therefore, just as in a fiscal system, to participate in the economy of badges, one must have a stake. As badges can be issued by anyone for anything, there’s absolutely no problem in ensuring that people can start their badge journey by claiming a low-stakes badge. It could be for participation, it could be for something else. But to artificially restrict badges in order to issue them like paper certificates is to merely substitute one technology for another.

    The authors detail the logistics of moving from the design to the implementation phase, noting some issues with ‘School-site badges’:

    While challenges to site-level badges were anticipated at the time of launch, the specific idiosyncrasies that have arisen could not have been foreseen. For instance, due to the design and the usage of our SIS [Student Information System] to automate badges associated with specific course codes in the master schedule, we have found some inconsistencies between schools using the same course code to teach similar but not equivalent courses. This has resulted in a few instance of students being assigned badges for skills they did not learn or master.

    I disagree. I think this is eminently foreseeable and avoidable. Firstly, a one-to-one relationship between course code and badge is poor badge pathway design. Secondly, this is the kind of problem that planning using a spreadsheet was made for. As ever, the problem with this project was the outdated thinking, not the technology

    The conclusion cites self-reported data around motivation which, it would seem, because bar charts could be created as a result, meant the project was successful. I think this was a highly problematic implementation of badges, even with the self-congratulatory rhetoric of the authors writing up the project.


  • Doug Belshaw 7:00 am on May 23, 2016 Permalink | Reply  

    Identity, the home, and minimalism 

    I’ve been catching up with episodes of the BBC’s Thinking Allowed podcast recently and, this morning, as I caught the train, I found one in particular to be very interesting. The whole episode is dedicated to The Flaneur – Walking in the City. In the first part, host Laurie Taylor discusses with his guests everything from the role street lighting has played in the development of ‘urban strolling’, through to the ways that particular flaneurs would navigate cities.

    However, it was the second part of the episode that intrigued me most. Lauren Elkin, author of a new book entitled Flaneuse: The (Feminine) Art of Walking in Cities sought to reclaim the term ‘flaneur’ and situate it in a more modern context. Laurie Taylor picked out a particular part of her work, commenting:

    I just love the little thing you pick up on with Virginia Woolf writing about how inside the house our identities are constantly being confirmed by all of the material around us. Outside we leave that shell of identity behind and we expose ourselves to the world.

    That notion of identity-confirmation is fascinating. I’ve always found it curious that we put up photographs of ourselves in our own home – especially those of our children. It’s like we’re constantly reminding ourselves of who we are and what we do. For me, it’s a similar thing with books: I buy in hardback the ones that have had most influence on my life and display them in prominent places around the house.

    I’ve spent the last year setting up a consultancy business and splitting each week between London and my home in Morpeth. In many ways, therefore, I’ve been setting up a new identity. I’ve found it interesting that, despite having a home office separate from our main house that’s set up entirely for me, I’ve come to prefer working within the house. Reflecting on this in the light of the episode I’ve just listened to, it’s clear that I’ve been making a subconscious attempt to move on from my previous role (where I worked predominantly from that home office). Different identities require different kinds of spaces, and vice-versa.

    One other thought struck me as I listened to that particular segment of the episode: I’ve always been attracted by the idea of minimalism as a design statement. In fact, our new loft conversion — which, as well as our bedroom and en-suite — has a small room that I spend more and more time these days could definitely be described as ‘minimalist’. The whole third floor is spartanly furnished in a monochrome colour scheme, meaning that, for me, it’s a space into which I can project my inner life, rather than confirming a way of being that went before. In other words, minimalism can be a conscious way of bringing in the new. It can lend some ‘breathing room’, both physically and psychologically, allowing identities to emerge.

    I wonder if we allow ourselves to do this enough? We recognise that when we take a new job that involves us physically moving home, that there is an important psychological element to this. This is why we don’t just choose the house which is closest to our new location of work. For those staying put physically, but moving on mentally (like myself), maybe it’s a good idea to consciously create liminal spaces — perhaps through the use of minimalism — as we construct new identities?

  • Doug Belshaw 8:30 pm on May 17, 2016 Permalink | Reply  

    GCHQ, frogs, inertia, and customer value 

    I’m not sure if it’s envy of talent going to GDS and other making-the-world-a-better-place digital teams like Co-op.digital, but GCHQ has released an ‘internal press release’ on GitHub called ‘Boiling Frogs’. It’s freely downloadable here.

    I’ll confess to not having read all 60 pages in-depth, but two diagrams in particular jumped out at me.

    I’m sure plenty of people recognise this situation. An organisation rests on its brand and, instead of focusing on customers, focuses on internal stuff. They get increasingly conservative until the crisis point comes and, they head towards the iceberg not being able to turn the ship around. 

    This second diagram is something to always bear in mind. I’ve been listening to Seth Godin’s startup school from 2012 where he asserts that most people hire consultants to keep their boss happy. It’s certainly changed the way I think about the ‘value’ I provide. Sometimes it’s about making the person who hired you look good!

  • Doug Belshaw 10:19 am on May 5, 2016 Permalink | Reply  

    The value of badges 

    Digital Badges in Education

    The editors of Digital Badges in Education: Trends, Issues, and Cases take their turn with Chapter 11 (‘In the Eye of the Beholder: Value of Digital Badges’). They open with the familiar trope of this being a time of ‘rapid change’ and the need for self-directed learning, before arguing that digital badges are useful for a number of reasons, as they:

    • are “versatile and make comprehensive digital information quickly accessible to earners and users of the badge system”
    • “offer badge earners finer granularity in representing their knowledge and achievements than do traditional diplomas and certificates”
    • allow learners to “have a more complete way to document achievements to those consumers who want to know about their skill set” (e.g. employers / admissions officers)

    Taking a cue from the music industry, Muilenburg and Berge explain how ‘unbundling’ songs from albums has given consumers more freedom and choice, but led to “the overall revenue of song purchases to drop 50 percent”. They quote Craig (2015) who says that the equivalent of the album for universities is the college degree. Badges can serve as way to help unbundle college degrees, but have value that is “relative to their purpose and to the perspective of the stakeholder being served”. In other words, they are more subjective and context-sensitive than ‘blunt’ and chunky credentials such as college degrees.

    The authors argue that there are three main purposes of a badge system:

    1. “to act as an incentive to learners to engage in positive learning behaviors”
    2. “to map progress in learning and foster discovery”
    3. “to signal completion and learning of an achievement with a credential that holds value”

    They continue to make some straightforward points about badge pathways and audience, before sharing this table:

    Value priorities of badges from different perspectives 

    The incorrect spelling of ‘lesser’ and use of questionalbe use of shading in a greyscale book aside, I’m not sure of how much value this table provides. It seems somewhat arbitrary, and the authors even seem to contradict themselves:

    The point here is not that the relative levels of importance show in Table 11.1 are the same for all badges in all badging systems. A badge has a particular profile and that profile changes depending upon the particular stakeholder’s role and the motives that the individual stakeholder has for the badge.

    So what’s the point of including it? Baffling. If found this chapter of very little value.

  • Doug Belshaw 9:54 am on May 5, 2016 Permalink | Reply  

    Badges, learning analytics, and big data 

    Digital Badges in Education

    Digital Badges in Education: Trends, Issues, and Cases is a book that’s heavily US-focused. This isn’t anything new, and is particularly the case with the Open Badges ecosystem. It does, however, mean that for those of us in other countries and continents, some of the discussion can seem a little… insular.

    Chapter 10 is entitled ‘Digital Badges, Learning at Scale, and Big Data’. As often happens with edited collections of articles, there’s a lot of overlap between this and previous chapters. The authors make similar points to others around the value of badges over grades, as well as breaking down courses into more granular chunks. Importantly, they also talk about the value of e-portfolios as a place to store the evidence behind badges:

    While universities often provide support for e-portfolio creation, little is done at scale to help support the generation of rich, meaningful content that fully encapsulates the totality of the college experience. Yes, you might have a platform to share you experiences, but what exactly should you say? Where should you begin? Badges can act as a starting point from which to share your experiences. If a badge is the proof, the e-portfolio can be the context that connects the dots between validated experiences. A university commitment to badges creates a foundation from which all students can easily develop a rich, evidence-based portfolio, supporting content creation in the same way that we support technology.

    Explaining that MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) are “the dominant form of learning at a large scale” the authors explain that traditional success measures and metrics do not work in the same way as at institutions: “of the thousands (or tends of thousands) of students who enroll in a MOOC, many enter the coruse without necessarily intending to complete the course in its entirety.” The big problem with using badges with MOOCs, contend the authors, is in “the accurate assessment of knowledge on a massive scale”. They suggest the ‘credibility index approach’ and the ‘human-computing approach’ as ways around this.

    • Credibility index approach: the peer review scores given by students who score higher on multiple-choice quizzes are given a greater weight than others.
    • Human-computing approach: machine-graded student-submitted essays are assigned both a score and a confidence interval and then passed to a number of peers to also review the essays.

    While I’m a big fan of peer learning and assessment, this kind of approach is very institutional and conservative. I’d like to see better and deeper forms of assessment, and a different understanding of ‘rigour’. The problem seems to be perceptions of what employers and university admissions offices will deemd ‘valid and reliable’ whereas I think we can think of badges as being on a different spectrum to existing qualifications and credentials.

    Moving onto discussing the amount of data contained in badges, the authors contend that:

    A badge platform will be a repository of big data related to badge earners and creators. The platofrm will capture the metadata for everything related to digital badges, as well as how users navigate through the platform, browsing and earning badges. Hence, it is important to design effective strategies to manage and utilize these data. Fields such as learning analytics provide a starting point for exploring these data.

    Learning analytics in a badges context would mean “measuring, collecting, analyzing, and reporting the metadata created by badge earners” – something that is explicitly not done by the Mozilla badge backpack, in order to respect user agency and privacy.

    However, in an opt-in way, learning analytics could make badges much more discoverable than they are at the moment:

    A platform might begin to recommend a collection of badges based on data from previous badge earners. These badges might be intentionally related to a signle collection (for instance, all the badges on a specific topic are created by the same source), or the platform analytics engine might identify collections over time as users cluster around subsets of badges.

    Playing a form of buzzword bingo, the authors also manage to discuss ‘adaptive learning’ which seems to be the notion of ‘personalised learning’ but with added data. “Adaptive learning might use aspects of the data to create a personalized learning guideline for each individual, presenting the most efficient path to each learner’s goals”.

    There are, of course, concerns about the quality of badges. Popularity is no indication of utility, and adaptive environments still require human judgement. The authors hand-wave towards this, saying that “many questions still exist about how badges, learning at scale, and big data will impact education”. As a result, this chapter is much less useful than it could be.  

  • Doug Belshaw 4:05 pm on May 4, 2016 Permalink | Reply  

    How badges can contribute to formal and informal education 

    Digital Badges in Education

    Chapter 9 (‘Badging as Micro-Credentialing in Formal Education and Informal Education’) of Digital Badges in Education: Trends, Issues, and Cases starts off with a great analogy between traditional college transcripts and a receipt you may obtain after picking up your shopping from a store:

    Comparing the college transcript to a retail store receipt

    The difference between badges and grades is neatly summarised by the authors in the following way:

    While badges were designed to document what has been learned, grades are designed primarily to sort people (like eggs or meat). Grades institutionalize and perpetuate the idea of ‘failure’ in learning, rather than progress to completion, and they often have more to do with compliance with rules and deadlines than with mastery. Grades summarize performance across multiple modules and types of context, masking whether a person has mastered individual concepts or skills.

    In addition, badges are different from report cards and degrees because of the conceptual size of the credential:

    “Badges employ a grain size that effectively communicates that a valued unit of learning, representing knowledge, skills, or attributes, has been demonstrated. Each badge describes something discreet [sic] that its earner knew and/or demonstrated the ability to do, while courses and diplomas combine many topics and are often confounded by other factors like attendance or class participation.”

    The authors note that badges have, quite rightly, been seen as ‘transformative’ in the context of formal education:

    Badges are… potentially transformative because they could replace the dismal ‘grades’ issued by formal education providers, which often combine mastery of the knowledge and skills to be learned with compliance factors such as attendance and class participation, which diminished the grade’s ability to communicate mastery (Peck, 2013).

    Badges can complement traditional degrees (“which have been around for centuries and are not likely to go away soon”) and “provide additional opportunities and flexibility to graduates, benefiting both formal education institutions and their graduates”.

    In addition to the above advantages, the authors note that badges provide:

    • Transparency
    • Evidence
    • Granularity
    • Higher-quality assessment
    • Competency-based approaches
    • An expanded portfolio of verified skills

    There are, of course, barriers to adopting badges. These are listed as:

    1. Developing the technology infrastructure required
    2. Teachers/faculty having little time or incentive to develop badges
    3. Worries that transparency might aid competitors
    4. How to define badges for more abstract areas (e.g. poetry)
    5. Fears that educators may have to give up their ‘sage on the stage’ role

    Kyle Bowen, someone I’ve interacted a number of times both before and since he left his role at Purdue University, has developed the model shown below. It shows some ways badging can be used in Higher Education:

    Categories of badge use in higher education

    Unsurprisingly, the most interesting types of badges are likely to be found on the right-hand side of this diagram.

    After noting some early pushback from influential scholars such as Mitch Resnick (2012) around badges as motivators and for profit, the authors move onto discuss badges for informal learning and workforce preparation. In terms of the latter, the authors ask the rhetorical question, “So, what is attracting employers and human resources types to digital badges?” The answer is that badges help solve the ‘skills gap’, or difficulty employers have in “finding employees who are qualified for the job openings, in both the technical and soft skills arenas.” In addition:

    Another aspect of digital badges that is appealing to employers is a future where they make hiring choices based on more Рand more accurate Рinformation than what they currently can access. While some employers may balk at the idea of more information, because they have so many r̩sum̩s and cover letters to sort through, there are plenty of benefits to the added information from badges. Instead of relying on the sparse information of college transcripts and perhaps inaccurate information from references, a set of digital badges could give an employer a clear idea of what skills an employee brings to the table, and how she or he gained those skills.

    The metadata in badges could (with the earner’s permission) be used by search engines, meaning that “much of the sorting that human resource professionals now do manually will be done by computers…   freeing more time to go deeper into the differences that might separate top candidates.”

    The authors conclude by talking about proposed changes to the Open Badges specification that could add real value to employers. The first is endorsements. This currently exists as an ‘extension’ to the current specification, but is set to be a full and more developed part of the core specification with version 2.0. The second is machine-based interpretation of badges which will be of value “as geographically distributed workforces become more common”, boosting “the desirability of open badges”.

    This is a well-written, and eminently readable chapter, giving solid advice to scaffold the journey of the budding badge designer.

  • Doug Belshaw 2:57 pm on May 4, 2016 Permalink | Reply  

    Badges and instructional design 

    Digital Badges in Education

    The eighth chapter of Digital Badges in Education: Trends, Issues, and Cases is ‘Instructional Design Considerations for Digital Badges’. The authors note early in the chapter that badge designers need to “think not only of the individual badge that they are developing but also how it might relate to a future offering within a badge family.”

    After a simple ‘Learning Hierarchy Analysis’ (i.e. what kind of learning depends on what other kind of learning), the authors cite Grant (2013) in differentiating very generally between between badges with existing content versus badges with new content. 

    • Badges with existing content: this may involve the badge designer having to “deconstruct the entire curriculum and rebuild it from the ground up” to ensure badges are “truly integrated and not just grafted onto the instruction”. This approach is time intensive.   
    • Badges with new content: although this depends on context, there are “three broad-based considerations” to bear in mind. First, badges need some kind of “design uniformity within the badge family”. Second, it’s important to “consider how the alignment of learning objectives, tasks, required evidence, and assessments demonstrates the badge activities reflect accepted norms of the learning context.” And third, bringing in users to the design process is “recommended to ensure that the digital badges represent the needs and interests of the potential stakeholders.”

    A number of other considerations are raised by the author, including whether the badges are awarded for asynchronous or synchronous activities, whether badges expire, how many tasks are required to achieve each badge, and the method of assessment. The last of these is important, as the assumption is often that formal assessment is required to give out *any* form of credential. However, as the authors note, badges “may be awarded based on assessment and evaluation of presented evidence, or for some non-assessed criteria, such as attendance at a seminar.”

    Following this, the authors discuss ways in which badges can be evaluated (“peer, single evaluator, multiple evaluators, automated evaluation, or a combination of these”), the number of ‘assessment attempts’ that should be allowed, and the structure of badges. They explain that there are broadly two approaches to structuring badges: stratified and hierarchical:

    • Stratified: “offers an approach similar to that of traditional grading” including tiered credentials for progressively difficult levels of work quality or performance.
    • Hierarchical: “can be used to create a progressive series of learning challenges or to reflect skills that build on each other”. 

    To be honest, I’m not sure I understand the difference between the above two approaches – at least in practice.

    As discussed in previous chapters, the authors explain the concept of a ‘meta badge’, giving the example of Penn State University libraries’ information literacy badges:

    Penn State University libraries' information literacy badges

    This approach utilizes four meta-badges to provide a path to summarize parts of the overall experience. This offers a mechanism to show a learner other things they can do and learn after completing the first badge, the relationship between the activities, and how these can be summarized when they reach certain levels of completion.

    As instructional designers, the authors note (quite rightly) that “the pedagogy and learning theories behind the design of the badges are more important than the technology itself.” 

  • Doug Belshaw 2:25 pm on May 4, 2016 Permalink | Reply  

    Video Games, Pathways, and Badges 

    Digital Badges in Education

    Chapter 7 (‘What Video Games Can Teach Us About Badges and Pathways’) in Digital Badges in Education: Trends, Issues, and Cases is written by Lucas Blair, someone who I know from my work at Mozilla. As his LinkedIn profile states, his PhD “explored the use of video game achievements to enhance player performance, self-efficacy, and motivation”. 

    In this chapter, Blair looks at the similarities and differences between ‘skill trees’ in video games and ‘pathways’ used in the Open Badges ecosystem. He warns that the 59% of Americans who self-identify as ‘gamers’ may be “underwhelmed by [badge] systems that do not utilize what they are accustomed to seeing in games”.

    Explaining skill trees, Blair writes:

    Skill trees in games are not a collection or ordering of achievements as we think of badges relating to pathways. Instead, skill trees are a mechanism designed to allow players to unlock skills and enhancements in games at a controlled rate as they progress through game content. Skill trees can be compared to badge pathways because they represent all possibilities to players in a game. This is the same way that a badge pathway represents what badges earners can achieve within a system as well as the order in which they should be earned. Skill trees also act as a goal setting and planning mechanism.

    Equating ‘boss-level’ progression achievements to badges for completing a grade or graduating, the author lists some other ways that games earn achievements which could be translated into the badge landscape. For example, achievements are earned in video games for:

    • Exploring the game environment
    • Completing (sections of) the game on a harder difficulty setting
    • Collecting a lot of something 

    These often leads to ‘meta badges’:

    Meta badges are badges that are awarded for earning full sets of other badges. These are designed to encourage players to obtain all badges and are also a good technique to group badges that are related. In education when badges are chunked into meta-badges, the groups can often be tied to related learning objectives.

    In the Open Badges ecosystem, there are very few (if any) ‘negative’ badges, as these are likely to be rejected by the learner, who is always in control. However, as Blair explains, some achievements in video games explicitly reward consistent failure, showing that persistence is part of completing the game.

    For example, The Blinding of Isaac: Rebirth has an achievement called ‘The Scissors’ for dying 100 times. This is an interesting methodology for getting players in a mindset that failure is a celebrated part of the game and everyone dies. Another interesting example, from the game *Dark Souls II*, is the achievement awarded the first time a player dies, called ‘This is Dark Souls’. This achievement sets the stage for a game in which players die hundreds of times to achieve victory.

    There is much to like in this chapter, including the section where the author talks about the unintended effects of achievements on players, who want to be ‘successful’. Gamerscore on the Xbox 360, for example, “assigns a numeric value to achievements” in a way that is a step removed from the actual content of the game. “Because of this, some players strive to maximize their Gamerscore by finding the easiest achievements possible across all games.” As Blair notes, this is a reminder that some (most?) learners are likely to find the path of least resistance in any given system that points towards a goal.

    Some achievements in games such as World of Warcraft and EverQuest II are achieved individually, but displayed collectively, as part of a group or guild. “Players can benefit from guild-level perks that are unlocked by the success of the guild.” This could be incorporated into the classroom to encourage cooperation and collaboration among peers. 

    Returning to skill trees, Blair notes that they constitute a “map of possibilities for the player”, a “goal-setting environment where players decide on a ‘guild’ or an approach for which skills to obtain long before they have played enough to unlock them.” A favourite of the author (as I have seen him present on this) is the skill tree from Path of Exile, shown below:

    Path of Exile skill tree

    This uses “nonlinear, almost organic shapes” resembling mindmaps. The takeaway from these kind of complex skill trees, notes Blair, is that:

    When creating badge pathways it is important for designers to remember the sense of ownership earners will have over their decisions and how that will become a reflection of who they are within that context.

    Skill trees can represent different levels of ‘pace’, meaning that difficulty levels need to be balanced with player skill. “These design strategies,” notes Blair, “are very similar to those used by instructional designers when designing a piece of curriculum.”

    Game designers know that they may not get a skill tree correct first time, so they are “constantly adjusting the skills available in trees based on community feedback, play testing, and data collection.” Badge system designers should do likewise.

    As both a gamer and badge evangelist, I found this chapter fascinating. Badge system designers (myself included) have a lot to learn from the world of game design!

  • Doug Belshaw 1:48 pm on May 4, 2016 Permalink | Reply  

    Badges and motivation 

    Digital Badges in Education

    In Chapter 6 (‘Impact of Badges on Motivation to Learn’) of Digital Badges in Education: Trends, Issues, and Cases, the authors explain that the traditional intrinsic/extrinsic binary on types of motivation is a problematic construct.

    Thankfully, there are number of learning motivation theories that can inform possible interactions between badges and learners’ motivation. Achievement goal theory (Maehr & Zusho, 2009; Pintrich, 2000) suggests that motivation to earn badges can be described on two interacting scales of learning goals: approach to avoidance and mastery to performance. A motivation to learn based on a mastery goal is associated with the learner’s interest. A performance goal is based on a desire to learn in comparison wither how much other people are learning. Approach goals suggest that there is a motivation to achieve a learning goal, while avoidance goals represent a desire to not fail at the learning objective. Applied as a 2×2 matrix (Cury, Eillot, Fonseca, & Moller, 2006) (see Figure 6.1) learners could have a performance approach goal orientation and be motivated to earn more badges than their peers, or have a performance avoidance goal orientation and want to earn enough badges to be similar to their peers. Learners could have a mastery approach goal orientation where they earn badges that represent what they want to learn, or a mastery avoidance orientation where they are concerned with keeping the badges that represent their learning.

    2x2 matrix

    The authors counter the “viable concern that badges could negatively impact learners’ motivation” due to them “becom[ing] only concerned with earning badges” by saying that “if learners are able to connect their badges to their learning, then badges could support their motivation to learn by reinforcing their intrinsic motivation.” In short, the badge is an external motivator, but not an extrinsic one.

    Importantly, the authors state that, “Research on digital badges is far too limited to draw any definite conclusions on the effect that badges can have on motivation to learn”. However, they do note that their own research suggests that “the motivational impact of badges is likely connected to learners’ identity.”

    This chapter is less specifically helpful than the previous one, but the 2×2 matrix of achievement goal theory is definitely useful in thinking through the reasons learners might want to earn (and keep hold of their) badges.

  • Doug Belshaw 10:54 am on May 4, 2016 Permalink | Reply  

    What badge system designers can learn from games 

    Digital Badges in Education

    Open Badges started gaining traction around the same time as ‘gamification’ began to attract attention. Somewhat understandably, the result was that in the early days badges were synonymous with gamification. The similarities and differences are more clear these days, with those implementing badges still having a lot to learn about badge systems from game designers.

    In Chapter 5 (‘Good Badges, Evil Badges? Impact of Badge Design on Learning from Games’) of Digital Badges in Education: Trends, Issues, and Cases, the authors list different ways of understanding incentives in terms of badge system design. Their interviews with game designers raised four key points:

    1. “[T]he importance of integrating well thought-out incentive design from the beginning of the game design planning process, rather than design elements being added on at the end as an afterthought.”
    2. “[T]he need to take into account the characteristics of the target audience, in particular factors such as player type and the target audience’s familiarity with the game genre.”
    3. “[T]he game’s incentive system plays a key role in increasing and maintaining appeal.”
    4. “[A] key strategy mentioned by the designers was to include multiple routes and incentives within a game.”

    In addition, the research “revealed three main functions of the game’s incentive system: signaling, challenging, and affirming.”

    • Signaling: “when the incentive system implicit provides a tutorial for in-game activities by showing which aspects are either important or not important to focus on in order to be successful within the game.”
    • Challenging: “when the incentive system presents tasks that require particular levels of skill or persistence to achieve. This sets the bar for receiving that 5-star or 100 percent rating, to push the player out of the comfort zone of their normal level of in-game performance.”
    • Affirming: “when the incentive system acknowledges what the player is doing by providing just-in-time affirmation of in-game actions so that the player feels like the game is paying attention to them (by using appropriate, relevant feedback.”

    The authors introduce a ‘Badging Player Profile’ (BPP):

    Badging Player Profile

    From here, the authors introduce different ways to conceptualise badge systems, including Hickey (2012), Antin and Churchill (2011), and the authors’ own (Biles and Plass, 2016).

    Hickey’s (2012) approach is that badges can have one of four functions: 

    1. Recognizing learning
    2. Assessing learning
    3. Motivating learning
    4. Evaluating learning

    Antin and Churchill (2011) outline five badge functions from a social psychology perspective:

    1. Goal setting
    2. Instruction
    3. Reputation
    4. Status/affirmation
    5. Group identification

    Biles and Plass (2016) introduce the Educational Badge Typology (EBT) framework based on the difference between formative, process-based badges, and summative, credentialing badges. 

    Educational Badge Typology (EBT)

     The authors explain their diagram in the following way:

    Badges related to learning goals are divided into complementary tasks and learning tasks. Complementary tasks can either be classified as Mastery (altruistic), such as helping other students, or Achievement (reputation), such as advancing to a certain social status. Learning tasks are those directly connected to learning goals or common core standards outlining domain-specific knowledge. These tasks can be either Mastery focused where the student needs to demonstrate learned competency or Performance focused where the student needs to demonstrate excellence in that competency when compared to their peers or a set cut-off level.

    This chapter will be particularly useful for helping people get out of their usual way of thinking when it comes to qualifications and credentials. While the EBT could probably do with presenting in a clearer way, the integration of Hickey (2012) and Antin and Churchill (2011) is valuable.

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