What are Open Badges?
I was a child of the pre-cable era. When I was a kid, we had six main TV channels (2, 4, 7, 20, 50, and 56). Summers meant watching reruns from the past years’ TV shows or watching older programs that channels 20 and 50 ran as filler. Hits like “Gilligan’s Island,” “Lost in Space,” and “I Love Lucy” were afternoon staples. I also watched “Dragnet,” which with its distinctive theme (“Dum – – – de – DUM – DUM”) and Joe Friday’s staccato delivery, made entertaining viewing. The image of his badge with its visual of the Los Angeles City Hall building was a graphic reminder of his status as a police officer, and was something he often discussed with pride.
Badges are also part of gamification in online learning. But wait! Before saying more about badges, I just want to offer a cautionary reminder that, as ILGer Melanie Randall wrote in her blog —“Gamification: Is It Relevant? Is It Meaningful?” — to be impactful, gamification in learning must reinforce learning and be more than an entertainment device.
Now back to gamification badges, which are used to symbolize achievement in learning. They’re not the point of the learning, but rather are a reward for or proof (such as a certificate or a trophy) of what a person has achieved. Depending on how the learning is gamified, badges can be viewed by the learner only or by team members to demonstrate who has accomplished what. Badges are stored in a Learning Record Store, a Learning Management System (LMS), or both.
Old fashioned basic gamification badges, such as completion certificates or simple icons representing accomplishments, have now transitioned to digital badges, which are an online representation of a skill you’ve mastered. And in the past few years, a standard has developed called Open Badges, which takes the idea of digital badges and attaches information on your achievements into an image file, encoding it for future use. Think of it like taking a picture of a badge and combining it with a bar code or QR code. This has some advantages:
- They’re transferable. Badges can be collected from various online sources and assembled together. You can display them wherever you want — on your blog, website, or social network profile.
- They’re stackable. Your achievements can build on each other and tell the story of your growth and achievements.
- They’re full of data. Open Badges contain information, and each one has metadata that link back to the issuer, criteria, and verifying evidence.
The idea of the Open Badge is exciting and innovative. It’s something to consider if you’re going to gamify your learning or if you want to provide a visible way of recognizing accomplishments. Being visual, they can be printed and displayed, or can be shared online within your company’s intranet to show just how well trained your staff is. Being transferable, stackable, and data rich, our training information no longer needs to be stored away in a company’s LMS only to be lost once we leave.
Detective Joe Friday earned his badge, how might you earn yours?
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