On the weekend of January 18, Open Badges team members, Brian Brennan, Emily Goligoski and I participated in a Hackathon event for an Open Source project-based, collaborative university curriculum program hosted by Stanford Computer Science Professor, Jay Borenstein and Facebook.
The hackathon was a kickoff event for a semester long mentorship program between shepherds of various open source projects like Open Badges, ReviewBoard, Freeseer, MongoDB, CouchDB etc and Computer Science college students across the world. This Stanford and industry sponsored, cross-university program is intending to give students in computing exposure to real projects and allowing them to apply their classroom learnings to live products with actual users.
Open Badges was selected by 9 university students from Tampere University of Technology in Finland (2), Imperial College London (2), National University of Singapore (2) and Cornell (3). 7 students wanted to focus on code contributing and 2, the ones from Tampere University wanted to focus on UX. Throughout the weekend, Brian worked with the 7 while Emily and I worked with the UX students.
The weekend provided a great opportunity to gauge the students interests, backgrounds, level of experience to figure out a plan forward for the semester. It’s important to us in the Open Badges team as mentors that we ensure the students feel like they are a part of the team and that they are making contributions to our product that they can point to and be proud of.
Updates on the team’s work will be documented on the program’s Fb page which you can follow along here: http://www.facebook.com/groups/245840398877320/
We’re excited to work with these talented students in the months to come and will make sure to share along the way.
n.b. Another long overdue blog post but better late than never!
What this means for you:
The Open Badges team got together last week in beautiful Portland, ME to discuss what’s next for development.
For the past couple of months we’ve been actively reaching out to the community and gathering feedback on a variety of issues from those related to COPPA to authentication with Persona to revocation of badges to pie badges etc.
After gathering all the notes on feature requests and issues raised, we took a look at the list and started to prioritize. An important deliverable deadline for us is the ongoing DML4 competition and the upcoming DML conference scheduled for mid March 2013. Since March of this year, 2012, we’ve been working closely with all of the 30 DML funded grantee teams to ensure they understand the Open Badge Infrastructure and have what they need to integrate their badges with our open standard and API. At the upcoming 2013 DML conference they will have the opportunity to show their work and progress and we want to ensure their badges integrate well with our technical infrastructure and that our system can accommodate for the varying needs of the 30 grantee teams.
Working with the 30 DML grantee teams has been a great testing ground of issuer use cases. So far, almost all issues raised by the larger community has most often been raised by the pool of DML grantee teams as well.
We took both the feedback of the larger community as well as that of the DML grantee teams and have come up with the following issues list for release in Q1 2013:
COPPA, as many of you well know, has been very front of mind for us. We’ve talked to many of you who work with children under 13 to gather information, we’ve spent countless billable hours of our legal counsels’ time diving into this into greater detail and studied many existing COPPA compliant technical implementations.
Questions around children’s online identities are complicated ones that have yet to be resolved. At this moment in time, no children online identity providers handle identity and data protection while allowing sharing capability in an open Internet environment.
Not to mention, COPPA is a moving target. As we dove deeper into understanding the complexities around youth and online identities, we realized that this is something we cannot undertake alone. We need to work with the broader community of stakeholders, educators, identity providers and policymakers towards a collective solution.
As such we will be developing a cohesive stance towards COPPA which we will share out with the community soon. More to come here.
II. Extending spec - a. standards alignment
Many members of the community requested an additional optional metadata field that would indicate standards alignment of that badge. For instance if the learning content behind a Buzzmath badge that was earned reflected how the earner learned how to “Rewrite expressions involving radicals and rational exponents using the properties of exponents”, that directly aligns with Common Core Standard, CCSS.Math.Content.HSN-RN.A.2.
So Buzzmath, would likely link to the Common Core Standard url [n.b. specifics tbd] in this new standards alignment metadata field.
We think there are opportunities for this field beyond formal standards alignment. Our Sr. Director of Learning, Erin Knight will be writing more about how this field can be relevant to you so again, more to come here as well.
III. Extending spec - b. tags
As we think about badge organization and badge retrieval/discovery, we start to think about the different pieces of relevant information, i.e. data, that would help enhance this experience. Many of you have brought up the utility of creating a badge categorization or taxonomy of badges. We may choose the option to create a controlled vocabulary or take a folksonomic approach. We will be going with the latter and iterating based on how the community starts to utilize this field.
IV. 508 Compliance
We take accessibility considerations seriously and will comply with 508.
V. Fb Display integration
We will have Facebook display integration by spring 2013. In actuality, a big part of this is wrapping a great user experience around how a badge earner pushes their badges out to Facebook and how that can be distinguishable from a simple status update.
We’ll share out interim releases with the community for feedback.
VI. Signed badges
Signed badges will be a part of the Q1 2013 release schedule. As Brian mentions in the github issue, technical implementation is actually not the most challenging part. We really need to ensure issuers who are interested in signing their badges know where to start and how to go about making badges with signed assertions. The related documentation and tools development is key. We’d love for those especially keen on signed badges to provide feedback and support for this development.
VII. Backpack Connect - Autopush (badges by approved issuers automatically pushed)
Currently a badge earner must deliberately push every badge earned into their backpack (batch approval does exist today, however) which could be a clunky user experience. With auto-push, earner-approved issuers will be able to automatically push earned badges into the earner’s backpack.
VIII. Revocation of badges
When an issuer mistakenly issues the wrong badge to an earner, the method of revocation is that they go ahead and delete the assertion file. From the earner’s standpoint, that badge still exists in the backpack but if they want to display it out, the assertion file will not exist and it will be evident that the badge is not valid if anyone bothers to check. However problematic to all of this is that, a revoked badge is not obvious. There’s needs to be a better user experience around badge revocation. We will be including this in our next release.
IX. Badge expiration
Similar to badge revocation, the treatment and user experience around badge expiration is not clearly defined yet. We will be building out the new UX around badge expiration as well.
All these issues are trackable on our github issue tracker which you can find here.
We’ll keep you all in the loop with updates as many of these items require followup conversations and separate blogposts so stay tuned for more!
I have survived my first Mozfest.
It was exciting, energizing and exhausting. Having hosted 3 sessions throughout the 2 days; Designing Open Badges in the Wild with colleagues Doug Belshaw and Emily Goligoski, and 2 different office hours/sessions called, Make Open Badges Better with Emily, and played wingwoman for the Hackable Games floor one afternoon, I want to jot down some reflections:
As much work as Mozfest was, I can’t wait to do it all over again next year. :)
The Open Badges team, with the rest our colleagues at Mozilla Foundation, are headed to London this week for our annual Mozilla Festival. Some of you may recall that it was at this very annual festival, 2 years ago in 2010 under the banner, “Learning, Freedom and the Web” that Open Badges was born.
The theme for this year’s event is “Making, Freedom and the Web” and Michelle Thorne, our Global Event Strategist, with the help of many, many people, has put together an action-packed weekend all to underline our overarching ethos of “less yack, more hack”; Let’s make, remix, hack and tweak and see what we learn in the process. Let’s earn badges to represent the learning we’ve done and the skills we’ve accomplished.
On the Open Badges front, we have 2 themed sessions planned;
Designing Open Badges in the Wild
We’ve been talking about Open Badges at a higher introductory level for quite some time now and we felt it was time to take the conversation further during this year’s event. There is tremendous work around Badges happening in the UK and Europe, with Doug Belshaw, our Skills and Badges lead, guiding and advancing the conversation.
Leaning on the partner relations cultivated through Doug and fellow colleague of ours, John Bevan, we thought we should take advantage of the locality of the event in London and really highlight the work taking place in and around the UK. We invited several of these partners to join us in the conversation, showcase their work around badges and share lessons learned. But we wanted to stay true to the Mozilla maker motto by allowing a forum for active making.
Thus we’ve created a 2 hr session broken into 2 halves in which participants can go in and out.
The first hour will allow for session participants to get introduced and talk about their various badging interests and efforts. From there we intend to capture key areas of interest and allow those conversations to really flourish and build, much in an unconference-y fashion.
The second hour, we will regroup from our discussion from the earlier hour. If participants would like to continue with their breakout conversations, we will encourage it. If folks would like to switch gears, we’ve prepared a mini badge design activity that will encourage participants to think through the various components of designing a badge within a larger badge system and how it would play within the Open Badge ecosystem.
We are excited about the session and look forward to connections being made among the participants, lessons being shared, conversations being advanced and ideas being generated all to advance our work in Open Badges.
Make Open Badges Better I and II at the Webmaker Bar
With Mike Larsson at the helm, our development team has been working hard at introducing a slew of user experience enhancements in the Backpack. The list of updates that we’ve been working towards with Mozfest in mind can be found in our github.
Unfortunately, we’ve encountered some snags along the way and the release of the neatly packaged Backpack UX improvements looks like it’ll be delayed. Not to be discouraged, we are moving forward with the playtest session. Rather than testing out specific new UX releases, we’ will be utilizing paper prototypes of the original designs to frame the conversation and get participant feedback on various aspects of the backpack from groups, share, tagging, and privacy settings etc.
We intend for these 2 playtest sessions to be casual but are aiming to engage as many users as possible throughout the festival; meaning, while we have 2 formally scheduled playtest sessions, we’ll be doing a lot of informal playtesting in the form of conversational information gathering about the backpack and the various features we’ve developed or intend to develop. The last count I heard was that we were anticipating over 1000 attendees at the festival. We’d love to reach as many of these folks as possible to share what we’re building, gather feedback and improve the overall experience user’s have when interacting with Open Badges.
If you’re headed to Mozilla Festival, we hope you get the chance to come join us during one of our sessions. If you’re unable to, we’ll make sure to report back during our weekly community call!
The Mozilla Open Badge Infrastructure (OBI) is a relatively new product. At the Mozfest in Barcelona back in November of 2010, Open Badges was merely in its napkin sketch stages. Since then we created the conceptual framework (Q1 2011), defined requirements around what we needed to build (Q2 2011), released alpha of the Mozilla Open Badge Infrastructure with a set of early partners (Q3 2011) and earlier this year the beta version (Q2 2012).
While we continue to build out the OBI, ensuring its stability and ability to scale, in parallel we are working hard to get more badge issuers to integrate with the OBI, more displayers to start pulling public badges out of backpacks onto their display site, and more employers and colleges to start thinking about accepting badges as part of applicant evaluation. We are working hard to start thinking through how we can achieve wider badges adoption and the development and growth of a larger badges ecosystem.
Critical to that thinking is understanding the perspectives of the partners we are trying to onboard. What are their respective barriers, external and internal, to entry? What keeps them from integrating with the OBI and is there anything we can do on our side to help lower those barriers?
From various conversations, I found that barriers frequently distill down to 4 key elements:
Tech Capability (related to resource availability)
It’s been a useful practice during conversations to do some color coding to these key barriers:
We have talked to organizations that are completely on-board with the mission and goals of Open Badges and the OBI (Organizational Buy-in ) with few resources to start architecting a badge system that is OBI compliant (Resource availability and Tech capability ) that work in a large organization with high level of bureaucracy (Organizational pace ).
We have also talked to organizations that are still waiting on other well-known organizations to come on board before committing (Organizational Buy-in ) with flexible ability to ramp up resources if needed (Resource availability ), strong technical resources on staff that can easily parse through our APIs (Tech Capability ), operating under a small and lean management with little bureaucracy (Organizational pace ).
The intent of Open Badger, to be released later this year, is to help lower the barrier for those that lack resources and technical chops by abstracting the technical requirements of integration such as setting up a server, conforming to the metadata specification and parsing through the API. We continue to work towards getting organizational buy-in through education and advocacy, improving our tools, and getting more and more folks on board (in an attempt to get to the tipping point of the domino effect). But there is really little we can do with regards to the pace at which an organization operates.
That taken into account, we will continue to think through the existing tensions organizations encounter in order to come on board and do what we can to minimize those. We are a work in progress and open to feedback. Please let us know what you feel might be missing from the above mentioned barriers to entry and how we can be more empathetic to the needs of those organizations we want to bring on board.
For those unfamiliar with the DML competition, here’s a brief recap: Having built out the Open Badge Infrastructure (OBI), the plumbing to support a larger open badges ecosystem, we at Mozilla along with the MacArthur foundation and HASTAC felt it would be important to seed the ecosystem with high quality badges to kickstart the badges movement. Thereby, we made an open call for badge system submissions about a year ago where we had over 600 entries which got whittled down to 90 finalists who came to San Francisco earlier this year to pitch their badge systems to a panel of judges. Of those 90, 30 were selected as funded winners who now have a year to build out their badge systems that will integrate with the OBI.
More information on the DML competition can be found here.
For reflections after the DML competition, definitely check out the blog post written by our Sr. Director of Learning, Erin Knight which can be found here.
5 months later, it’s worth taking a gut check on where we are and what lies ahead.
Now that the emotional highs and lows of the competition and conference are behind us and the dust has settled, the winning grantee teams are getting to work on building out their badge systems or badge platforms and we at Mozilla in conjunction with HASTAC and MacArthur are ensuring that the teams have the support and guidance they need to successfully do so.
As part of this effort, Sheryl Grant from HASTAC and I conducted a round of outreach conversations with each of the winning grantee teams. Coordination with 30 winning grantee teams, frequently comprised of multiple team members, traversing different timezones was no trivial task, but it was well worth our time and energy.
Similar to how I put together a partner breakdown report a few weeks back, I thought it’d be a worth while exercise to examine our own grantee projects in a similar manner but within the context of the DML competition.
Here are some of our findings from this first wave of outreach conversations:
11 out of the 30 teams have had some contact with the Mozilla Open Badges team and/or have had checked out the available resources out there and thus were somewhat familiar with the integration process. During the course of outreach, Sheryl and I made sure all the grantees knew who to contact (me!) when they were ready to start issuing badges that integrate with the OBI as well as the pointers to the resources readily available for them.
The breakdown of the tech platforms utilized by each grantee team is as follows:
With 6 grantee teams, .net is the most used tech platform among the grantee teams, closely followed by drupal. There are still 5 teams that are weighing the different tech platform options and 5 teams that are building their badge system on top of existing badge issuing platforms.
COPPA stands for Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, in which a “child” is defined as an individual under the age of 13. The details get much trickier but the general idea is that a website operator who collects personal information from children under 13 must seek verifiable consent from a parent or legal guardian. We wanted to know for whom among the grantee teams, COPPA was a concern.
The breakdown falls smack down the middle; 15 teams are concerned about COPPA compliance and 15 teams are not.
The current public beta release of the Mozilla reference implementation of the backpack does not support children under 13. This was a deliberate choice as accommodating for COPPA would have delayed our release rather significantly. We will be creating a parallel backpack with limited sharing capabilities that will be COPPA compliant for the 15 DML grantee teams and their community of under 13 badge earners by early next year.
More information on COPPA can be found here: http://www.coppa.org/
There were several themes that came up over and over again during the course the outreach conversations. Most common ones were as follows:
All of these are HUGE themes in and of themselves that deserve a lot of attention and careful thinking around them. And none of them are discreet or isolated but relate to, depend on or validate one another.
Following up on these outreach conversations, in September we are holding a face-to-face workshop for the grantees to take place at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. We hope to learn more on the progress made by the grantees and how we can collectively work through and tackle these higher level themes. I’ll have more to share after the workshops.
A big part of my job is talking. I talk to a _lot_ of people who are interested in learning more about Open Badges and the role Mozilla plays in this space, on a regular basis. The meetings I set come from a variety of sources; sometimes, folks reach out to us through our google group, twitter feed, or community calls, other times they come in as a referral through internal Mozilla folks and sometimes they come in through other members of the community and their respective networks. We’re eager and willing to have conversations with just about anyone interested in learning more about Open Badges and exploring how we can either help with their next steps or if they are further along in badge system thinking, how to help them integrate with the Mozilla Open Badge Infrastructure.
In addition to all these in-bound conversations, we also do out-bound outreach to organizations who we think would help us seed the Open Badge Infrastructure with high quality, desirable badges.
Having been a part of this Open Badges team and initiative for just over 6 months now, and having kept track of most of the conversations I’ve had thus far, I thought it would be helpful for me as well as for my team and our community, if I put together a report on all these inbound and outbound outreach efforts and get an idea of the kinds of organizations we’ve been talking to — how many higher ed folks have shown interest in badges?, what about K-12?, what’s the regional representation of these various organizations?, do any of these folks have existing badge systems? etc.
The following summary and pie charts naturally represent a snapshot in time as we continue to speak with folks on an ongoing basis and continue to foster and grow the Open Badges community.
Partner Conversations from Dec 2011 to June 2012 tally:
114 non-DML related inbound and outbound outreach conversations
30 DML funded winning teams
60 DML non-funded winning teams
TOTAL (snapshot in time): 204 conversations
114 non-DML Partner breakdown (Inbound vs. Outbound)
We have a ton of in-bound interest that amounts to about 3.5 times that of outbound outreach conversations. As we scale, how to deal with all the in-bound interest and how to automate the process of on-boarding interested folks in a seamless manner is something we’re working hard to find a solution for.
Partner breakdown of how they would touch the OBI
Overwhelmingly Issuer: This is what we expected. Once the ecosystem is populated with high quality badges, we anticipate other roles within the ecosystem to start kicking into high gear.
Partner breakdown into Organization Types
Majority are tech startups that further breakdown into MOOCs, Displayers, Ed-Tech companies etc.
Partner breakdown into Regional Representation
Unsurprisingly, partners who have expressed interest are majority North American. However, we have a growing community in the UK as well. Internationalization and localization efforts are also underway on the product roadmap.
Issuer Target Demo breakdown
We appear to have a balanced breakdown of demographics represented from current snapshot of conversations from youth informal to middle and high school formal to higher ed to workforce and professional development not to mention various communities of practice. There are still many more sectors out there that we think will benefit from badges that need exploring who we plan on targeting for strategic outreach.
Existing Badge Systems
Of all the folks we have spoken to, a significant majority do not yet have a badge or certificate system in place. We think with Open Badger we can help many organizations, especially the smaller shops, get over the initial hump of having to set up an infrastructure to stand up their own badge system. Open Badger will provide hosting of the badges as well as help issuers walk through the badge design and metadata assignment. This snapshot indicates that there is still a lot of work for us to do.
This unscientific partner report was an opportunity to essentially slice and dice the various organizations we’ve been in contact with in different ways. It’d be interesting to do a followup partner snapshot report down the road in another 6 months or a year and see how the percentages budge and in what direction.
As always, feedback, comments and questions are welcome.
After writing down a long list of resources to point folks who are interested in badges to, I realized it might be helpful to provide some level of directionality. So I created a decision map. This is my first attempt at it.
What you see here is a framework upon which I can build in more readability, more fluidity, more interactivity. Right now, it’s a static decision map presenting all the resources that I’ve listed in my previous blog post in a non-linear way. It’s missing some content like pointers to our Planet Open Badges as well as our product roadmap which I will include in a subsequent iteration.
But take a look. This was meant to be a little whimsical and to present an alternate way to tackle the different resources we provide for n00bs and interested folks. Let me know if you see something missing here or have any feedback!