Developing the series, content and brand design for Jisc RSC Scotland #openbadges

This blog post was originally written in January 2013 while developing an Open Badge system and working for Jisc RSC Scotland. You can view the original post ‘Developing the series, information and designs for the Jisc RSC Scotland #openbadges’ on the RSC e-Assessment blog.

The Jisc RSC Scotland provides support and advice to the further and higher education sectors in Scotland on the effective use of technologies in education. We offer a lot of services to carry out this remit but also rely on individuals within the sector being willing to share their practice as we find people relate to examples of effective practice from their peers. In this regard, we act as a kind of brokering service, connecting people working on similar projects, writing case studies to provide examples of specific practice, running webinar series, hosting forums and running online courses which feature high levels of peer support.

For a while, we have considered how we could reward the contributions people from the sector make in supporting their peers when they provide input on our behalf and how to continue to encourage engagement with our services. I am excited by the possibilities of open badges as a means of recognising a range of skills, achievements, contribution to online communities and peer support. Open badges seem a perfect fit for promoting the kind of engagement and contribution we are looking for so I have been working recently on criteria and designs for the Jisc RSC Scotland open badges series.

Key areas to consider when designing badges are the behaviours promoted through using them and the criteria for receiving them. On top of this is the actual image design, which is important as it will help to brand the badge issuer. We want our badges to be desirable, with recipients happy to show them off and in so doing, demonstrating their achievements but also promoting the Jisc RSC Scotland.

I started by considering the kinds of behaviours we wanted to promote. The key behaviours I identified were engagement, attainment, contribution and peer support. The criteria for engaging with many of our services, where appropriate, was already in place so I quickly moved onto considering the look and feel of the badge itself. This was a mistake! I asked colleagues to think about designs for a 90 pixel x 90 pixel badge image size. (Note: at the time of writing the original post, I believed this was a guideline size but it is just an approximate size badges often seemed to currently be displayed at). The image needed to be something that would represent us and be easily recognisable as being from us. Some good designs were suggested but the more I thought about them, the more I realised how much graphical information had to be fitted into the small area of the badge, which needed to be consistent across groups or types of badges.

It was time to pull back from the image design. A quick chat with Mozilla Badges and Skills lead Doug Belshaw, helped me re-focus on key elements which included considering clusters of badges, granularity and sustainability. He pointed me to a post by Ewan McIntosh on hexagonal thinking, (which focuses on a concept developed by Arie de Geus), which discusses how clustering via hexagonal layouts, helps to create connections and patterns between concepts (the Mozilla Webmaker badges also use the hexagon shape). This was important for me because I wanted to be able to create links across different series of badges, clustering for example, badges issued for peer support in a variety of different contexts. While I’m not aware of badge display mechanisms currently, which would allow these clusters to be represented on a web page, perhaps this could be a future development. I think it could be useful to allow badge recipients to cluster badges together to show different attributes gained through various scenarios.

In order to identify the clusters of badges we could have, I needed to clearly identify all the different pieces of graphical information that would go in to each badge. I have broken these down to:

  • Series
  • Category
  • Type
  • Behaviour
  • Criteria (description of what will be used for this)
  • Level / Merit
  • Awarded for

This process didn’t happen in a linear fashion, I went back and forth, refining, making new connections and finally ending up with the key indicators which will be consistent across all our badges. Once I had this information, I was able to develop graphical indicators that would represent each of the aspects in each badge. The types of criteria that will result in badges being awarded and their corresponding indicators are:

  • Contribution and attainment
    • 1 contribution / basic attainment: category colour flash
    • Highly Commended / additional merit: silver flash
    • Winner / distinction: gold flash
  • Peer votes: green flash
  • Quantity: red flash

As an example, the information and graphical indicators for one of our Learning OnLine course badges, the Influencer, is:

  • Series: Digital Practitioner
  • Category: Learning OnLine. Indicator = purple colour and Learning OnLine sqaure motif
  • Type: Online Communications and e-Tutoring. Indicator = @ symbol inside sqaure motif
  • Behaviour: Contribution, Engagement, Peer Support
  • Criteria: Peer votes. Indicator = green flash
  • Level / Merit: Influencer. Indicator = badge name
  • Awarded for: 3 peer votes

Currently I don’t have indicators to specifically identify the series or behaviour information other than the over-arching design but as we introduce more badges, I may need to add identifiers to represent this information also.

So now we need to issue a fully functioning badge. We have issued test badges via WPBadger but there is a restriction on how much information can be added to the criteria field, which describes what the badge recipient had to do to earn the badge (note: this was remedied by adding some code to extend the length of the criteria field). As describing the criteria is an important element for us, we are currently investigating other issuers including Mozilla’s Open Badger (which, as far as I’m aware, is still in beta and hasn’t been released as a full issuing system yet) and a badge issuing gadget Martin Hawksey has developed using Google sites.


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