#Openbadges at #MozFest, surfacing and rewarding contribution in an online community

This blog post was originally written in November 2012 while working for Jisc RSC Scotland. You can view the original ‘#Openbadges at #MozFest, surfacing and rewarding contribution in an online community’ post on the RSC e-Assessment blog.

This weekend, I attended MozFest at Ravensbourne College in London. It was one of those intense event experiences, where you chat with inspiring people and have your mind stretched with new and exciting ideas. I had been asked to contribute to the session on open badges and to share my perspective on them. The session was split into yack and hack – a chance to discuss where open badges could fit and then to work on designing a badge, expressing the behaviours we would want it to promote and developing the criteria for it. The session provided a chance to reflect on the work we are doing at the JISC RSC Scotland with issuing open badges for our online courses and to consider scenarios where open badges could add value. One of the key areas the group I was working with felt was worth exploring, was how to recognise the contributions of individuals to an online community.  

One member of the group was a Director from HASTAC (a partner in the open badges DML Competition) and she was interested in recognising contribution to the HASTAC community site. HASTAC is a consortium of people from different disciplinary backgrounds and communities collaborating together on the topic of creative uses of technology, and she was considering how to show recognition of key contributions to their site, such as articles, helpful comments on blog posts, people who connect people to other people and ideas, etc. Recognising individual contribution is also an important area for the JISC RSC Scotland in our online courses, given that the content of these courses are very much created by the group / learning community participating in the course.

To try to reward significant contribution in our courses, the JISC RSC Scotland have developed a peer awarded Influencer badge (I’ve written more about this in (Open) Badging courses created by the community). To receive this, a person requires three votes from their peers, which we chose to do as we wanted everyone to engage with the reward process and for it to be the community that decided who deserved recognition for contribution. The decision to use community votes was influenced by the badging structure used in the School of Webcraft open badges pilot run in 2011. In this pilot, open badges were awarded once evidence submitted for open assessments received a set number of votes from subject ‘gurus’, or from others who had received that badge already within the pilot community. A vote showed that in the opinion of the assessor, the person who had submitted the evidence had met the badge criteria.

The criteria the MozFest group came up with to recognise community ‘Contributors’ was quite similar to the criteria we are using for the JISC RSC Scotland Influencer award, with an interesting addition. When voting for someone to receive the Influencer badge in the Online Communications and e-Tutoring course, we ask course participants to consider the following criteria, using a scale of Not really, To some extent, To a great extent:

  1. Participant made a significant and constructive contribution to discussions
  2. Participant provided reflections and / or links and / or additional information pertinent to the course subject
  3. Participant enhanced the experience of the course for the group and / or myself through their contributions
  4. Participant demonstrated the principles of netiquette in their contributions to the course

The last point is quite subject specific but the criteria the MozFest group came up with for a community ‘Contributor’ badge, was similar to the other points. We clarified that the contribution was to a learning community, that people would receive votes from their peers to receive the award but the additional point was the idea that someone could only receive a vote if they had voted for someone else. We agreed there was a chance this could lead to people voting indiscriminately just to enable them to receive an award / badge but we felt it was a concept worth exploring further as it could help motivate people to become more involved with the community through recognising the contributions of their peers.

A further challenge we considered, is how to surface the contributions of individuals to a very large community, where the extent and reach of their influence could be difficult to follow. The work Martin Hawksey is doing on data analysis and visualisation came to mind as being potentially useful here, which he documents in a blog post exploring possibilities for visualising data in a cMOOC. MOOCs tend to be very large communities, made up of quite fluid and loose networks and they generate a lot of data. Martin shows how it is possible to chart the contributions being made in such a community by surfacing the connections between people and ideas through blog posts and blog post comments. I could see how this kind of analysis and data visualisation could be used to show the scope of influence individuals might have in any community, if it pulled together activity such as blog posts, comments, citations, re-tweets and so on. Perhaps a combination of these analytics, which could be reviewed prior to voting, and a set number of votes, could be used as a basis for recognising contribution to the community and issuing a badge / award for that? So, lots to think about as a result of the MozFest session.


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