Project Q&A With: Partners in Learning Network Badges

Project Q&A With: Partners in Learning Network Badges

The Partners in Learning Network will support educators and school leaders’ active participation in the Partners in Learning Program by instituting a rewards and recognitions badge system. The abundance of knowledge, resources, and accessibility to information available today requires a different approach from the generic one-size fits all engagement models of the past. New tools--like the use of badge systems as a means to reward, recognize, and motivate behavior--will fast become an essential change agent in capturing one’s skills, competencies, and achievements.

What are the 3 most important things about building a badge system you would share with another organization just getting started?

Three pieces of advice for members just getting started is:

  1. Users like bright shiny objects- the design element of the badges can be underestimated
  2. Technical roadblocks could be the barrier for wide distribution of badges. Ensure the technical challenges with authentication are worked out early in the process
  3. Badges should be complementary to one's overall strategy, don't implement badges for the sake of awarding badges, they should be used as an additional incentive to a larger engagement strategy.

Who were you addressing with your badge system design?

The Partners in Learning Network supports educators and school leader’s active participation in the Partners in Learning Program by instituting a rewards and recognitions system through the use of badges. Badges can be achieved by completing a self-defined professional development path, community contributions (posting content, contributing to discussions, providing translation improvement), and obtaining certain designations which represent various skill sets within the program.

What were your initial goals for the badges? Did those goals change at all throughout the design process?

Our goal has been to ensure that the badges standard Mozilla is proposing can interoperate with the Microsoft Partners in Learning Network which is built on the Microsoft cloud infrastructure, Windows Azure.
We had to make sure that the Partners in Learning Network was in compliance with the Open Badge System and that badges could be exported and imported using the standard.

The Partners in Learning Network (PiLN) serves as the focal point for Partners in Learning; it is the public face of the program and is the engine used to engage and recruit educators and school leaders. The environment and context for education is changing at a rapid pace through the commoditization of content, new learning paths to becoming an educator, the influence of social networking, and the pervasiveness of mobile devices and applications. The abundance of knowledge, resources, and accessibility to information available today requires a different approach from the generic one-size fits all engagement models of the past. New tools, like the use of badge systems as a means to reward, recognize, and motivate behavior, will fast become an essential change agent in capturing one’s skills, competencies, and achievements.

What types of badges are you using (participation, skill, certification, etc.)? Are there levels or pathways represented in your badges?

The Partners in Learning Network will support educators and school leader’s active participation in the Partners in Learning Program by instituting a rewards and recognitions system through the use of badges. Badges will be achieved by completing a self-defined professional development path, community contributions (posting content, contributing to discussions, providing translation improvement), and obtaining certain designations which represent various skill sets within the program.
The framework for earning badges within the Partners in Learning Network can be accessed from the "Earn Badges" page here: http://www.pil-network.com/pd/earnbadges.

What are three things you learned about badge system design? What would you do differently if you were to start over?

In our experience we've identified a few challenges and things we might do differently if we started over:

  1. We'd spend more time on the design elements of the badge to make sure they were inspiring from a design standpoint.
  2. Optimization of displaying the badges is a lot of work and re-work to our user's profile
  3. Identifying early the technical challenges of exporting badges out of our authentication system and into the OBI system. We use a different authentication means than OBI so ensuring there is a seamless way for users to go back and forth is a challenge we still have to solve for.

What is left to do? What is left unanswered?

The items which still need to be worked on are as follows:

  • Redesign of our user profile's so we can display more badges and allow users to import third-party badges.
  • Stand up a page on OBI to get people to participate and understand the value- users would click there and go the page that explains the value of the OBI.
  • Determine how to ease the pain of logging into PILN and then logging into the OBI to put their badge from PILN into the OBI backpack- users would have to log into both our site and OBI in order to have their PiL badges show up in the backpack? When they click export on our site, they are prompted for their OBI log in.

What are the 3 main challenges to widespread adoption of your badge system for your organization?

Some of the challenges associated with wide spread adoption of our badges are:

  1. Interop between PiL Network and OBI system, figuring out the authentication piece.
  2. Relevance- most of our badges center on teacher professional development and if this isn't a top priority for a country or school district than earning badges for PD isn't going to be perceived as high-value
  3. Getting the word out on a WW basis- given the PiL Program is operates in 115 different countries, creating a national marketing and evangelism plan whch has global appeal, but local relevance could be a gating factor.

What is your badge system testing strategy? How have you or will you be testing your badge system prior to deployment?

The first component of our testing phase will be to determine if we can use the Microsoft authentication claims service being created by Donald Brinkman. Donald's team used the backpack code standard and did a parallel implementation for Microsoft's Cloud based services called Access Control Services (ACS).

Given the PiL Network uses ACS, we will first want to test the authentication claim services work within our system.

We believe our educators achievements should be recognized so that they can share their accomplishments and knowledge with their colleagues and communities. That’s why the Partners in Learning Network awards badges for the skills and knowledge that are learned and shared through our online professional learning community, in our in-person events, and in school communities around the world. To this end we will track the number and type of badges our user community earns. Given some of our desgination badges are tied to segmenting our community into different tiers; these tiers will be represented by designation badges earned through the user’s participation and completion of trainings. We will optimize around the philosophy that everyone is a "winner" just by registering and will be awarded a Microsoft PiL badge. Based on programmatic activities we will track those with a higher level status, making it easy for us and others to recognize them and their work in the system.
The rewards and recognition system via badges is at the core of our engagement with educators and school leaders.

Please describe any impact your badge system may have already had on your organization and your learners.

The impact of our badging system is still be analyzed given our main educators and school leader programs are now accepting applications for new community members which are also tied to badges. We do know that we've awarded Teacher Training badges to over 400+ people in the last six months, which spans over 75 countries.

For our professional development badges we've seen our community take over 2000 hours of professional development which equals 300+ days of face-to-face training or $590K worth of professional development. We've awarded PD badges to over 1,5000 users for the participation in these online PD tracks.

What plans do you have to scale your badge system?

We plan to scale our badge system in two ways:

  1. The Microsoft Innovative Schools program helps district and school leaders embrace innovation and implement technology effectively to support teaching and learning. Explore the possibilities. Collaborate with other leaders. Through this program school leaders can participate in the Partners in Learning Innovative Schools program as an Innovative School or as a Mentor School. Each option offers a different depth of engagement and related benefits which are all tied to a badging taxonomy: http://www.pil-network.com/schools.
  2. Microsoft's Innovative Educator Expert (MIE Expert) is an exclusive one year program that celebrates educators across the world who use technology to transform education. This exclusive global community consists of visionary leaders and other forward thinking educators who work closely with Microsoft to lead innovation in education. Teacher's can earn a MIE Expert badge which is tied to additional benefits of the program: http://www.pil-network.com/Educators/expert

Through both of these programs we're exptecting thousands of applicants and will use this framework as our means to scale our badging taxonomy .

Once your badge system is built, how self-sustaining is it? How much do you anticipate maintenance to be?

Our badge system will be completely self-sustaining based on the business logic we've built underneath the awarding of badges. The PiL Network has an ability to automatically award these badges because of the rules associated with how users earn a badge. Because users can earn badges for PD, community activities, and reflect a certain designation in our program we track all of these items as key performance index and the system awards the associated badges.

For those who want to follow the development, implementation, and adoption of your badge system, what social media sites will you be posting updates to?

The Partners in Learning Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/#!/partnersinlearning?fref=ts
The Daily Edventures Blog: http://dailyeventures.com
Partners in Learning You Tube Channel: www.youtube.com/microsoftineducation

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