Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The First Instance of Issuing Open Badges in Open edX

By James Willis and Dan Hickey

We are happy to announce that our collaboration to build the first instance of open digital badges in Open edX is a success. This week the group presented the first digital badges in Lorena Barba's MOOC at the Open edX conference in Cambridge, Massachusetts. This collaboration features the hard work of Lorena Barba and her team, IBL Studios, Achievery, and the CRLT at Indiana University.

Lorena Barba (GWU) and Michael Amigot (IBL Studios)
In early September, we announced a collaboration with Lorena Barba, an associate professor of engineering at George Washington University, to issue open digital badges in her Open edX MOOC, "Practical Numerical Methods with Python." Dedicated to open education, Dr. Barba realized quickly that badges within Open edX would not truly be open because displaying evidence would require edX authentication. In what we believe is a first instance, Dr. Barba suggested linking the badge directly to GitHub to demonstrate individual student learning.

Our group of collaborators, including Michael Amigot of IBL Studios who helped Dr. Barba launch her MOOC, set the very ambitious goal of being able to issue digital badges in mid-November, leading up to the Open edX conference. Perhaps the reason why digital badges have not yet been deployed in edX is due to the fact that it is over 500,000 lines of code; finding the "seams" to build in badges is a difficult task. IBL Studios has extensive work with Open edX coding, so they would be able to build in badge functionality.

Collaboration Team (L to R): Kerri Lemoie, Dan Hickey, Lorena Barba, Michael Amigot, Damian Ewans
We extended our collaboration with Achievery, an OBI-compliant badge-issuing company to build the API to link into Open edX. Working with Damian Ewans and Kerri Lemoie, the Achievery platform was used to build badge functionality within Open edX in time for the November launch.

The First Badge in Open edX 
From the start, Ned Batchelder at edX provided support and guidance to all collaborative parties. Gil Forsyth at George Washington University helped coordinate Dr. Barba's MOOC. Dan Hickey and his team from the Indiana University Center for Research on Learning and Technology, James Willis and Karthik Bangera, provided coordinating support for the group.

From the initial collaboration, the group decided that building this instance is an important step to issuing badges in the edX platform, but it could not be an exclusive relationship. Rather, by creating a space for entrepreneurship, the intent is for Achievery to continue offering digital badges in future edX MOOC courses, but to also create the space for other providers to offer OBI-compliant badges, too. This is in the spirit of open education and spreading the many learning, assessment, and job-ready benefits of open digital badges.

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