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October 2014
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Mozilla Badges – Following and Starting Grand Traditions

In his keynote address at the 2011 Connexions Conference, U.S. Department of Education senior policy advisor Hal Plotkin envisioned a world in which many great achievers had received their educational credentials by way of Mozilla Badges.

For decades badges have represented achievement in children’s and youth associations and in some professions. Religious pilgrims receive badges for their journeys.

brownish carving with a mask and various religious items

Becket-pilgrim-badge open licensed by Wikipedia

Recently computer games have awarded badges for skill and success. Judd Antin and Elizabeth Churchill examine the psychology of the use of badges to encourage interaction in social media in this well-researched and well-written paper: Badges in Social Media: A Social Psychological Perspective.

Badges reward the knowledge and skill required to demonstrate achievement.

The Mozilla Foundation badge program seeks to open education by replacing the current system of limited admissions, high costs, and sometimes artificial demonstrations of learning with recognition of evidence-based learning open to all learners. The issuing of badges will also be open to organizations of many types. Rigorous criteria and solid evidence will be encouraged. Ultimately employers and established educational institutions will recognize those badges and badge-holders that demonstrate value. The Mozilla Foundation will provide the infrastructure to automate issuing and earning badges. The initial pilot of Mozilla Badges is now in operation with the Peer-to-Peer University (P2PU) School of Webcraft. Additional pilots will occur this Fall and the system will go live in 2012.

College Open Textbooks (COT) is honored to be among the pilot badge issuers. COT will recognize knowledge and skill in peer-reviewing, accessibility-reviewing, OER advocacy/training, and OER creation. The 2011 pilot will focus on issuing badges for learning to peer review textbooks. COT has sponsored nearly 150 peer reviews of open textbooks from more than 50 educators. We have established criteria for evaluating textbooks chapter-by-chapter, developed a multi-sheet spreadsheet for peer reviewers, created a peer-reviewer training course available as both synchronous online training and COT reviews must be done by persons who have taught the subject at college level, preferable community college or lower division. Most of the 50+ COT reviewers far exceed this criterion.

The COT peer reviewer badge will differ from the standard COT peer reviewer criteria in removing the experience barrier. It would violate the spirit of globable open educatin to restrict admission to the badge process based on a US/Canada education system. Instead the peer reviewer badge will rely entirely on rigorous criteria applied to one or more peer reviews created by the badge seeker. In addition, the peer reviewer badge will require successful completion of the COT peer reviewer training course.

COT will use a sustainable business model for all badges. Each badge will cost 1/1000th the GDP of the country in which the badge-earner resides. This is about 1/3 of a day’s pay. A badge for a resident of a developed country will cost about US$40. In an underdeveloped country, the cost would be less than US$1. Foundations and other donors will be encouraged to donate the cost of badges and COT will award badges without cost in special circumstances, e.g. to a person in a country not served by PayPal. Basic educational materials and evaluation of badge requests will be cost-free. Additional assistance such as one-on-one tutoring or elaborate feedback will incur a cost to the badge-seeker or a sponsor.

Some badges that look like tags plus several round badges

badges open licensed by Tim Takamoto

Badges represent a battering ram to tear down the walls of the educational fortress. Mozilla Foundation is building an infrastructure for badge issuers and earners worldwide. College Open Textbooks will pilot its plans to issue four categories of badges. The pilot badges for peer reviewers include open admission, open training materials, rigorous evidence requirements, and a sustainable business model. 

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