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What If People Make Bad Badges? P2PU’s Plan of Action.

Our Executive Director Philipp Schmidt issued a call to action in his post “Let’s Make Badges Not Stink.” But, inevitably some badges will stink. Perhaps even on our platform–we’re creating a “Badge Issuer” that will encourage anyone to create a badge for their P2PU course.

So how can the P2PU brand, voice, tone and core values coexist with user-generated content (UGC)? It’s a question for the digital ages.

Here P2PU has something to learn from the discipline of Content Strategy, which is an approach to planning and maintaining web content. Earlier this summer, I consulted rockstar Content Strategist Erin Kissane on how to think about this issue. We discussed the following 2 paths:

  • Recognize folks who do it well. For instance, we love recent badges from Mick Fuzz and Leah Macvie. We need to elevate good badges to a status that people want, encouraging them to be thoughtful. Perhaps a badges Hall of Fame is in our future?
  • Give users the tools to make good badges. We’ll prompt folks with templates and suggestions. Verifyapp, an online user-testing service, provides sample questions that they have found to be very reliable, which helps their users get solid results from their tests.
    We can also include access to our voice and tone guidelines, reminding users about the character of P2PU.

Some things that I’ve also been considering on this issue:

  • Provide help content in context. Airbnb is a good example of help content expertly placed when people need it–users don’t have to go sleuthing for FAQs, and create a better result on their first attempt. Total win. Notice how they direct the user on the importance of a first video, below:Here we will also feature suggestions from our Theory of Learning and how our core values work at P2PU.
  • Customer education. Mailchimp has countless educational resources–they are both slickly-designed and engaging. We probably can’t out-slick them, but we can do our darndest 🙂 We already have our Create a Course resource, but perhaps a tour of P2PU upon sign-up would be just the ticket.
  • Encourage folks to use badges for real-life applications. For instance, would you hire people who had this badge? What badges would you want them to have to show their areas of interest or competencies? These questions help suss out what are core skills and what is fluff.

But in an open ecosystem, we will encourage users to create any kind of badge they want. Even tacky badges. Or badges that don’t represent our perspective on learning.

Blasphemy? Nay.

We offer our users the freedom to experiment.  This is a lab, with the latitude to try what you think will work. At the same time, we’ll be examining what folks do with the badge-issuing platform, and learning from how they use it.

However, we will differentiate the badges that do reflect our perspective. While all badges issued by P2PU will have the URL in the Badge Backpack, only the ones that have received consultation from the P2PU team & community will feature P2PU branding.

That’s the plan for now. How will you work to create robust, reliable badges?

7 Responses to “What If People Make Bad Badges? P2PU’s Plan of Action.”

  1. Lora Taub-Pervizpour

    What if people make badges? After our summer digital media academy pilot with badges this summer, at HYPE we know that there is no moving forward without a badge system that enables youth media makers to propose and design badges. At several memorable points during our four-week pilot, Allentown teens participating in our program had brilliant ideas for badges that emerged during their media making practices. Their ideas ranged from badges to recognize skills and literacies (“Angela deserves a badge for her awesome interviewing on the street!”) to participation badges (“We need a badge for perfect attendance”) and community badges (“I love what Alex just said…he should get a quote of the day badge.”) In fact, badges proposed and designed by youth were some of the most admired badges among the fourteen teens media makers. We anticipated this during our badge proposal and design phase, and our collaboration with Badgestack honored this strong pedagogical impulse in youth media–it’s youth drivenness. Early on, as we first began to imagine what a badge system for our youth media program would look like,teens were at the center of our conversation. One teen who has been with HYPE for 5 years proposed a “butterfly” badge, for teens who demonstrate transformation throughout the program. In short, some of the most imaginative badges we’ve implemented at HYPE have been those created by HYPE learners. In this way, youth media is an ideal zone of practice for experimenting with badges, given the field’s abiding commitment to design and production that is learner-driven.

    • mozzadrella

      Hi Lora! There is no doubt that participatory assessment means that learners should create badges that reflect the skills they value. Our current vision will prompt course organizers to create the badges initially, but learners who have demonstrated some experience with the community will later also be able to create badges. What do you think of this plan?

      • ltaub

        I understand the plan and am entirely on board with giving users tools to make good badges. I know from our 4-week pilot that badges that myself and the other course organizers thought were excellent were probably considered bad or stinky by the learners in our program (a 4-week digital media academy where teens are immersed in digital storytelling and documentary making). I know that our best badges (best conceptualization, definition, design, and meaning to learners) came about through listening deeply to how teens who have already been through our summer academy themselves articulate what they learned. With a learning theory that holds that “learning evolves by working together on projects, sharing with each other, giving each other feedback, and iterating to improve,” creating some space where learners’ voices are valued at the outset of badge creation would seem to fit. This has been HYPE’s approach to creating robust, reliable badges…

    • Leah MacVie

      This is a neat concept- user-created badges as the learning occurs. I could see this working super well at freeskools and edcamps!

  2. Philipp Schmidt

    I really like that we design for a world in which users want to make good badges, and we help them. However, it also kind of side steps that there may be some people who just want a badge, and aren’t interested in learning anything, and I wonder if consistency is an issue.

    Is it important that the same badges stands for the same achievement? What are ways to achieve that within open communities?

    For example, if I receive a mustard-master badge for my skills as a mustard maker, the value of that badge is influenced by who else got the badge, and what they got it for. Let’s assume the mustard-master badge means that I am able to come up with a delicious new recipe and reproduce the same flavors again and again. If I hold that badge, do I care that others who have the badge are able to do those things as well? My gut feeling says people like badges to be consistent.

    For university degrees we rely on the institution to ensure consistency. Once I’ve graduated, I don’t get involved in what future students get up to, but I trust the institution will keep standards at a certain level to attract new students. Are there ways in open communities to shift some of that work from the institution into the community – and allow those who received the badge to become stewards of the badge?

    Or maybe consistency is not such a big deal, and we just need to be transparent about the work that stands behind a badge. If anyone can see that my mustard-master badge stands for a fantastic recipe, and that those who tasted the mustard really like it, then the badge is just a way to find that evidence. Other mustard-masters may have the same badge, but anyone who reviews the work they have done can quickly see that their mustard isn’t very good. This would mean one badge could represent very different achievements.

  3. Ellis Dyck

    I think this post has some good ideas about how to help users create good badges. But what about support for people (like potential employers) viewing someone’s earned badges and trying to evaluate what they represent? For badges to succeed they need to demonstrate credibility and it needs to be easy for users to evaluate that credibility. What guidelines could P2PU give for potential employers or others trying to determine the credibility of a badge issuer or a particular badge?


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