The Life and Death of Mozilla Backpack

Unsplash BadgesPhoto by Maria Oswalt on Unsplash

I received an email yesterday informing me that Mozilla Backpack will be shutting down, which has been known for some time, with ownership of the Backpack moving to Badgr. There was also an attachment in the email which it said was all of my old badges, along with instructions on how to create a new account in Badgr. There were a number of problems with this. First, not all of the badges I’ve earned over the years were in that zip file, only, I think, ones which were attached to one particular email address. There were also no instructions at all about what to do with this file. In the end I was able to work out how to import these into Badgr, but for around half of them this process failed.

Like all DRM schemes, which is essentially what underlines the validity of digital badges, the whole system is unintuitive and very user unfriendly. One of the claims about digital badges has always been that you would be able to have all of your badges in one place, which was meant to be the Backpack, but this has never been my experience and I have badges scattered all over the place. The only online location where they are all collected together in any form is on this blog, tagged Badge. I want to like digital badges, I always thought they were a good idea, but however well intentioned, it’s always felt like kind of a mess, and it’s not getting any better.

What’s Wrong With Badges?

Having been issued with a couple of badges for completing the Learn Moodle MOOC, I was a bit confused when I logged into my Mozilla Backpack and found it a little light. I searched through my blog and sure enough I found my badge collection for the ocTEL course in 2014 was missing.

Took a little sleuthing to work out what’s going wrong. My Mozilla Backpack / Persona account was created with my old Northumbria email address, and later I added the Sunderland address. Some of my badges are associated with one email address, the rest with the other.

After working this out it did come back to me that when I moved to Sunderland I tried to change the email address associated with my account and when I did all my badges disappeared. They are permanently associated with my Northumbria account, and I don’t seem to have any way to change this. I got lucky back then in that my Northumbria account hadn’t been deleted yet and I was able to get access back for a day to retrieve my Persona account. If anything happens to my Persona account now and I need to reset the password, I don’t think I can. Nor do I seem to be able to move the badges associated with my Northumbria email address to my Sunderland one. And if when I log in to Persona I select the Northumbria email address I can’t even see the badges associated with the Sunderland one, or vice versa. What a complete and utter mess. The point of the Backpack was to have all of your badges in one place, and it fails. The only single authoritative list of all my badges anywhere online is this blog which is manually maintained. The point of Persona is… well… frankly I don’t know. I think Mozilla were trying to replace the username / password paradigm but it seems to have gained zero traction outside of Mozilla’s ecosystem and I wouldn’t trust it for a second given the dire state of my account. Or accounts, as it may be.

UPDATE: After writing this I actually did some research and discovered that Mozilla are shutting down Persona as it has failed in their objectives. No idea what’s going to happen to my Backpack or how I will log in after November. Maybe a change to some other authentication method will let me sort this all out.

ALT Annual Survey 2014

alt_survey_badge

ALT are running a survey exploring the use of learning technology across the sector and are looking for responses from the whole community, not just ALT members. If you complete the survey you get a badge. Yeah! Except the badge doesn’t appear in my Backpack, and I couldn’t upload it manually as it has ‘no backed-in metadata’. Boo! Similar to the problem I had with one of the ocTEL badges. Oh well. It’s a new technology still finding it’s way.

http://go.alt.ac.uk/ALT-Survey-2014

ocTEL 2014 Badge Collection

active-learner

This is the collection of badges I earned during my participation in ocTEL 2014: https://backpack.openbadges.org/share/a79221cbbec974197333ed1bd3227460/

I’ve had problems exporting my badges from the ocTEL site into my Mozilla Backpack, until today when I went to the export page there were simply no badges listed. I completed the feedback form to report this yesterday and though I haven’t had a reply, today when I checked the page it was working – except for one badge. So, unable to export this one I have had to resort to my backup plan, simply taking a screenshot and imploring you to trust me when I say I earned it honestly!

Badges

I’ve been experimenting with badges over the past couple of days, inspired by the fact that the ocTEL course is awarding badges for completing certain activities. This is very appealing to me as I am, by nature, a collector, but it is important that they enhance the learning experience and don’t just exist for their own sake. Badges can be used to provide structure and focal points in a course, with a large number of small objectives relatively easy to obtain on their own, incrementally building to a greater goal. I think one benefit of badges over traditional forms of on-going formative assessment is that they feel more tangible, more like little mini-qualifications of their own which can be collected and displayed as evidence of achievement even if you don’t or can’t complete the whole course.

The ocTEL badges are, thus far, and I expect it will continue to be the case, keeping me interested in the course and checking in to the site on a regular basis, when it can be so easy to abandon a MOOC after the initial excitement fades and pressures from other areas take precedence.

Another appeal is the openness of the standard and the fact that you can keep all of your badges from different sources in one place, such as the Mozilla Backpack. Behold, for example, my first set: https://backpack.openbadges.org/share/49e081c9e30cbc0c237ca5430c8e0642/

http://openbadges.org
https://credly.com/
http://www.hastac.org/digital-badges-bibliography