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.

University Regulations Workshop

This was a bespoke session run by the academic development side of the CELT for the benefit of us on the learning technology side, in response to some issues we raised at our team away day back in April.

A problem we have is that often, when encouraging academics to change some part of their practice, to use online quizzes instead of paper based forms for example, we are met with resistance in the form of being told that changes can’t be made because something in the University’s regulations prevents it. There seems to be a lot of myths in the institution about what people are and aren’t allowed to do, so we asked for a session of this nature to give us a better overview of what the rules actually are so that we can better help academics, and what we need to do to ensure that polices are followed lest we spend hours working on something which can’t then be used.

And very useful it was. We covered the key areas of the University’s Academic Quality Handbook, particularly on what changes module and programme leaders can make unilaterally, and what needs to be approved through either the ‘Minor Modification’ process or revalidation. We also discussed the Module Catalogue and why that needs to be the single source of truth for students on what they can expect from their studies, how assessment can be reworked to reduce the number of individual assessment components in a module, and how, contrary to one common myth, you can use custom assessment marking criteria and rubrics, you just have to make sure that it maps against the University’s generic assessment criteria.