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Honey Badger: A Mozilla Open Badges Implementation

I’ve yet to make a Honey Badger logo, so have the Mozilla Open Badges one, instead.

The idea of Mozilla Open Badges is a simple one: so that people can be given recognition for their skills and accomplishments. Each badge is encoded with various bits of information, including who was awarded the badge, for what reason, and who the issuer was. These badges can then be displayed, and interested parties can verify their authenticity with the badge issuer. If you’re interested in reading more about the Open Badges themselves, then their web-page, wiki and GitHub are all great places to look.

Now, there’s a myriad reasons why an institute such as the University of Southampton would be interested in getting involved in such a scheme:

The students:
Generally upon graduation people have an academic record and a referee in their tutor. Utilising badges people could be concretely acknowledge for their other achievements – for example, people already put their society involvements on their CV, talk about them in interviews, but it would be great if the university could provide evidenced recognition for such things. The same goes for a multitude of other similar things: being a Course Rep, helping out at the Students’ Union, being a Student Demonstrator, the list goes on.
Staff training:
It’s a fact of life that people have to undergo various bits of training, for example I had to read through various Health & Safety materials when starting my internship, and I know others have to go through computer-usage courses. There are also more interesting optional courses people might take for their professional development provided by the Universities Professional Development Unit (PDU). Badges could be used as another way of tracking such training – a single wallet displaying all the courses you’ve attended over the time of your employment history.
These are just some preliminary ideas – the actual use could be expanded out and incredibly varied. Open Badges have the potential to be a very useful tool. One thing which must be considered at a higher level in the organisation is how the creation of badges is to be governed. This must be done carefully and consistently if the badges are to remain high value for the members of staff and students who achieve them.

Reading around on implementations of Open Badges led to the discovery of ‘Badge-It Gadget Lite‘ by Achievery. This implementation was lightweight, but provided all the base functionality required – it was the perfect candidate to refactor and build upon. Our endgame, to have an MVC Open Badge issuing system to be utilised by the University of Southampton, but that could also be easily slotted into other universities’ systems.

The first step was to decide on a framework to be using – the framework of choice (namely the choice of the people who might be maintaining this once I’m gone) was Fat-Free PHP (GitHub here). FloraForm was also selected to be used for any forms that would be required.

After a while of playing around, finding my framework feet, things started to get moving. I chopped and changed ‘Badge-It Gadget Lite’ into the framework, and managed to get all of the basics working on my local machine: the ability to award and create badges. I am currently at the stage of refactoring the code thus far, while awaiting to push it to a live server. Once this is done the ability to redeem badges will be tested – this requires live as an external API has to query the website for verification.

Provided that all goes smoothly the next stage will be to test the system as a whole, clear up the unused sections of the framework, and provide some CSS to beautify the product. This will enable the core of the product to be used, should it be required, while working on future features. And what are these ‘future features’, you might ask? Well, I don’t really know, but I promise I’ll think of something.

Also yes, I still hate PHP.

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