An Opportunity For Professional Development

It’s now been a month since I was made redundant from UKOLN. Since then I have had two weeks holiday in Northumberland and had a few days at Whitby Folk Festival. In addition I have been exploring new opportunities which has included submitting an application for the post of Community Engagement Manager at the Open Data Institute. After having recharged my batteries I am now looking to enhance my skills and expertise and further develop my professional connections.

The Hyperlinked Library MOOC

The Hyperlinked Library MOOC has therefore arrived at a timely moment for me. As described by Michal Stephens one of the two facilitators of the MOOC the MOOC is based on a course he has taught at San Jose State University which has been adapted to a larger scale. Michael goes on to explain how the concept of “The Hyperlinked Organization” which was described by David Weinberge in The Cluetrain Manifesto could be applied in a library context:

The Hyperlinked Library is an open, participatory institution that welcomes user input and creativity. It is built on human connections and conversations. The organizational chart is flatter and team-based. The collections grow and thrive via user involvement. Librarians are tapped in to user spaces and places online to interact, have presence, and point the way. The hyperlinked library is human. Communication, externally and internally, is in a human voice. The librarians speak to users via open, transparent conversation.

The MOOC is based on a number of weekly modules which include The Hyperlinked Library Model & Participatory Service; Hyperlinked Library Communities; Engaging Hyperlinked Communities; Planning for Hyperlinked Libraries; Transparency & Privacy; User Experience; Mobile & Geo-social Environments; Creation Culture and Learning & New Literacies; Reflective Practice.

As the MOOC begins on Monday I am not yet in a position to comment on the content on the MOOC. However As I have registered on the MOOC I am in a position to give my initial thoughts on the MOOC environment,

MOOC badgesAfter joined the MOOC I subscribed to a number of discussion fora or, to use the terminology of the MOOC, joined number of tribes. I looked at details of others who have subscribed to the MOOC and sent friendship requests to people I knew and accepted a number of requests which I have received. I then updated my details and uploaded a portrait and created a blog for use on the course.

For each of these actions I was awarded a badge: a Join a Tribe badge; a Send a Friendship Request badge; an Accept a Friendship Request badge and an Update your MOOC avatar badge. I also received an Update your MOOC avatar badge for collecting five badges!

As illustrated, I now have eight badges. It seems that there are still many other badges which I can acquire, including checkpoint badge, master badges, blogging badges, peer review badges, personal learning network badges and À  la carte badges.

Thoughts on Badges

I have to admit that I found this rather cheesy; I felt the system was patronizing me. I found my initial reaction somewhat strange. After all, I had invited Doug Belshaw, Badges & Skills Lead for the non-profit Mozilla Foundation, to give a plenary talk at the IWMW 2013 event on “Mozilla, Open Badges and a Learning Standard for Web Literacy“. The Storify summary of the open session at the IWMW 2013 event described how:

Doug Belshaw gave an introduction to the Open Badges infrastructure and how these could be used to communicate a wide range of skills that are not currently communicated by traditional degree certificates.  He explained the different levels to which institutions can integrate Open Badges into their accreditation, and outline how web managers can get involved both with Open Badges and a new web literacy standard.

As I subsequently reported “gauging from the comments on Twitter, an audience which is intrigued by open badges and their potential relevance for both personal use and to support departmental activities“. Indeed I recall suggesting at the event that I should consider whether open badges should be provided for speakers and participants at IWMW events. But having been a fan a few months ago, why was I skeptical when I received my first badges on the Hyperlinked Library MOOC last week?

My skepticism was compounded after I deleted the default blog post which had been created when I set up the blog and received a Post Trasher badge! I felt patronized: “Congratulations, you now know hoe to delete a blog post. Have a badge“. It seems as though the MOOC is awarding badges after every distinct action: registering; updating one’s avatar, joining a group, creating a blog; publishing a post;, etc. There is no notion of quality associated with such badges. But perhaps that is to come, as badges are awarded based on assessment and peer review.

Post on unlocking badgesIs there, then, a point to badges for completion of simple tasks? In a recent post Michael Stephens suggested that “Happiness is unlocking a badge!” and one fellow student responded: “I’ve always been an intrinsically motivated kinda person, but this having little nuggets to ’win’ is stepping it up a notch!”.

So perhaps my cynicism is inappropriate. Alternatively, there may be cultural differences based on nationality, area of work, gender, etc.

The question of differing perspectives and approaches for a global MOOC audience occurred to me after befriending other participants on the MOOC. I responded to friendship requests from the MOOC organisers (one of whom, Michael Stephens, I know) and then befriended a small number of people whom I am in contact with on Twitter. However I have not befriended any ‘strangers’ although I number of people I do not know have befriended me (and I have accepted such requests). Will we see differences in participants willingness to initiate and respond to friendship requests, I wonder. It should be noted that at the time of writing the Google Map of participants’ locations shows only three British and one Irish participants. As can be seen from the map below which shows the location of participants from the northern hemisphere (note bone participant from China is omitted) the MOOC has attracted participants from North America and Europe. Other participants are from Australia and New Zealand, with one participants from South America.

It will be interesting to see if the global audience (although predominantly from the western world)  engages with the online MOOC environment in ways which reflect cultural differences. The map itself may reveal some clues, as participants have been invited to add their own information. Will participants from North America be more willing to provide geo-location information, I wonder? I’d welcome your thoughts.

Map of hyperlinked library MOOC participants