Open Education Handbook/Open Badges

A digital badge is an online validated indicator of accomplishment, skill, or achievement. Digital badges are now awarded in a variety of online learning environments. Digital badges take their form from physical badges (such as those awarded by scouting movement). Badges can be issued by anyone (educational institution, work place, online learning organisations) to anyone. These badges can then be displayed publicly on a digital (or non-digital) space (blog, Web site, Facebook, email signature, CV etc). Digital badges are seen as having several significant motivation factors: they encourage users to participate and collaborate, they offer recognition for carrying out tasks and they offer an alternate assessment and accreditation approach.

“Digital badges will make the accomplishments and experiences of individuals, in online and offline spaces, visible to anyone and everyone, including potential employers, educators and communities.”

Many digital badges are open. Open Badges started as a collaborative project between MacArthur Foundation, HASTAC and Mozilla and has continued to grow through an open, collaborative approach.

Mozilla have built a digital badge infrastructure system called Mozilla Open Badges. Mozilla Open Badges are not proprietary — they use free software and an open technical standard. That means that any organization can create, issue and verify digital badges, and any user can earn, manage and display these badges all across the web.

Open Badges help knit your skills together. Badges can build upon each other, joining together to tell the full story of your skills and achievement. With Open Badges, every badge is full of information. Each one has important data built in that links back to the issuer, the criteria it was issued under and evidence verifying the credential — features unique to Open Badges. Open Badges let you take your badges everywhere. Users now have an easy and comprehensive way to collect their badges in a single backpack, and display their skills and achievements on social networking profiles, job sites, their websites and more. Open Badges are designed, built and backed by a broad community of contributors, such as NASA, the Smithsonian, Intel, the Girl Scouts, and more. The open source model means that improvements made by one partner can benefit everyone, from bug fixes to new features.

Individuals can earn badges from multiple sources, both online and offline. Then manage and share them using the Open Badges backpack (Mozilla Backpack), other organizations can use Open Badges to make their own backpacks too.

The paper Six Ways to Look at Badging Systems Designed for Learning gives an overview of how the badging system works and why people would choose to use open badges:

  1. Badges as an alternative assessment – This is the idea that assessment can take the form of ‘validated accomplishments’ instead of tests
  2. Gamifying education with badges – The games based achievement system has its origins in the Xbox 360 game score system – qualifications filtered through achievements.
  3. Badges as Learning Scaffolding – Badges, as a form of scaffolded learning, reveal multiple pathways that youth may follow and make visible the paths youth eventually take.
  4. Badges to Develop Lifelong Learning Skills – By offering names for their new competencies and supporting communities.
  5. Badges as driver of digital media learning – Badges support digital, media and learning practices.
  6. Badges to Democratize Learning – Some badges change who does the assessment and allow learners to shape the content of their badging system and perhaps even the structure itself.

Mozilla explain this in more simplistic terms. They see badges as a way to:

  • Get recognition for the things you learn. Open Badges include a shared standard for recognizing your skills and achievements and helps make them count towards job opportunities and lifelong learning.
  • Give recognition for the things you teach. Anyone who meets the standard can award badges for skills or learning.

To achieve recognition Mozilla emphasise the importance of displaying your verified badges across the web. They suggest you earn badges from anywhere, then share them wherever you want—on social networking profiles, job sites and on your website. Badges also verify skills. Employers, organizations and schools can explore the data behind every badge issued using Mozilla Open Badges to verify individuals’ skills and competencies.

The main challenges posed by open badges include:

  • Standardisation - How do you benchmark level or attainment for a certain skill or quality from one issuer of a badge to another. How do employers make sense of badge collections?
  • Proliferation - Badges can be created easily, but might this lower their value?
  • Motivation - Do badges actually motivate people?
  • Accreditation - Should we be awarding/accrediting informal learning at all?

Some examples of use of open badging include:

Further resources