Planet Badges

Hollywood Airbrush Tanning Academy Issues Digital Badges

Re-mediating Assessment

Mon Apr 27 2015 22:00:00 GMT+0000 (UTC)

By Dan Hickey
My web crawler just picked up an intriguing new use of open badges as digital credentials for workplace competencies.  Hollywood Airbrush Tanning Academy partnered with Credly to offer digital badges for their graduates.  It was interested enough that I called Academy owner Simone Emmons to learn more. Sure enough, this example highlights some key points about alternative digital credentials.
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An exciting week for Open Badges

Doug Belshaw

Fri Apr 24 2015 10:21:27 GMT+0000 (UTC)

Earlier this week, IMS Global announced “an initiative to establish Digital Badges as common currency for K-20 and corporate education.” By ‘digital badges’, the post makes clear, they mean Open Badges. Along with the W3C work around OpenCreds and new platforms popping up everywhere it’s exciting times!

You’d be forgiven for needing some definition of terms here. Erin Knight’s post on the significance of the IMS Global announcement is also helpful.

  • Open Badges Infrastructure (OBI)- a method to issue, exchange, and display metadata-infused digital credentials based on open technologies and platforms.
  • IMS Global – the leading international educational technology standards body.
  • K-20 – kindergarten through to graduate degree (in other words, the totality of formal education)
  • OpenCreds - a W3C initiative to standardise the exchange and storage of digital credentials. Open Badges is being fast-tracked as an example of this.
  • W3C – the World Wide Web Consortium, the international standards body for the web.

The recent explosion of interest in badges is fascinating. Back in 2011 the rhetoric of the nascent Open Badges community was around badges replacing university degrees. This hasn’t happened – much as MOOCs haven’t replaced university courses. Instead of either/or it’s and/and/and. This is the way innovation works.

The initial grant-funding for badges was mainly in the US and has largely come to an end. What we’re seeing now is real organic growth. We’re in the situation where incumbents realise the power of badges. Either through fear of losing market share or through a genuine desire to innovate, they’re working on ways to use badges to support their offer.

We’ll see a lot of interesting work over the next couple of years. There will be some high-value, nuanced, learner-centric badge pathways that come out of this. On the other hand, there may be some organisations that go out of existence. I’m currently working with City & Guilds, an 800-pound gorilla in the world of apprenticeships and work-based learning. They’re exploring badges – as is every awarding and credentialing body I can think of.

Whatever happens, it’s not only a time of disruption to the market, but a time of huge opportunity to learners. Never before have we had an globally-interoperable way of credentialing knowledge, skills, and behaviours that removes the need for traditional gatekeepers.

If you’re interested in getting started with Open Badges, you might be interested in:

Do get in touch if I can help!

* BadgeCub is an extremely straightforward but experimental service that should probably just be used for testing. The ‘assertions’ will disappear after a while so it’s not a long-term solution!

New IMS Digital Credentialing Initiative

Mozilla Open Badges Blog

Tue Apr 21 2015 12:03:22 GMT+0000 (UTC)

Today is an exciting day for the open badges community! IMS Global, the leading education technology standards body, announced that they are kicking off a new IMS Digital Credentialing initiative.

In case you are unaware, IMS Global is a nonprofit membership organization that advances technology that can affordably scale and improve educational participation and attainment by collaborating on interoperability and adoption initiatives. Check out the IMS website for more information.

The new IMS Digital Credentialing initiative will be focused on furthering the adoption, integration and transferability of digital credentials, within institutions, schools, and corporations. The initial aim of IMS Digital Credentialing will be to further investigate and expand the reach, adoption and value of open badges in several potential ways, including: badge integration in the IMS eT work already underway, Open Badge Standard extension work, and exploration of new models of badge system design, storage, usage, or evaluation.

“This is exciting news for the open badging work, which was incubated initially at Mozilla Foundation and then expanded upon at the Badge Alliance,” according to Erin Knight, Executive Director of the Badge Alliance. “We’ve been working for years to get the kind of access and influence that IMS can bring to the table, and now we can focus on building the necessary extensions and/or new standards needed to make badges usable and valuable to institutions and employers across the world.”

Check out Erin’s blog post to learn more about the natural evolution of this exciting new initiative and what it means for the open badges community.

For more information on the new IMS Digital Credentialing initiative, check out the press release here.

IMS Digital Credentialing Initiative

Erin Knight

Tue Apr 21 2015 11:48:25 GMT+0000 (UTC)

You may have heard the exciting news that IMS Global, the leading education technology standards body announced today that they are kicking off a new IMS Digital Credentialing initiative. The new initiative will…

augment current IMS interoperability standards and extend Open Badges as needed to support deeper integration and exchange within extant systems, while exploring new models of badge system design, storage, usage, and evaluation in the institutional context.

For those of you new to IMS, here’s a bit about what they do from their website:

IMS’s influential community of educational institutions, suppliers, and government organizations develops open interoperability standards, supports adoption with technical services, and encourages adoption through programs that highlight effective practices.

This is exciting news for the open badging work, which was incubated initially at Mozilla Foundation and then expanded upon at the Badge Alliance. We’ve been working for years to get the kind of access and influence that IMS can bring to the table, and now we can focus on building the necessary extensions and/or new standards needed to make badges usable and valuable to institutions and employers across the world.

It’s also a very natural evolution of the work. Looking back, I see some distinct phases that we’ve gone through to push the efforts and adoption forward, and this feels like the necessary and obvious next piece of that story.

Phase 1: Inception and infrastructure building at Mozilla - We started the Open Badges work at Mozilla Foundation in late 2010. The first couple of years was very much a let-a-thousand-flowers-bloom period to better understand how people would use badges and stimulate early thought leadership and adoption. During this time we helped launch and support the initial DML competition, the winners of which were some of those first issuing organizations. We held small working group events to dig into the idea. With the initial community, we built and launched the alpha and beta versions of the Open Badge Standard and a set of APIs (together, called the Open Badge Infrastructure) and Backpack reference implementation.

Phase 2: Exemplar building, still through Mozilla - In 2013, the focus began to shift toward exemplars: starting with the Chicago Summer of Learning and following with the broader Cities of Learning, as well as Mozilla Webmaker badges and Connected Educator Month. This phase saw us rolling up our sleeves and diving deep into badge system design, technology, policy, privacy, and much more. In the process, we learned an incredible amount about the constraints of the existing specification, on-the-ground reactions to badges, policy barriers, etc.

Phase 3: Ecosystem building/empowerment through the BA - In early 2014, we announced the creation of the Badge Alliance, a network of organizations and individuals working together on building this ecosystem. We did this because we recognized that the badging work was already bigger than any one organization. We wanted to formally situate ownership and control in the ecosystem itself, dig into tough issues together and zero in on what’s needed to make badges succeed through necessary channels or sectors. We’ve written a lot about that first cycle and the contribution and success from that work. This phase is ongoing and has prepared us for the next parallel phase…

Phase 4: Standardization, Currency-building and scale - In parallel to some of the BA work in the second half of the year, we’ve started to move into another phase - one that’s focused on doubling down around validation, usage, value, and scale. We’ve seen several standards efforts start through ANSI and ASTM. The Open Badge Standard is well underway in being instantiated through the w3c. Now with the IMS initiative, it will be possible to have even more attention and focus on what’s needed to make badges work for learners and their goals. That means badges being valued and accepted within and across institutions, badges being used for hiring in workforce, and more.

So what will the IMS work look like? That’s still in development and the BA team and I are working with IMS - and hopefully you - to further define the necessary direction and standards. There is already some incredible work taking place around competency-based education and re-thinking the transcript that seem obvious places to integrate badging. Additionally, IMS may work with the community to build extensions to the existing standard, or new standards altogether, ones built around different ‘pieces’ of the badge value chain like endorsement, validation or usage.

Still a lot of unknowns, but SO much potential. And here’s a little more about the knowns and some other things you might be thinking about:

“Standardization” feels like a scary word. Is that code for closed? How does it work within the values of open badges?

The badges work has been built around a standard since day 0. Interoperability, portability and value transfer are the only way that this whole thing works and that badges meet their potential. Standards are very important. That said, the spirit of the badging work aims to be flexible, inclusive and innovative so that we can continue to capture and legitimize more learning and experiences. So at the same time, we have to be careful to not over-standardize the work.  It will be a delicate balance for sure. Early on, we actually intentionally avoided defining taxonomies or other standards of any kind because we did not want to make decisions that would constrain how people used and experimented with badges. But I think we’re in a different place now for at least a couple of reasons:

  • The work is more mature with more awareness and interest, and well, more badges. We’ve talked a lot about currency being a critical goal/focus at this stage and I think a necessary piece of that is defining more structure around how badges are defined and/or how they are valued/interpreted. 
  • The work is really big. Early on, standards would have dictated the only way to participate, whereas now there is enough adoption and exploration that we can create standards for particular types of badges or goals, without requiring alignment or constraining the entire ecosystem.

Again, the Open Badge standard was and still is critical to the vision of badges, and ensures interoperability across the ever-growing ecosystem. Those standards and extensions that we build on top of it can help to further develop and advance adoption, usage and currency in specific sectors or for specific goals. And again, IMS, a nonprofit built around ensuring interoperability and effectiveness, is the right organization to help play a driving role.

How will the IMS work interact with the existing Open Badges Standard?
This work does not replace the Open Badge Standard. That is still the baseline specification for ensuring badge interoperability across the ecosystem. So still use that: it’s our foundation. There is actually a lot of work that’s well underway to further instantiate that standard through the w3c, which is pretty big-time as well. The IMS work, while still being defined, will likely build extensions on top of that standard, or new standards altogether, to focus on different functions, uses,  sectors or taxonomies. That’s for you to help us figure out.

How does the IMS work fit into the Badge Alliance?
The Badge Alliance was created to inspire, promote and support efforts exactly like this. We wanted to shift the ownership, accountability and empowerment into the network itself. And IMS is answering that call by charging forward with their own piece of the puzzle. We’re very excited to work with them on shaping it.

What else? We’re looking forward to working with you on this exciting new work. So send us your questions, thoughts, concerns, high fives, etc.


The three biggest (perceived) problems with Open Badges

Doug Belshaw

Thu Apr 16 2015 18:26:39 GMT+0000 (UTC)

I once again found myself in an Open Badges session with the good people from DigitalMe today. It was a very positive event overall and some exciting stuff will happen as a result.

Attendees were given a chance to express the things that made them excited about Open Badges in their organisation. They were also given the opportunity to air their fears – as well as request further information/clarification.

Happily, almost everyone saw how badges could be used in a positive way to engage learners as well as capture knowledge, skills, and behaviours. My reason for writing this post is that the same ‘big three’ issues came up as potential concerns.

  1. Value
  2. Motivation
  3. Quality

For some reason, these seem perennial sticking points. A lot of it has to do with mindset, so I just wanted to spend a little bit of time on my journey home from London explaining why I see these (mostly) as non-issues.

1. Value

There’s several ways this argument is presented, some of which are mutually-contradictory:

  • We’ll never be able to explain the value of badges. Our market/community/stakeholders won’t buy into the concept.
  • What happens when there so many badges that they become meaningless?
  • Who decides whether badges for the same kind of thing are equivalent?
  • Aren’t we happy with certificates? People know what they mean!

The Open Badges Infrastructure (OBI) provides a different way to approach credentialing. One of the things about the OBI that appeals to me most is that there are no gatekeepers. This means that literally anyone can issue a badge for anything.

The value of the badge comes mainly through a couple of things:

  1. The recognition that the badge consumer (e.g. a potential employer) has of the badge – or brand behind the badge.
  2. The ‘rigour’ of the criteria – i.e. was the badge worth earning?

Value is an emergent property of systems. I could write much, much more on this, including discussions of fiat currencies and things that are used in place of currency for trusted exchanges. However, I’ll leave it there for now.

2. Motivation

The argument about motivation is usually poorly-phrased, but goes something along the following lines: some learners are intrinsically-motivated, therefore giving them a badge may lead to that being replaced by extrinsic motivation. In the long term, this is a bad thing.

I have sympathy with this argument, as I’ve seen it in action. However, more often than not it’s a result of poor learning design. If badges are aspirational, if they recognise things that the learner feels proud of, and if they are part of a non-linear pathway, then I don’t think there’s a problem.

Do ill-defined and poorly thought-out badges exist? Of course they do! But that’s equally true of existing qualifications and credentials. Don’t blame the technology/ecosystem for poor learning design.

The OBI is a method for issuing, exchanging, and displaying metadata-infused credentials. How you choose to use that is up to you.

3. Quality

The argument here is that badges won’t/can’t/are unlikely to have the same ‘quality’ as traditional credentials.

I think ‘quality’ is an odd term. If you pick it apart it doesn’t really mean much at all. In fact, it can be a bit of a problematic term for those trying to do something entirely new. I find it especially pernicious when it comes to defining new processes.

Dave Wiley nails this in a recent post. He’s talking about Open Educational Resources, but it’s equally applicable to badges:

To be clear, my first issue is with the way “high quality” is often equated with the traditional process and that process only. According to this usage, if you don’t follow the traditional authoring process it is literally impossible for you to create “high quality” materials. This restrictive usage serves to lock out alternative processes from competing in the marketplace.

I want to help organisations create high-quality, value-laden badges that help earners progress in life. However, the issue that I often bump up against is that ‘quality’ is defined in such a way as to (in effect) describe the status quo.

It takes a leap of faith to apply Open Badges to your core business. You’ll never be at 100% certainty that it will be a complete success. But I think that’s true of any innovation project or change management initiative.


I greatly enjoy seeing the lights going on when explaining the possibilities of badges. They’re not a cure-all, and there’s issues to iron out – both technical, social, and pedagogical. However, the above three arguments don’t cut it for me.

Badges are a ‘trojan horse’ technology. They get people talking about things that usually remain latent within their organisation. Badges are also something into which people project their hopes, fears, and dreams. This makes exploring things, as we did today, is always a fascinating process!

As I said, today was almost entirely positive. I just thought it odd that, four years later, we’re having the same kinds of conversations.

If you need help with Open Badges, get in touch with DigitalMe or my consultancy, Dynamic Skillset.

Image CC BY hyperdashery badges

Open Badges Community Call, April 8, 2015

Mozilla Open Badges Blog

Tue Apr 14 2015 17:28:24 GMT+0000 (UTC)



This week we dived into a discussion on soft skills and workforce development, led by those who kickstarted a conversation last week. We also heard from Alan Reid of Coastal Carolina University, where he developed an online program in which students earn performance-based digital badges in their first-year writing courses - They were able to successfully convince the college to recognize badges as a legitimate credit hour - that’s a pretty huge deal in the formal education space! 

Now, the ENGL courses that were traditionally 3 credit hours have become 4 credit hour courses, with the fourth hour defined as students’ demonstrated ability to earn the digital badges (each badge takes students roughly 1-1.5 hours to complete). Obviously, this had a large impact on the rest of the university, shifting entire programmatic curriculums, as well as affecting financial aid and tuition schedules. They began the program last August, and so far, we have had an overwhelmingly positive response.

Read the full discussion here.

Tetris, badges, and learning pathways

Doug Belshaw

Fri Apr 10 2015 12:31:38 GMT+0000 (UTC)

I was listening to the always-excellent Song Exploder podcast in the gym the other day when I came across a bit that really made me stop and think.

Nothing showing above? Click here!

If you fast-forward to about 3:04 you’ll hear the artist RJD2 talk about his approach to song writing being influenced by studying Mathematics in college. Fascinatingly, he talks about music in spatial terms – suggesting that, like me, he may be mildly synaesthetic. RJD2 imagines music as being like a game of Tetris where you can dictate the shape of any of the pieces.

As an educator, I find this intriguing. If we imagine the falling tetris blocks to be the things that learners have to assimilate, then it’s easy to see how problematic it can be to neither being in control of their ‘shape’ nor the speed at which they come at you.

What if we handed that over to learners? And what if each block was a badge along a learning pathway?

Image CC BY-SA s. bär

An Open Can of Tin Badges - Tin Can API

Mozilla Open Badges Blog

Tue Mar 31 2015 18:02:25 GMT+0000 (UTC)

An Open Can of Tin Badges - Tin Can API:
People have been talking about a crossover between Open Badges and Tin Can (xAPI) since 2012. Blogs have been written, ideas shared and there’s even a Twitter account that got set up at one point! Nobody has actually come to the point of defining the details of how it would all work though. Until now.
Today, we published an xAPI Open Badges recipe to the Registry. This recipe is the work of the xAPI Open Badges working group including people from both the Open Badges and Tin Can communities. The recipe has also been published on and uses identifiers; this is a real collaboration of both specification groups.

Exciting developments in the integration of Tin Can (xAPI) and Open Badges! Click the link above to read the full blog post from Andrew Downes.

Peering Deep into Future of Educational Credentialing [DMLcentral]

Doug Belshaw

Tue Mar 31 2015 16:11:05 GMT+0000 (UTC)

My latest post for DMLcentral is up. Entitled Peering Deep into Future of Educational Credentialing it’s a look at how the blockchain technology that underpins crytocurrencies like Bitcoin could be used with the Open Badges Infrastructure [OBI].

A sample:

If we used the blockchain for Open Badges, then we could prove beyond reasonable doubt that the person receiving badge Y is the same person who created evidence X. This would use a “proof of work” system. At the moment, the situation is still better than paper-based certificates but, such an approach would allow Open Badges to be used in extremely high-stakes situations. The blockchain would prove a connection between the evidence and the badge. More details could be unlocked if the earner chooses to share his or her key.

Click here to read the post in full

I’ve closed comments here to encourage you to add yours on the original post. Please do consider doing this as it raises awareness in the wider community.

You may also be interested to know that the xAPI (Tin Can) is now compatible with the OBI. This is less geeky and more interesting than it sounds!

Open Badges Community Call, March 25, 2015

Mozilla Open Badges Blog

Mon Mar 30 2015 08:15:59 GMT+0000 (UTC)



This week we heard from the folks at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, who invited BA Executive Director Erin Knight to an event back in January which explored innovations in workforce preparation with an emphasis on digital badging. It focused on new research linking specific work-ready (“soft”) skills to workforce outcomes and explore digital badging as a potential strategy for credentialing these skills. Various stakeholders contributed to the discussions, including young adults, workforce organizations, non-profits, and private industry representatives.

Christine Capota and Chris Shannon spoke about the event and ongoing conversations happening in and around Boston about employer acceptance of badges, which will depend on two things, according to Capota and Shannon: conceptual acceptance, and technological acceptance. Regulation and quality control will help with the former, and technology options that make the badge evaluation process easier will help with the latter.

“What makes badging with workforce unique is that it’s not a contained environment,” they said. “Badges are a currency within a certain environment but from a global comprehension perspective, they appear to be difficult to parse.”

Read the full discussion here.

Will #OpenBadges Remain Open? That is up to us.

Mozilla Open Badges Blog

Wed Mar 25 2015 07:58:43 GMT+0000 (UTC)

Will #OpenBadges Remain Open? That is up to us.:

Will Open Badges remain open? That is up to us.

Dr. Bernard Bull shared his thoughts on a recent critique presented by Dr. Michael Olneck at the pre-conference event on Open Badges at the Learning Analytics 2015 Conference:

There is democratizing technology and authoritarian technology. I’ve written about that in the past. However, there is more than one way to approach this. You can look at the technology itself, its inherent features and how they are likely to lead one toward more authoritarian or democratizing structures. That, for example, is present in debates about gun control. Some argue that guns, by their nature, are designed to shoot things, including people. As such, people might push for more regulation and control around them, resulting in a more authoritarian ecosystem within which guns reside. Others look at the social landscape and argue that there are plenty of examples where guns are present, but violence with guns is low or absent. They are not necessarily looking at the affordances and limitations of the technology directly, but they are instead examining how it developed in a give context. As a result of their approach, they may argue for maintaining a larger democratizing ecosystem for the technology of guns. In reality, both of these factors are constantly at work with the assimilation of a technology in a new context. There are inherent affordances and limitations to the technology that make some things possible and other things more likely. At the same time, there are complex individual and societal forces that impact how it develops, especially the power structures that develop alongside a given technology.

Read the piece in full by clicking the link above.

Open Badges Community Call, March 18, 2015

Mozilla Open Badges Blog

Fri Mar 20 2015 19:07:00 GMT+0000 (UTC)



This week the panelists from last week’s SXSWedu session on global lessons in open badges shared their experiences with the community:

  • Kate Coleman, of Deakin University, said “we need to start talking about new models of learning, education and business models rather than retro-fitting to realise the potential of the disruption” - an interesting stance, as Carla pointed out, as we often hear that “retrofitting is a requirement for adoption and growth,” perhaps indicating that Australia is ahead of other countries in pushing badges forward;
  • Tim Riches, of Digital Me, said that various trust models for badges are emerging, and this year will bring "proof points emerg[ing] around conneting badge earners to work experience / employment opportunities”
  • Serge Ravet, of Badge Europe, shared concerns about the fragmentation in thought and discourse that comes from talking about “micro-credentials” (something echoed in a 2013 blog post by Carla Casilli). He also brought up the distinction and potential confusion around trust and security: “‘security’ is embedded in ‘trust’, but once trust diminishes, 'security’ becomes external; trust is free, security without trust has a cost, hence there is a business model for security without trust, a more open one for "open trust."”

Follow the rest of the conversation by clicking the links above for the discussion notes and audio recording.

Carla Casilli | Open Badge Opticks : The prismatic value of badges

Mozilla Open Badges Blog

Fri Mar 20 2015 18:52:26 GMT+0000 (UTC)

Our Director of Policy + Practice, Carla Casilli, wrote a thought-provoking piece inspired by a recent Twitter conversation about the future of education and the role of badges:

During a recent Twitter foray, I jumped into an ongoing conversation about where education is headed and the role that badges might play in where education is headed. The discussion stemmed from Kevin Carey‘s insightful and provocative NYTimes article, “Here’s What Will Truly Change Higher Education: Online Degrees That Are Seen As Official” (based on an excerpt from The End of College.) During that Twitter exchange, Anya Kamenetz (who has recently written The Test) was commenting on Carey’s book and mentioned that she felt that badges have been operating in—and will continue to operate in—perpetual beta. When I asked her why she felt this to be true, she tweeted, “I don’t see the value.” I tweeted back saying that badge value was prismatic. This post is an exploration of that position.

Read the full post here.