Badges FAQ, last updated September 10, 2012
DRAFT IN PROGRESS -- changing monthly
What is a badge?
- A badge is a symbol or indicator of an accomplishment, skill, quality or interest.
- Badges are used to set goals, motivate behaviors, represent achievements and communicate success.
- They can support learning that happens in new ways, in new spaces beyond the traditional classroom, from online courses to after-school programs to work and life experience.
- This motivates learning and signals achievement across communities and institutions. And provides a more complete picture of learners' skills, achievements and qualities to potential employers, educational organizations and communities.
What do badges do?
- Badges can capture a wide set of skills and achievements.
- They provide concrete evidence and proof of your skills, achievements and qualities.
- Badges create are more complete representation of an individual's learning to potential employers, communities and stakeholders.
- They unlock new career and learning opportunities.
Why do we need badges?
In today's world, learning happens anywhere and everywhere. Despite increased opportunities for learning, there’s still an essential piece missing: We need formal recognition for these newly earned and hard-won competencies and skills. One solution is an open badge ecosystem that can help bridge this gap.
What are the benefits of badges?
- Signal achievement. Badges signal skills and achievements to peers, potential employers, educational institutions and others.
- Recognize informal learning. Get credit and recognition for learning that happens outside of school. e.g., in after-school programs, work experience or online.
- Transfer learning across spaces and contexts. Make skills more portable across jobs, learning environments and places.
- Capture more specific skills than traditional degrees. Badges allow a more granular recognition of specific skills than a traditional degree.
- Support greater specialization and innovation. Move faster to support and recognize new skills than traditional degree or certificate programs.
- Allow greater diversity. With specific recognition for "soft skills," social habits, ability to collaborate, etc. than traditional programs measure or recognize.
- Motivate participation and learning outcomes. Badges provide feedback, milestones and rewards throughout a course or learning experience, encouraging engagement and retention.
- Allow multiple pathways to learning. Encourage learners to take new paths or spend more time developing specific skills.
- Open doors. Communities of Practice, Professional Associations or Specialized Groups could require obtaining a set of badges to gain access. The verification of these badges could then be automated using the OBI.
- Unlock privileges. For example, students at a school computer lab might be required to earn a "Digital Safety" badge before being allowed to surf the web.
- Enhance your identity and reputation. Badges raise your profile with the learning community and peers. And allow you to aggregate identities from across other communities.
- Build community and social capital. Help learners find peers or mentors with similar interests. Community badges help formalize camaraderie, team synthesis and communities of practice.
- Capture the learning path and history. With degrees or cumulative grades, much of the learning path -- the set of steps and milestones that led to the degree -- is lost or hard to see. Badges can capture a more specific set of skills and qualities dates as they occur along the way, along with issue dates for each. This means we can track the set of steps the most successful learners take to gain their skills -- and replicate that experience for others.
- Recognize new skills and literacies. New literacies that are critical to success in today's digital world -- like appropriating information, judging its quality, multitasking and networking -- are not typically taught in schools and don't show up on a transcript. Badges can recognize these new skills and literacies.
- Provide a more complete picture of the learner. Give a more complete skills and learning history and overview for potential employers, schools, peer groups and others.
- Provide branding opportunities for institutions, organizations and learning communities Badges can be displayed in many locations throughout the internet. Increasing awareness of your institution, organization and learning community and linking relevant curriculum, skills and knowledge to these.
What kinds of skills and accomplishments can badges represent?
Badges can represent a diverse range of skills, competencies, qualities, achievements and interests, including:
- "Hard skills" - completing a course, mastering a specific programming language or math concept.
- "Soft skills" - critical thinking, communication or collaboration.
- Community aspects including reputation and status
- New skills such as digital literacies.
- Specific, granular accomplishments or activities - for example, leaving helpful comments for other learners, logging into an online learning web site for 10 consecutive days
How different are badges from the information we provide in our résumés and CVs?
In general, résumés and CVs are static in that they need to be updated and re-published. Badges can be more dynamic - new skills, competencies and knowledge are automatically published, and updated, after the badge is issued.
What are the 21st century skills that may be better announced through badges than through other formats of skill communication?
Badges could be better at announcing digital literacy and peer developed skills. There are current efforts where once digital literacy skills are demonstrated through there implementation the badge will be automatically issued - with Mozilla webmaker, for example. Or with P2PU a peer assessment once successfully completed by peers will automatically issue a badge. Other approaches may also emerge as the use of badges increases and matures.
Who can issue badges?
Badges can be created, defined and issued by a number of sources, including:
- Traditional educational institutions (e.g., Cornell University, The University of California or Colby College)
- Professional bodies (e.g. doctors, engineers, accountants)
- International credential assessment agencies
- Non formal, community learning organizations (e.g. Adult Basic Education, Literacy, Employability)
- Communities of practice (e.g., open education projects, peer learners, or the individual learners themselves)
- After-school programs and learning networks.
- Online courses and open courseware initiatives.
- Companies/organizations that employ people
If we issue badges against http://beta.openbadges.org will they survive into the production release?
Yes, badges issued against the beta issuer API will survive into production. Badges issued against the staging ( http://stage.openbadges.org ) environment will NOT survive.
Can I issue a badge to a group?
Not to the group as a whole, you can issue the same badge to each member of the group. A badge is issued to an individual and the assignment is based upon their email address.
What are the different type and levels of badges?
- "Smaller" badges can be used for motivation and feedback and tied to smaller behaviors or achievements. (Like those on the online forum "Stack Overflow," or x, y or z).
- "Larger" badges can be used for certification purposes. Endorsed by specific organizations or other authorities, with more rigorous or defined assessments.
- Basic or foundational badges can provide the core or entry-level framework for acquiring skills
- Intermediate and expert level badges can provide the pathways and milestones to guide learners through to mastery.
- Lower level badges may be required as pre-requisites to unlock higher level badges, much as we have seen in various gaming environments.
- These requirements can be made explicit through documented pathways and instructions, providing learners with a roadmap toward mastery.
- Or a "stealth assessment" approach can involve particular actions or accomplishments suddenly unlocking higher levels, making learners more aware of their learning and motivating engagement.
- Multiple badges can be aggregated into higher-level "meta badges" that represent more complex literacies or competencies.
- These meta-badges can be created and issued by organizations to target specific sets of skills and to signal general mastery.
- Life-long learner badges that show a continuous growth and mastery within a subject domain where new levels are added via length of commitment, increasing competency or life-time achievement.
What kind of badge system designs exist? Where do we start when designing badge systems?
This question can have many answers as badging systems can fit into many different learning contexts and situations. Reading and engaging in the Google group or searching for writings on badge systems design can help greatly in building an understanding of badge systems design.
What form do badges take? Is it just something I stick on a web page or sew on my shirt?
- The badge itself is more than a static image or button -- its value comes from the information or "metadata" attached to it.
- This supporting data contained within the badge reduces the risk of abusing the system (e.g., illegitimately copying badges and putting them on your site) and builds in an implicit validation system.
- The metadata may vary based on the particular skill, assessment and issuer.
What are the key components of a successful badge system?
The key elements of an open badge system for connected learning are:
- an open infrastructure for issuing, collecting and sharing badges.
- criteria & evidence
Who are the competitors to the open badges infrastructure?
Open Badges does not see other badge issuing sites as competitors but as potential partners. We are working toward an open badges specification that all badge issuers can share.
Is there some kind of badge accreditation body
Currently there is no badge accreditation body. The idea of a badge accreditation body or bodies is currently an item of discussion within the badges community.
Open Badge Infrastructure (OBI)
What is the Open Badge Infrastructure?
The Mozilla Open Badge Infrastructure is the core underlying technical scaffolding for the badge ecosystem that supports a multitude of issuers conferring badges into the ecosystem, and many displayers or consumers using badges to share their competencies and achievements. Any given learner/user can earn badges across many issuers, collect them in one place tied to their identity, and then share them with various websites and audiences including career sites, social networks or personal portfolios. Mozilla is building this infrastructure including the core repositories and management interfaces (each user’s Badge Backpack), as well as specifications required to push badges in (issuers) or pull them out (displayers).
What does the Open Badge Infrastructure do?
The badge infrastructure:
- supports the issuing, collection, and display of badges.
- allows learners to tie badges to their idenity, and carry their badges with them wherever they go
- displays their badges to the audiences they care about -- peers, employers, or other institutions.
- allows learners to group, sort and manage their badges, and set privacy controls.
- is open and decentralized, to support badges from multiple sources
- and enable display across multiple sites.
Why is the Open Badge Infrastructure a necessary part of this work?
The success of badges as an alternative path to accreditation and credentialing for learners relies on a significant “ecosystem” of badge issuers, badge seekers, and badge displayers. The Competition aims to spur the development of that ecosystem through the creation of high quality, valuable individual badges and sets of badges. The Mozilla Foundation, with support from the MacArthur Foundation, is building an Open Badge Infrastructure to enable the interoperability and collection of badges. The infrastructure will support badges from any issuer across the Internet. It will allow learners to collect, carry, and display their badges across websites and experiences and from youth through adulthood. All badges and sets of badges developed through the 2011 DML Competition will be designed to plug into the Mozilla infrastructure—which will contribute, in turn, to the development of the larger badge ecosystem. In this ecosystem, each digital badge or collection of badges can inspire learning and translate “anytime, anyplace, any age” learning into a powerful tool for getting jobs, finding communities of interest, and demonstrating skills, competencies and achievements. For more on the Mozilla Open Badge Infrastructure, please see http://openbadges.org.
I am non-technical and how do I implement the OBI against other open source projects like Moodle, Drupal, Wordpress, Etc?
There is a growing community of projects that are implementing the OBI against these open source projects. Due to our community engagement activities and the 2011 DML competition we have a growing list of these projects on the open badges github site ( https://github.com/mozilla/openbadges/wiki/Open-Badges-related-widgets ).
There is a growing list of partner widgets on the open badges github site. https://github.com/mozilla/openbadges/wiki/Open-Badges-related-widgets
What are the minimum requirements for issuing a badge?
At a minimum you need to create a json message and pass it to the OBI Issuer API. This is explained to two different blog posts;
I'd like to use the OBI in a non-educational environment such as gaming. How do I code against the OBI?
The Open Badges Infrastructure (OBI) has been built to work against any system wanting to issue badges. This includes non-educational environments like gaming. Learning to code against the OBI requires you review the technical documentation and sample code available within the open badges github and wiki.
What is the Badge Backpack?
The Badge Backpack is the core repository for the digital badge data and the management interface on top. Each user will have his/her own Badge Backpack, accessible only to him/her, where s/he can view all her badges, set privacy controls, create groups and share them.
What is the difference between a displayer site and my backpack?
A displayer site pulls a json message from the badge earners backpack to display their badges. This json message can represent one or more badges from within the backpack. The permissions and controls the backpack owner has set against their badges will determine the badges that will be present within the json message for display.
Will there be costs associated with earning badges?
There are no costs associated with collecting badges within the Open Badge Infrastructure (OBI) or sharing them through the API (application programming interface) and communication channels. That said, the OBI is the infrastructure in the middle – issuers and displayers are free to innovate and design experiences on their own, independent of the infrastructure. So some issuers may charge for certain assessments or badges, and on the other end, some displayers may have a fee for pulling badges into a particular network or profile.
How will the value of the badges be authenticated?
In this system, a digital badge is more than just an image – it is essentially a collection of metadata that fully explains the badge and includes information such as the issuer, issue date, criteria for earning the badge, expiration if needed, the learner work or evidence behind the badge, etc. So the badge acts as a gateway or conversation starter, but the bulk of the information is in that metadata and it can act as an informal validation system itself.
Further, the Open Badge Infrastructure includes an authentication channel so that whenever someone tries to use or share a badge, the displayer/consumer can call back to the issuer through this channel and confirm that the issuer in fact issued this badge to this user and that they badge is still valid. If the issuer responds positively, the badge is authenticated/validated, otherwise the badge is non-validated and therefore will most likely not be accepted or used.
Will badges expire? Or will that depend on the individual badge?
It will depend on the individual badge. Issuers can set expiration dates with each badge that they issue and that information will be carried with the badge. Issuers might choose to do so for skills that need to be refreshed or are quickly outdated. Through the Open Badge Infrastructure, when someone tries to use or share a badge that has expired, the OBI will convey that the badge is expired.
When can I access the online Badge Backpack? When is the first badge available?
The Open Badge Infrastructure, and Badge Backpacks, are currently in beta1 version with an initial set of issuers. Learners are already earning badges from these issuers and collecting them in their Badge Backpacks. The infrastructure is expected to be launched publicly in January 2012 at which point anyone can become an issuer and there will be many ways people can earn badges.
On what website will the Open Badge Infrastructure be hosted after it is built? Will this hosting be “lifelong” to match our goals of students engaging in lifelong learning?
The goal is to support lifelong learning through lifelong access to badges. Mozilla is building the reference implementations of the Badge Backpacks and will host them. But Mozilla is building the infrastructure in a way to support complete decentralization and openness so it will be easy for users, or even organizations, to host and manage their own Badge Backpacks and still work within the infrastructure and wider ecosystem.
How can learners manage their badges for different uses and audiences?
- Badges' value increases as learners gain control over how they're displayed for different audiences and contexts.
- Learners can create 'subgroups of badges through the Backpack and control which badges are available to different audiences. For example, you may want to display one set of badges for your peers, but another set for a specific potential employer.
- Learners can also add badges to any external website or environment that supports badge display. These include personal websites, blogs, and social networking environments LinkedIn or Facebook.
Can I see the tech behind all of this?
Badge Pilots and Conceptual Framework Work
What is the Mozilla and P2PU badge pilot?
- P2PU and Mozilla, in collaboration with the MacArthur Foundation, are implementing a badge pilot project.
- The pilot uses the experimental badge framework and January session of the School of Webcraft, a set of open courses around web development education
The badge pilot has three core components:
- Pilot Badges
- The pilot involves a small initial set of skills chosen by the web development community.
- Plus community-oriented badges that can be awarded from peer to peer.
- Many of these badges will be offically endorsed by Mozilla.
- The initial pilot will be scale up and grow to include additional skills, competencies and behaviors, and expanded to other P2PU classes beyond webcraft.
- The pilot will explore a range of assessment types, including:
- peer assessment
- portfolio assessment
- stealth assessment
- The Accessibility badge will require experience designing or developing for challenged users or accessibility technologies, plus a blog post with reflection and analysis of the experience. A group of accessibility gurus within the community will then assess the work and issue badges accordingly.
- Other badges may be aligned directly with courses, with course organizers able to assess work and issue badges.
- The pilot badge project will involve building an initial version of the badge infrastructure to support issuing badges from the School of Webcraft, and allowing learners to collect and display their badges across participating sites.
- An early prototype of the infrastructure was completed at the Mozilla Drumbeat Festival in November, 2010.
- This protoype and initial feedback are being used to expand the infrastructure and integrate it into the School of Webcraft learning environment, beginning in January 2011. courses
Where could I find a description of the features in the public Beta?
It is difficult to provide a list of features for a product in beta; the list changes as things are fixed and added due to current development need. The best way to develop an understanding of the features available is through viewing the github wiki and this beta announcement.
Who else are you partnering with?
Mozilla is working with other collaborators and partners, including iRemix and the National Writing Project, to work through their specific use cases and scenarios. The goal is to help develop a plan for badges that captures learning and achievement within their environments, while also plugging into a larger overall badge infrastructure. Our aim is to learn quickly from a broad combination of different badges, use cases, and assessments, and support badges from across any environment where learning is occurring.
Who should be Involved?
You. Mozilla is looking for collaborators and help in designing and evaluating badge concepts and implementations. If you have feedback or are interested in participating or designing a set of badges of your own, contact us at email@example.com.
How does assessment work?
- For badges to hold real value and carry the weight of more traditional grades or degrees, assessment and quality is critical.
- Badges can contain multiple levels of assessment, depending on the use case, community or intended audience
- some will require distinct pre-defined assessment exercises and success criteria
- others may be loosely defined and require learner reflection or peer recommendations.
- Hard skills may require standard or more rigid rubrics to compare learner work against.
- Softer skills can be more fluid and require more open and social assessments like peer reviews or endorsements.
- For certification badges, intended for audiences like hiring managers, admission boards, more rigorous assessments can be required
- For badges intended to simply build community or reward behaviors, simple assessments may be enough
- Badges could also encourage innovations around assessment. Just as digital badges are an innovation for credentialing, this could trigger innovations around assessment approaches.
How can badges provide greater flexibility and innovation in assessment?
Badges can help:
- drive innovation around new types of assessments (e.g., x or y)
- provide more personalized assessments for learners (e.g., x or y)
- move beyond out of date or irrelevant testing practices (e.g., x or y)
- Asynchronous assessment. Instead of being required to take an exam at a pre-determined time, for example, learners can seek out the assessment on their own time.
- "Stealth assessment." Assessment and awarding badges can happen automatically and provide immediate feedback. [Need a half sentence summary of what "stealth assessment is.]
- Portfolio assessment. Work samples, projects and other artifacts the learner has produced or been involved in can demonstrate skills and competencies.
- Multiple assessors or group assessment. In traditional classrooms, an individual instructor generally does most of the assessing. An open badge system can support assessment from multiple contexts, including course organizers, peers, or learners themselves. This flexible and networked nature could mean that there are multiple paths or assessment options for earning a badge, making the system more flexible, ensuring that the needs of each learner are met and limiting the learning path constraints.
QUESTIONS WE ARE EXPLORING
The right badges
- What skills should be assessed? Who decides?
- Are some skills better left unassessed?
- What do we want to encourage? How do we avoid encouraging the "wrong" behavior?
- How much influence should outside stakeholders, such as employers, have on badges?
- Should they be able to design assessments and badges that are relevant to them?
- How do we allow them to have a say without creating imbalances in the system, or constraining learning?
- What's the right level of granularity for individual badges?
- For example, the HTML5 badge recognizes mastery of the entire language. Should there be HTML tag-level badges as well?
- Should badges aggregate into larger or higher level badges?
Badge lifetime and evolution
- Should badges expire?
- What's the best way to deal with skills that need to be refreshed or renewed?
- How can the badge system grow with learners?
- How does introducing badges affect learners' motivations?
- If learners were already intrinsically motivated, how do we avoid "crowding out" those motivations with an extrinsic badge system?
Gaming and Validity
- For any system with value, some people will inevitably try to cheat or "game" the system.
- How will people game the system? How much will they do so?
- How do we discourage gaming and recognize when it happens?
- How badges translate to more traditional learning environments?
- What's required to make traditional schools and institutions value and recognize badges?
- Can we meet those requirements without requiring more fundamentally changes?