Mozilla Open Badge Infrastructure (OBI)
Why Are We Doing This?
Learning happens everywhere. Yet it's often difficult to be recognized for skills and achievements that are gained outside of school. Mozilla's Open Badges project is working to solve that problem by making it easy for anyone anywhere to issue, earn, and display badges. The results: broad recognition of 21st century skills and experiences, unlocking of career and educational opportunities, and learners everywhere being able to level up in their lives and work.
- Develop badges as a system for alternative accreditation, credentialing, and recognition;
- Help badges expand beyond siloed environments to be broadly shareable;
- Truly support earners learning everywhere;
- Optimize the value of these representations by allowing badges to be remixable and shareable with different audiences;
- Develop a supporting infrastructure to standardize the process and support each earner;
- Create an infrastructure that is open and as decentralized as possible to give earners control and support of the entire ecosystem;
- Provide software and development tools to help organizations implement badging systems.
The Open Badges framework is designed to make badging flexible enough to represent the full range of learning and experience in online and offline life. This requires support for multiple, potentially significantly varied, badge issuers. Empowering earners to use their badges as legitimate credentials also requires support for sharing of badges across many display sites.
Earners can share badges across such varied online environments as personal blogs and social networking channels, tying a variety of achievements to a single identity. It is critical for the infrastructure to be open, to give earners control over how they represent their own learning and experiences, to allow anyone to issue badges, and for each earner to be able to carry their badges with them throughout their online life.
The participants in a badging system are characterized using a few broad groups:
- Issuers - they create badges, make them available to earners and award them.
- Earners - they apply for badges and decide where to display them.
- Displayers - they display badges earned by particular earners (this also involves verifying badges).
You will see these roles described throughout the material you read on Open Badges. This page is aimed at providing an overview of badging for earners, with an introduction to the technical aspects of earning.
Last but not least, although not involved directly in badging systems, let's not forget this group of people:
- Consumers - they include anyone looking at a badge (or badges) earned
- examples include potential employers, college admin and peers.
- The OBI is built in node.js using express.
- Badges are represented by JSON data blobs embedded in PNG files in the Backpack
- Identity management is handled by Mozilla Persona
Open Badges Ecosystem
Here's an overview of how badging works:
- An issuer makes a badge available to their community of earners on their website. When awarded the badge, an earner sends it to their Backpack.
- The badge becomes portable through the Issuer API script, presenting the earner with a modal dialog that requests their consent to add the badge to their Backpack.
- If the issuer wants the earner to be able to store the badge outside the OBI, they can optionally push it to the Mozilla Baking Service where the assertion URL representing JSON blobs is embedded into PNG files. Otherwise badge baking is handled through the Issuer API.
- Displayers pull unpacked badges (JSON) out of the Backpack based on earner action and privacy settings.
- Public badges are discoverable based on earner’s email address, optionally through the Displayer API.
- Earners can share their badges through their Backpack and grant permission for a particular site to display that collection of badges.
- Displayers authenticate badges with the issuer using a verification check.
Definitions and Concepts
A digital representation of a skill, learning achievement or experience. Badges can represent competencies and involvements recognized in online or offline life. Each badge is associated with an image and some metadata. The metadata provides information about what the badge represents and the evidence used to support it.
Open Badge Infrastructure (OBI)
Open infrastructure technology supports independent badge issuers and displayers. Includes the metadata specification, APIs, verification framework, Backpack and software tools.
Someone who earns a badge (either by applying or being directly issued with it). The earner can use their Backpack to manage and share their badges.
Organization or individual who issues Open Badges to their community. The issuer is responsible for defining badges, making them available to earners and handling applications for them.
- Badge issuing can involve participants with various specific roles, such as application assessors, badge creators and administrators.
A website, organization, or person who accesses publicly shared Open Badges and displays them for badge earners.
The core authorized data store and management interface of Mozilla’s reference implementation of the Backpack. Each earner has their own Backpack where their badge data is stored.
Badge metadata is represented as an assertion. The assertion specification defines the information within a badge. An assertion includes multiple items of data, such as: badge name and description, issuer, date, criteria URL, evidence URL and badge image URL. The assertion should carry all the information needed to process a badge. This ensures that badges can be fully understood and verified no matter where they are shared.
A badge is an image combined with assertion data - badge baking embeds assertion data into an image to produce a portable badge.
The Issuer API provides a script for issuers to let earners send badges to the Backpack.
The Displayer API provides specifications for displaying badges beyond the Backpack.
Displayers are responsible for verifying badges, i.e. checking that a badge is valid and was issued to the person claiming it.
A new set of tools to simplify badging for issuers - provides an interface for creating and managing badges/ assessing badge applications. The BadgeKit API lets issuers control interaction with their own community of badge earners while supporting much of the badge admin process through a Web app.
See also the BadgeKit and Open Badges Resource list
To explore the concepts and terms in badging and badge issuing, check out the Badging and BadgeKit Glossary
To the badge earner, a badge is the core currency of exchange - a single credential demonstrating a skill, achievement, quality or affiliation. Badges are represented digitally as assertions. Technically a badge is a PNG image associated with a set of JSON data, which is sometimes embedded into the image file. Organizations displaying badges can verify them, so that consumers know the earner did earn the badge they are claiming.
When an earner earns badges, they have the option of displaying those badges in a backpack. This lets earners present a detailed picture of the learning and experiences they have formalized through open badges. The earner has full control over whether and where their badges are displayed.
The Mozilla Backpack is an authorized data storage space and management interface for earners of Open Badges. Each earner can access their own Backpack - that lets them manage and share their badges.
- The Backpack is open source and federated. Earners or issuers can take the code and fork it.
- Earners may decide to create and host their own Backpack so that they have complete control over their badges.
- Mozilla has built a reference or default Backpack (the "Mozilla Backpack") which holds all of the badge assertions (hashed user email + badge data) for each earner.
D. Badge Earners
Why push badges into the OBI
Using OBI badges offers a range of benefits to the badge earner:
- Openness - a shared framework breaks badges out of a single silo/ separate silos.
- Earners can earn and share badges from multiple issuers.
- Earners can manage badges as a comprehensive portfolio/ living transcript that the earner controls.
- Earners can display badges across multiple sites (without being tied exclusively to those sites).
- Badges are inherently discoverable - they allow employers (or other stakeholders) to find earners based on their public badges and email address.
Functional Flow - First Time Earner
As an earner, you can choose to display your badges using the Mozilla Backpack or another displayer - the process below demonstrates what happens when the earner uses the Mozilla Backpack.
- You earn a badge from an issuer.
- You are prompted to push your new badge to the Mozilla backpack or another backpack.
- You choose to push to the Mozilla backpack.
- In the first instance the system displays a pop-up informing you that in order to collect the badge, you must create a badge Backpack.
- The system sends you to the Backpack.
- You start the Backpack creation process by entering the email address you want to associate with the Backpack.
- The system displays a modal pop-up informing you about Mozilla’s use of your email and the use of Mozilla’s Persona product.
- If you have not already set up a Persona account, you can do so at this point
- SMTP challenge (system emails user a token link to click) to verify and tie the email address to the Backpack.
- Once your Persona account is established, you land on the authenticated state of the badge Backpack.
- The system presents you with your new earned badge.
- You can still choose to accept or reject the badge.
- You accept the badge and are taken to your Backpack.
- You organize badges into groups (/collections) and choose which ones to make public or not.
- You select a collection to push out to displayers so that your badges can be publicly displayed and discovered.
Backpack Management Features
With the Mozilla Backpack, earners can exploit the following features:
- Accepting/ rejecting badges
- Badges come in as private - earners must accept a new badge to change its status.
- All badges are by default non-discoverable/ private until the earner makes them public and discoverable.
- Badge collections
- Earners can use a drag and drop feature to create groups/ collections of badges that are relevant to each user.
- For example, an earner could have collections of coding badges, event attendance badges, arts badges and so on.
- Earners can also view the details of badges they have earned.
- Earners can use a drag and drop feature to create groups/ collections of badges that are relevant to each user.
- Manage badge privacy/ visibility
- Earners can choose to make a collection of badges public or not.
- Earners can share a collection straight from the Backpack, to common communication channels including social networking services (Twitter, Google+, Facebook).
- Upload badges
- Earner may manually upload badges directly from their computer into the backpack using the badge upload feature, however these badges must be OBI compliant.
Throughout 2014 the Mozilla Open Badges team will be announcing new features earners can benefit from, including Discovery, which will allow individuals to explore pathways of badges, taking control over personal development and opening earners to career opportunities. Additional tools will facilitate collecting badges with federated backpacks and sharing badges through common channels such as social networking.
Displayers are key to the value of Open Badges for earners. The OBI is designed to support display of badges acquired in various different types of context, letting earners paint a more detailed, complete picture of their skills and experiences.
- Badges are not siloed or limited to one site but can be combined with badges from multiple issuers and then shared for different audiences and purposes.
- Each earner controls where their badges are displayed through the Backpack.
- Each earner can create collections of badges and share them with displayers that have connected to the Displayer API.
- Earners can also make badges public - those badges are discoverable by displayers if they have the earner's email address.
- If a site has an earner's email address, they can query that person's Backpack for all of that earner's public badges. The response is a JSON representation of the badges.
- Identity is a critical component because we need to recognize earners as they collect badges from different issuers.
- It's important to us that identity be open and decentralized.
- We are utilizing verified email as a form of identity through the Mozilla product Persona.
- Additional info: https://wiki.mozilla.org/Identity
- Many sites already use email addresses for logins, even those that don't generally collect them.
- We don't need to retain any profile or personal information about the earner; all we need is their email address.
Verifying Identity in Backpack
- User validates identity to Mozilla's Verified Email.
- User creates an account with Mozilla (same as sync account).
- User asserts which email addresses he or she owns.
- User does an SMTP challenge (system emails user a token link they must click) to prove ownership.