Tag: Open Badges (page 3 of 9)

Taking Another Look at the Digital Credentials Landscape [DMLcentral]

Taking Another Look at the Digital Credentials Landscape [DMLcentral]

My latest post for DMLcentral is up. Entitled Taking Another Look at the Digital Credentials Landscape, I attempt to clear up some confusion in the Open Badges landscape about various terms.

Here’s an excerpt:

In the early days of talking about Open Badges, I feel that we conflated several important points: the ability to issue micro credentials, bypassing traditional gatekeepers to learning, and the Open Badges standard itself. What I’ve tried to do in this post is, to some degree, begin to tease these apart. The important innovation is the interoperability and standards-based approach.

I’ve closed comments here to encourage you to leave them on the original post.

Click here to read in full on DMLcentral


Towards a visual hierarchy of Open Badges

This week I’ve been working with a client on the first stages of a visual hierarchy for Open Badges. This is more complex than it sounds and there are a couple of things that you should have a look at before reading further. The first is Carla Casilli‘s post A foundational badge system design, and the second is the Badge Studio* created by Andrew Hayward during his time at Mozilla.

Badge Studio

* This is an Open Source project and can be found on GitHub here.

What I like about the Badge Studio approach is that it:

  • is easy to use
  • has a visual hierarchy baked-in
  • makes it very difficult not to follow a style guide
  • removes the bottleneck of visual badge design


As with everything, the simpler and more intuitive something looks, the more work has gone into it in the first place. Here’s some variables we identified for badges across the group of companies of which my client is part:

  1. Organisation
  2. Badge name
  3. Badge yype
  4. Icon/glyph
  5. Level
  6. Logos/brand
  7. Pips (as on military insignias)
  8. Expiry
  9. Meta status (i.e. whether it’s part of, or is a meta-level badge of badges)


I’m sure there are others to consider, too. From there we looked at the most obvious differentiators, deciding upon shape and colour. Happily, there’s already a defined colour palette in place for each organisation that’s part of the group. They’ve also just launched a new group identity that includes five different shapes! Perfect.


We agreed in the preliminary meeting that we’d try and reduce the amount of text on the badge itself. This was for two reasons: (i) users should only ever be a click away from the metadata contained in the badge, and (ii) text is likely to be difficult to read if the badge is displayed at a small pixel size.


Theoretically, every badge issued could be both a ‘meta-level’ badge made up of smaller badges and itself part of a larger ‘even-more-meta-level’ badge. It’s potentially turtles all the way down. To prevent this potential/perceived complexity, I’ve proposed we limit the number of layers to three. This chimes well with Carla’s work mentioned above. In practice, this leads to very simple and straightforward badge pathways – which, if you want, get way more complex.


Creating an ecosystem of value is an extremely difficult thing to do. Essentially, you have to have to create enough productive ambiguity for it to be flexible and adapt to different contexts, while simultaneously giving people enough structure to get started. The way I’m proposing we approach that in this example is to:

  • Nail down badge colour (organisation) and badge shape (type)
  • Place a limit on the number of badges that can count towards a meta-level badge (perhaps six, using Trivial Pursuit as a metaphor?)
  • Keep iterating on the taxonomy we’ve started.
  • Look into what makes a good icon for an iOS/Android app (they rarely include text)
  • Consider where/how to show both my client’s brand and the brand of any organisation they partner with.
  • Create/keep a list of badge display requirements that are separate to the badge itself (e.g. how ‘expired’ badges look within a profile)
  • Look into forking Badge Studio to create a version for my client’s group of companies.

If you’ve got examples of a good hierarchy of visual design for Open Badges, I’d love to see it! 🙂

PS You’ve completed my 2015 reader survey, right?

How to help us build #OB101

A couple of weeks ago I shared details of an upcoming short course entitled Open Badges 101 that Bryan Mathers and I have started to build.

(no video above? click here!)

After testing various approaches including GitHub issues and etherpads, we’ve settled on using hypothes.is, a new ‘annotation layer for the web’ to get community input.

We’d love your comments, feedback, help, and suggestions – so have a look at the video, or dive straight in by clicking the buttons at the top-right of badges.thinkoutloudclub.com!

PS You’ve completed my 2015 reader survey, right?

Identifying, scaffolding, and credentialing skills in an ever-changing digital environment [#celt15]

The recording of my keynote at last month’s #celt15 conference in Galway is now available. I had a great time over there talking about digital literacies, Open Badges, learning pathways, and more!

If you don’t see embedded media above and below, you’ll need to click through on these links:

Note: the place the organisers originally posted it requires Flash so I’ve re-uploaded it to YouTube. If you’d like to comment on this, please do so over at their original post!

Introducing the Open Badges 101 course! [pre-alpha]

Open Badges 101

Good things happen when we work open.

That’s why, when City & Guilds asked Bryan Mathers and I to put together some resources for staff and customers about Open Badges, we decided to create an open course rather than a series of documents. We’re doing it under the auspices of the Think Out Loud Club with everything CC-licensed. The code, originally created by P2PU, is available on GitHub.

While we could sit down and provide all of the content that we think would be appropriate for this course, we’re inviting the community to get involved with this project. All contributions will be, of course, celebrated and credited.

Click here to access the Open Badges 101 course

If you’d like to help out, there’s a call to action on each page that links to further information. You’ll need a (free) GitHub account to comment on the individual issues, but it’s all very straightforward.

While you can just sign up on the site to be updated as the work progresses, I’d encourage you to help us in creating a resource that will be useful to everyone in the Open Badges community!

Claim your Kanban 101 badge!

Kanban 101 badgeYesterday, in HOWTO: Trello Kanban I showed how to use Trello for a Kanban-style workflow. It’s already proved to be one of the most popular posts I’ve written this year, and was picked up by the Trello team!

To me, the logical next step is to issue an Open Badge for getting started with a Trello-based Kanban system. That’s why I’ve created the Kanban 101 badge.

It’s deliberately low-bar. All you have to do is:

  • Set up a Trello account
  • Create a new board with (at least) three lists: To do, Doing, and Done
  • Add cards for new actions
  • Share a screenshot or link to their board being used in practice

If you get stuck, you can always watch the screencast I recorded yesterday!

Not received an Open Badge before? There’s more about the Open Badges Infrastructure (OBI) here. Once you’ve earned the Kanban 101 badge you’ll be given the option to ‘push’ it to the Mozilla backpack:

Kanban badge acceptance

I’m using p2pu.org to issue badges as they’ve got a really nice traffic light-based flow for reviewing evidence.

Claim your Kanban 101 badge now!

(note that this is in no way affiliated with Trello, I’m just a fan!)

The potential of Chirp.io to send Open Badges between people and devices

Chirp.io and Open Badges

Back in 2012 I remember coming across an ingenious service for sending data between mobile devices using sound. I promptly forgot about it until recently when I re-discovered Chirp.io.

There’s existing apps for Android and iOS, along with a Google Chrome extension. It’s great for things like:

  • quickly sharing a photo with a friend
  • sharing contact details
  • sending a link to a class set of 1:1 devices.

Chirp is kind of a like a super-simple version of an overly-engineered protocol such as Bluetooth.

During my lunch break today, after a brief exchange on Twitter, I went along and met Patrick (the founder) and Richard (CEO) to pitch Open Badges to them. It seems like such a great fit: issuing badges using a chirp!

They were excited about the idea and want to explore it further so I’m using this post as a reference to point people towards. There’s an SDK for Chirp, they’re about to launch a web-native version, and if you join their crowdfunding campaign (as I’ve done) you get an equity stake in the company!

I’m closing comments here to discuss the potential of Chirp and badges in the Open Badges Google Group. Join in the conversation!

Image CC BY-ND Bryan Mathers

Extending Badges [DMLcentral]

Extending Badges [DMLcentral]My latest post for DMLcentral is up. Entitled Extending Badges, I try and explain the social and pedagogical uses of the v1.1 update to the Open Badges specifciation. The fantastic image accompanying my words was kindly provided by Bryan Mathers.

Read the post

I’ve turned off comments here to encourage you to comment over there. Please do consider commenting, even if you’re just +1’ing what the article says. I enjoy writing for DMLcentral and elsewhere and the conversation around my posts shows reader engagement!


An exciting week for Open Badges

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!

The three biggest (perceived) problems with Open Badges

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