Robert Stewart, Workforce Development Adviser with the SSSC tells us about Open Badges, a new virtual way to earn badges as you gain new skills or knowledge. Find out how Open Badges can benefit individuals, employers and learning providers.
What if, rather than paper certificates, you could earn virtual badges as you gain new skills or knowledge?
The way our skills and knowledge are recognised is changing. You’ll soon live in a world where you can get recognition for learning that happens anywhere and you’ll be able to share this recognition in places that matter.
This is the potential that Open Badges have to offer us. The concept was adopted by Mozilla, a global community of technologists, and they have turned it into a workable standard that IT and internet professionals can build into the websites we all use.
Nobody describes Open Badges better than Mozilla themselves:
“A digital badge is an online representation of a skill you’ve earned. Open Badges take that concept one step further, and allows you to verify your skills, interests and achievements through credible organisations. And because the system is based on an open standard, you can combine multiple badges from different issuers to tell the complete story of your achievements — both online and off. Display your badges wherever you want them on the web, and share them for employment, education or lifelong learning.” Source: Mozilla Open Badges website.
All of us have something to gain from the growth of Open Badges. But first let’s look at how they work.
The anatomy of an Open Badge
An Open Badge is more than just a static image or button you can show-off on your blog or Facebook profile. Computer readable data stored within the badge, known as metadata, provides valuable information about:
- what the badge is for
- what you had to do to earn the badge
- who awarded you the badge
- links to evidence of the work you did to get the badge
- the date you were awarded the badge and whether or not it will expire.
Third-party organisations can even endorse badges that have been awarded to people, adding additional assurance of quality for employers. The information behind a badge will vary depending on what someone had to do to earn it and who issued it. But generally speaking, clicking on a badge is all you need to do to access all of this information and confirm its authenticity.
When it comes to informal, unaccredited or extra-curricular learning then showing evidence of continuous professional development can sometimes be a struggle. Open Badges make this easier because they can capture virtually anything. They are indicators of accomplishment, skills, qualities and interests connected across informal and formal learning contexts.
How Open Badges benefit individuals
Anybody can earn, manage and display Open Badges across the internet. All you need to receive a badge is an email address. Badges will give you a comprehensive way of keeping track of your skills, knowledge and achievements and displaying these when you need to.
Your badges can be managed within something called a “backpack”. Think of this as a bit like a virtual portfolio. From here, you can decide whether to accept badges you have been awarded and whether or not they should be publicly visible.
When you decide to make a badge public, you can share it on your own social networking profiles, job websites, blogs or website. You can group your badges into categories making it easier to share the right badges with the right people.
How Open Badges benefit employers
Aside from the cost benefits of moving away from paper certificates, Open Badges create a completely new incentive for learning.
Open Badges provide you with a platform to give your staff recognition for non-certified learning. Borders College witnessed increased loyalty and attendance at sessions when they used Open Badges to accredit their staff continuous professional development (CPD). It didn’t take long for all members of staff to obtain a badge.
In terms of talent development, badges help indicate the progress of an employee towards their career goals. Keeping new employees motivated in the early stages of a career pathway.
By encouraging staff to display their badges on internal profiles you make it easier for other staff to identify areas of expertise across the organisation. Suddenly even new staff can find the right people to go to for the right answers to their questions.
Advocates recognise that unless employers realise the benefits then Open Badges are unlikely to become part of everyday life. Thankfully though, the technology needed to issue Open Badges is simple and already available within the Moodle and Totara learning management systems.
How Open Badges benefit learning providers
Open Badges add an element of gamification to the learning process, motivating learners to keep going during long courses. Smaller badges can unlock larger badges in a similar way to how players ‘level-up’ in a computer game and you have complete control over the badge design process.
You can use Open Badges to provide a means of recognising peer assessment. Good co-worker badges are one example. Peers could nominate fellow students for the award.
By setting them to expire after a certain period of time, Open Badges offer you a good alternative to paper certificates for learning skills and knowledge that need to be regularly updated like those for first aid or food hygiene.
As Open Badges gain in popularity, students and learners will expect courses to provide opportunities to earn them. Because you design the look and feel, badges can carry your branding and link back to your website. Friends and colleagues of people who you award badges to will likely come to your website to find out more about the courses you provide.
Support for Open Badges
NASA, the Smithsonian American Art Museum and EDUCAUSE are three examples of a growing list of organisations issuing open badges.
Closer to home, the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) has announced its intention to explore the new technology. Recognising the value Open Badges have in offering greater flexibility for learning and the recognition of achievement, Joe Wilson, Head of New Ventures, SQA said in October 2013:
“SQA will work with Mozilla to explore how we can adopt Open Badges. We will encourage our partners to investigate how they could benefit from adopting open badges to support learners across Scotland in addition to the recognition we offer teachers and college lecturers through our CDP courses and training we will explore how we can integrate open badges into our certification processes.”
With the SQA looking at the possibilities badges offer in terms of digital certification, can the rest of us afford not to follow suit?
Where to find out more about Open Badges
The Open Badges website is the best place to find out how you can start using Open Badges.
Are you thinking of using Open Badges within your organisation but don’t know where to start? Mozilla’s free online course about Open Badges will get you up-to-speed – http://openbadges.tumblr.com/tagged/openbadgesMOOC
If you’re around on Twitter, you might also want to follow the latest updates from the Open Badge world:
- Erin Knight, Mozilla’s Director of Learning and Badges – https://twitter.com/eknight
- Jade Forester, Mozilla’s Global Coordinator for Open Badges – https://twitter.com/jade_forester
- Carla Casilli, Mozilla Open Badge system design lead, – https://twitter.com/carlacasilli
- Open Badges, the official Open Badges Twitter account – https://twitter.com/openbadges
How will you use Open Badges?
We’d love to hear how you intend to use Open Badges or maybe you are already using them? Regardless of whether you are an employer, learning provider or individual, tell us in the comment box at the bottom of this page or email Robert Stewart, Workforce Development Adviser.