Open Badges as Academic Certificates?

In the context of the work package Long-term Storage of Forgery-Proof Certificates we have been taking a closer look at the Mozilla Open Badges initiative.

The main aims of open badges are to provide a framework and tools that help any person to

  • show the personal skills and achievements
  • build prestige
  • help finding a job

To illustrate the usage and scope let us have a look at a typical scenario:

Alice runs the non-profit website fotolovers with hints for amateur photographers. In the forum, users can ask questions and help each other. One user, Bob, has already spent a lot of time helping others with useful tips. Whis his unfailing help and high quality contributions Bob is a highly respected member of the community. Alice decides to express the community’s gratitude to Bob by issuing him the Open Badge “fotolovers Guru”. Bob, being proud of this award puts the badge on his personal website. Eventually, his capabilities are recognized by a local photographers association, and they invite Bob to give a talk on their next assembly.

Formally, the approach works as follows

  1. An individual person has earned a skill or learned something that is worth mentioning to the public, communities or employers.
  2. Another person or organization – the issuer – is ready to approve that the skill has really been acheived. This is done by issuing a digital badge that is handed over to the owner.
  3. The owner can display the badge on websites or social media platforms. The authenticity of a badge can be verified by anyone.

Basically,hackasaurus a bagde is a common digital image in PNG format like the image on the right. In the metadata part of the image there is a link that points to a description of the achievement and a description of the issuer. Both descriptions are hosted on the web site of the issuer – that would be the photo amateurs website in our example above.

In practice, a user usually does not collect bagdes on the local computer. Badges are to be shown to the public, so they should be on the web. Although a badge can be directly embedded in any web page they are usually displayed on specialized sites, that also perform the verification of the badges. A popular site to store and display badges is Mozilla Backpack. Issuers can optionally directly send bagdes to Backpack, so that the user never gets in touch with his/her badges.

The intriguing aspect of Open Badges is its simplicity and openness. They have been designed with “smaller” skills in mind in a more informal context. But why not using Open Badges in academic institutions too? Would it make sense to award badges for exam results, for term papers or even fully-fledged bachelor and master degrees? And could badges replace paper-based diplomas?

We are trying to answer these questions – and will keep you up to date on this channel

For more information about open badges go to http://openbadges.org.

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