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.

Keep the Key (Video)

The TERENA Networking Conference (TNC) is the largest European research networking conference. In his presentation Identity Management for Lifelong Learners Christoph Graf presented an overview of what SWITCH wants to achieve with an e-identity infrastructure.

At the beginning of the talk stands the promise of AAI: You as a student get one key, and with that you get access to all necessary resources and web services. However, due to the organization-centric nature of identity management in AAI there are two problems:

  1. the student gets more than one key if he/she is affiliated with more than one university, and
  2. the student has to give back the key when he/she leaves the university

The aim is a more user-centric infrastructure that allows a student to do everything with one key – a key that you can keep for a lifetime.

Watch and enjoy the video recording of Christoph’s presentation at https://tnc2013.terena.org/web/media/archive/4D (starting at minute 66).

Launch of SWITCHportfolio pilot phase

SWITCH is happy to announce the start of the SWITCHportfolio pilot service: https://portfolio.switch.ch

The service SWITCHportfolio which is based on the open source product Mahara is offered to members (students, teachers, staff) of Swiss higher education institutions.

During the pilot phase we need to get feedback about SWITCHportfolio. Is this the kind of service you (student, teacher etc) expect? Do you have further requirements? Now is the time to shape the service according to your needs! Don’t miss that opportunity.

Before members of a university can use the service, the institution has to subscribe to it. Read the About section or contact us (portfolio-support@switch.ch) to subscribe a new institution.

Please read the About and FAQ section
https://www.switch.ch/portfolio/
with more information about the pilot service, FAQs and participating institutions. This page will be continuously updated during the pilot phase.

thanks for your interest – and don’t hesitate to send us your feedback

Long-term Storage of Forgery-Proof Certificates in User Centric Environments

Although we live in a digital world, students who sucessfully leave the university still get a printed diploma or an academic certificate on shiny, high-quality paper. In order to use these certificates in a meaningful way, they have to be digitized by means of a scanner. The scanned diplomas must then be attached to job applications or enrollments for training courses – all processes which are nowadays entirely happening on the internet.

Hence the need for genuine digital diplomas, which of course should be more tamper-proof than their paper-based counterparts. In the pre-study “Long-term Storage of Forgery-Proof Certificates in Use Centric Environments” this topic will be adressed. In particular, approaches will be developed and discussed, that allow users to manage their digital diplomas in e-portfolio systems for a very long time – ideally during their entire life.

The kick-off meeting of the project took place this week, and it will be finished by December 2013. Participating institutions are the University of Geneva, the University of Lausanne and SWITCH.

Here’s an excerpt of the project application:

The e-portfolio tool allows learners to store various digital artifacts for presentations (CV, etc.) and/or reflections purposes (see UNIGE.10 – WP 9). The nature of these artifacts can take various forms: standard documents (word, pdf), multimedia (video, audio), wiki docs, etc. However, there are some artifacts that are difficult to implement in the current type of e-portfolios. Among them, (digital) certificates and diplomas delivered by higher educational institutions. These difficulties come both from the technical and organizational complexity stemming from the way digital certificates are implemented. In order to implement a workable solution at the Swiss level, a preliminary study on the subject is first needed.

Objective: Understand how forgery-proof academic certificates, signed and issued by universities, can be preserved by individuals in their pre- ferred personal environments. In particular, e-portfolio system should be able to manage and reference those certificates.

Work: Describe tools and organizational structures necessary to issue and manage signed digital certificates. Identify potential issues.

Using the e-Portfolio as Base for a Long-Term Digital Identity

e-portfolios have already gained interest as tools for learning during the studies or to conduct portfolio-based assessments. It seems that the third main application of e-portfolios as presentation tool is less developed so far.

This topic will now be adressed In the project Using the e-Portfolio as Base for a Long-Term Digital Identity funded in the context of the CRUS cooperation and innovation project Learning Infrastructure. The Unversities of Geneva and Lausanne together with SWITCH are going to identify

  • the most important sources of artifacts during the studies
  • the short-term and long-term usage of the artifacts
  • a concept for structuring and presentation of artifacts in the face of long-term usage

The kick-off meeting of the project was last week, and it will be finished by December 2013.

Here is an excerpt of the project description:

Whether reflexive, evaluative or showcasing the individual competencies, e- Portfolio systems store a considerable amount of data related to one’s identity. Research done in a previous the AAA-PLE.UNIGE.9 project made clear that tools integration, long-term preservation and availability of the e-Portfolio are critical factors for its adoption on the long-term. Depending on institutional implementation and scenario of use, e-Portfolio data can take multiple forms and formats. Currently, the typical e-Portfolio data structure does not provide suitable tools for the long-term management of personal digital information.

Objective : Provide the universities with a sound basis for the elabora- tion of their strategy for long-term preservation of e-Portfolio data. Work : Definition of a structural model to support the lifelong exploitation and management of e-Portfolio heterogeneous data and processes.

Visualising and presenting the e-Portfolio content in a lifelong perspective is a challenge in itself. It requires long-term dedication and systematics from the user. The AAA-PLE.UNIGE.9 project provided a first step in making possible the selective importation of reference skils lists into the e-Portfolio. In addition, support to further learning and showcasing one’s skills and knowledge to the professional world should also be facilitated on a lifelong basis.

Objective : Provide the individual learner with a data visualisation system to enhance quality of learning, as well as knowledge and skills awareness. Work : Specification of a data, artifact and processes aggregation system.