Open Badges


Open Badges (http://openbadges.org/) are one of those things which I had heard of many times. A number of these times were alongside Tin Can API – which may have been the reason I’ve never really bothered looking into them too much. But this week, the latest issue of e-learning age arrived on my desk, and seeing as it had a cover story about them, I was compelled to find out more.

The more I looked into it, the simple the concept seemed. You achieve your task (whether that be completing an e-learning package or undertaking some other actions, such as commenting on forums a number of times etc.) and you earn a badge. It’s quite like being a child – at the scouts/guides and having to do something (to prove “competence” in it) then getting a badge for your uniform. The only difference here is that rather than having a physical badge which you can sew onto your uniform, you get an electronic badge which can be stored in your backpack (https://backpack.openbadges.org/).

Now a number of people will read this and wonder “what’s the point?” – whereas other people will think “that’s brilliant, what can I do with it?”. As I pondered both of these points, I continued to read bits of information other people had written (from tweets, to comments, to blog posts). Now unfortunately I can’t remember exactly where I found this one opinion, so I can’t credit it, but I think it sums the situation up perfectly:

Imagine a time where, when you apply for a job, you’re not asked for your CV, your not asked for your work experience, or the number of years you’ve worked for a company, instead the recruiter only wants to see your badges. Your badges could tell your recruiter your qualifications, but more importantly they would show how you utilised those skills, and prove that you can actually use the skills which you say you possess.

Each badge can hold metadata about how it was earned – but more importantly – it shows that you utilise the skills you have. Now that may be that you are a web editing expert, or that you regularly contribute to a wordpress blog – but in the wider sense, it could show the skills that you have. Badges can be issued for offline activities, so for those practical skills which you have to demonstrate as part of your job – they can all be shown too.

In the NHS we have a national competency framework. The concept behind it is that staff can undertake training in an organisation and be awarded a ‘competency’ for doing it. In this system, the competency is attached the the staff members Electronic Staff Record – then if they move to an organisation – (as long as the two organisations do the process properly) – the competency is taken with them to their new organisation – thus saving the employee from having to repeat training again in their new organisation. The issue here is that it requires a process to be completed by both organisations – and then will still only work if the organisations were using the national competencies. With badges – a user holds their own badge in their own backpack. They can supply links to their recruiter, or alternatively can embed it in a blog or a moodle instance. The opportunities are literally endless.

Will it take off? Who knows…..but I like the concept – and I’m already looking at how we could utilise it!

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