Digital badges are a significant component of the new wave of competency-based learning in today’s education landscape, and part of the evolution of showing evidence of skills mastery and achievement both in and outside the classroom has been the development of open badges. In 2011, the MacArthur Foundation funded a project taken on by Mozilla that intended to create a new way of recognizing learning, regardless of where it took place. As a result of this innovation, open badges were created to offer a method for individuals to quickly and efficiently communicate learned skills and achievements through visual symbols. Open badges give educators, employers, students, and employees an opportunity to create and earn a representation of verifiable data surrounding an individual’s skill set that is backed by evidence, and easily share that data across the web.
From their humble start, open badges have gained widespread traction through higher education as they reimagine how learning is recognized, well beyond conventional grades or credentials. Here’s how open badges work.
Breaking Down Open Badges
While digital badges encompass a wide range of visual evidence of completed learning initiatives, open badges take things a step further. As verifiable, portable digital badges, open badges are embedded with metadata regarding the skills or accomplishments of the individuals who earn them, specific to each badge. Like other digital badges, each open badge is connected to an image and detailed information about the criteria needed to receive it, and all open badges can be easily shared between various online platforms such as ePortfolios.
Open badges can be created to represent a slew of achievements or skills, such as mastery of a computer programming language, collaboration with a team of peers, or participation in an event or course. Similarly, open badges can be an official certification for a student or an employee, display involvement in an extracurricular activity, and, most importantly, highlight talents or accomplishments not often recognized in a traditional classroom setting. Having the ability to share these visual displays of evidence-based skills is becoming paramount to the new landscape of teaching and learning, as they help close the gap between graduating students and hiring managers quickly and efficiently.
Anyone can create an open badge and make it available to others to earn, so long as there is specific information spelling out what needs to take place to earn it. Educators, community organizations, and employers may develop open badges to help their students, volunteers, or employees share a complete story of evidence-based achievements over time. Additionally, open badges offer a new, innovative method for motivating individuals to work toward accomplishments on an ongoing basis, shaping behaviors in the classroom and other settings, and fully connecting learning environments across the board.
Photo Courtesy of: Nan Palmero