JFF & VC-EDU Plugfest #1: Leaping Towards Interoperable Verifiable Learning & Employment Records

Kerri Lemoie, PhD
4 min readJun 27, 2022
JFF VC-EDU Plugfest — June 2022 Badge Image
Plugfest #1 Badge Image

Digital versions of learning and employment records (LER) describe a person’s learning and employment experiences and are issued or endorsed by entities making claims about these experiences. The advantage over paper documents is that LERs can contain massive amounts of useful data that describe the experiences, skills and competencies applied, and may even include assets like photos, videos, or content that demonstrate the achievement. The challenge is that this data needs to be understandable and it should be in the hands of those that the data is about so that they have the power to decide who or what has access to it much like they do with their watermarked and notarized paper documents.

LERs that are issued, delivered, and verified according to well-established and supported standards with syntactic, structural, and semantic similarities, can be understood and usable across many systems. This can provide individuals with direct, convenient, understandable, and affordable access to their records (Read more about interoperable verifiable LERs).

To encourage the development of a large and active marketplace of interoperable LER-friendly technology, tools, and infrastructure, Jobs for the Future (JFF), in collaboration with the W3C Verifiable Credentials Education Task Force (VC-EDU) is hosting a series of interoperability plugfests. These plugfests are inspired by the DHS Plugfests and provide funding to vendors that can demonstrate the use of standards such as W3C Verifiable Credentials (VC), and Decentralized Identifiers (DIDs). The first plugfest set the stage for the others by introducing VC wallet vendors to an education data standard called Open Badges and introducing Open Badges platforms to VCs.

Over the past year, the community at VC-EDU and 1EdTech Open Badges members have been working towards an upgrade of Open Badges to 3.0 which drops its web server hosted verification in favor of the VC cryptographic verification method. Open Badges are digital credentials that can represent any type of achievement from micro-credentials to diplomas. Until this upgrade, they have been used more as human verifiable credentials shared on websites and social media than machine verifiable ones. This upgrade increases the potential for machines to interact with these credentials giving individuals more opportunities to decide to use them in educational and employment situations that use computers to read and analyze the data.

Plugfest #1 requirements were kept simple in order to welcome as many vendors as possible. It required that vendors be able to display an Open Badge 3.0 including a badge image, issuer name, achievement name, achievement description, and achievement criteria. Optionally they could also display an issuer logo and other Open Badges 3.0 terms. For a stretch goal, vendors could demonstrate that they verified the badge prior to accepting and displaying it in their wallet app. Lastly, the participants were required to make a 3–5 minute video demonstrating what they’d done.

There were 20 participants from around the world at various stages in their implementation (list of participants). They were provided with a web page listing resources and examples of Open Badges. Because work on Open Badges 3.0 was still in progress, a sample context file was hosted at VC-EDU that would remain unchanged during the plugfest. Open discussion on the VC-EDU email list was encouraged so that they could be archived and shared with the community. These were the first Open Badges 3.0 to be displayed and there were several questions about how to best display them in a VC wallet. As hoped, the cohort worked together to answer these questions in an open conversation that the community could access and learn from.

The timeline to implement was a quick three weeks. Demo day was held on June 6, 2022, the day before the JFF Horizons conference in New Orleans. The videos were watched in batches by the participants and observers who were in person and on Zoom. Between batches, there were questions and discussions.

A complete list of the videos is available on the list of participants. Here are a few examples:

Plugfest #1 succeeded in familiarizing VC wallet vendors with an education data standard and education/workforce platforms with VCs. The participants were the first to issue & display Open Badges 3.0 or for that matter any education standard as a VC. It revealed new questions about displaying credentials and what onboarding resources will be useful.

Each of the participating vendors that met the requirements will be awarded the Plugfest #1 badge (image pictured above). With this badge, they qualify to participate in Plugfest #2 which will focus on issuing and displaying LER VCs. Plugfest #2 will take place in November 2022 with plans to meet in person the day before the Internet Identity Workshop on November 14 in Mountainview, CA. If vendors are interested in Plugfest #2 and didn’t participate in Plugfest #1, there is still an opportunity to do so by fulfilling the same requirements listed above including the video and earning a Plugfest #1 badge.

To learn more, join VC-EDU which meets online most Mondays at 8 am PT/11 am ET/5 pm CET. Meeting connection info and archives can be found here. Subscribe to the VC-EDU mailing list by sending an email to public-vc-edu-request@w3.org with the subject “subscribe” (no email message needed).