Taxonomy for Connected Open Badges

Open Badges is very nearly four years old. Four years of building out an incredible community of issuing organizations with quality programming behind their badges. And even with this expansive and connected community, we aren’t quite as connected as we could be — at least our badges aren’t.

Badges are siloed on organizations’ sites, on issuing platforms, and in the Mozilla backpack. There’s no way to logically connect badges outside of each individual system to provide the opportunity that was intended by Open Badges — a connected ecosystem recognizing skills and achievement. The Open Badges specification has a property for tags, a free-form text array field. This was a great start but there isn’t a clear way to know who is using what tags or what each tag means. The Open Badges Directory aims to address this by providing a listing of the tags but only for the badges that have been indexed in the directory.

Open Badges is long over-due for a taxonomy system.

Last week in the community call (notes and audio here), we kicked off a taxonomy discussion. We primarily focused on the pros/cons of taxonomy, how community members would or already are using a taxonomy, and existing taxonomies that we can leverage.

Some great points were made about how a taxonomy with a common framework and standardized definitions could make it possible to collect more useful data, build learning profiles, suggest learning pathways and provide recommendations cross-ecosystem. Also some concerns were voiced. How will we keep this list from getting huge and unmanageable? How will we maintain it? Do we need to define a domain for every category? How will issuers know what terms to use?

All good points and concerns.

We can leverage the 1.1 spec which introduced JSON-LD and extensions to build out one or (more probable) many taxonomies. There can be many extensions and they’re optional. They’re separate from the main Open Badges specification so each one can be updated and versioned without waiting on a new version of the main specification. Also, extensions can link to definitions for each term.

That doesn’t answer all of the questions. It merely attempts to address some of the implementation concerns. One of the reasons that a shared community taxonomy hasn’t yet been developed is because Open Badges is a very broad ecosystem and addressing each aspect of the ecosystem in a way that makes sense is challenging.

There are already existing taxonomies that can be leveraged like:

and some parallel discussions and thinking in the digital credentials and ed tech community like:

and many more than this that we hope to learn about through our work in the Open Badges Taxonomy Working Group.

Join us Thursday 9/24 at 11 am ET to continue the conversation and help build a taxonomy that connects Open Badges.

Written by

Principal at OpenWorks Group, Tech Strategist, Writer, Researcher, Social Justice Technology Advocate, PhD Student in Media Psychology.

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