The Open Badges Community is the Infrastructure

Last week, Mark Surman, the Executive Director of the Mozilla Foundation, posted “Mozilla’s Continued Commitment to Open Badges” and explained the smaller role Mozilla will play in Open Badges. Going forward it’s “Open Badges”, not “Mozilla Open Badges”. Now that the expectations and deliverables of Mozilla are clearer, the future of Open Badges is directly in the hands of the community where it belongs.

Open Badges has been a community-driven effort since the beginning. It’s important to recognize that the Open Badges Team at Mozilla made this a main objective. In fact, with very few exceptions, there has been a community call at 5pm (UTC) every Wednesday since February 8, 2012.

The Badges Team created an ecosystem that didn’t exist before by bringing together disparate groups like after school programs, k-12, civic engagement, informal learning, employee training, workforce training, higher ed, online learning, designers, educators, technologists and creating a space where we can all collaborate to develop and earn digital credentials that recognize learning that happens anywhere at anytime. They fostered a global community that continually aims to put the ownership and recognition of learning in the hands of the learners and challenges the archaic institutions of education, training, and hiring. This community consistently embraces lifelong learning as a core philosophy with an emphasis on competency-based and experiential learning.

Some may argue that the Open Badges Specification is the infrastructure. In many respects this is of course true. The specification is core to what makes Badges more than just pretty pictures or gold stars.

Just as critical (maybe more so) as the metadata that define Badges are the people who underpin it. The infrastructure of Open Badges is us, the community. It’s been us all along.

The 1.1 version of the specification was driven by community members and it’s the community who is designing badge systems, building apps, issuing and earning badges, advising and supporting each other on implementation. Also, groups around the world like OBANZ (Australia & New Zealand), Badge Europe, Canadian Digital Badges Initiative, Open Badges UBC, and surely many more that I’m not aware of (add your group in the comments) have started their own work on Badges without direct support from Mozilla or Badge Alliance.

Mozilla and MacArthur seeded Badges but the community runs it. This announcement from Mark Surman was a long-time coming and now that it’s been said, as a community we can take the next steps to move Open Badges forward.

So what’s next?

  • Nate Otto continues to guide the community through the Badge Alliance (currently funded by Collective Shift). He and his new team are re-developing a new Open Badges website.
  • The Open Badges Google Group and Dev Group continue to provide a space for announcements, questions and discussions. There’s also the Badge Alliance Slack and a calendar of events.
  • A Connecting Credentials Framework is being developed with support from Lumina Foundation to explore how certificates and digital credentials like Open Badges can share a common language.
  • A Verifiable Claims Task Force is exploring the creation of a W3C Working Group to standardize the technology around claims such as identity and credentials like Open Badges.
  • There’s work to be done to expand the specification through the use of extensions and investigation into what a 2.0 version may look like. We’re discussing vocabularies, taxonomies, the use of evidence, and how to engage consumers. We’re researching Badges on the blockchain. We’re building apps. We’re forging ahead.
  • What do you think should be next?

Keep Badges weird, Community.

Written by

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

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