Backpack to the future

In 2011, Mozilla’s bold Open Badges project changed the digital credentialing landscape as we knew it. With support from the MacArthur Foundation the project brought partners together worldwide, empowered by the new opportunity to recognise learning wherever it happens, and created a disruptive global movement and the potential for a new skills currency.

Backpack brainstorming session MoziFest

Five years on, thousands of organisations are now issuing badges, from non-profits to major employers and universities. These organisations have embraced the Open Badge standard and philosophy, and have developed badge programs to support their learners to achieve their aspirations.

At Digitalme, we are proud to have been there from the start and witness firsthand the transformative potential of Open Badges. Whether it’s providing people who have fallen out of education with a way to articulate their skills and passions, or providing employers with an agile tool to recruit, retain and progress talent, it is clear that Open Badges are delivering real value and helping respond to the global education challenges we are all facing.

However, in order for this value proposition to be fully realised, Open Badges needs to be underpinned by an active community of committed players who support the evolution of the technical infrastructure, compelling educational content and advocacy work (Mark Surman, Jan 2016).

Over the past four years, Digitalme has worked closely with Mozilla to advocate for the Open Badge standard, to implement badge projects in the UK and Europe, and, more recently, provide code contributions to improve the Backpack. As a non-profit, we are proud to have had support from Mark Surman as a member of the Digitalme board of Directors, to help steer and influence this work. We also value the support from Nominet Trust for the Badge the UK project and, most recently, Erasmus+, enabling us to co-found The Open Badge Network, which is amplifying the work of educators and employers across Europe, providing guidance & information for new badge issuers and supporting the development of the Open Badge technical infrastructure.

Badge The World — Highlighting Open Badges activity worldwide — a collaboration between Mozilla & DigitalMe

We are delighted that Mozilla is now deepening its relationship with Digitalme to support our on-going role within the Open Badge community. DigitalMe will now take on direct leadership of Open Badges on behalf of Mozilla, working with the community to:

  • shape the next version of the open badges technical infrastructure
  • develop strategic partnerships to further support this work
  • enable Mozilla to realize its own ambition to credential its learning programs.
Mozilla community at MozFest

The technical infrastructure is a cornerstone of this work, ensuring that this community has the right technical infrastructure to support its growth, while at the same time empowering users to share their achievements and maintain ownership of their learning data. Many platforms have integrated open badges into their offerings, providing badge discovery, evidencing and display functionality. However, the Open Badges technical infrastructure needs continued development to keep pace with these services, as the needs of badge earners, issuers and service providers evolve.

Open Badge workshop at MozFest

To improve user experience across web and mobile devices our first action will be to replace Persona with Passport.js. This will also provide us with the flexibility to enable user to login with other identity providers in the future such as Twitter, Linkedin and Facebook. We will also be improving stability and updating the code base.

We will be reviewing additional requirements for the backpack and technical infrastructure gathered from user research at MozFest supported by The Nominet Trust in the UK, to create a roadmap for further development, working closely with colleagues from Badge Alliance.

Backpack working group MozFest

We have already been approached by members of the badging community who want to assist in coding which is very encouraging. We will be releasing a plan for code contribution and partnership shortly and plan to share regular updates about this work here and via the existing Open Badge community channels. If you would like to get in touch please contact backpack@digitalme.co.uk or follow the progress @digitalme_