An Evolution of the Open Badges Project

Last week, Mark Surman, Executive Director of the Mozilla Foundation, released a post on Mozilla’s Continued Commitment to Open Badges, outlining some of the history of the work and how Mozilla will continue to support Open Badges in the coming years. The Open Badges project and the state of the community today owe a great deal to the discovery process, engineering, and community-building that was originally led out of the Mozilla Foundation.

During the first several years of development, Mozilla took on a very central role by developing and hosting the core Backpack service that was involved in hundreds of thousands of badge earners’ first experience with Open Badges. By 2014, the project had grown fruitfully outside Mozilla, seeing a large and diversifying community of implementers investing in the vision. Mozilla incubated the Badge Alliance, a network of organizations and individuals working together to build and support an open badging ecosystem, as it launched and began the first cycle of working group activities.

In recognition that the community was ready to take the next step, Mozilla began the process of setting the Badge Alliance on its feet as the official home of the Open Badges community. This effort started with the support of Mozilla’s internal infrastructure. In 2015, the Badge Alliance spun out of Mozilla to become part of Collective Shift, which is providing the financial backing to ensure the continuity of the Open Badges standardization effort, within which Mozilla will act as a committed peer contributor:

“In 2016, Mozilla will continue to support the Open Badges ecosystem we helped seed. We’re taking on a smaller role, and working alongside several players, but remain committed to the initiative. We’ll also apply what we learned: Open Badges can evolve best as a collaborative, community-driven effort. Its future is brightest when the community comes together to carry it forward.”

The companies, individuals, and institutions that make up the growing ecosystem are each investing in turning their own part of the Open Badges vision into a reality, in the form of a distributed network of interoperable services. The financial support from Collective Shift is intended to give the Open Badges movement a stable center from which we can move toward a long-term sustainability plan to be implemented as the ecosystem matures. Collective Shift will support the Badge Alliance’s mission by underwriting the Badge Alliance’s financial and back-office needs for 2016, and close communication between the BA and Collective Shift’s LRNG product team will provide insight into use cases for youth and learning networks enacting the Connected Learning principles.

The Badge Alliance is guided by an ongoing advisory board consisting of Collective Shift, Mozilla Foundation, and IMS Global Learning Consortium, each of which whom are making a commitment to directly push forward the BA’s work and the global badges community. Mozilla is driving forward key ecosystem interoperability issues and working with the BA to update its core open source software. IMS is providing resources to advance understanding and adoption of Open Badges in the education sector. These three organizations set an example of Badge Alliance membership, as we improve the BA’s capacity to act as a venue where productive collaboration to advance Open Badges can transform the recognition of learning across industries.

The model of collaboration and shared investment in the future of Open Badges set by these companies extends to other Badge Alliance members, who each contribute to the ecosystem both by implementing the open specification and by investing time and resources into developing interoperable solutions through the BA’s communications channels, working groups, and task forces. It is much harder to build a distributed ecosystem than a centralized one, but it is in this distributed ecosystem, with foundational players like Mozilla playing a part, that we will build a sustainable and powerful ecosystem of learning recognition that reflects the values of the Web.

Nate Otto, Director, Badge Alliance

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