Badge Alliance Standard Working Group Launches 2016 Cycle

March 1st marked the 2016 cycle’s first call of the Badge Alliance Standard Working Group as it begins the work on the future of Open Badges. The working group is the official standards body for the Open Badges Specification, and it will organize the work leading up to the planned July release of the 2.0 version of the specification.

What is the Open Badges Specification?

The Open Badges Specification provides a common language for verifiable learning achievements. Open Badges are a type of digital badge that enable these records of achievement to be verifiable and portable to wherever recipients want to store them. The primary attribute of the specification is the linked data vocabulary for core terms to describe these achievements, and their issuers and recipients. This vocabulary is supported by defined protocols for how to verify the authenticity of each badge and a specification for “baking” the data into PNG or SVG image files as portable representations of the achievement.

What will the Working Group accomplish in this cycle?

The Standard WG spent June-December 2015 collecting information about needs in the Open Badges community, among issuers, earners, and developers. Out of this feedback, Badge Alliance staff constructed a proposal 2016 roadmap for the standard and supporting ecosystem.

Quarter 1:

  • Use Cases: Standard WG members are compiling a document describing the use cases for the core specification and complementary baking spec and verification protocol.
  • License Extension: As a candidate for inclusion in the 2.0 vocabulary, Q1 will see the Standard WG pilot an extension to include information about open content licenses like Creative Commons in badges to indicate the reusability of their content.

Quarter 2:

  • Recipient Profile: One of the most significant changes proposed for 2.0 is a modification to the recipient class, which describes the individual or entity who has earned the badge. The current IdentityObject makes far more semantic sense as a property of a recipient. Its properties, such as “salt” and “hashed” describe a recipient’s identifier, not the recipient itself. This is an exciting opportunity to expand the range of entities that can be recipients of badges to Organizations, Issuers, under-13-year-old individuals, and even other badges.
  • Linked Data Signatures Analysis: In cooperation with the Credentials Community Group and the Verifiable Claims Task Force at the W3C, the Standard WG will analyze the proposed Linked Data Signatures spec as a possible signed verification option to adopt with or after the release of 2.0. Linked Data signatures allows JSON-LD data to be cryptographically signed without altering the data format (JSON-LD input, JSON-LD output), allows multiple counter-signatures, and allows nested signatures at different levels of a complex JSON-LD document. This enables a range of future capabilities such as embeddable signed endorsements, sharable collections of independently signed badges and verification that a badge recipient is the party sharing a badge or set of badges with you.
  • 2.0 Release Proposal: The Standard WG will construct the final proposal for consideration for the 2.0 version of the Open Badges Specification.

Quarter 3

  • 2.0 Final Specification: Published final release of the next Open Badges specification version
  • Vocabulary for Badge Evidence and Criteria: The Standard WG will consider proposals to include vocabulary items for these badge components that are currently only possible to treat as links from a badge to elsewhere. This would allow badges to become more effective carriers for portfolio data and enable badge display platforms to render more information about the achievements leading up to a badge, a capability which is currently out of reach with evidence and criteria restricted to a simple URL.

Quarter 4

  • Badge Services Protocol Prototype: Partners in the Badge Alliance will present a proposal for a complementary protocol that connects federated backpack providers with badge-enabled services.
  • Endorsement 2.0: Standard WG and Endorsement WG members will present an updated form of endorsement that takes advantage of new 2.0 capabilities, including the proposed updated recipient class.

Throughout the year, the Standard WG will be backed up by other Badge Alliance activities, including a strong focus on consolidating and updating documentation to match current ecosystem capabilities and a push to ensure core ecosystem services run by Badge Alliance members are compatible with the latest developments in the standard (and that these service providers can take advantage of the Standard Working Group process to ensure their efforts are productive and serve users well to enable the use cases supported by the specification. The badges community will gather periodically at events around the world to advance our understanding and cooperation, including at the Aurora Badges Summit (June 24th, Colorado) and the ePIC conference (October 24–27, Bologna Italy).

Join the effort to shape the next generation of Open Badges by participating in the of the Standard Working Group. The next meeting is Tuesday, 15 March at 11am PDT / 2pm EDT / 6pm UTC (Note, US will be on Daylight Saving Time but Europe will not move to DST until 27 March). To join in the work right away, the 2.0 Use Cases document is now open for collaboration here. Contribution instructions are available in the document. Developing and finalizing an update to the specification requires the contribution of a range of stakeholders, and we’re glad to have built the community in the Badge Alliance that can sustain this effort.