Open Badges launch: rocket fuel, reaction and resources

Mozilla’s Open Badges project reached a major milestone last week, with the launch of the MacArthur Foundation and HASTAC’s “Badges for Lifelong Learning” Competition. The competition includes collaborators like NASA, the Department of Education, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and a number of other organizations large and small — all testing the potential of badges to assess, recognize and reward learning.

Rounding up resources and early reaction

This post summarizes some of the key assets and early conversation from the launch, as we push toward the next major competition milestone: the deadline for Badge Content and Program proposals on October 14.

Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education, speaking at the September 15 launch of the "Badges for Lifelong Learning" competition

Video, transcripts and other useful resources

Video streaming by Ustream

Press coverage

  • TechShout: “Mozilla is simplifying the online process of issuing and sharing digital learning badges through the Open Badge Infrastructure project”
  • Education Week: “The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation is launching a $2 million open competition for ideas relating to badge development.”
  • The Inquirer: “Mozilla offers developers a badge system”
  • SD Times: “Mozilla’s plan to support life-long and professional learning”

Blog posts: Good high-level summaries

  • Cathy Davidson, HASTAC: “Why Badges? Why Not?
    • “Our current, standardized systems of credentialing  are very rigid and often restrictive.  Badges allow groups of people—organizations and institutionsto decide what counts for them and how they want to give credit.”
  • Mark Surman, “Mozilla Launches Open Badges Project
    • “If we’re successful, the benefits to learners will be tremendous. Open Badges will let you gather badges from any site on the internet, combining them into a story about what you know and what you’ve achieved. There is a real chance to create learning that works more like the web.”

Education and learning innovators

  • Rafi Santo:  “#DMLBadges and Shifting the Overton Window on Learning
    • “I’m not here though to discuss the initiative itself, or to weigh in with my opinion on badges and their potential to shift the educational landscape in positive ways, or not. What I do want to talk about is how I see the current conversation around badges being a positive thing for that landscape.”
  • Jason Baird Jackson, “Badges!
    • “One of the best things about badge programs is that they can be organized by a diversity of groups and agencies (unlike formal higher education, which is built around colleges and universities and their slow moving practices).”
  • Stevie Rocco: “Mozilla’s Open Badges Project
    • “To me, this is a really exciting concept for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the idea of learners being able to more adequately express their skills and abilities in ways that haven’t been possible before.”

Tech community

  • Ostatic: “Mozilla’s Open Badges Offer Ways for You to Showcase Your Skills
    • “It is essential that academic degrees are not the only markers for tech-focused achievements in today’s world…. It would be especially great to see Open Badges offer ways for people with specialized open source skills showcase what they know.”

Thoughtful criticism and questions

  • Bud Hunt, “Digging Out My Sash
    • “If the DML competition encourages thinking and writing and exploration and action around ideas like the idea that any accountability system, or accreditation system, is ultimately a subjective system, made by people, however we design it, then I say, let’s rock. But let’s do so carefully.”
  • Andrea Zellner, “Thoughts on Badges for Learning
    • “I don’t feel as if I understand the theoretical basis for the research questions around badges for learning.”
  • Alex Reid, “Welcome to Badge World” + “three learning assessment alternatives #dmlbadges
    • As I view it, the badges/assessment thing tries to address four separate issues that really need to be disconnected. In fact, one could argue that their interconnection has produced the serious problems education faces today.
      1. How do we inspire students and/or support their intrinsic motivations to learn?
      2. How do we measure/value our students’ achievements?
      3. How do we measure/value the success of pedagogies, programs, institutions?
      4. How do we capitalize on the values of #2 and #3 in the job market?

Some early analysis and response (more coming)

  • Carla Casilli, “Fear of a Badges Planet
    • Mozilla’s Open Badge effort is not a gamification of anything. Instead, the Open Badge system is an opportunity to reimagine personal communication of social representation. Think of it as an entirely new, authenticatable, verifiable, dependable means to an end: a brand new vision for the old resume/curriculum vitae.”
  • Audrey Waters, More Thoughts on Badges
    • “Mozilla is part of the force that keeps the Web open and free. So I like them. I do. And I like the idea behind having an open source system by which people can showcase what they’ve learned, what they’ve achieved.”

Blog posts: global


  • Thanks for this great round up, Matt. If there is this much conversation already, then I am so happy. I love the energy that inspires all of us to think about workable solutions, wherever they may be, to ongoing problems and the institutional status quo. The open conversation itself helps change happen.

  • Totally agree, Cathy. I think we need to stress more of what we really mean by “open” going forward, in terms of
    * open-source. free software that’s open and improvable by all.
    * open testing. we don’t know what will work yet, so we need to bring new voices and approaches into the mix and shake vigorously
    * working open. having exactly these kinds of public and transparent conversations with smart peers.
    * being open about what we don’t know. or about what doesn’t work.

  • What a great overview to which to point people, Matt! We’ve got the learner stories, all the stuff on the Mozilla wiki and some great blog postts and articles.

    Are we missing a coherent ‘elevator pitch’ here that catches (some of) the nuance between credentialising achievement and ‘assessment’?

  • @ Doug:

    I think you’re probably right — want to write one in your next post?

    Here’s the bit of language that I think is the best we’ve got so far —
    but it could use improvement:

    What is Mozilla’s Open Badges project?

    Learning today happens everywhere, not just in the classroom. But it’s often difficult to get recognition for skills and achievements that happen outside of school. Mozilla’s Open Badges project is working to solve that problem, making it easy for anyone to issue, earn and display badges across the web. All through a shared infrastructure that’s free and open to all. The result: learners everywhere will display 21st century skills, unlock career and educational opportunities, and level up in their life and work.

  • Maybe it also needs a line answering the “who”, as in: who can issue badges / who is this for?

    “Badges can be awarded by online courses, peers, community groups, or anyone looking to provide new motivation, pathways or “credit” for skills and achievements.”

  • Bring on the badges |

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