Open Digital Badging

The Civics Credentialing System leverages Open Badges technology. The Open Badges standard defines a type of digital badge that is verifiable, portable, and packed with information about skills and achievements.

What is a digital badge?

Digital badges are visual digital documents that recognize competencies, skills, learning, commitments, actions, and achievements. Digital badges are displayed as a digital symbol that can be posted on a website. Most importantly, they are linked back to the issuer of the badge, the assessment criteria, and the evidence of achievement, which substantiates the badges’ credibility. Users will also easily be able to display their badges using different social media channels such as LinkedIn, Facebook and personal blogs.

What is an open digital badge?

Open Badges are digital badges that follow open standards, which allow for greater acceptance and interoperability. Open Badges have these characteristics:

  • Accessible: The open badge standard is open-source and free to the worldwide community.
  • Evidence-based: The information about who, why, and for what the badge was issued is stored as metadata with the badge.
  • Stackable: Digital badges from different organizations can be built on top of each other, building a rich ecosystem.
  • Transferable: Open Badges are transferable. Badges earned in one environment can be shared in another.
  • User Controlled: Open Badges put the user in control. Badges are private until they are published by the user.

In 2011, Mozilla started a new project called “Open Badges”, which aimed at making use of digital badges at a global and decentralized scale. The open nature of the specification makes it easy for anyone to issue, earn, and display badges across the web—through an infrastructure that uses shared and open technical standards. Moreover, it allows for various parties to develop software that will easily interact with such badges over the web, be it for issuing, earning them, displaying them or making endorsements.

Since its inception, the open-badge initiative has grown through a large community of contributors. The Open Badges website offers a long list of those using badges: organizations which are issuing badges and those designing badges. The list includes several educational institutions, such as University of Southern California, University of Illinois and UC Davis; as well as other organizations such as IBM, Disney-Pixar, Gogo Labs, and Microsoft.

Given the importance of the open standards that characterize Open Badges, throughout the rest of this document, open digital badges are referred often as simply digital badges or badges interchangeably.

What are the advantages of using open badges?

Open Badges establish a common framework for recognizing skills and competencies between employers, professionals and educational providers.When accepted and used by all parties, open badges become a major channel of communication, establishing common standards and common language that define and describe professional achievement. For organizations, open badges help identify quality professionals through recognized and substantiated skills and competencies. For individuals, open badges are a way to display such skills and competencies, making them more visible in the job market.

How do these digital badges work?

There are five major players in a badging ecosystem: earners, issuers, displayers, consumers, and directories. The basic workflow describing how these players interact in the process of finding, earning, issuing, claiming, sharing and recognizing a digital badge, can be described by the diagram to the left.

  • Earners claim digital badges for having achieved or completed the requirements stated as part of the digital badge criteria. Earners collect digital badges into the Civics Credentialing Passport where they can be shown in their profile and shared with Displayers.
  • Issuers award the badges for skill building, according to assessment standards for training,  In Civics Credentialing, nonpartisan nonprofits are the primary digital badge issuers.
  • Displayers are the web-based platforms that display the digital badges on behalf of the earners. Earners can share their badges through various platforms, such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and personal ePortfolios. The sharing of such badges creates the fertile environment for demonstrating skills and knowledge through clear evidence and recognized corroboration, which potentially opens doors for partnerships, new jobs, new educational opportunities, etc.
  • Consumers are individuals and organizations who accept the badge as proof or evidence of the achievement of that competency and /or skill.
  • Directories display the badges that earners can receive.  These can be lists general lists such as the Credentials page on this website.  They can also be structure that show badges related to a particular area or competency.

Numerous companies, such as, Credly, Badge Alliance, Accredible, and Open Badge Factory, provide Digital Badge Platforms to support the technical needs for offering digital badges. The beauty of the Open Badge standard is that badges issued on any of these platforms can be consumed by the other platforms.