Open Badges Special #WRLT with Doug Belshaw


Monday 24th June afternoon in Sheffield at Sheffield Hallam University we were in for a treat – a White Rose Learning Technologists Forum Special on Open Badges with Doug Belshaw!

To be honest Open Badges were something that had been on the periphery of my awareness for some time but I had not really investigated further… below is a summary of both the workshop, an overview of Open Badges and thoughts around their use from my experience.

Open Badges – An Overview

The first section of the workshop was an overview of the what/why/how of Open Badges.


Open Badges are a development by the Mozilla Foundation which aim to enable accreditation to all kinds of skills and activities that are not normally recognised in an ‘official’ (i.e. formal qualification) way… and seems particularly suited to the concepts of informal and life-long learning.  They are based on an open-source framework that is available for anyone to implement and build upon.

Their stated aim is:

Get recognition for learning that happens anywhere. Then share it on the places that matter. –

Read more about how Mozilla define open badges.

Open Badges are essentially an image which is issued with embedded meta-data which contains information on the issuer, the person (e-mail address) it is issued to and a link to evidence that supports the issuing.

This badge can be shared on many social network platforms.

Purdue University Director of Informatics Kyle Bowen’s great imagery of the guts of an Open Badge: its metadata! Source:
Purdue University Director of Informatics Kyle Bowen’s great imagery of the guts of an Open Badge: its metadata!


The flexibility of the open badges concept means you can set up a series of badges for any type of skill or competency that you wish.  You can create your own award for specific skills.  There are many organisation issuing custom badges for their own purposes:

Doug outlined the idea of how badges can build up to a portfolio and are different from traditional accreditations:

In an interview situation you have a CV, certificates, and you collate this all together for one event – an interview.  But, these things represent a set of skills or infer skills through association (i.e. a Degree certificate implied critical thinking, essay-writing).  They are all claims of competence/skill.  Badges can bring it all together as both claims and evidence rolled into one – as they link to evidence supporting this issuing of the badge.

Badges can be used for:

  • Increasing motivation and engaement
  • Splitting skills acquisition down into stages
  • Can enable a more granular level of accreditation that a certificate
  • Continuing Professional Development
  • Badges for personal  skills
  • Representing hard and soft skills
  • Peer assessment
  • Stackable life long learning
  • Life is not a straight line…. Badges can capture this.


Mozilla provides the infrastructure and system to implement badges  – “the plumbing” as Doug puts it.

You can issue/create a badge 3 ways:

  1. Create your own solution
  2. As a plugin for existing system
  3. Use a third party issuing platform.

Many more technical details are on the Mozilla Wiki / documentation.

Badges are stored in a user’s badge backpack – which can then be used as a base to share out to other services, such as FaceBook, a website, etc.

When considering designing a badge a ‘canvas’ has been created by

This infographic explains a thousands words:


The Value of Badges

As with any accreditation there is the issue of value.  Gravtias/value (or lack of) could apply to  badges as the reputation of a badge is in some ways inferred through the reputation of the awarding body.  However the evidence linked to the badge in some ways still provides a base-level of evidence that the badge is deserved.

Upcoming Badge Features

  1. Federation/quality assurance of badges
  2. Endorsmenet – Third-arty signing of badges.

Generating Ideas for using Badges…

The second half of the workshop involved considering where and how badges could be used and how to implement / design criteria for a specific badge.

To generate ideas Doug used the “Big Wind Blows” concept which I’d not come across before  – but now understand it’s a useful and often-used tool to generate ideas and encourage participation from everyone:

The basic concept was a circle of chairs, with one less than actual number of people.  The initial person in the middle stated “A big wind blows for open badges for…. ” and their idea.  If people agreed with the idea they got up and had to swap seats with someone else – but as there was always one less chair than people a new person would be left standing and had to share their idea.  This also provided a way to gauge popularity of an idea.  A facilitator made a note the ideas and how popular they were.

Our group this generated these ideas which were then refined and connected into areas:

Ideas Generated from A Big Wind Blows for....
Ideas Generated from A Big Wind Blows for….Open Badges!

An idea was picked at the final element of the workshop was how to define / create criteria for awarding a badge.  Overall this was a complex process and required lots of wrangling with levels, purpose of badge, much like trying to align learning outcomes and aims with wider frameworks in accredited programmes.

This was guided by the following thoughts from Doug:

5. Badge design 101
  • Who is your badge for?
  • What skills and knowledge does the badge represent?
  • What behaviours does the badg qe encourage?
  • What do you need to do to earn the badge? (criteria)
  • What artefact(s) will show that the criteria has been met? (evidence)
  • Why bother earning the badge? What opportunities does it unlock? (value proposition)
6. Badge system design
  • What other badges exist in your ecosystem?
  • Are there different levels of badges? Meta-level badges?
  • What resources are required for your badge (system) to work?
  • Who supports and recognises your badge(s)? (endorsers)

– from

A useful resource when thinking about badge design is this canvas from

Summary and Further thoughts….

Overall the WRLT event and workshop was a great introduction I hope to return to open badges and how they could be used and are being used in education… but this is a good enough starting point for now.

Many thanks to WRLT for snagging Doug Belshaw for this special event – and I hope this write-up and interpretation of Open Badges, their purpose and my experience with them is useful.

As a starting point for future activities here are some ruminations:

  1. Linking skills to wider/existing aspects… badges could link to bits of UK PSY via open standards.
  2. Badges to enable hiring for jobs based on actual skills… useful for recruiters but also for those wanting to find out about skills needed for a job.
  3. Implementing badges for CMALT / ALT Learning Technologist accreditation.
  4. Use of badges for cpd… For staff

Useful links

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