What are Open Badges?

I wanted to add some thoughts on open badges and lifelong learning so felt it better to split the original post ‘What Are Open Badges and How Could They Affect How We Learn?’ up. I’ve now written another post called ‘Open Badges, MOOCs and Recognising Lifelong Learning’ to follow this one….

Following my blog post yesterday about why I would have liked to have used badges in my own learning and employment experiences, I thought I would write a post giving a brief overview of badges, focusing on the Mozilla Badge System Framework.

A White Paper (working document) by the Mozilla Foundation and MacArthur Foundation sets out why the concept of badges might be important to how we learn and explains the Badge System Framework. This framework has informed the Digital Media and Learning “Badges for Lifelong Learning” competition run in 2011-12 by the MacArthur Foundation and HASTAC which was created to support the identification  and trialling of potential uses for badges.

The Mozilla Badge System Framework

The Badge System Framework consists of three components:

The badges 

A badge, as outlined in the framework, would be an image file with metadata which contains information about what a learner has attained, such as the skills, qualities, status, level of achievement and the issuer of the badge. The badge might contain a link back to evidence supporting its attainment, which could be verified by a third party, so a badge could have an independent ‘stamp of approval’ from a recognized authority.  The badge and corresponding information would be portable and could be posted to a range of sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, blogs, personal pages on recruitment sites etc.


Assessments would be used to demonstrate how someone earned a badge. These assessments will differ depending on the type or level of skills being demonstrated. A single issuer might use assessments to award a badge in the same way as qualifications are awarded currently but there is also the opportunity for multiple assessors, eg a number of votes from ‘gurus’ from a relevant community, to determine if someone should gain a badge. Badges could also be self- awarded for users to demonstrate that they have completed an open course for example.


The ability to create badges, issue them, verify that they are authentic and display them in various settings requires an infrastructure which the Mozilla Open Badges Infrastructure aims to provide. Users will be able to create a ‘badge backpack’, essentially a portable portfolio of badges, hosted by Mozilla although the badges will be fully portable, so the learner can take them with them, with all the metadata associated with the badge in place and host them where they wish.

Diagram of the Mozilla Badge System Framework

Pilot of the Mozilla Badge System Framework

The School of Webcraft has developed a pilot in line with the Mozilla Badge System Framework, through the P2PU (Peer 2 Peer University) for learning about web development. A number of open web development challenges have been set and corresponding assessments created to allow learners to take the challenges when they want and submit material for assessment. The learner’s evidence is generally assessed by multiple web developer ‘gurus’ from the web development community. Learners can gain: skills badges (e.g. Javascript, PHP), value badges (e.g. Accessibility), and peer-to-peer badges (e.g. Good Teammate, Peer Mentor, etc.).

Directions have been provided for the assessments linked to each badge, which include clear instructions of the assessment process, how they will be assessed (e.g. who will do the assessing, if it will be one or multiple assessors, the rubric that will be used), and the requirements needed to complete the assessment.

I have found the information contained on the pilot site useful to consider how open badges might work and be applied in practice.

Useful links

Overview of the Mozilla Open Badges concept

White paper by the MacArthur Foundation and Mozilla Foundation

Technical information on the Open Badge Infrastructure

Image used from the Mozilla Open Badges site.


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