The penny drops with open badges

I’ve been familiar with the basic concepts around the use of open badges for a while now but I have to admit that they hadn’t really grabbed my attention front and centre until, that is, I got my first badge almost by accident yesterday. Let’s just say it was an aha moment.

I like to build things and I like to code. One of the tools I use is Jquery which is a powerful Javascript framework for building rich functionality into web pages. I’ve been using it for a while. I normally like to learn things myself and then go back and do some training if I feel I need it. It was with this in mind that I tried the free Try Jquery course run by

Now, as an aside, let me say that this course was one of the best pieces of online learning that I have ever undertaken. The use of video explanations coupled with interactive exercises is extremely well done. The explanations are perfectly pitched. The technology used is powerful but seamless. In short, I loved it and I learnt a lot that will improve the way I code.

When I’d completed the course I was reviewing my details when I noticed that there was an option to add my course to Mozilla Open Badges. Of course I clicked the button, authenticated and was taken to the open badges site and there was my badge. I dragged it into a group that I’ve decided to call Technical Badges and clicked on the share button.

You can see my badge in my backpack on open badges. I also shared it to my Linked In profile. This morning I installed the WP Badge Display widget for WordPress and now you can see my badge displayed on my blog (it’s on the right).

It was all very seamless and easy. Well done to Doug Belshaw and all of the team at Mozilla Open Badges.

I have to say that my feelings where of enormous pleasure at finishing my course and being able to display that quickly and easily. It also made me very eager to get get another badge to add to my collection. If feelings like this can be engendered in someone as notoriously cynical as me then that’s a pretty powerful reaction.

My other immediate thoughts were of the implications for higher education. I know lots of people with more experience in open badges than me have already written a lot on this but my my immediate reaction is that open badges will become increasingly popular as more providers offer them (that’s fairly obvious) . I also suspect that traditional higher education providers will resist providing them because they don’t fit in with traditional  academic perceptions of achievement and credentialling. This means that non traditional providers will step in to provide that service. They’ll be doing that anyway for other reasons.

It’s interesting that the reaction to open badges from senior academic managers is often to dismiss them as being child like and akin to collecting a badge for sewing at scouts. It’s often extremely difficult to understand the power of badges until you’ve actually been through the process and got one yourself.

I’d encourage all of you to have a go at a course with a provider that gives you an open badge. It’ll be a real eye opener.

14 Comments On “The penny drops with open badges”

  1. Thanks for the info. I’m loving the open badges concept too and I have my first badge from JISC, which I am very pleased with! Looking forward to an event with Mozilla and JISC at end of April in Glasgow to find out more!


  2. Hi Mark, this is great news! As you say, it’s the process of actually earning a badge and going through the process of adding it to your backpack that leads to people ‘getting it’.

    Thanks for the shout-out in the post but I just wave my hands around and write stuff about how awesome Open Badges are. The real work is done by the rest of the team: Erin, Sunny, Carla, Emily, Chris, Brian, Dave, Mike, et al. 🙂


    • Hi Doug,
      Thanks for the comment and thanks for giving the team a shout out too. I’ll be at the PEL eConference next month. I’m looking forward to hearing you speak.


  3. The HE folk need to be rehearsing scenarios around alternative credentialing models not sitting smugly muttering this has nothing to do withe “real” HE. The conditions for Christensen’s model for disruptive innovations appear to be in place. One of these is that the dominant industry does not see this stuff as a threat, as silly, as not as good as. Tick, tick, tick.

    The other thought is that this kind of teaching/learning would be amplified a tad if more folk wrote about their learning in more detail in public. Not in generalities but in specifics. There are bibs and bobs of this sprinkled about the Net but I’m of the firm view that writing about one’s learning in public is good for self and helpful to other wannabe learners.


    • Hi Chris,
      I totally agree with your points. As I tweeted to you a moment ago; this exercise has motivated me. I want more badges and I’ll go with a provider that can give me one. It’s really powerful. This is a disruption that is going to sneak up on most HE institutions with potentially far reaching consequences.


  4. I’m trying to get across the line in implementing a digital badge system in the Health Sciences Faculty down here at La Trobe.. but apart from the strange reaction to “badges” (where we fail to see that an A4 sized paper embossed with an icon on it is essentially a badge) is a bit of a barrier. But probably more importantly, and relating to your post about the motivational aspects, what about the majority of people who don’t keep much of a web presences, especially a WP site?


  5. Hi Leigh,
    Sorry for the late reply. Your La Trobe badges system looks great. Good luck with the project. As for those that don’t keep a web presence; about a billion people maintain FB (we can argue the merits of FB separately). I think as time goes on more and more people will use a web presence as part of looking for a job. They won’t have much choice about it.



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  7. Mark, I too suspect that traditional higher education providers will resist open badges because they don’t fit in with traditional academic perceptions of credentialling – regardless of the game theory that their own education departments teach.

    While I see nothing wrong with assigning a badge for the achievement of a degree (it is after all a representation, not the degree!), perhaps the idea is better aligned to the passing of individual subjects. This would give the student a sense of accomplishment while in the midst of a multi-year program, and showcasing one’s backpack in the university’s VLE would be rather satisfying.


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  10. I just created and awarded myself my fist badge. I am testing it out for a class I produced and teach. Since I have taught the class many times I thought I deserved it. I am excited about implementing this.

    I used Moodle to do this since I am producing an online version of the course.

    I should award myself a badge for producing my own badge, but it would look sort of strange that all my badges point back to myself.


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