Open Badges and Leicester City


On Friday 3rd May, Rushey Mead School played host to an introduction to Open Badges for Leicester educators. Doug Belshaw, Badges and Skills Lead for the Mozilla Foundation presented to a packed room. The session was attended by around 30 individuals from a mixture of Mainstream, SEN, FE/Sixth Form and HE institutions. This provided a great opportunity to look at how Open Badges could be deployed across the City, in a range of settings and contexts.

The session was organised by Tim Farthing, VESA (who support vocational, applied and work-related learning opportunities for 13-19 year olds) and co-presented by Paul Conneally, Leicester City Council Learning Services, with support from the Leicester City Council BSF ICT Team.

The aims of the day were to provide attendees with:

  • a clear understanding of Open Badges, how they work and what they can be used for.
  • an opportunity to consider how Open Badges might work in individual schools, colleges or organisations – and across collaborative partnerships.
  • a clear idea of the next steps for implementing Open Badges.

Doug’s presentation gave a  comprehensive introduction to the Open Badges movement, key issues to consider, and how Open Badges work in practice.

Why Open Badges?

Learning often takes place outside of what we formally assess, and it can be hard to gain recognition for the wide range of skills and achievements that young people may develop. Accreditation for learning often exists in Silos (GCSEs, Certificated Training, etc.) and badges may be a way to bridge the gaps.

What are Open Badges?

An Open Badge is an image with metadata (data about data – in this case, information about how and why the badge has been awarded) attached to it. The diagram below spells this out:

Image shared under a creative commons license by Kyle Bowen
Image shared under a creative commons license by Kyle Bowen

Open Badges can be used to represent:

  • achievements
  • skills
  • competences
  • interests
  • formal and informal learning pathways
  • hard and soft skills
  • peer assessment
  • lifelong learning

How do Open Badges work?

Mozilla have created the Open Badge Infrastructure (OBI) – a freely accessible system which supports all elements of issuing and earning badges.

“The OBI is designed to be an open standards framework that allows badge systems to break out of their siloed environments and work together to benefit learners.”

What makes the OBI stand out from other accreditation systems is that it isn’t proprietary, it is designed as an open technical standard – meaning that any organisation or institution can use it to create and issue badges – and any individual can use it to earn and display badges. This also means that once a learner has left a particular institution they can continue have access to and display their badges (and can earn badges from a number of sources).

Answering your questions about Open Badges – A recent post from Doug Belshaw, Badges and Skills Lead for Mozilla.

Who can use Open Badges?

Many organisations are already using the OBI, here are just a few examples:

badge-breakout-bottomFollowing Doug’s presentation, the attendees split into three groups – Mainstream, FE/HE and SEN/Social Care. Discussions covered:

Group members understanding about Open Badges, and things they wanted to find out more about.

How Open Badges might be used in their school, college or other setting.

If they wanted to be involved in further collaborative work on Open Badges – and if so – how?

The discussions in all three groups were enthusiastic and it is clear that educational providers across Leicester are interested in further exploring, and trying out Open Badges. With limited time available, the group decided that a future workshop would be organised – for attendees to take their discussions further and to help begin plans for Open Badges in Leicester. Attendees particularly wanted to explore how badges worked in action for organisations.

Further Reading

Get Recognised! – This blog post, introducing Open Badges, was written by learners from Leicester City schools during Takeover 2012.

Open Badges for Lifelong Learning – The original White Paper from the Mozilla Foundation, Peer 2 Peer University and the MacArthur Foundation.

Open Badges: Portable Rewards for Learner Achievements – A White Paper from MyKnowledgeMap introducing Open Badges.

What is the Open Badges Infrastructure? – More information about OBI

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