Four years ago, the idea for an open badging ecosystem was ignited by a small working group at Mozilla Drumbeat (now the Mozilla Festival.) Since then, the Open Badges project has grown into a global movement that presents both incredible opportunities for change and a growing responsibility for collaboration and transparency. At the Summit to Reconnect Learning in February 2014, we announced the Badge Alliance, a network of organizations committed to further developing and growing the open badges ecosystem together.

The Badge Alliance (BA) was built around the Constellation Model for Social Change, seating the work in a set of dynamic Working Groups that collaborate on specific areas and key issues in the badging ecosystem. The Working Groups operate on a six-month cycle, encouraging highly focused, engaged work toward both short- and long-term goals.

We kicked off Cycle 1 in March with an initial 10 Working Groups, adding three more later in the cycle. These Working Groups were led by network members who worked in conjunction with other community volunteers to continue to build diverse and robust communities related to their topic areas with the ultimate goal of delivering valid and important work that benefited the entire ecosystem—which they delivered in spades.

We are incredibly proud of you, our wonderful community, and of our work together. Thank youNow it is time to celebrate this work and the progress of our collective open badges movement.

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Over the course of Cycle 1, more than 650 individuals—educators, technologists, researchers, community leaders and strategists—signed up to participate in one or more of these Working Groups, and together, we achieved so much! In order to illustrate just how much we accomplished in this brief amount of time, we designed an infographic of our collective successes to share with the world. And at the end of this post, there’s a quick overview of each Working Group’s accomplishments.

Each group delivered impressive work in Cycle 1, contributing to the development of both the infrastructure that supports badging and ecosystem growth that sustains it. Infrastructure includes not only the technical maintenance of the Open Badges Infrastructure (OBI), but also the ongoing stewardship of the Open Badges Standard. Thanks to the infrastructure-focused Working Groups, we saw progress in badge-related research, policy, and messaging. The ecosystem-focused Working Groups addressed areas most in need of support and collaboration across sectors, including higher education, digital and web literacies, educator professional development, workforce, and citywide badge systems.

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“I’m humbled and honored by the amount of participation and collaboration we saw in this cycle,” said Badge Alliance Executive Director Erin Knight. “At the same time, I’m not surprised—the badging work has relevance across so many types of organizations, and these working groups established a place for everyone to come together for the first time.”

We’re thrilled to see contributions from such a wide range of organizations across so many important areas. Now, let’s take a closer look at some specific Working Group accomplishments.

Research

The Research Working Group evolved naturally from the prior Research & Badge System Design Calls, albeit with a stronger emphasis on academic research.

As more organizations conduct research into digital and open badges, the work of this group grows increasingly relevant. The group’s foundational landscape survey—developed with IRB approval from the University of Michigan—will help badge researchers find future areas of focus. By coalescing, investigating, and funneling research activity into accessible locations, this group has developed a meaningful research base that benefits the entire ecosystem.

The Open Badges Standard

This group focused on the continued evolution of the Open Badges Standard, the foundation of the badging work which allows digital badges issued by different organizations to be interoperable across the whole ecosystem. As well as proposing an extension solution utilizing JSON-schema and JSON-LD that was opened up to the community to comment, experiment with and iterate on, this group also worked closely with the Endorsement Working Group to support the endorsement of badges.

The Standard Working Group helped kick off the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) Credentialing Community Group, with the aim of expanding adoption of Open Badges. By joining this community, members of the Standard Working Group will be able to take advantage of a well established standards governing body, and its processes and participants, to bring big competing organizations in the ecosystem together, and to work on establishing the Standard as a reputable framework for credentialing on the web.

This group also collaborated with the Open Badges Infrastructure (OBI) Working Group to form the Tech Advisory Council, which brought together technically-minded thought leaders from within and beyond the Open Badges community to collectively think through critical pieces of the existing Open Badges technology and plan short- and long-term strategies for growth and scale, in support of the Open Badges Infrastructure (OBI) and Standard.

Endorsement

The Endorsement Working Group drafted a seminal working paper that outlined a conceptual framework for digital badge endorsement. Together with the Standard Working Group they produced the initial technical implementation proposal to support badge endorsement. Early exploration of different endorsement personas informed both the technical and conceptual development of endorsement.

“As the ecosystem of open badges grows, all of the stakeholders need more information to make decisions about which badges meet their needs. The new framework for Badge Endorsement that we are collaboratively developing is extremely important for building networks of trust and understanding,” said Deb Everhart, Chair of the Endorsement Working Group and Director of Solutions Strategy at Blackboard. “This group has brought together diverse perspectives on endorsement, to define an approach that flexibly meets the needs of diverse communities.”

Workforce

The Workforce Working Group addressed the crucial and exciting area of developing workforce badge systems and adoption frameworks. In this vein, they created an Employer FAQ for badges, fostered the development and examination of a workforce pipeline to encourage badge use and acceptance, and initiated an ongoing list of conferences featuring badges in the workforce. The Employer FAQ, shared with the Messaging Working Group for further refinement, has already begun reaping benefits across the ecosystem.

Participating organizations have noted the valuable community resources that Badge Alliance Working Groups have provided. Andy Stutzman, Senior Web Developer at Digital On-Ramps and Workforce Working Group Cabinet Member, says the BA has allowed his organization to experience specific process and structure benefits from the Badge Alliance work, including six-month work cycles, mailing lists, discussion forums and bi-weekly calls. Together they “created a unique collaborative environment that allowed multiple people to contribute and see results within a small window of time. Our FAQ document is already in use at the University of Michigan and will be used by Digital On-Ramps this fall.”

Messaging

The need for effective and consistent messaging for digital badges was clear from the start. The Messaging Working Group, led by Sara Isaac of Salter>Mitchell and the Badge Alliance’s Director of Marketing, Megan Cole, coordinated with each of the other groups to identify each group’s unique messaging needs and talking points for each topic area. The group also drafted a set of one-page overviews for many of the working groups, as well as for digital badges, and produced an Open Badges Glossary.

“Badges have the potential to revolutionize how we ‘count’ learning, which will make it easier for colleges and employers to spot talent, and help students and workers chart their own unique pathways to success,” said Messaging Working Group Chair Sara Isaac. “But we won’t get traction unless we can get the word out. The Badge Alliance Messaging Working Group has been hard at work doing just that. It’s been a really fantastic collaborative effort. We are excited to begin sharing our work!”

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Collaborate and celebrate!

At the start of the Badge Alliance we had a few goals: to encourage the continued organic development of working groups already active within our community, and to give those groups  the freedom to explore badge work within their domains of expertise. Through broad participation and deep commitment to the success of Open Badges, together we have achieved those goals. Throughout this cycle we have been setting the stage to accomplish even greater things with badges in the future.

“Working Groups have helped the open badges ecosystem to grow in dynamic and exciting new ways during Cycle 1,” said Carla Casilli, Director of Design + Practice at the Badge Alliance, and Liaison to five Working Groups. “They have enabled us to dive into the many subtleties found in various open badges constituencies. By delivering a wide range of foundational documents, projects, and code, the Working Groups have improved many elemental aspects of the open badges ecology.”

The Badge Alliance Working Groups were intended to be a valuable resource—not only for those who were at the table from the beginning, but also for those who joined us along the way, turning good ideas for particular organizations into great ideas for the expanding ecosystem:

“The Badge Alliance allowed Digital On-Ramps to find the specific community we needed to connect with others as part of the larger digital badging conversation,” said Andy Stutzman. “The Working Groups also worked as a sounding board, allowing people to share their plans and perspectives and receive specific feedback from others on a parallel mission. This, in turn, helped shape the goals of the group at large.”

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As this first cycle wraps up, we are impressed and empowered by the incredible contributions the Badge Alliance Working Groups have made to the global badging movement. Many of those who participated in conversations four years ago are still here, continuing to push the work forward, and many more have joined the community out of a shared vision for learner agency, openness and innovation.

Today we pause to celebrate the successes of each Working Group, and recognize the role each one played in the continued development of a strong and resilient open badges ecosystem.

Why not share the excitement by spreading the word through your social and professional networks? We will be doing so! To get you started, we’ve pulled together some sample posts to copy and share on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and other sites:

Check out the amazing things we accomplished this year as part of the @badgealliance Working Groups: bit.ly/BA-Infographic #openbadges

I contributed to the growth of the #openbadges ecosystem with the @badgealliance network: bit.ly/BA-Infographic

Thanks to all who’ve worked with the @badgealliance to deliver #openbadges ideas, code, documents, and more in Cycle 1: bit.ly/BA-Infographic

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Cycle 1 Deliverables

Here’s a quick overview of each Working Group’s successful deliverables from this cycle:

Open Badges Standard:

  • Researched and experimented with technology options for implementing extensions to BadgeClass and BadgeAssertion
  • Proposed an extension solution that is open to the community to experiment with,  comment and iterate on.
  • Joined W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) Credentialing Community Group

Open Badges Infrastructure (OBI):

  • Formed a Tech Advisory Council to act in an advisory role to the Badge Alliance and guide the ongoing development of the open badges technical infrastructure
  • Drafted an Open Badges Infrastructure strategy

Endorsement:

  • Drafted a working paper on conceptual approaches to badge endorsement
  • Released initial technical implementation proposal in collaboration with the Open Badge Standard Working Group

Directory:

  • Launched a working beta of an Open Badges Directory that makes it possible for learners and other organizations to find and connect to various badge issuers, their badges and their programs
  • Released accompanying tutorials and documentation

Research:

Messaging:

Digital & Web Literacies:

  • Launched Learning Pathways for Privacy
  • Began building badges for privacy pathway
  • Initiated Web Literacy Map 2.0

Globalization:

Higher Education:

Workforce:

Badges for Educators & Professional Development:

Cities & Network-wide Badge Systems:

  • Launched Cities of Learning site
  • Implemented in four cities: Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas and Pittsburgh

Policy (launched in September 2014):

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