Some ideas flourish and then die. Others start slowly and then take off. Although all the talk is about MOOCs my feeling is that the Mozilla Open Badges project may have a more profound influence in changing education than online courses. The following text is an excerpt from the quarterly online magazine, Holyrood Connect.
Scottish education authorities have started to imagine a new way to record and recognise educational achievement. Instead of certificates and test results, learners would have an authenticated, permanent digital record of their accomplishments that could never be lost, because it would live in the cloud.When looking for a job or further learning opportunities, their achievements could bear detailed testimony of what they learned, by linking back to the skills provider online. Most of all, learners could display their badges on their own websites or on social media, alongside Facebook updates or tweets about their regular lives.That vision is behind the concept of ‘open badges’ for education, an idea that isn’t altogether new, but may be coming of age as it begins to be applied to education.
Open badges are an initiative of the Mozilla Foundation, the non-profit organisation that created the popular Firefox browser. The technology involved in making the actual badges is open source – free and open to use for anyone on the web.Badges that have been ‘won’ currently have to be collected using the Mozilla Backpack service, although that piece of software will also eventually be made open source. That allows any organisation that provides education or training of any kind to create its own badge, including a verification mechanism and the necessary information for an employer or other educational institution to assess what skills the holder has.
In April, a collection of schools, colleges and Scottish education authorities formed the Open Badges in Scottish Education Group OBSEG, dedicated to exploring the potential of badges and their application in Scottish education. That partnership approach has yielded significant support: and in October, the Scottish Qualifications Authority SQA announced that it would work with Mozilla to push for their adoption.