Mozilla Open Badges & the future of learning

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There was a time when all the degrees, certificates and diplomas could be framed and displayed in your office or home wall.

Today, though, as we move into the Information Age, there are more and more non-traditional forms of quality education available. Many of them are even free, provided solely as a way of building interest in a given field. MOOCs, or Massively Open Online Courses, are everywhere now, and available from so many sources that it can be difficult to keep tabs on your own academic progress in the same way that used to be done through a single school.

It was with this in mind that Mozilla created Open Badges, their open and free system for keeping track of completed classes and acquired skills across the Internet.

What are Open Badges

The Mozilla Open Badges are pretty simple to understand and use. The core concept behind Open Badges is to offer learners the option to collect an approved token from different sources and share them across the web to showcase their ability. These tokens of approval are issued by organisations and communities where these learners have enrolled and earned some form of education, and because they are in digital form, the seal of approval can be displayed on personal websites, social networking sites and job sites.

Every badge is not just a digital image and definitely more than just a pretty face. It is embedded with information that speaks on behalf of the skills learned & earned. This information can include how and where it was obtained, who received it, and if and when it expires. A user’s collection of Badges can be kept in a Badge Backpack, which is just a nice term for ‘a user management interface where the earner can delete badges, import badges, set privacy controls, create and publish groups of badges, etc.’

How to Use Open Badges

For those that are interested in joining Open Badges, entry is free and open to the public.

There are three basics steps to getting started. Go to the Open Badges: Earn website and take a short quiz on badges and how they work that will help familiarise you with the concept. Upon completion of the quiz, you will receive an Open Badge to verify your new knowledge!

Next, you will start your Mozilla Backpack that we mentioned earlier. It is a place that Mozilla has created to collect and display your badges and the good thing is that the setup is quick and straightforward.

As students progress through self-paced courses, they receive 4-6 Open Badges per course, and upon completion of the program, students have attained badges certifying competency in a broad range of educational areas as well as a Master’s Degree, which has its own value and benefit.

You can also jump ahead and just browse the Open Badge community to see who is offering Open Badges and look for topics and skills that interest you. By browsing the different listings, you will be able to see which items are offered and can start mapping how you’d like to begin collecting them. Once collected, Badges can be displayed either directly through a link to your Mozilla Backpack or on a variety of social media sites, including LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. There are also plugins for WordPress sites which make it possible to display Badges on your blog, as well.

Mozilla’s program was launched in September of 2011 and has slowly begun to pick up steam towards universal acceptance. Today, around 100 institutions are designing and issuing badges, including Code School, IBM Authorized Training, PhysiopediaMichigan State University and Books@Work.

Though the courses are mostly created and issued by American companies, the badges themselves are open to anybody with an Internet connection.

There is no doubt that the education landscape of the future is changing. Though Open Badges may not be the final answer, it is a unique and exciting concept that has indeed begun to lead the way towards change.

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