While Open Badges have been described as the “New Currency for Professional Credentials,” the true value of Open Badges is the trust they embed, the trust that badge holders receive from badge issuers.
The project aims at establishing a native, distributed, open trust infrastructure based on a network of Open Badge Passports (OBPassport) that seamlessly issue, receive, share and display badges. Fully OBI compliant and open source, the OBPassport will provide users and organisations with their own backpacks and create the conditions for the emergence of new services through the provision of an open API.
The OBPassport will address a number of issues elicited from the current implementations of the OBI:
* User unfriendliness — badges will be received and displayed with one click
* Power unbalance between issuers and holders — everybody will be issuing and receiving badges
* Data fragmentation — different data types will be hosted: Open Badges, xAPI statements, evidence and more
* Data exploitation — new services, trusted by the owner, will have access to the OBPassport through an API
* Data management — user-defined rules and policies will be enforced (a must have, for trust networks)
The OBPassport will provide social features, such as the creation of badge aggregations at group, network, organisation or business levels, the display of badges earned by friends in one’s activity stream, or the search for people with a specific badge, sharing evidence across passports.
Eventually, the OBPassport will empower their owners to create a new type of ePortfolio, a trustworthy and distributed passport.
Laboratory or Site of Inquiry
Imagine a country where no one evaluates teachers, no one evaluates schools, and individual schools’ test results remain confidential. You’ve just imagined Finland, a country where ‘trust’ is at the centre of the education system. The Finnish education system is based on trust and equality. Finnish education today is shifting towards competency-based learning, where curricula dictate the desired learning outcomes and the methods for reaching them are entrusted to the schools. Key development areas are new and flexible methods to recognise and award prior learning.
As the objective of OBPassport is to establish a native trust network, Finland is a natural candidate for piloting thiq new initiative. The high reputation of the Finnish education system will facilitate its global adoption.
The laboratory developing OBPassport is Discendum, the developer of the Open Badge Factory, a project sponsored by the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation.
Open Badges are more than “Digital records of achievements, skills, interests, affiliations or roles” (Mozilla); they are also “connectors” between people, places, organisations and ideas — e.g. badges connect all the people sharing the same badge, or all the badges sharing (part of) the same metadata.
The architecture of the OBPassport will facilitate all kinds of connections by making its (meta)data searchable by trusted services through an open API:
* Connecting people sharing similar interests
* Connecting personal goals with examples of learning pathways (and people)
* Connecting people to trade knowledge or services
For example, someone could self-issue a ‘volunteer teacher’ badge, that would be discoverable by other OBPassports owners (through trusted services). As the ‘volunteer teacher’ supports more learners through their journey, she receives more endorsement badges, thereby increasing her trust capital.
Exploiting the data contained in the networks of OBPassports through search services, it would be possible to show the many different paths that lead to a job or role, making people more confident about the options available for reaching their goals. Connector services could also connect personal goals to various resources such as literature, courses, internship, mentoring and more.
During the initial phase of the project, OBPassport will provide a fully functional proof of concept, to invite the provision of a new generation of services exploiting, under the full control of their owners, the content of their OBPassports.
Diversity, civility, inclusivity
The OBPassport will contribute to the development of social literacies through the establishment of trust (social) networks. It will also facilitate the access of people with learning or cognitive disabilities helping them to become an integral part of these networks.
While dominating “social networks” are primarily focused on self-expression shared with “friends,” the OBPassport could provide the foundations for a new type of social network, based on criterion- and evidence- based trust statements (Open Badges).
The construction of OBPassports will combine self-issued badges, badges issued/received by/from third parties, making it a true “social ePortfolio,” in the sense that every individual OBPassport is co-constructed with all those who have provided/received trust statements, shared evidence, provided endorsement.
This ability for co-construction will be especially important for disadvantaged people reliant on the support of carers, friends and teachers to create their OBPassport, providing a space to empower individuals, through the combination of self-advocacy and community scaffolding.
As the issue of inclusiveness is high on the Finnish social and political agenda, the conditions should be ideal to test the ability of OBPassport in supporting the development of inclusive networks.
What did a teacher from a primary school do when she had serious problems with pupils who thought they couldn’t learn? “Teach me something” she asked them. It is how the “Réseau d’échanges réciproques de savoir” (reciprocal knowledge exchange network) was born in the 70s in the suburbs of Paris. It now has over 150,000 members.
What does this experience tell us? It is that one of the main barriers to the participation in learning is the lack of recognition of the learner, who she is, what she can do. Another factor is the asymmetry of the actors in institutional settings (where a pupil should also be valued as a teacher).
In providing a simple tool for anybody to show what they have achieved and what they can offer to others, OBPassport provides the means to create the pre-conditions for accessing learning.
The OBPassport should remove many barriers to the recognition of one’s achievements, alleviating the complexity of the current process for managing badges: no more need for sending badges through emails, create a persona or backpack to collect badges. Profiles in multiple social networks could simply be updated with a click.
Moreover, the OBPassport will create the conditions for placing formal and informal recognition of learning on a par, potential which at present is only latent in Open Badges: OBPassport aims at being the tool to create grass-root, bottom-up recognition systems contributing to an inclusive learning environment and society.
Management of data
The OBPassport will hold different types of data: Open Badges, xAPI statements, HTML pages, pictures, etc. This feature is particularly useful to provide direct access to evidence, within the domain of the OBPassport (to increase the trustworthiness and resilience of badges).
Data will be stored in a container with 3 main areas:
* Public: accessible to all
* Restricted: only accessible to identified trusted services/parties
* Private: only accessible to the owner
Data will be accessed through an API (Application Programming Interface) under the supervision of a Policy Enforcement Point (PEP) applying the policies defined by their owners. For example, one could set the policy “only accept badges from parties I know or who are known to my network” to avoid badge spamming. Another policy could be “I allow service XYZ to contact the people to whom I’ve delivered a badge” something useful to a “verification service” double-checking that a person claiming a holding badge is the right person.
A first version of the PEP will be developed, as a proof of concept, to verify the relevance of this feature and the ability of OBPassport owners to use it — and issue recommendations for further developments.
During the initial phase of the project the following services will be developed:
* Searching people holding a specific badge / sharing interests
* Displaying the (virtual) OBPassport of a community (aggregation of individual OBPassports)
The OBPassport will be designed to address the tension between the need for privacy (and personal data protection) and the need for discoverability and social interaction:
* Privacy: I want to control how my personal data is being used
* Discoverability: I want to maximise the value of the trust networks I belong to.
Badge holders might want to:
* Share a piece of information with all those sharing the same badge.
* Look for someone in the neighborhood to help with a project assignment
* Search for people sharing the same (or complementary) interests to start a new project
* Receive offers for learning services, books etc. based on their achievements, interests or goals
The OBPassport will be able to provide these services while protecting the identity of their owners and preserving them from the pressure of undesirable services, like spam. Like Open Badges, the OBPassport will be anonymous by default and their owners will have the possibility to create multiple public anonymous views of the content of their OBPassport.
Using a service trusted by all OBPassport owners, it will be possible to engage in trustworthy anonymous communication, such as sending a piece of information to all those sharing the same badge. The combination of anonymity with access control through trusted services will create the conditions for new services to emerge.
Scalability and impact
In 2014, of the 10 000 earners who received badges issued by 120 organisations, only 12% pushed their badges into the Mozilla Backpack. And probably even less badges were subsequently effectively displayed in a public sites. This is the result of the current implementation of OBI which reduces the potential impact of Open Badges.
To increase the impact of Open Badges, with the OBPassport, 100% of the badges earners will receive their badges directly into the ‘private’ area of their passports and will be able to make them visible with one click.
The OBPassport will also have an API to provide the benefits of a federation without the need for establishing such a federation. There should therefore be no limit to the number of OBPassport installations and their ability to fully inter-operate.
The project is open source and fully based on the OBI standards. The development will be led by Discendum Oy, a Mahara partner and community member with extensive experience in open source projects.
While Discendum has the proper expertise in software development and the experience in developing OBI-compliant solutions, it is critical to involve the Open Badge community in the design, development, testing and exploitation of the OBPassport from M1.
The project is planned for 18 months as follows:
1) Setting up of a OBPassport working group led by ADPIOS (M1-M18)
2) Design, development and testing of the OBPassport led by Discendum (M1-M8)
3) Piloting of the OBPassport in Finland led by Omnia (M9-M11)
4) Adoption led by ADPIOS (M13-M18)
The OBPassport working group will contribute to the specifications that will inform the core code development by Discendum. When an alpha version of OBPassport is ready (M6), the community will be invited 1) to test and review the OBPortfolio 2) to suggest and develop new services exploiting the OBPortfolio API. A beta version will be released at M9 to support the piloting (M9-M11). The feedback from the pilot will be used to revise and improve OBPassport beta release for the adoption of the initiative, in Europe (Badge Europe!) and worldwide (Badge Alliance).