Frequently Asked Questions

We have collected some of helpful answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about Open digital badges. Consider them critically, there no one true answer to such a complex phenomena.

Question: Is Open Badges technology open source?

Answer: The fact that Open Badges are Open Source means that the software is free and the standards are transparent: anyone can create and issue a badge. These include being able to focus on users and learners rather than the technical side of implementation. Development can be inspired by, or even carried out by, other members of the community. Also, using technology being used by many organisations means that you stand ‘on the shoulder of giants’ to gain deeper brand awareness than you otherwise may have gathered. Things created from open sources can stay open source or can be patented/registered/have a copyright if there was extensive work on top of the initial code.


Question: Can I collect all my badges in one place?

Answer: Backpack is a repository for collecting and displaying badges from a variety of sources, the Open Badges backpack is a user management interface where the Earner can delete badges, import badges, set privacy controls, create and publish groups of badges, etc. Eventually, many entities may choose to host Badge Backpacks, but to start, Mozilla is hosting a reference Backpack (the “Mozilla Badge Backpack”) that can be used as a model for other Backpack Providers. An earner usually has opportunity to “push” badges to Mozilla’s backpack or any other “backpack” created by some organisations. This means that the open badges are transferable from one backpack to another and from one online platform to another.

If the badges satisfy Mozilla’s standards, the user won’t have any problem in receiving badges from different issues and platforms, because they can all be saved on the user’s own Backpack.


Question: Who is behind Open Badges?

Answer: In 2011, Mozilla and the MacArthur Foundation set out to create a digital solution to recognise any learning wherever and whenever it happens. Mozilla collaborated with the community of individuals and organisations to build the Open Badges project, which developed an approach to reward learners with digital badges for their efforts. The Open Badges project aimed to spark a transformation of how we recognize learning.

Later, in 2014 the Badge Alliance was launched at the Summit to Reconnect Learning. It is a network of organisations and individuals working together to build and support an open badging ecosystem with a focus on shared values including openness, learner agency and innovation.

This Alliance develops thanks to Working Groups which are action-oriented teams of volunteers working together to expand the open badges ecosystem and infrastructure for documenting and credentialing learning. These are comprised of individuals and organisations working together to address key questions, issues and opportunities facing the ecosystem.


Question: What is Open Badges Infrastructure (OBI)?

Answer: The Open Badges Infrastructure (OBI) is a set of software tools and specifications to support badging systems. These tools define the structures used in Open Badges and help creating, issuing and displaying them.

The OBI allows any organisation to build upon a secure yet open source system. Potential badge issuers can be assured that the credentials they issue will be displayable anywhere on the web. Badge earners gain the advantage of being able to collect and curate their knowledge, skills, and experience from across the web in one place. Badge ‘consumers’ can trust that the badges shown to them can be verified and trusted.

The actors involved in the OBI:

  • Earner – a person who has met the necessary requirements to earn a badge. Earners can apply for badges through issuer sites, and their applications can then be reviewed by the issuing organisation.
  • Issuer – a person who or organisation that creates /offers badges and issues them to earners.
  • Displayer – a platform that displays badges. It accesses badges that are publicly available and displays them in an online context.


Question: How to design Open Badges?

Answer: Here what to consider for starting a recognition system based on open badges:

  1. Team selection
  2. Goal definition
  3. Environment definition
  4. Audience definition
  5. Badge types
  6. Languages (including verbal and visual)
  7. Timing
  8. Technology
  9. Assessment
  10. Pedagogies / alignments

According to Doug Belshaw11 the process of designing a badge consists in 5 steps:

  1. Decide some behaviour, skill or attitude to promote within your organisation
  2. Think of the criteria that can promote that skill (index)
  3. Break down the criteria and make it more granular, create several small badges that can build up to the main one
  4. Decide how the small badges relate to each other and how to organise them (hierarchical, hexagonal, circular…). This is important because it indicates how people can progress and level up their skills
  5. Get somebody to design the graphic of the badge (png. file and not more than 256 pixel)

After these steps a person, or an organisation, is ready to issue a badge. Every open badge contains badge name, description, criteria (one or more requirement for earning a badge, associated with a description of acceptable evidence), issuer, evidence (proof that the earner meets the criteria for a specific badge), date issued, standards and tags.


Question: How to issue Open Badges?

Answer: Once created a badge that satisfies the technical requirements of the Mozilla standards, an institution can issue a badge to the person who has acquired the skill or competence that is certified by the badge itself.

To issue means to connect a badge to a person – this is the technical part of awarding a badge to an earner. This may happen when an earner makes a successful badge application. Badges can also be issued by submitting claim codes or directly by the issuer to the earner email address. Issuing a badge means creating a badge instance (which is represented by an assertion for the earner email address). The non-technical term is award.14

The user can accept or refuse the badge, he/she can upload it on her Mozilla backpack (a sort of online portfolio where gather, archive and share badges or sets of badges). The user can create collections of badges, for example gathering badges issued by the same company, and publish them online on the main social networks (Facebook, Twitter and Google+) to let his/her contacts network know about his/her achievements.

Many issuing platforms can be found online, they are different from each other and work in various ways. This is why it is important to be able to evaluate which is the right badge issuing platform. European Badge Alliance uses Badgecraft multilingual badge issuing platform.