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Open Badges: What it is and Why it Matters

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One of the many trends today in elearning is the use of gamification – that is, the awarding of points and badges based on user activity. This creates an additional way that users can become connected with the content they are learning.

Today, achievement functionality is present in many learning management systems, including LearnDash.

It has become clear to the elearning industry that there is inherent value in the achievements earned by learners. The problem is, these achievements are “stuck” on the sites on which they are issued.

Today’s online user is often a member of multiple sites that issue points & badges. It only makes sense that achievements earned on these sites can be “taken” elsewhere. To help accomplish this, the Mozilla Open Badges initiative was born.

What is it?

I could write a few sentences about Open Badges, but I believe the description on their website sums it up perfectly:

Get recognition for learning that happens anywhere. Then share it on the places that matter.

With the Open Badges API, users can earn their points and badges across multiple domains, but take their record of achievement with them wherever they go.

Your achievements aren’t held prisoner by the system that awards them to you.

Why it Matters

The concept behind Open Badges just makes sense, and it’s pretty timely.

With the growing MOOC offerings (heck, even Google is getting into the game), learners everywhere will be completing coursework almost 100% remotely.

Given the increasing use (and recognition) of online learning, there is a growing expectation that learners not only receive credit for their achievements, but that they truly own them. Learning management systems that hold achievements hostage to one local instance are behind the curve and doing a disservice to their users.

Luckily, those options are becoming increasingly rare.

Modern elearning trends are being integrated into many different LMS solutions across various industries. Many LMS offerings out there allow for users to have their own “digital backpack”. New APIs (like TinCan API) can also easily leverage the Open Badge concept.

What’s more, these achievements can easily be shared on social platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Industry Players

Open Badges was one of the first free, open-source projects to come along with a mission to allow users to take their credentials anywhere. Since then, there have been others who have further refined the concept, such as Credly.

In the end, people just want to receive (and keep) credit for what they have done (or share it on social networks), and the mission of programs like Open Badges and Credly is to ensure that the system does not stand in the way of the learner.

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About the Author:

Justin Ferriman is the Founder of LearnDash, a WordPress based LMS and Learning Strategy provider. He also works as a Learning & Collaboration Consultant where he implements large-scale training programs for Fortune 500 companies.

2 Comments
  1. I couldn’t agree more. As a recent advocator of Gamification, I’ve come to see the enhanced benefits of adding game-elements to various things including training, websites, apps, and much, much more. I’ve been seeing more trends pop-up (IBM, SAP, Accenture, and all kinds of large multinationals) that incorporate games in their training programs and day to day activities. It’s a fantastic way to keep employees engaged and wanting to strive to do better amongst their peers – the good kind of competition – as well as a huge productivity booster.

    Thank you, Justin!

    • Hi Omar-
      Thanks for the comment – fancy seeing you here ;)

      I think we can reasonably expect the use of “serious games” to grow in many industries given that technology make even just a small amount of gaming possible (i.e. points). But as you and I both know, larger organizations think that elearning is just throwing PowerPoint slides into some sort of “player” – they don’t always see the value.

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