Wayne Skipper // August 20, 2019

Open Badges Backpack 2.0

Mozilla-Badgr2.jpeg image

We’re pleased to announce that the final transition of the Mozilla Open Badges Backpack to Badgr will be complete on August 22, 2019. Dozens of digital badging systems that were formerly connected to the Mozilla Backpack will now be directly connected to Badgr. Existing Backpack integrations should continue to work seamlessly and will now support v2.0 badges. We’ve completed testing in Blackboard, Brightspace, Moodle, and numerous other platforms.

To understand what this important transition means for the future of digital credentials, let’s take a moment to understand how we got here.

A Well-Documented History

In 2011, the Mozilla and MacArthur Foundations announced the creation of Open Badges, a “project aimed to spark a transformation of how we recognize learning.” By the end of 2011, Mozilla and MacArthur had engaged over 300 nonprofit organizations, government agencies and others in a worldwide collaboration to demonstrate “the possibilities of an open credentialing ecosystem.” The first technical implementations were made available that same year, under an open license.

By 2013, numerous implementations of Open Badges had been created, including in Canvabadges (2011), Moodle (2013), and Blackboard (2013). By the end of 2013, over 1,450 organizations were issuing Open Badges. In 2014, Pearson released this video describing their use of Open Badges in their Acclaim platform.

In 2015, MacArthur tapped Concentric Sky to take stewardship of the Open Badges community and develop the 2.0 version of Open Badges. We did our work in the open, working with an array of early community members. We recorded our working group calls, took copious public notes, and made it all available as part of the Internet Archive. By late 2015, we’d developed a draft version of Open Badges 2.0 and released Badgr as an open source reference implementation of the specification.

At the beginning of 2017, Mozilla, MacArthur, and Concentric Sky passed stewardship of the Open Badges standard to IMS Global, where it remains today.

The Value of Open Infrastructure

Open Badges were originally designed to serve as a common language for describing skills and learning achievements. More than just a pretty picture, Open Badges contain metadata that allow digital badges to serve as independently verifiable digital credentials. Even the code used to verify digital badges is open source. This ability for independent verification of embedded metadata is what makes digital badges suitable to express a wide array of traditional credentials online in a common, machine-readable format.

Open Badges Backpack 2.0 image

As part of our Open Badges 2.0 work with MacArthur, Concentric Sky developed another technology standard designed to facilitate stackable credential connections between organizations. This standard is called Open Pathways, and it serves as a key technical foundation for initiatives including IMS Global’s Comprehensive Learner Record and Arizona State University’s Trusted Learner Record.

Where Open Badges allow for the creation of portable, independently verifiable digital credentials, Open Pathways allow for the creation of portable, independently verifiable digital transcripts - machine-readable transcripts that can be aligned to competency frameworks and skill taxonomies, such as those created by our work with the US Chamber of Commerce on the Job Data Exchange.

The ability to understand and describe the relationships between credentials is essential to designing a Future of Work that is open, scalable, and beneficial to all stakeholders. Rather than relying on the products of vendors that might go out of business or be acquired, our work aims to create open technology infrastructure that will stand the test of time and serve credential recipients over their entire lifetime of learning.

Open Badges Backpack 2.0 image

The Backpack can be seen in this context as a learner-controlled, cross-organizational credentials wallet where badge recipients can display badges from multiple platforms side-by-side, explore new Pathways made available to them by the credentials they hold, and see how their credentials map to job descriptions and admissions requirements for the next steps in their learning journey.

Looking Forward

As the worldwide digital credentials ecosystem continues to grow, we’re keeping pace. Our current work includes collaborations with new initiatives that seek to expand the usefulness of Open Badges and integration work to bring alignment between Open Badges and the Verifiable Credentials work happening at W3C.

One of our most exciting initiatives is our work on Badge Connect - a standardized, easy-to-use way for badge recipients to move their digital credentials between major badging platforms.

And we’re just getting started. Watch this space for upcoming innovations around digital credentials, identity, blockchains, and open skills taxonomies. If you have questions about the specifics of the Backpack migration, please visit the Badgr Knowledge Base or contact us.