Competency Open Badges Standards

#OpenBadges #Taxonomies and Shopping Lists

Kerri Lemoie (@kayaelle) has taken the ambitious task to lead the Open Badge community in exploring further the field of taxonomies. I was not able to attend the last conference call, but I took some time to go through the Etherpad of the meeting and here are my latest thoughts on the matter.

In Over 2 Millions Types of #OpenBadges ! Don’t you think that’s wonderful? I explored the typology of Open Badges and the idea of a taxonomy to conclude the inanity of any attempt at enumerating the different types of Open Badges. In a later post, The Celestial Emporium of #OpenBadges Taxonomies I concluded that, considering that a taxonomy would need to be finite to have any practical value, it is very likely that such a taxonomy would provide an over-simplified representation of the world, an illusion of understanding — as if the mere fact of naming things increased our understanding.

After exploring critically the concept of taxonomy, in this post I’ll try to explore a more practical approach. After all, if people feel the need for taxonomies, it might be interesting to know what the actual needs are and what are the possible solutions to satisfy those needs.

Taxonomy, Typology or shopping list?

In the discussion on taxonomies, we need to take into account that there is a difference between a typology and a taxonomy:

The etymology of both words gives clues to their differences. In Greek, táxos means an order, onom- means name, so the word “taxonomy” means naming genus or species. “Typo-” means a type of organism and -logy means a study. Nelson Orringer · University of Connecticut (source)

Moreover, proper taxonomies must respect some basic principles: read more »

Accreditation Assessment Competency Employability Open Badges Recognition Standards

What relationship between #OpenBadges and competencies?

Recent posts by Timothy Freeman Cook (@timothyfcook) explored (here and there) the relationship between Open Badges and competencies.  I would like to build on Timothy’s ideas.

I have rearranged in a table the initial elements of what Timothy calls “the atomic elements of learning”:

 Atom  Equivalent Definition  Learner’s perspective
Competencies Standards Definition of learning one ought to acquire What should I learn?
Pathways Courses Relationships between learnings In what order should I learn?
 Badges Credentials Proof of a learning accomplishment Did I learn it? 
 Resources Opportunities Something one can use for a learning experience  How can I learn it?

For Timothy:

The more I sketch and dwell on it, the more I am convinced that the concept of the pathway is actually something that should apply, separately, to each of the 3 elements.  […]

The 3 primary elements are:

  1. Competency
  2. Credential
  3. Resource

and each of these can be expressed on a graph with a linear or non-learner ordering or nested relationships. […] A competency graph is a prerequisite structure.

While later in the post is the following definition: “[the] competency graph is a map” I would like to explore now this idea of mapping and graphs.

What are the frameworks of learning?

Good competency standards are designed by performing a functional analysis, i.e. the analysis of all the activities contributing to achieving the purpose/mission of a sector (e.g. automotive, hotel & catering industry) or domain (e.g. management, administration, sales, engineering). The functional analysis is a mapping exercise, just like explorers drew maps of unchartered territories. Functional analysis takes into account all the activities, from the most basic (e.g. feed-in a copy machine) to the most complex (managing finance). The outcome is a competency framework.

Unfortunately, very few competency standards are built this way. Most of them are the result of task analysis leading to a fragmented representation of the territory. Moreover there is often a confusion between competencyqualification and training frameworks.

When a competency framework is produced, there is not yet an indication that a certain competency is at level 1 or 8 (there are 8 levels in the European Qualification Framework, link) nor that one competency must be acquired before another. The attribution of levels to the different competencies is based on the spectrum of routine/unpredictable tasks, basic/complex required knowledge, the degree of responsibility for oneself and others, etc. The result is a qualification framework. The organisation of competencies through prerequisites leads to a training framework.

read more »

Open Badges Trust

Expressing distrust within the #OpenBadges Ecosystem

Recently, I have been confronted with a rather unnerving situation where the sense of ethics of certain entities (could be people and/or organisations) was, to say the least, questionable. As I wondered how to react to this situation and how to convey my lack of trust in within the Open Badge Ecosystem, the idea of a Badge of Distrust came to mind.

As my take on badges is that they are trust statements (I’m working on refining that definition, but that will do for the time being), I realised that issuing distrust badges would put me at odds with my position where trust is understood as a positive value, as in I trust this person’s integrity. In my frame of reference, the utterance I trust that this person is a thief has a very different meaning coming from a gang leader looking at a prospective associate or from a law abiding citizen reporting a crime. For the gang leader it means “he/she is one of us” while for the law abiding citizen it means “he/she is one of them” — things can become quite convoluted when a thief steals from another thief…!

As one of the basic rules of the Open Badge Infrastructure is the recipient has the option to reject the badges they do not wish to collect, we could imagine a perfectly secure digital world where a thief would be very happy to collect a “master thief” badge from a gang leader as it could be beneficial to his/her idiosyncratic employability — crooks know how grow their own trust networks and prisons are their Open University! On the other hand, if a similar badge was issued by a law abiding citizen, it is very unlikely that he/she will ever collect it. A Badge of Distrust is not something that people are likely to collect — although, if someone like Tony Blair offered me such a badge, I would be delighted to promote it at the top of My Values badges. I would consider being distrusted by such an individual a badge of honour!

From the previous example we can foresee that accepting Badges of Trust from friends and Badges of Distrust from foes is a powerful means towards building and nurturing trust networks of all kinds — a property that should be fully explored in the development of the Open Badge Passport. 

There remains the configuration of a Badge of Distrust sent to a foe. Why would a foe accept a badge of distrust? What would its value be if not collected? To explore that question further, we first need to reflect on why we would need to issue Badges of Distrust?

Why would we need Badges of Distrust?

Badge of ShameThe Open Badge Ecosystem is a conversational system, where things are not fixed once and for all. The value of credentials is not absolute, it varies across space and time, as well as with the position of the observer within the network. Looking at the dynamics of networks construction, their topology, how clusters are formed and relate to each other, will help us compute the level of confidence one might assume in making a decision based on the information provided by the network. Would the introduction of a distrust component, a Badge of Distrust (BoD), improve the quality of the decision making process? Are there potential risks associated with BoDs? read more »

Identity Open Badges

#OpenBadges for Holographic Identities

What is the definition of identity? There is the self-identity as narrative (Giddens), the identity-through-others (Ronald D. Laing). For Gilbert Simondon it is the result of the process of individuation, while for Edgar Morin our identity is holographic:

Moreover, in human beings as in other living creatures, the whole is present within the parts; every cell of a multicellular organism contains the totality of its genetic patrimony, and society inasmuch as a whole, is present within every individual in his language, knowledge, obligations, and standards. Just as each singular point of a hologram contains the totality of information of that which it represents, each singular cell, each singular individual contains hologrammatically the whole of which part and which is at the same time part of him.
Edgar Morin, Seven complex lessons in education for the future.

So, our identity is not just what makes us unique or identifiable, it also comprises what connects us to all other human beings, living creatures and the whole universe. Our identities are singular points in a continuum of identities. The interweaving of our identities is what makes the social fabric. Our identities are the threads of the social fabric. Like the elementary particles of the universe that are both waves and particles, our identities are both singular points and threads, localised and distributed, sovereign and interwoven. Another characteristic of identities is their ability to keep their integrity while being metastable in a milieu where they grow (c.f. individuation). 

This leads to the issue of collective identities and their relationship with individual identities. For example, what defines us as citizens? Danny Wildemeersch and Joke Vandenabeele in Issues of citizenship: coming-into-presence and preserving the difference, elicit two approaches to the definition of citizenship: 

  • citizenship-as-outcome, where “democratic citizenship is regarded as a status that is only reached after one has completed a particular developmental and educational trajectory. This places the young person in the awkward position of not yet being a citizen’ (Biesta 2006).” (ibid.)
  • citizenship-as-practice, “young people learn just as much about democracy and citizenship from the democratic and undemocratic experiences encountered in their day-to-day lives as from the official citizenship curriculum […] If young people’s everyday lifeworld does not present opportunities for real participation, then it doesn’t make much sense to organise citizenship classes designed to transform young people into active responsible citizens’ (Biesta 2006).”

From these two definitions it is easy to imagine two very different approaches to using Open Badges: one would be the creation of a pathway at the end of which one could eventually gain a citizen badge, while the other could be the unconditional attribution of citizen badge that could be nurtured through endorsement, the connection to other people, initiatives, achievements, etc. One is about collection, the other, connection, one conditional, the other unconditional, one is static the other dynamic, one is standardised, the other inventive and creative, one is defined for the citizens, the other with and by them.

These two definitions also have consequences on the type of digital infrastructure we need. The first definition, citizenship-as-outcome, is fully compatible with addressing identity as a set of attributes, like a series of Open Badges collected in a silo. The second definition needs more than a safe to hoard collections of attributes, something more holographic where by looking at one citizen one could see a whole society and its democracy in action . 

How does this concept of holographic identities, localised and distributed translate into the digital world?

Limits of identity models in the digital world read more »

Open Badges Uncategorized

For an #OpenBadges Conceptual Framework (green paper)

Why an Open Badge Framework?

The objective of this document is to provide a conceptual framework for understanding what Open Badges are, where do they come from, what they could become in the future and how they relate to other concepts and initiatives. This framework does not pretend and does not intend to be neutral. It is designed within the perspective of building an open and inclusive society where the citizens are fully empowered to act and transform education and employment, rather than merely adapt to them. It is a framework for action, individual and collective.

The Open Badge Conceptual Framework is situated within a larger frame of reference that includes concepts, ideas and initiatives that, while not directly related to Open Badges, share a number of their characteristics (e.g. Open Data). It is also aimed at debunking some of the misconceptions associated with Open Badges, e.g. their relation to gamification or the behaviourist theories leading to using Open Badges as rewards.

Open Badges for an Open Society
Open Badges for an Open Society

The framework explores how Open Badges exist in relation to the milieu where they are created and exploited. In the picture above, we have tried to represent how the different components of an open society relate to each other and what the place of Open Badges is. In the following chapters we will explore the polymorphic properties of Open Badges that are at the same time objects that contain pieces of knowledge, connect such pieces and constitute the elementary blocks of what can be qualified as a native open trust network.

What is a conceptual framework?

Although there are different understandings of what a conceptual framework is, the definition we will use for this document is:

  • A conceptual framework is an analytical tool used to make conceptual distinctions and organise ideas.

The following nota bene is an example of making such conceptual distinctions:

NB: in this document we will prefer the expression badge holder, to badge earner. The later tends to convey the misconception that someone has to ‘earn’ a badge, while it is perfectly legitimate to self-issue a badge and in that case, it is the endorsements that can be earned, not the badge itself.

What is its structure?

The first two chapters of this document are focused on the description of Open Badges, as digital artefacts, then on the description of the ecosystems where those artefacts are produced, live and are exploited. Special attention will be drawn to the issue of identity construction and the role Open Badges can play, in particular through creating the conditions for the emergence of holographic identities.

The penultimate chapter explores in more detail the value of Open Badges, while the final chapter suggests possible paths for future developments.

Table of contents



Why an Open Badge Framework?      2

What is its structure?      3

Open Badges as Digital Artefacts

What does Open mean?      4

What are Badges?      4

Open Badges as connectors      5

Open Badges as meaning      6

Open Badge Misconceptions      6

The Genesis of Open Badges      7

Do we need an Open Badge taxonomy?      10

Open Badges in their Ecosystems

Micro level: individuals      12

Meso level: institutions, organisations and communities      13

Macro level: society, policies, standards, social values, globalisation      15

Open Badges as a trust ecosystem      15

Open Badges as a power ecosystem      16

The initial design flaws of the Open Badge Infrastructure      19

The value of Open Badges

Celebrating the badge refuseniks      20

Badges value is prismatic      20

Why issue (or not) Open Badges?      22

Recognition & accreditation      22

Establishing Pathways      22

Plan and project      22

State and declare      22

Etc.      22

Open Badges Futures

The ‘dynamic’ badges      23

The ‘smart’ badges: badges as agents      23

The ‘smart’ infrastructure      23

More at:

You are welcome to contribute and criticise this document. It’s a green paper, so it is meant to trigger discussions!

Open Badges Standards

The Celestial Emporium of #OpenBadges Taxonomies


In a previous post (Over 2 millions of badge types…) I explored the typology of Open Badges and the idea of a taxonomy to conclude to the inanity of any attempt at enumerating the different types of Open Badges.

Recently, while discussing with a colleague the ideas developed in this previous post, she reminded me of the Celestial Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge, a fictitious taxonomy of animals described by Jorge Luis Borges in his 1942 essay “The Analytical Language of John Wilkins.” Borges used this taxonomy to illustrate the arbitrariness and cultural specificity of any attempt at categorising the world.

Taken from an ancient (fictitious) Chinese encyclopaedia, The Celestial Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge divides all animals into 14 categories:

  1. Those that belong to the emperor
  2. Embalmed ones
  3. Those that are trained
  4. Suckling pigs
  5. Mermaids (or Sirens)
  6. Fabulous ones
  7. Stray dogs
  8. Those that are included in this classification
  9. Those that tremble as if they were mad
  10. Innumerable ones
  11. Those drawn with a very fine camel hair brush
  12. Et cetera
  13. Those that have just broken the flower vase
  14. Those that, at a distance, resemble flies

Reading this taxonomy I wondered how it could be translated into the realm of Open Badges. The result is Open Badge Taxonomy #1.

Open Badge Taxonomy #1 (directly inspired by The Celestial Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge):

  1. Those issued by someone with more than 5,000 Linkedin connections
  2. The revoked ones
  3. Those related to formal training
  4. Those that have never been issued
  5. Marine-related ones
  6. Those earned by only 10 people in the whole world
  7. Those that were erased from the backpack at Christmas time
  8. Those included in this classification
  9. Those with an animated PNG
  10. Those that cannot be counted
  11. Those which picture has been hand drawn
  12. Et cetera
  13. Those that cannot be uploaded in the Backpack
  14. Those that, at a distance, resemble nothing special

After this first attempt, I wondered whether I could create more of them, let’s say “the behaviourist Open Badge taxonomy,”  and “the constructivist Open Badge taxonomy.” The combination of both gave Taxonomy #2.

Open Badge Taxonomy #2 (the behaviourist-constructivist Open Badge Taxonomy):

  • Those issued by those who believe in the need for controlling others
    • Those issued by those who believe that studying pigeons provides an insight into the human mind
      • Those issued by those who believe in behaviourist theories
        • Those issued by those who believe in the need for doggy biscuits and praise for motivating learners
      • Those issued by those who believe in gamification
      • Those issued by those who think that Open Badges are more ‘chic’ than gold stars
    • Those issued by those who believe that Open Badges should be ‘quality assured’
  • Those issued by those who believe in the need to empower others
    • Those issued by those who believe that only idiots can believe that studying pigeons can provide any insight into the human mind
      • Those issued by those who like to ridicule behaviourist beliefs

Although rather self-indulgent, this taxonomy is perfectly operational to organise the knowledge on Open Badges. Looking at power relationships is a-priori not less valid than any other classification. In the opinion of the author of this post, differentiating between the different ‘types’ of Open Badges, trust vs. distrust, is probably the only valuable taxonomy, if one is needed. read more »

Accreditation Competency Employability Identity Open Badges

#OpenBadges – Micro-credentials: what can we learn from micro-credits?

“The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.”
― Ernest Hemingway

Are micro-credentials a disruptive innovation, just as micro-credits (micro-loans) were thought to be a few years ago? To answer this question we should first find out what can be qualified as a disruptive innovation? According to Wikipedia:

A disruptive innovation is an innovation that helps create a new market and value network, and eventually disrupts an existing market and value network (over a few years or decades), displacing an earlier technology.

Open Badges are creating a new market, the market of Open Credentials (micro-credentials are just one type of Open Credentials) and establishing a new currency, or more precisely reinvigorating one of the oldest currencies ever: trust.

Trust has many properties. First, it’s free and when offered, it enriches both the giver and the recipient. And when the recipients of trust get richer (with trust), their increased wealth can trickle back to those who initiallyoffered their trust. While it might still need the philosophers’ stone (link) to be transmuted into gold, trust can nevertheless be transformed into real cash as one experiences when applying for a loan. Con artists and banks* also know how to make cash out of trust!

For the poorest, things are different. One of the few assets they cannot be totally deprived of is trust. Thanks to the Nobel Prize winning Grameen Bank (link) founded by Muhammad Yunus, they now have the power to convert trust into micro-loans.

Grameen Bank is owned by the borrowers and it is based on trust. It does not require any collateral from its borrowers. Since the bank does not wish to take any borrower to the court of law in case of non-repayment, it does not require the borrowers to sign any legal instrument.

Were micro-credits transformative?

What lessons could the Open Badge practitioners learn from the Grameen Bank and the many micro-credit organisations that have been spawned since its creation? Can we draw a parallel between micro-credits and micro-credentials in terms of empowerment and potential social transformation? Could Open Badges create the conditions for the emergence of a new economy?

read more »

Digital Identity eSelf Identity Internet of Subjects Open Badges Personal Data Store Trust

OpenBadges: The Deleterious Effects of Mistaking Security for Trust

What is the relationship between trust and security, security and privacy, privacy and personal data protection? For some time now, I knew that there was something wrong with the so-called trust technologies, but I did not take the time to pin down what the source of the problem was. Apart from rechristening them as distrust technologies, I did not make the effort to explore any further the matter. Here are two excerpts from previous posts:

Is there an escape from an alternative that can only lead to an escalation in the development of distrust technologies? in Why Open Badges Could Kill the Desire to Learn?

One of the most interesting and undervalued features of the Open Badge Infrastructure is trust: I have commented before that there is a risk for the Open Badges’ pretty pictures to become what the proverbial tree is to the forest of trust. I’ve also written that OBI is a native trust infrastructure, while most of the so-called trust architectures would be better described as distrust architectures (in a native trust environment, trust is by default, while distrust is generated by experience; in a distrust environment distrust is by default while trust is generated by experience). in Punished by Open Badges?

Designing Principles for a (dis)Trusted Environment

What brought me to explore further the issue of trust and security was the participation at a workshop organised by the Aspen Institute at SXSWedu 2015. The participants were invited to produce a series of scenarios eliciting the design principles of a trusted [digital] environment. The workshop took place the day following a session on “Designing Principles for a Trusted Environment” during which the winners of the DML Trust Challenge were announced.

While the challenge we were invited to address was the design of a trusted environment what struck me in most of the proposed scenarios was that they did exactly the opposite: they designed an environment where distrust was the founding principle. The designing principles for a distrusted environment were:

If you have a problem with trust the solution is increased control and security measures.

While this principle might sound fine to the superficial reader, the problem is that it reveals a misconception of what trust is about and, consequently, on how to deal with situations where low levels of trust are an issue. While both trust and security are related to safety, they are at the two ends of a spectrum.

While one can take security measures, send security forces, one cannot take trust measures and send trust forces. Security is something you can do to things, trust is something you can only get from within. Mistaking one for the other, trust for security, could (and generally does) have deleterious effects on trust.

read more »

ePortfolio LMS Open Badges

A Cure Against OBesity: The One Pixel #OpenBadges , #OpenPassport and #xAPI

While my experience with competency-based education initially led me to think that we should only get badges for “serious stuff” like the demonstration of a mastery, or possibly a competency (although this could lead to fragmented learning and assessment, and that will be the subject of another post), I have changed my position some time ago. I believe that it is perfectly adequate to deliver a badge for less”serious stuff,” like attending a conference.

A conference’s badge could be given to all the participants without any distinction, there could also be special badges for speakers and organisers. Badges for speakers and organisers could be delivered by the participants. In fact, rather than new badges created specifically for one event, they could be endorsement badges, i.e. endorsing a badge already owned by the authors and organisers.

There are other interesting benefits in delivering badges at a conference; one service that will be built on top of the Open Badge Passport is the ability for someone holding a certain badge to communicate with all the other holders of the same badge. Open Badges will behave like mailing lists. This will provide an easy way for the holders of the same badge (or same pattern in a collection ) to establish conversations without having to disclose any personal identifier. Of course, it will be easy to opt-out at the time the badge is collected in the passport — and to opt-in later.

Should everything be badged?

Carpet Baddging

Since I realised that Open Badges are statements of trust, to those querying whether having too many badges might be a problem, my response is: who would complain for receiving too many tokens of trust? 

Yet, while I changed my position regarding the quality and quantity of badges (sometimes the change in quantity can lead to the emergence of new qualities) I am still not satisfied with the fact that Open Badges are being delivered for almost anything, like visiting a website or answering correctly to a multiple choice question.

It is now so easy to issue badges that we can witness “Carpet Badging,” a term coined by Kyle Bowen (@kyledbowen) in 2013! The issue Kyle raised was about the importance of metadata. While there is certainly an issue with badly defined or poor metadata, may be the problem lays elsewhere. May be poor medata is a sign that Open Badges were not the right answer in the first place?

read more »

Open Badges Quality Standards

Over 2 Millions Types of #OpenBadges ! Don’t you think that’s wonderful?

(I should probably add the subtitle: And less than 10 types of ePortfolios!)

One of Badge Europe‘s intellectual outputs (yuck! I can’t use this “concept” without cringing!) is a discussion paper on quality and Open Badges.

Intellectual Output: a term contributed to the Newspeak Dictionary edited by the European Commission, to replace deliverable, a perfectly decent and understandable term, as if any deliverable did not involve some kind of intellectual effort, implying therefore that the work produced by previous European projects could be partly the result of machines, automata or idiots — I won’t comment on the last one!

This discussion paper on quality and Open Badges should raise a number of interesting issues that I addressed in a previous post (ePortfolios & Open Badges at the Service of Learning eQuality) which refers to a presentation I made last year at a meeting of the Fédération Interuniversitaire de l’Enseignement à Distance (FIED).

One of the problems I have with frameworks such as “quality in eLearning” is that they tend to convey the message that it is possible to have such a thing as “good eLearning” on top of poor or archaic models. They do not use quality as a transformative force, but rather as a normative model, and extension of the old model, stifling innovation and creativity.

In the discussion paper, one of the risks is the mechanistic application of traditional quality models to the Open Badge ecosystem. And if there is something we do not need it is any kind of “quality framework” that would curb or smother the innovation born out of Open Badges. If Open Badges are not used to transform education, social inclusion and employment, then who cares for their “quality?”

read more »