Author: Kerri Lemoie (BadgeChain)
Open Badges represent skills, achievements, and accomplishments that occur in any context, whether that be formal, informal or non-formal, in and out of school learning, job training, online-learning, or self-learning. There are three essential audiences: earners (recipients), issuers and consumers.
The Open Badges specification describes a method for packaging information about accomplishments, embedding it into portable image files as digital badges, and establishing an infrastructure for its validation. This data makes it possible to verify the asserted achievements by identifying the issuer and recipient, explaining the criteria required along with the evidence of the achievement. Open Badges are JSON-LD compatible, making it possible for them to be consumed by applications, APIs, as well as searchable and findable on the web.
In a nutshell, BadgeChain shifts the Open Badges work to blockchain technology. With this new direction for Open Badges, we’re aiming to address specific ecosystem needs and concerns that include delivery and storage solutions. Blockchain technology offers us an opportunity to pursue implementations of badges as personal currency—currency that can represent not only skills but also trust, relationships, and reputation. The BadgeChain initiative is a vital next step in the development of the Open Badges Specification and its related ecosystem development. We’re excited to be playing an important role in exploring the possibilities of blockchain and related technologies for learning recognition.
One particular issue that we’ve been focusing on relates to long-term badge storage. The problem: in the existing implementation of Open Badges, issued badges become an artifact that must be hosted permanently. Currently, badges reside on the originating badge issuers’ servers. If a badge is no longer hosted there, whether accidentally or intentionally, it becomes a potential liability to both the earner and the open badges ecosystem. Without the vital hosting reference links that confirm it, the badge can no longer be validated or verified. Consequently, the badge becomes orphaned and theoretically useless. Because blockchain acts as both a distribution and storage mechanism, that aspect of the technology alone immediately improves upon the verifiability and long-term storage of badges.
Beyond the critical need for historical storage of badge data, there are questions and challenges related to the needs of the ecosystem that we believe would benefit from open discussion and work with the convened individuals. These include:
The work described here represents the BadgeChain team efforts. Together, we’re exploring a variety of these areas, as well as others related to badges, learning recognition, and blockchain. As part of this work, and to promote the discussion and dissemination of these ideas, we are working in the open to develop a resilient community. It’s our profound belief that this work would benefit from the sort of proposed open discussion and work-oriented focus of the W3C event. Additionally, we hope that our work along with others, will profit the entire blockchain ecosystem and its development. Many thanks.
Kerri Lemoie has been working with Open Source web technologies since 1998 in leadership roles at Amazon.com and InsureMyTrip.com. Kerri was a founding contributor to Open Badges developing some of the first issuing and displaying applications. In her role as CTO at Achievery.com, she continued her contributions to Open Badges as a member of the technical advisory committee, member of the Open Badges Specification Cabinet and Chair of the Open Badges Directory Working Group. She currently runs OpenWorks Group, an Open Source EdTech consulting company and is a co-founder of BadgeChain.