Wednesday, 10 October 2018

Open Badge Backpacks and the acknowledgement of learning competences and achievements

Badges, emblems or medals have been used for a long time to show achievements and acknowledge well-performed work and gained competences.

Let's see, for example the badges the Military show on their flaps, or the medals awarded in Olympic Games and other sport events, not to mention the badges video gamers gain when overcoming game stages. The same applies to marketing, where you can find business models based on badge and prize or credit awarding in order to keep customer loyalty.

Then, why not in Education? It might be that Education is always a bit behind, but in the end digital open badges have landed on the educational field and they are here to stay, with several purposes:

1. For motivation. There are all kinds of badges being awarded to motivate learners and teachers. At the end of a lesson, to keep up the spirit. In order to highlight a really outstandingly crafted learning mission. For gamification purposes. In school contests, out of escape rooms and so forth.

2. For social recognition. There are backpacks nowadays which foster peer - to - peer badge awarding and gaining, based on social interaction, on shared projects and contributions, as well as on rankings whose feed comes from peers themselves.

3. For teacher training. Traditionally aligned with MOOC completion, they have extended their appearance at the end of MOOC Modules, after successfully finishing NOOC (Nano Open Online Courses), SPOOC (Self-Paced Open Online Courses), GROOC (Group Open Online Courses), or Online Instructed Courses; when walking solidly along learning paths on your mobile device or if taking part in live conferences, webathons and workshops.

Open badges are part of a lifelong learning trend to recognize and verify the learning done in any environment, whether formal or informal. Thus they have become a digital representation of an achievement acquired and a professional competence developed and / or improved, which well may fill in for long boring resumes and cvs, playing a key role when trying to bring Education and Employability close to each other.

Nowadays there are several open badge backpacks which, although with a slightly different spirit, have the same underlying philosophy: an open badge is a type of credential that evidences the acquisition of competences and / or the achievement of certain objectives across a learning/training activity, regardless of how learning has been acquired, as long as it is evident.

Open Badge Backpacks

There is currently a wide range of open badge backpacks where one can store their digital open badges, share them with the world and connect with other educators who are also prone to learning anywhere, anytime, anyhow. 

Below I am listing those which, in my humble opinion, could be regarded as Top 8 Open Badge Backpacks, due to their user-friendly interface, their vocation of openness, and their interconnection with learning management systems. They are in alphabetical order:


Acclaim is a web service based backpack being used by quite a lot of well-known brands, which allows you to design, deliver, award and support open badges, but which also connects them with learning paths and itineraries.


It allows you to claim your badges via a previously received code. Inspired by Mozilla, BadgeCraft is a multilingual web platform to manage achievements using digital open badges. Organisations and individuals can earn, create, issue, share, sort and display badges online, besides using them to communicate achievements in the places which matter, according to their own definition.

Badge List

Badge List allows you to create learning groups quickly so as to share gained and issued badges. Every badge holder has a portfolio of evidence and each awarded badge is backed by machine-readable metadata, the latter being the usual philosophy of open badges. However, the fact that the evidence portfolio is invisibly integrated with the backpack itself is a worthwhile feature that not many other backpacks offer nowadays.


Fully open badge baked credentials to issue, gain and award, Badgr also offers learning paths around badges, so informal learning and competence gaining and acknowledgement go hand in hand. It has been launched by the team who created Open Badges 2.0 for Mozilla, and they have been able to set up a full learning ecosystem around badges and now offer learning courses, events, as well as the afore mentioned paths, that circle around open badges as solid, safe and serious digital credentials.


Credly might be the most social open badge backpack in the market nowadays. It allows you to create, issue and manage open badges in a straight-foward way. You can organise your badges in categories, decide if they are public or hidden, embed them in your sites, but you can also connect with contacts and lists, see how many badges they have earned and given, and what is more important, give them credit, that is, award peers with open badges for the credit you believe they deserve, or claim your own credit with a code you should have previously received. Absolutely open to any individual or institution, it is a social backpack worth exploring, with a manage dashboard full of features and educational potential.

Insignias INTEF

It is the bilingual open badge backpack run by the Ministry of Education in Spain. 'Insignias INTEF' is a pioneer initiative in such professional recognition to teachers, as no other Ministry of Education in Europe so far has developed such a service; it is absolutely compatible with open standards and you may upload or import any open badge that you have, either directly from your PC, or from Mozilla Backpack. It allows you to store open badges, organise them in collections, download them, share them in social networks and embed them in your digital sites, blogs, and so forth. Recently it has been updated to start becoming a social and communication badge network, since you may follow peers and be followed by peers, as well as instant message them.
However, it has a snag, and it is that only institutions and entities may be part of the backpack issuers, that is no individual teacher may award open badges to their students, peers or trainees, unless their educational administration is one of the organizations that has previously requested to issue open badges there, and so, knowing the red tape every Ministry has, it might take ages until you, as an individual teacher, may become a badge issuer and are able to start verifying and acknowledging competences both to your peers, to your school, or to your students/trainees.
Nevertheless, it is a solid backpack, full of features; it is connected to Open EdX Learning Management System and to the Spanish Digital Competence Portfolio for Teachers, and a good service for verifying all kinds of learning, digital and professional achievements.

Mozilla Open Badge Backpack

The original Open Badge Backpack by Mozilla has been out there since the very beginning of the appearance of digital credentials and it is surely the inspiration for younger alike services. Supported by Mozilla Foundation, it is maybe the best known backpack all over the world and the one that most individuals use. It is well compatible with lots of learning management systems and training platforms, and it allows you to store and organise your badges into collections as well as download them to your own PC.

P2PU Badges

From the P2PU learning and training providers, P2PU Badges is an open community of badges. You can create an open badge simply to prompt learning debates, conversations and feel part of a professional community of educators and institutions who think that verification, recognition and acknowlegment is much more than a piece of paper, usually called 'certificate'. The badges support educational projects, are social, and awarded on the basis of contributing to a project, which clearly fosters communication, collaboration, cooperative learning, and positive formative assessment. Peers identify skills, give each other feedback on projects, and iterate to improve in the open. Learners can share their badges on social networks and embed them in their digital spaces.

As a fan of open badges and a believer in their use in recognition for lifelong learning, I have a bit of a collection myself, which I have gathered in several backpacks, according to needs. The whole set is available for you to check at my 'Digital Certificates and Open Badges' page.

I look forward to living the day in Education when we do away with hourly based training certificates and may show a badge professional portfolio full of learning evidences, which undoubtedly will say more of us as teachers than the amount of hours we may spend in front of screen reading contents just for example, to get a 70-hour certificate. 

Let's rethink teacher training with imagination and future sustainable vision!

Images used in this post retrieved from Pixabay. CC0.

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