Making Open Badges more portable with alternative formats


Open Badge Factory (OBF) is a platform used by thousands of organisations to create, issue and manage open badges. We have been developing OBF for six years now in collaboration with our user community and at times it can be challenging for developers to find technical solutions that fit diverse and sometimes opposing customer needs.

The Open Badge standard made the choice early on of baking badge metadata into image files (png or svg) and this affects the way badges can be displayed and shared today. A badge currently requires its recipient to create an account in a “backpack” or “passport” to be displayed as a valid badge and to be shared.

Open Badges images

Most badge recipients in associations or schools are happy with this requirement because displayer platforms such as Open Badge Passport generally offer other interesting services and features to enable recipients to leverage greater value from their badges. By greater value, we mean, firstly, the opportunity for badge earners to enrich their badges with new evidence. Secondly, badge earners can add a social aspect to their badges by having them endorsed by colleagues or peers, and use their badges to connect with other users using badges they hold in common.

Clients, especially in the corporate sector, however, need “standalone” badges that can be easily displayed without using a display platform. Many client use cases require these badges to be forgery-proof signed digital certificates verified with blockchains. To make things even more challenging, some clients need both solutions.

When OBF development team started to look for solutions to these needs, an interesting question was raised: “Could the format of a badge be something else than a png or svg picture?” A PDF is an open format (ISO 32000-2) truly portable (Portable Document Format) that supports metadata and digital signatures and can also be self-hosted and is easy to share and view. It is a perfect format for baking and issuing a badge and validating it with a digital signature! The solution we implemented does not replace an Open Badge baked in a picture. Soon in Open Badge Factory you can issue a badge both as a hosted badge that can evolve in Passport and as a standalone signed PDF badge that is forgery-proof, (fully compliant with Open Badge standard version 2.0) and can be used without a displayer service.

The most interesting aspect of this innovation is not only the fact that OBF can issue the same badge both ways but the lifecycle of the badge.

Badge lifecycle

When a signed PDF badge is uploaded in Open Badge Passport it is turned into a hosted badge that can be enriched with endorsements and additional evidence. This same badge can later be revalidated in Open Badge Factory with a new signature in PDF format.

We are excited to announce that this new feature will be released at the beginning of December at OBF Premium and PRO levels!

Author: Eric Rousselle, CEO, Open Badge Factory

Open Badge Factory provides the tools your organisation needs to implement a meaningful and sustainable Open Badges system. OBF is certified by IMS Global and follows the latest version of the standard.