What Is Open Badge Factory?
Open Badge Factory is a cloud-based platform which offers societies, educational institutions, companies and other organizations tools through which they can create, issue and manage meaningful Open Badges of good quality.
To use the service you need an internet connection and a web browser which supports HTML5 technology. Open Badge Factory can be used on any device.
Concept and Roles
When an organization becomes a user of the service, a new area of operation is created. This is called the organization’s environment.
In instruction material and in the user interface “badge” is usually used to refer to an Open Badge.
An organization’s environment is managed by a user in an admin role. The administrator of the Open Badge Factory service creates the first admin user for the customer organization and makes sure that this user is authorized by the organization s/he represents.
The admin user is responsible for the settings and user management of the environment. S/he creates and deletes other users and sets roles for users of the environment: admin, creator or issuer. In addition to managing the environment, the admin user can also create and issue badges.
Creator is a user who has both Creator tools and Issuer tools at her/his disposal. S/he can create, edit and delete badges and images, criteria pages and email templates related to badges. A creator can also issue badges.
An issuer is a user who has access to Issuer tools. S/he can issue badges designed by creators and view reports related to issued badges.
Recipient / Earner
A recipient is a person who has earned a badge. The recipient does not have an account in the Open Badge Factory service but receives the badge via email. From a technical point of view, the only piece of information which the issuer needs to issue a badge is the recipient’s email address.
In addition to using the “recipient” term, also the term “badge earner” is used in instruction material and in the user interface. Basically, they mean the same thing but the term “recipient” highlights the issuer and the process of sending the badge, whereas the “badge earner” term stresses the point of view of earning the badge.
Consumer is a person who views the badge earned and shared by the recipient. The recipient of the badge might have shared the badge in, for example, social media or via an ePortfolio. The consumer can be a friend, an acquaintance, a relative, a family member, an employer, a colleague, a cooperation partner, etc of the badge earner.
The Dashboard is the user’s start view when s/he logs into the service. From the dashboard the user can see in one view what has happened lately in the service (Activity), the organization’s badge statistics (Statistics) and the messages sent by users of the organization (Notification board).
The dashboard is visible to all users of the environment and its purpose is to support the team work of the organization. The tools available on the dashboard aim to give the user a quick and easy review of the organization’s badge situation and latest activity.
The Activity log displays the latest activities carried out in the environment. The log tells the user which user has done what, what kind of activity it is and when it has occurred. The activity usually relates to badges but also important operations related to maintenance and user management, like creating or deleting a user, are shown.
The aim is to give the user a clear view of what has happened since her/his last session and who has carried out these operations. Via the Activity log the user also gets an overview about the usage of the service in her/his own organization.
The statistics displayed on the Dashboard are general statistics relating to the service use.
The Statistics view tells the user the following things:
- Badges created: How many badges does the organization have in the service
- Badges used in issuing: How many badges out of all created badges have been issued
- Total number of Earners: How many badge earners does the organization have (all issuing events in total)
With the help of the statistics the user can follow the development of her/his own badge base and the number of issued badges.
An organization has users who can be defined in one of three roles: admin, creator or issuer. Depending on the role the user has different tools at her/his disposal. Users in different roles form a team in the organization, whose members and their roles are listed under the Team heading.
Team members inside an organization can use a Notification board to communicate among themselves. For example, a badge creator can post a message to the badge issuers that the badge is ready to be issued. On the board team members can also notify others about what they have done or are about to do in the environment.
1. Type your message into the field and click the Post new button. → The message appears on the Notification Board and information about who has sent the message and when is attached to the post.
The tools with which users in the admin and creator roles can create and manage badges are found under this function. The function is not visible to users in the issuer role.
Badge library is a place where a creator can create new badges and edit badges s/he has created earlier (badges s/he has created her/himself or badges created by others). All badges created by the organization are listed in the library. In the library, a user can view badges, search for badges with different search criteria and make changes to badges.
Badges can be organized either by editing date (Order by last modified) or by the title (Order by title) of the badge.
Searching for badges with keywords
Badge searches can be made with keywords by typing a word into the Filter field. The search is performed immediately as you type in the word.
Searching for badges by category
You can also do searches by categories defined by creators. Categories are types of keywords and badges are classified into topics with them. A creator can create new categories when needed and one badge can be added to several categories.
If categories are added to badges, the Badge library page displays all created badges and the category All is selected:
Searching for badges according to one category
Click the appropriate category, for example language, and as it becomes active, only the badges categorized with the word “language” are displayed:
Searching for badges according to several categories
Click all the appropriate categories, for example, language and france, and all badges categorized with the words “language” ja “france” are displayed:
Note! In a situation where none of the badges in the library have been categorized with all the selected categories, no badges are displayed. For example, if you choose categories language, french and german, there are no search results because none of the badges has been categorized in all three categories:
Click the all button to see all badges again.
Adding a category to a badge
- Click the badge to which you want to add categories.
- Add a category to the Categories field and click Enter after which you will see the category under the Categories heading. Note! If the category has already been added to another badge, the system suggests it automatically.
- Once the categories have been created, you can close the popup window.
Removing a category from a badge
- Click the badge from which you wish to remove categories.
- Click the small cross next to the category’s name.
- Once the categories have been removed, you can close the popup window.
Creating a new badge
Create a new badge by clicking the empty badge icon with the text Create new badge.
You will see a view where you are instructed on how to create the badge (phases 1-5). In each phase a form is opened where the badge creator can insert the badge information.
In this view the creator inserts badge information which is directed at internal use for creators and issuers. The creator can add information, for example, about the following things: who is responsible for designing the badge’s content and graphic look, what is the purpose of it, in what circumstances can the badge be issued, how the badge relates to the other badges in the environment, etc.
The system automatically loads a guideline to the About view of a new badge.
The goal is to give the users general information about the purpose of the badge, things relating to its usage and thus guide the organization’s creators and issuers on carrying out the correct Open Badges strategy.
An admin user of the environment can modify, add and delete the guideline as follows:
- From the top menu, choose Admin tools
- Click on the left menu Guideline
- Once you have modified the text, click Save
- When the guideline has been modified, it is immediately updated to the About view of new badges but the modifications do not affect existing badges and their About views
Creators can modify the questions in the About view when they create a new badge or when they are modifying an existing badge. The About field is optional and it does not have to be used / modified.
In this view you save the information related to the badge which is embedded into the badge’s metadata. This information is displayed to the badge earner and other viewers of the badge.
The most visible part of the badge is its image which is loaded from
- the user’s own computer: Upload PNG file or
- from the Image library if images have been uploaded there.
The image must be:
- In PNG format
- square-shaped, e.g. 100 x 100 px
- medium sized, e.g. 100-300 px. We recommend size 200 x 200 px
- no more than 250 kB in file size
The image is mandatory and the image must be uploaded no later than when the badge is set as ready for issuing (5. Preview)
The name of the badge can contain maximum of 128 characters and it is displayed to the badge earner and other viewers of the badge. Choose a name which describes the badge as accurately as possible. The name field is mandatory.
The function of the description field is to describe the purpose and content of the badge concisely so that the viewer of the badge is intrigued and wants to know more. You can use up to 1000 characters in the description field. This field is mandatory.
The issuer of the badge can add tags which relate the topic of the badge. Note! Tags and Open Badge Factory categories are two separate functionalities.
Default expiration time
You can define an expiration time for the badge after which the badge is no longer valid. Thus, an issuer organization can create badges whose validity the earner can expand by, for example, taking part in additional training. When creating the badge you define the month and year of expiration and when issuing the badge, you give a specific expiration date.
The criteria page is one of the most important metadata fields of the badge because it explains the purpose of the badge and explains on what grounds the badge has been issued to an earner. When creating their badges, an organization should pay close attention to the criteria pages of their badges because they define the value of badges to a great extent.
The criteria page includes description about the expertise, skills and accomplishments of the earner. In addition to text, the page may include images and links. Via links you can refer to different sites that can complement and clarify the description on the criteria page.
The creator can compose the criteria page her/himself or load a criteria template into use: Pick a criteria template.
A criteria page created for a specific badge can be saved as a template to be used later: Save as template.
The criteria page is mandatory. An unfinished badge can be saved as a draft (5. Preview) but the badge cannot be finalized/issued without content on the criteria page.
In this view the email message, which is sent to the recipient when s/he is issued a badge, is written. The message has two parts: the issuing message and the footer. The link via which the earner can accept the badge is displayed between these two parts.
Email subject: The subject of the message.
Email message body: The actual message for the earner which usually contains information about why was this badge issued. It is recommended that the last sentence of the message body is for example: “You can accept the badge from this link”.
Email message footer: At the bottom of the message the issuer can add, for example, a link to her/his web site.
The creator can create the message or load a template: Pick an email template. The use of templates helps the organization to maintain a unified issuing process and saves the creators’ and issuers’ time. The issuing messages are usually very much alike although the badges’ contents differ.
The creator can save a message as a template from the Save as template link.
The use of the Message form is not obligatory and the creator can leave it blank. This way the issuer needs to compose a message.
The creator of the badge can check the information s/he has filled in and return to modify them later if needed.
If the badge is not yet ready for issuing and it needs to be modified later, the badge is saved as a Draft. Drafts are seen only by the environment’s admins and creators.
If the badge is finished and ready for issuing, it is saved as Ready for issuing. After this, also issuers in the environment can see the badge in Issuer tools → Issue badge.
Modifying / Copying / Deleting badges
On the front page of the Badge library you can see all badges of the organizations, drafts and badges ready for issuing. To edit a badge:
- Click the badge and in the popup window click edit after which you will see the familiar form also used when creating a new badge.
- In the same popup window it is possible to copy a badge as a base for a new badge by clicking the copy button. This way you do not need to start creating a badge from scratch and the texts can be utilized effectively.
- In the same popup window it is possible to delete a badge by clicking delete.
A milestone badge (or meta badge) is a “super badge” associated with a collection of “smaller” badges. A milestone badge is automatically awarded to an earner when all required badges in the pathway have been issued.
The role of a meta badge in the badge system is determined by the issuer. It can be the final step in a pathway, it can express an access to a “higher level” or it can be a compilation or a summary badge.
Notice that required badges in the pathway can be issued in any order. This makes it possible for earners to progress in their own pace.
Creating a milestone badge
Click Creator tools and choose Milestone badges. Click create new milestone badge. Choose a badge from your badge library. Then add the required badges in the pathway which need to be earned for the milestone badge. Save the new milestone badge.
Issuing a milestone badge
When a badge related to a milestone badge is issued, earner can see all the badges required for the milestone badge on the acceptance page. The earner can easily see all the badges already earned and those still needed. Once the earner has been awarded the last badge, the milestone badge is also issued.
The term meta badge is significant only to badge creators and issuers. From an earner’s point of view a milestone badge is a normal badge, which contains information about the path the user has taken and her/his achievements.
For the earners it would be helpful to make milestone badges differ from regular badges. Creators can for example choose differently styled images or append criterias from required badges to the milestone badge.
The flexible badge implementation of OBF makes it possible to build hierarchial milestone badges using other milestones.
The Image library is a folder where creators can upload images. The images are used by creators and admins of the environment.
The purpose of the image library is to support the distributed design process of the badges. When all of the organization’s badge images are saved in the library and not on users’ own computers, the correct versions are always available to users.
- In PNG format
- square-shaped, e.g. 100 x 100 px
- medium sized, e.g. 100-300 px. We recommend size 200 x 200 px
- no more than 250 kB in file size
Images can be categorized in the same manner as badges (see Creating/Deleting categories). Images can be organized and searched for in the same way as badges.
Uploading an image to the library
- Click the Upload new image icon.
- Upload the image from your computer by clicking the Select PNG file link.
- Give the image a name (file name is used by default) and if needed, a comment.
- Finally, click Save.
Criteria page templates
On the Criteria page templates page you can see all the organization’s criteria page templates saved in the environment which can be utilized when creating new badges.
The criteria page templates are useful when an organization wants to create criteria pages which have a unified structure and style. The purpose is to make the creation of similar badges easier and faster in such cases where the criteria of the badges do not differ from each other very much and the same kind of language and design is needed for coherence.
A criteria page template can also be used although the criteria pages are different because once you have taken a template into use, it is easy to modify it and the original template remains in the environment. The use of templates saves the creator’s time.
Criteria page templates can be categorized the same way badges are categorized (see Creating/Deleting categories). Templates can be organized and searched for.
With Issuer tools all users of the environment (admin, creator and issuer) can issue badges, create recipient lists for issuing and view reports on issued badges.
1. Preview badge
Here the issuer can see how the badge appears to the recipient.
2. Set badge details
Here the issuer can define when the badge is issued and when it expires, if a certain validity period needs to be defined. The issuer can view the criteria page composed by the creator by clicking the Criteria preview link at the bottom of the page.
The issuer can add text to the criteria page if needed and this text will be visible in the Criteria addendum field, under the text added by the creator. This text can be some specific piece of information, relating, for example, to the issuing event. An example: If the badge is issued in connection with a certain training, the issuer can describe in detail what was done and verified on the course. The Criteria addendum field is optional.
3. Select recipients
At this stage the issuer fills in the recipient list in the Email addresses (one per line) field or loads a list by clicking Pick a recipient list button. Insert one email address per line.
4. Edit email message
Here the issuer can modify the subject of the message sent to the recipients and the message itself (Email message body). An Email message footer can also be added where the issuer can insert additional information, for example, instructions.
The message can be previewed at the bottom of the page by clicking the Email preview link.
Depending on the practices of the organization, the creator of the badge may have added a message when creating the badge or the message field is empty and the issuer inserts the message when issuing the badge.
5. Confirm & issue
The issuer sees a summary about the badge which is being issued. For reporting purposes, s/he can insert an Event name.
When everything is in order, the issuer clicks the Issue badge button after which the system generates the badges for the earners and sends them a message. Issuing can take place if a message has been inserted (phase 4) and at least one recipient has been defined (phase 3).
Organizing and searching for badges
The issuer can sort badges according to the last modification time or by title, or s/he can insert a search word into the filter field. An issuer can search by existing categories. Note! An issuer cannot add/remove badge categories.
Email message templates
The issuing is done via email. The message sent to the recipients of the badge does usually not reveal the details of the badge but only generally describes the Open Badge concept, tells who the badge is issued by and how to accept it. This is why a good message template is very useful to creators and issuers because they do not have to write new instructions every time they want to issue a badge.
With the Email message templates function the issuer can create message templates for future issuing events and its purpose is to make the work of creators and issuers faster and easier.
Organizing and searching for message templates
The issuer can organize templates according to the last modification time or by title, or s/he can insert a search word into the filter field. An issuer can search by existing categories.
Adding a category to message templates
An issuer can add categories to message templates by opening the template by clicking it and adding a category/categories.
The purpose of the Open Badge Factory reports is to give the user of the environment a general picture of her/his organization’s activity and information about how the issued badges have been received and how they have been utilized.
Environment level reports
- The number of created badges
- The number of badges used in issuing
- Issuing events, meaning how many times has the issuing process been carried out
- Total number of earners
The graph displays reports on receiving badges. The reports show you how all badges have been received:
- Not received: It is not known whether the badge has been accepted or not
- Accepted: The earner has confirmed that s/he wants to accept the badge
The system gathers information about how recipients of badges have rated them. By rating badges the recipients show how useful they find the badges issued to them. The recipient of the badge can rate the badge during the acceptance process of the badge. The scale used in rating in 1-5 (min. 1, max. 5). The report shows the average of all given ratings.
Criteria Page Hits
This report tells you how many times have the criteria pages of badges been viewed in total.
- Top Issued: Lists the badges that have been issued most in the environment
- Top Rated: Lists the badges that have been rated highest among recipients
- Top Seen: Lists the badges whose criteria pages have been viewed the most
Reports on individual badges
You can also view badge-specific reports which include all above-mentioned data.
You can view reports on a specific badge by clicking the badge’s name on the Reports page under the Badge heading.
Reports on issuing events
You can also view reports on issuing events which include all above-mentioned data.
You can view reports on a specific issuing event by clicking the badge’s name on the Reports page under the Badge heading and in the next view, see under Issuing events.
List of recipients
Also lists of recipients by badge can be viewed. Click the badge’s name on the Reports page under the Badge heading and in the next view, see under Recipients.
Accessing this section requires that the user is in admin role. The user who creates an environment in OBF for his or her organisation will automatically become the first admin.
This is the place where the administrator will create and manage user accounts. The information required to create a user account is: user’s email, name, password and role. The roles have been explained in the Concept and Roles section at the beginning of this help document.
Here is the form where the admin fills in information about his or her organisation. The name, URL and organisation email are compulsory because they are baked in the badge metadata. The reply-to-address will be used, when badges are sent by email to earners, as it is useful to earners who wish to reply to the issuer’s message.
If your organisation is authorised (optional feature in the Premium service level) to create sub-organisations, this is the place where you can create them. The sub-organisation feature allows big organisations to issue badges with different issuer information. For example for a university, sub-organisations can be used so that its faculties can issue badges in their own names even if they all use one common OBF environment.
Creating a new sub-organisation is simple. After clicking on create new sub-organisation button, fill in the form the required information: name, URL and organisation email. Other fields are optional.
After setting up sub-organisations OBF issuers will have the possibility to choose one of them when issuing a badge (in the Set badge details, second step of the issuing wizard). It is possible to generate reports based on sub-organisations in the Reports section.
This is the place where you can select other OBF user organisations to become your partners. After selecting partners you will be able to share badges with them. Notice that other organisations can choose your organisation to be a partner in their network. If you want to avoid it and be invisible to other OBF user organisations, uncheck the searchable option (default) in the organisation details form.
Here your organisation’s admin(s) can select the badges that the organisation wants to share with all or some of its partners. Badges can be shared as links (the name of the original creator of the badge will be displayed in the badge issued by a partner) or as copies. When a partner is allowed to make a copy of one of your organisation’s badges, the copy will not contain the name of the original creator.
Notice that the organisation, which is the creator of the badge, can manage the badges it shared as links by setting expiration dates, but it will not have control on badges shared as copies.
Here the admin(s) can write guideline instructions for badge creators. This guideline document usually contains strategic questions that badge creator team has to acknowledge when designing a new badge. These questions can be for example:
- “Who is responsible for developing this badge?”
- “What resources are needed to develop the badge?”
- “Who is responsible of the graphic design?”
- “What are the target groups that could be rewarded with this badge?”
- “Does this badge point to competency framework? Which one?”
- “How this badge will be issued? As a part of a milestone badge? As a badge application?”
The API key is requested to activate some of the OBF -plugins for example Moodle, TotaraLMS and Mahara OBF issuer plugins. Click on the Generate certificate signing request token to display and copy it. For more information see plugins’ instructions.
Here you can edit a CSS style sheet document to personalise the look and feel of your badges’ criteria pages.
Three different ways to issue badges
With OBF you have three main ways to issue badges:
1. Manual issuing
The badge issuer sends a badge to one or several earners.
This is the traditional way to issue a badge. After some achievement of your students, partners, employees, colleagues etc. you decide to award them a badge. You collect earners’ email addresses, click on the badge you wish to issue (Issuer tools > Issue badge), fill the email list in the select recipients text box and issue the badge.
A variation of this manual way to push badges to earners can be automatic when you have installed the OBF issuer plugin in an LMS system. For example with the Moodle OBF plugin a preselected badge can be automatically issued when a student completes a course or a program in TotaraLMS.
When you decide to push badges to your earners remember to tell them what is an Open Badge and why they are getting it. OBF statistics show that the acceptance percentage of such “pushed badges” is quite low (about 30% in 2015). But many organisations and earners are becoming familiar with badges and the level of reception is clearly rising.
2. Applying for a badge
In this case the earner is proactive and requests the badge by filling in evidences in a badge application. After assessing the application submitted by the earner the issuer, who is in this case a reviewer, can accept and issue or reject the application. In OBF a badge application is build by a creator in the Creator tools > Badge applications section, but it can be activated (displayed to potential earners) and managed by users in the Issuer tools > Review application section.
Creating a badge application
Basically creating a badge application is adding an application form to an existing badge ready for issuing. It is a 4 step process:
The first step consists of selecting a badge from the badge library. If the badge contains some guideline instructions, they are copied automatically to the Instruction for issuers section. Instructions can be edited or written from scratch.
The second step consists of building the application form. The form can be built from scratch with the form editor or a prior form saved as a template can be loaded. The Instructions for earner field can be used to give some instructions to earners for example on how to fill the form. This text will be displayed on the top of the form.
The Application approval message is the place where it is possible to write a message to inform the earner that his or her application has been accepted and the request awarded.
Here are the settings of the badge application. The name is by default the name of the badge picked for the application, but it can be changed. The language selection sets the language of the user interface of the application (name and email fields and submit button).
The status of the application can be Draft, Ready or Active. Draft means that the application is not ready and can’t be activated by an issuer. Ready means that the application can be activated for example by an issuer in the Issuer tools - Review applications menu. The creator of the application can set it as Active if they wish to do so. If an application is active, it can be displayed in a web site by copying and pasting the Application URL link or the Embed code. The redirect URL is an optional URL where users are redirected after submitting their application.
There are two possible approval methods: After review for applications requiring assessment and Instantly without review for automatic issuing of the badge. This second option can be used for example when applicants wish to express some statement or support a cause.
Reviewing badge applications
A user entitled with an issuer role can do this task. For this reason the Review applications section is in the Issuer tools menu. In the Review application section the reviewers can easily see new pending applications. By setting the Send me daily email notifications of pending applications the reviewer can be reminded about new and non-reviewed applications.
In the Application settings section under the Settings button, the reviewer can change the name, language and status as well as redirect the URL of the application. It is also possible to set a date range during which the form is active.
When rejecting applications, reviewer can write an email message to give feedback to the applicant.
A great number of OBF customers have created badge applications and their feedback has been positive. It’s a great way to capture prior learning and raise the interest of earners who see a greater value in the badges they want to earn than in the badges they get without understanding why.
OBF system administrator’s stats show that after the release of the badge application feature the number of badges received by earners has been increasing a lot. In some projects about 90% of badges requested by applications have been actually accepted by their earners.
3. Milestone badges
The third way to issue badges in OBF is by using the milestone badge feature in the Creator tools menu. A milestone badge is a chain of badges setting a pathway for the earners. The idea is that the milestone badge is issued automatically when the “smaller” badges required have been earned by the earner.
Setting a milestone badge in OBF is quite easy. First, you need to be a badge creator (user role) and have a set of badges ready for issuing in your badge library. Go to the Milestone badge section and click on the Create new milestone badge button. Pick the milestone badge (the “big” badge at the end of the path) and the smaller badges, which must be earned to get the milestone badge. After that you should set the requirements for issuing the badge. There are two alternatives: all the badges of the chain are required (default) or a smaller number of badges is enough to get the milestone badge.
Badge sharing features in OBF
It is possible for an organisation to create and share badges with other OBF user organisations. For example an association can create badges that are useful to several other partner associations in its network and allow them to issue them in their own name. When a shared badge is issued by other organisations, the information about the original creator is added to the badge metadata.
In the Open Badge Passport this information will be displayed in an additional Created by field. This is an OBF feature, but it is build on a community extension of the OBI standard and can be adopted by other badge issuing and displayer platforms in the future.
How it does it work in practice?
Sharing badges with other organisations is a Premium service level feature.
If you want that your organisation can be picked as a partner by others, your environment administrator needs to check that in Admin tools > Organisation details your organisation is set as Searchable (default setting). Notice that this Searchable set up is allowed to Premium and Basic customers.
If you want to share badges with some of your partners using OBF, your administrator should select organisations in the Admin tools > Partner network section.
The badges that you want to share with your partner network must be set in the Admin tools > Shared by us section. For each badge you can define the partners who will be able to receive it as a link or copy.
If some partner shares a badge to you, you have to accept the badge to be able to issue it. This takes place in Creator tools > Shared badges. In the pending list are the badges that are waiting for your acceptation. In the accepted list are the badges that have been accepted and can be issued by you. In the decline list are the badges that you don’t want to issue.
The badges chosen by your creator users in the Shared badges session will appear in the Issuer tools > Issue badge section. Notice that if a badge is shared as a link, it can be only issued but not modified. If it is shared as a copy, it can be modified by creator users in the Badge Library section like one of your own badges.
A badge shared as a link can be set to expire after some time or it can be unshared by its owner. In this case the badge will disappear from Shared badges and Issue badge sections, but this will not affect the badges already issued to earners.