OPEN BADGES IN COMPANIES

M. Myllymäki, I. Hakala

University of Jyväskylä (FINLAND)
Learning takes place everywhere, a lot of it also outside educational institutes. Companies that arrange training related to their products are one of the large education providers. Also the training organized by companies can utilize new technological solutions to make it more effective. A modern solution for adding value to business training are the Open Badge learning badges.

Open Badges is a system-independent standard based on open source code to identify the learner's knowledge and skills and to display them electronically, in a modern way. In practice, Open Badge is a digital image. The provider of the education adds metadata to the image to give information about the badge holder's competences. The metadata contains a description about the skills learned, details of the issuer and the date of the issuance and validity of the badge. As the badge is electronic, its earner can display it for example in his/her own social networks or link it, as wished, perhaps to his/her own electronic portfolio or CV.

From the companies' perspective, the badges also have many features with potential added value. To start with, the badges have very significant marketing potential. As the clients who have received the training distribute the badges issued by the company, people will encounter these badges in various services on the web. Thus the awareness of the training services provided by the company will increase. With the help of the badge validity period, the issuer can take into account the restricted validity of the learned skill. The validity period helps companies by making it more efficient for the clients to seek retraining. One important added value that can be obtained with the badges is the creation of a kind of electronic training register. This will benefit both the company providing training and the client organizations: a scene can be built for those organizations to aid them in keeping track of the employees trained by them and the validity periods of their education.

In the autumn of 2013, the Open Badge Factory (OBF) project consortium funded by Tekes was launched in Finland. Tekes is the most important publicly-funded expert organization for financing research, development and innovation in Finland. The OBF project consortium is developing a system-independent Open Badge Factory cloud service, with the help of which badges can be created, managed and issued. Participants in the project consortium include companies piloting the Open Badge concept in their own training. The University of Jyväskylä participates in the project consortium among other things by investigating the potential of the badges, their deployment and impacts from the viewpoint of piloting organizations.

This paper focuses on examining the added value that the Open Badge concept provides to companies. Data is collected using a structured questionnaire and interviews with companies involved in the project. The paper highlights the opportunities brought by the Open Badge concept, the challenges, problems and concerns related to activities involving the Open Badge concept and the implementation of the concept in the business world.