Badges have garnered great interest among scholars of digital media and learning. In addition, widespread initiatives such as Mozilla’s Open Badge Framework expand the potential of badging into the realm of open education. In this paper, we explicate the concept of open badges. We highlight some of the ways that researchers have examined badges as part of educational practice and also highlight the different definitions of open-ness that are employed in popular and scholarly thought. By considering badges from three different perspectives (motivation, pedagogy, and credential) and the concept of openness from three different perspectives (production, access and appropriation) we develop a framework to consider the tensions where these competing conceptions meet. This explication illuminates how the ideas of open and badges intersect, and clarifies situations where these concepts come into direct conflict or mutually enhance each other. Our analysis pinpoints and elucidates particular areas where research is needed to better understand the complex phenomenon of open badges, and also offers design considerations for developers, educators, and organizations that are actively involved in open badges.
Keywords: open education; gamification; learning; credentials; badges; education reform