April 8, 2013

Why Organizations Large and Small Should Align with Mozilla’s Web Literacy Standard

Category: Edtech
Innovation graphic tier open badges infrastructure the web and complicated stuff

At Mozilla we don’t like silos. We believe in innovating upon open standards and in ensuring that the Web remains an open platform. That’s why our Firefox web browser exists. It’s why we’re working on Firefox OS. And it’s why we’re delighted to have recently launched v1.0 of the Open Badges Infrastructure (OBI). In a previous post I introduced our latest work engaging the community around a new, open learning standard for Web Literacy. In this post I want to elaborate on that and explain how the standard might work in practice.

One of the great things about the OBI is that it’s a platform for innovation. It allows work that previously would have gone on in well-intentioned silos to be joined up and unleashed across the entire Web.

At the moment there are many people doing wonderful work all over the world helping people not only elegantly consume but actually write and contribute towards parts of the Web. These Webmaker-makers, or mentors, face three main problems: a lack of commonality in approach; much duplication of effort; and learners being presented with a somewhat haphazard model of learning.

This is why we at Mozilla have been working since the beginning of the year on a new, open learning standard for Web Literacy using the OBI to solve this threefold problem. At the core of this are two main concepts: aligning with the Web Literacy standard, and badge validation. You can find out more about the latter by reading and commenting on a working paper by my colleague Erin Knight.

Very briefly, aligning with the standard looks something like this:


Organizations, be they big or small, focused on formal or informal learning, can choose to align with all or part of the Web Literacy Standard. So if (using an example from the badge validation paper) Eve’s Company is a small non-profit focusing on privacy, then they can align specifically with that element of Web Literacy standard.


Eve’s Company could use their expertise to create new badges aligned with sub-sections of the ‘Privacy’ element of the Web Literacy standard. Or they could use badges created by other organizations (including Mozilla). The metadata in these badges would point towards the relevant URLs of the Standard, much as each part of the Common Core standards features its own unique URL.

Instead of merely providing stand-alone learning activities, Eve’s Company adds value for both themselves as an organization and for learners by issuing and aligning with the Web Literacy standard:

  • Eve’s Company no longer feels as much pressure to create content in areas outside of their expertise
  • The work of Eve’s Company has wider currency (through the OBI) and is more discoverable
  • Learners gain more options in terms of the places they can level-up in their Web Literacy skills

The kind of badges that Eve’s Company creates may very well be different from badges created by other organizations also aligning with the ‘Privacy’ element of the Web Literacy Standard. This is a positive step as it allows for diversity in learners’ learning pathways and caters to their needs. A sample learning pathway may look like this:


Another new part of the metadata now available with Open Badges is a ‘tag’. This means that Eve’s Company can differentiate themselves from others aligning with the standard by (for example) adding ‘non-profit’ and ’empowerment’ tags to aid discoverability for learners.

Ultimately, as Erin points out in the badge validation paper, third parties will be able to endorse badges aligned with standards like Web Literacy. In the example with Eve’s Company, Mozilla (or another privacy-focused organization) might recognize the quality and popularity of the badges they issue and offer to endorse them. As a result these badges will not only be technically validated through the OBI but feature a level of pedagogic and social validation through their alignment with the standard.

No matter what size organization you represent we would love you to get involved in helping define and iterate this new, open learning standard for Web Literacy. Here’s how you can get involved:

  • Before April 26th: Join us on our weekly Community Calls and discussion group as we seek to get a draft version of the standard ready for April 26th. Explore whether your organization might want to align with the Web Literacy standard.
  • By October: Help us iterate the standard and play-test it in various contexts. We’re aiming to launch v1.0 of the standard at the Mozilla Festival in London at the end of October.

The landing page for all of the work that we’re doing around the Web Literacy standard on the Mozilla wiki is http://mzl.la/weblitstd. Do join in if you can. 🙂

Image credit: Sample learning pathway image courtesy of my colleague Carla Casilli