Podcast: Interview with Credly's VP of Technology
In this episode, Credly’s VP of Technology, Alexander Hripak, talks us through the basics of Open Badge compliance. To those new to badging, this should be a consideration in any product used to to issue or store badges. Alex explains why and how the standards came to be. Listeners are also introduced to IMS Global, the organization that now oversees the certification process.
Listen to the full interview here:
Susan Manning: Welcome to the Credly podcast, where we touch base with our issuers, earners and partners, and explore things of interest in digital credentialing. I'm Susan Manning. Today I'm talk to Alexander Hripak, our vice president of technology at Credly, and Alex has been with us really since the beginning. So welcome Alex.
Alexander H.: Thank you. Thank you Susan.
Susan Manning: Often there are simple questions about and some of the lingo that gets thrown around. I was hoping that you would help us unpack some of these common terms. Starting with, what does it mean when somebody says, our platform is Open Badge compliant.
Alexander H.: Yeah, that's a good question. Nowadays it means that you've implemented the Open Badge standard in some form or fashion, whether that be you are issuing just in your applications or you're hosting badges and saying you import badges. But you're doing so and adhering to the Open Badge standard. And it also means that you've gone through the certification process that INS provides to its members.
Susan Manning: Ooh. So let's take this two parts. Standards, what are they and where did they come from?
Alexander H.: Well, so the standards originate from the work done by Mozilla early on, back in the days when there was 0.5 version of the Open Badge certification. Really, the reason why we want that standard out there is to help further interoperability between platforms and systems to make this data be able to move and go in different places.
Susan Manning: And an example of a standard is, for instance, every badge needs to have a title and issuer and an issued date. Things like that, right ?
Alexander H.: That's correct, yes.
Susan Manning: Okay, so that's simple enough for the laymans to understand. So you mentioned standards and then you mentioned that the platform, somebody needs to be certified.
Alexander H.: Right. Yes.
Susan Manning: How's that work?
Alexander H.: So, I'd say nowadays it means that you're also getting a certification because until January 2017, there were no formal certification process or no certifying body to say that you are indeed compliant with the standard. So, when IMS took over the stewardship of the Open Badge certification last year, also came with it was this certification process, which is part of the work that we worked on. What it really means is that, you submit several artifacts to IMS and you go through a few different forms on their website and they eventually either, yes your complaint or your not, and they do that by something combination of manual and programmatic means.
Susan Manning: So for somebody who is brand new to badging and they hear, IMS, it means IMS Global. Can you tell us a little bit about this organization?
Alexander H.: Yeah, of course. IMS Global, they provide a way for many different audiences to work together on solving common problems. Usually, these common problems are solved by creating standards that everyone agrees to and then eventually implements. So, a lot of what they do is facilitate the meeting of these groups and one of those groups is the Open Badge work group that we're in. You may have heard of other standards like LPI or [Calipher 00:03:30]. Those are all standards that are guided by IMS, but really, they're just bringing the community together to work on them.
Susan Manning: Okay, so similar to how Open Badges started, there's still definitely a community feel around providing some structure to what's happening in the badging ecosystem.
Alexander H.: Absolutely. There's quite a community feel. While being part of the work group does require membership of IMS, it also ... they also have many events and conferences, where we bring in outside attendees who may not be part of IMS, but wish to learn more and get started on, whether it be Open Badges or LTI or something else. So, it's very much a community feel and I'm certainly glad we're a part of it.
Susan Manning: I think you referenced that there was a change in January 2017. Is that also when OBI, 2.0 came out? Is that synonymous with that?
Alexander H.: When the work group started under IMS's guidance, we actually released the 1.1 version of certification. That's when many platforms out there were certified for being compliant with the 1.1 version of the open badge certification. Then the rest of the year was focused on solidifying what had been the work in progress of 2.0, making that final and then also creating a new certification process around that as well. Which is pretty close to the 1.1 version, with a few minor difference.
Susan Manning: And when did that take effect?
Alexander H.: The [inaudible 00:05:02] certification?
Susan Manning: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Alexander H.: Late last year.
Susan Manning: As somebody might be entering the badging world and they are shopping around, they might be looking at different platforms. What is the seal of approval they should be looking for and how would they know that?
Alexander H.: So, IMSGlobal.org, if you go there, there you'll be able to find a navigation item that says, "Certified products", when you click into that, it's a pretty robust search that let's you search different standards and even by product name. So if you search Credly, you'll see that we've been certified for a couple different standards that IMS provides. If you're aware of Open Badges and you consider adherence and conformance to the standard important when you're looking for badging platforms, then that would be the place to go to find that out.
Susan Manning: What would be the dangers of picking a badging platform that isn't compliant?
Alexander H.: Well I do believe the reason that Open Badge certification is important because we're trying to further interoperability. And I think it also opens a level of trust that we're delivering data in a standard format and that we're part of the community as a whole and we're working together with others to make it better. That's not to say that people outside of the Open Badge community aren't doing those things too. They probably are, but it's more to a guarantee if you're going through the IMS channels and researching problems that way.
Susan Manning: Is this too simple of analogy? Remember back in the days when apple software didn't play nice with Windows software and then all of the sudden there was a change and you could have ... I could use a mac, but I can still use a product like Word, that now that kind of interoperability is important in the badging world?
Alexander H.: Yeah, that's a good analogy. I would almost say, think of it like common image formats, like JPEG and GIF or PNG or even MP3 files. You can take those files and because they're in a standard format, everyone know how to interpret that and it doesn't matter what system you view them on, they'll look the same, or at least they should.
Susan Manning: Good point. Okay, is there anything else on the fundamentals that you think people should know about, when it comes to Open Badges and standards and what they might be getting into, for the absolutely newcomer?
Alexander H.: For the absolutely newcomer, I think it's important to take a look at what the standard is and the features that it offers. It's very telling of the features that platforms either already have or wish to implement. It's a good way, by adding features to Open Badges and being part of spec development, to drive others to push their products further.
Susan Manning: You've certainly been a leader in that area and I think we all owe you a big thank you for your service to both IMS and Open Badges in general.
Alexander H.: Well thank you. I absolutely love working with the working with the work group. I think they're certainly a bunch of talented and brilliant people. I think what we're doing, what we have done and what we're going to do are all amazing things. I wished the community would grow. I think it's something that will grow, but getting people in the door is a process.
Susan Manning: And how again would somebody do that?
Alexander H.: Well, on the IMS Global website, there is a page where you can look at how to become a member. You can also email myself or any of the IMS representatives and get started with that conversation. It's also possible to drop in on our community meetings that we have. I think every quarterly meeting has an Open Badges community meeting. Sometimes they're calls. Sometimes they're onsite. So, it just depends, but there is an events calendar on the IMS website as well.
Susan Manning: I also see there are recorded webinars as well, so there also might me something of interest that happened in the past.
Alexander H.: Yeah.
Susan Manning: Great. Well thank you for spending time with me today Alex.
Alexander H.: Well thank you.
Susan Manning: Thank you listeners for joining us. If you'd like to suggest upcoming topics, feel free to write us at firstname.lastname@example.org.