ALPS Presentation: Introduction to the Web Literacy Standard & Open Badges

This was a lightning talk presented at the ALPS December 2013 meeting. I didn’t actually have any slides for this talk, simply showing the two sites along with the backpack while talking.

Morning everyone. I’m sure you’re wondering why I have a dinosaur companion. Remember elementary school when you had show and tell? Well, really, that’s what this presentation is about: telling you about something that I’ve been keeping an eye on for over a year now, and showing you the latest iteration of something I see a lot of application for in libraries and higher education.

By the way, this dinosaur was the Mozilla mascot. I’ve brought him with me today, because Mozilla instigated and organized the efforts behind this: the Web Literacy Standard.

What is it?

Shall I simply read out what it says right here?

The Web Literacy Standard is a map of competencies and skills that Mozilla and our community of stakeholders believe are important to pay attention to when getting better at reading, writing and participating on the web.

The exploring competencies are particularly relevant to libraries, such as the “search” competency:

Locating information, people and resources via the web.

The first point here says:

Using keywords, search operators, and keyboard shortcuts to make web searches more efficient.

While this might refer to using search engines, such as Google, I would say this would easily apply to searching databases, a catalogue, or a discovery layer.

How can we use it?

So we have this standard. Where does this lead us? I think the most obvious one is for assessment.

For example, we have students that come into instructional workshops. What do we want students to learn? The standard can give us guidance specifically by looking at the competencies listed. Most likely we want to pick a couple from ‘Search’ and ‘Credibility’.

While we might differ on exactly how we assess whether students have learned these skills, we can hopefully agree that these are the skills and competencies we’re trying to assess.

I won’t belabour this point, because anyone familiar with instruction and assessment will hopefully be able to see how the standard applies in helping to create assessment tools, such as questionnaires, or rubrics.

Why this one?

What is likely of more interest is why should we use this standard?


  • open, public,
  • community-led,  and
  • collaborative.

At the Mozilla Festival this year, faculty members from various schools showed interest and began brainstorming about how they might use it in their courses. I say that it’s collaborative, because you can provide feedback at any time and contribute, meaning everyone can get involved.

While based on many existing ideas, the web literacy standard is also unique in pulling together much of what you might find under information or digital literacy into a single standard focused on the web environment, which is where students do a vast majority of their research, as well as spend a lot of time in general.

If you weren’t using a literacy standard already, then I would encourage you to start here. If you already had something in place, then I encourage you to see how your existing instructional material might align with the web literacy standard.

Into Open Badges

Mozilla didn’t stop there of course. In a separate, but related effort, there’s also the open badges system, where you can create and issue badges linked to any of the competencies.

The metadata of each badge includes:

  • badge name
  • description
  • criteria (link to)
  • issuer
  • evidence (link to)
  • date issued
  • competency from standard (link to)
  • tags (keywords)

The badge can then be used as proof of an acquired skill. A student can also collect badges from many places and then display them on a website or any other place online by managing their badges in their badges backpack.

In the near future, part of the plan is the ability to search for other people in a community who have earned a specific badge. For example, a student might search for other students who have acquired a badge related to advanced research skills to ask for help, building a community where students can seek out peers for help in specific areas.

The badges system will also allow pathways so that you can make badges that build on one other. They’re in the process of prototyping how the pathways might work, and if you’re interested, you can even join the conversation!

diagram showing nodes and lines to link together various points

Take Away

I hope you’ve enjoyed this show and tell. Too often we work in silos, so I highly encourage you to get involved in the web literacy standard, open badges or both; or simply make use of them, because you’ll be joining a community that goes beyond just one library, one faculty, or one school; you’ll be joining the world.

Author: Cynthia

Technologist, Librarian, Metadata and Technical Services expert, Educator, Mentor, Web Developer, UXer, Accessibility Advocate, Documentarian

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