Getting Started With Digital Badges

About Digital Badges

I have become a recent convert to digital badges. When I first heard about badges my initial response was interest, but as I have been exploring the potential I have become increasingly excited by the potential of digital badges.

First of all, for the totally unititiated; What are badges?

Those of us who are baby boomers, of even gen X, will remember their years in the boy scouts (or simular) collecting cloth badges which you sewed on your sleeve. To earn a badge you needed to demonstrate a competency (light a fire or pitch a tent etc. ) which was witnessed and authenticated by your scout master, who issued you with the badge. Digital badges are very much the same. A badge is an icon or image which links to criteria or competencies. To claim the badge evidence is sent to the issuer of the badge, who issues it via email. Once you have the badge you can display it on your social media. Anyone clicking on the badge can see what you did to earn it and who gave it to you. As such they are more fun and much more robust than merit certificates.

The best way to understand this is to look at an example. I earned this badge through New Milton High School in the USA. You can click on the image to download the information about the badge.

Students are used to this concept in the context of computer games. Game developers have a range of tricks to encourage progress in the game and engage players. One of them is to issue badges, usually referred to as trophies, which attach to their gaming profile.

As an example here is how my football tipping competition looks at the moment:


As you can see I am ranked about 3480 out of 12471. Hardly anything to bother posting on Facebook, but I have accumulated quite a number of trophies over the weeks for achieving perfect scores on a week etc. In this way the administrators of the competition provide interest, engagement and a sense of achievement for those (like me) that are not going to win anything. Badges can fill a simular function in education, providing motivation and a sense of achievement.

They are more than that though. Badges can also be a valid and robust credential. A collection of badges like the one above could be used as evidence to a future employer of my experience and expertise integrating ICT into education. A skill which is not easy to evidence with formal educational qualifications.

Be aware, though, that badges are only effective if the recipient sees value in them. There needs to be defined criteria for earning the badge, and the recipient needs to feel they have worked for it.

This idea obviously works best if there is some kind of badge standard, and a place where recipients can accumulate badges from different sources. With that in mind Mozilla have established an open badges standard. Anyone can register and establish a backpack where badges from various sources can be stored. (A virtual scout uniform sleeve if you like.) To find out about the standard and establish your own backpack go to

Mozilla have produced support and promotion material for open badges, including this clip which covers the basics of digital badges.


Getting started with Badges

Once I understood badges I wanted to start creating and issuing some. If your institution is committed to a badge project then the task of reading through the documentation and setting up a badge infrastructure can be handed over to your IT support. Lets be honest though, you are probably a teacher with little time and limited resources, wanting to give badges a go in your class. So how can you setup some badges for your class during your lunch break?

This was my dilemma and the solution I found was to use a web service at Credly provides the tools to develop and issue your badges. It is free to register and with the tools provided it only takes minutes begin creating your own badges. You can issue the badges to recipients through email. Recipients can store them in a Credly backpack and uploaded to a Mozilla open badges backpack if they wish.

I have been issuing badges for about 6 months with great success and this is the only infrastructure I have needed.


5 responses

  1. Good post! Check out how our institution is using badges via Credly:

  2. Hi Alan, yes I had a look. Nice site you have there. I love to see badges with specific defined criteria. I divide badges into competency and non-competency badges, but we need a word for the non-competency badges; perhaps call them digital awards?

    1. Great point. I am currently working on a study with Sam Abramovich who wrote an article last year in ETR&D, and he categorized badges as either “skill-based” or “participatory.” Interestingly, the participatory badges were ineffective. Here is his article:

    2. Had a quick look. I will study this paper further when I have more time. The idea that competency and skill badges work differently for different types of students is a powerful one. I have been seeing things in the classroom that this might explain.

  3. […] The primary assessment for this course is through earning digital badges. Many students are familiar with these in the context of computer gaming. A badge or trophy is awarded to the player in recognition of an achievement. The badge is designed to provoke engagement and reward success, but it is not necessarily an indication of completion. There is more discussion of how badges work at […]

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