Digital "Badges" in Education


The use of badges as a way to validate learning or reward achievement is increasing across multiple industries, including education. Badges, and more specifically digital badges, can be awarded by institutions, organizations, or groups, to signify accomplishments such as completion of a project, mastery of a skill, or even life experience. The use of a digital badge system marks a fundamental shift in the way society recognizes learning and achievement, moving away from the traditional “books and lecture” model toward a personalized approach allowing broader forms of teaching and learning.

Digital badges in education represent a virtual way to house a student’s accomplishments. These badges, when compiled, can represent an individual’s story of knowledge, skills, and achievements. Badges and their digital storage system could essentially become portals of information into what students know and can do. Unlike traditional grading systems which deliver a letter grade intended to represent proficiency, a badge system would provide a comprehensive picture and demonstrated evidence of gained competencies.



Open Badges Anatomy

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In today’s world, learning can take place almost anywhere, from the click of a mouse to everyday life experiences. Due to the fragmented way in which learning takes place, there is an increased need to display all of the learning and skills a student possesses. Students could, for example, earn badges during a wide range of in and out of school experiences including after school or summer programs, k-12 classrooms, college courses, and others. Badges could be one solution to display a clearer picture of an individual’s strengths and abilities, potentially helping higher education or employers decipher between candidates. 

Digital Badges: Principles and Standards of Quality for Recognizing Learning - A resource from the Michigan Department of Education summarizing various digital badge articles and could be used as a basis for developing basic standards and criteria for badge use.

Additional information on digital badges in education can be found here:

Using Digital "Badges" in Afterschool - A report from the Afterschool Alliance (July, 2015)

Mozilla Foundation -Open Badges Web Site