Open Badges – are you ready ?

Recently I attended a Webinar presented by Simon Cross, Open University UK – Badges for Learning: a review of the formative role of badges in two open online courses.  In addition to the excellent presentation by Simon, I was also drawn into the active discussion taking place in the chat room.  These are my notes, comments made by the participants during the session and my reflections after the session.

The idea of badges is not really new.  Were you given colour stickers or golden stars when you behaved well during your childhood? They are kinds of badges.  Simon mentioned that badges were widely used in video/computer games.  It is a way of recognising and rewarding achievements, participation, and contributions.

Definition: What is a badge?

By Mozilla-

A badge is a symbol or indicator of an accomplishment, skill, competency, or interest. Badges can be used to represent achievements, communicate successes, and set goals. They can support learning that happens beyond traditional classrooms. A wide range of organizations and individuals design and issue badges for learners of all ages. By providing a more complete picture of what learners are capable of and passionate about, badges act as signals to potential employers, collaborators, fellow students, and social groups.

Simon emphasised that badges should be visual public symbols. Badges need to be linked to evidence, .e.g blog posts, reflective journals, etc.  Badges can be used in informal learning, accreditation competence-based and evidence learning situation.

Functions of badges: recognition, rewards, assessment, motivating, evaluate and track, goals setting, status, reputation, group identify, symbols of exclusivity, or souvenirs.

Use of badges:

  • Duolingo – learn second languages
  • Ispot – place to share nature
  • Open University is only using badges in their free courses that are pen to the general public, e.g. MOOCs.
  • Digital Badges Help Young People, Adults Demonstrate Skills  –
  • “Deakin University in Melbourne is going to use badges for its RPL (Recognition of Prior Learning)”
  • “Badges can be used for students who bring diverse culture/skills to the course”
  • “I like the idea of badges being fun rather than being ‘official”
  • “I could see badges as being excellent to prevent students from having to sit through the science safety lecture 20 odd times.”

Both Moodle and Blackboard have badges.  Moodle: they can either be awarded manually, or linked to ‘completing’ various combinations of activities.

WordPress has badges plug-ins:

Mozilla backpack

Mozilla backpack – a place to collect and share badges with others in the community.

Mahara open badges:

Implementing Badges

Badge strategy

A strategy needs to be thought through before the course starts, e.g. if someone joins the course  in week4, they can still get week1 badges.  This is the OLDS mooc course badge strategy: the badges are linked to learning objectives

Badges can be awarded for different purposes: from introducing yourself to the group to contributing knowledge.  It needs to make clear in badges what it is awarded for.  For example, you can award badges based on different levels of learning: attending, making effort, collaborating, contributing to one’s own knowledge, sharing with others and teach what one learns.

Timing of badges: periodically reviewed or lifelong. To increase badges’ validity, it is useful to link the purposes of the badge and evidence to support the achievement. To make it be more objective, badges can be used to award artefacts: this is easier than competence/skills, etc.

Creating badges

Badge can include details of awarding body, time, etc. For a badge to be ‘good’ it needs to be recognizable, represent the key points that it covers and look smart – which does take a lot of image design skills. You can see a list of badges used in the OLDS mooc course:


  • “People like the idea of staff having freedom to use badges in their own unit/courses.  But they are not sure whether and how this can be implemented from the institution perspective.”
  • “Problem with badges in LMS (Learning Management System) is the attainment happens in containers. Unable to browse freely and create learning path.”
  • “System Security needs to be considered ”
  • “Recognition and accreditation have to be managed – teachers have different standards for the same subject”
  • “What Role badges play in summative assessment?
  • “In what way is badging different from parsing any certificate for attendance and participation for a course?”
  • “Has there been any comparison studies between ‘traditional’ online courses with/without badges to see their effect on either motivation and/or attainment?”
  • “Would be good to read studies on badges contribution to student engagement i.e. student success?”


Like most tools, it is up to the educators how badges can be used – the results can be very different.  To enhance student learning experience, badges may need to be considered as part of the total learning experience:  how can use of badges be best integrated into student learning in a systematic way.  Therefore this needs to be planed and evaluated at course/programme level.   Here are what the session participants said:

  • I had the same experience with Badges in a MOOC. I was cynical, but then I found they actually had the effect of motivating me to do thing. That was a surprise.
  • The key point for me – is when we use badges in education, we have to think of it from other peoples perspectives, not just our personal perspective
  • “Psychologically – some people are motivated by extrinsic gain – others more from intrinsic gain. So as a sports person as a kid, I won lots of trophies for different things, but the trophies themselves mean nothing to me – whereas others the actual cup/shield is the key. I think the same will be the case with badges”
  • “We surveyed participants coming into the MOOC and only about 1/3 were not interested in completing or getting a badge. People do MOOCs for a range of reasons.”
  • “Is there any evidence that the use of badges increases retention on MOOCs? Obviously this is an interesting possibility but does it actually happen?”
  • “How thoroughly were the badges explained and justified to the students beforehand?”
  • A research bibliography on Open badges here
  • a teacher in UK has tested badges with students –
  • Evaluation of the OLDS MOOC curriculum design course: participant perspectives, expectations and experiences –

Participants compared badges with endorsements in LinkedIn.  They thought that using endorsements in LinkedIn was an example of badges is not working because sometimes people just endorse out of kindness and to be perceived as friendly rather than knowing a lot about the person in question.  This has touched on the quality and credibility of badges.

FG: people judge badges by looking at who issued, the purpose and evidence.  Receivers of badges: the learning group members, whom the badge to share with and their motivation.

List of resources:

  • Innovating Pedagogy report by Open University– explores new forms (10 in total) of teaching, learning and assessment for an interactive world.  MOOC and badges are discussed in the report.
  • Intended Purposes Versus Actual Function of Digital Badges:
    • Recognizing/Credentialing Learning IS an essential function
    • Assessing Learning IS a probably function
    • Motivating Learning is a likely function
    • Evaluating/Researching Learning is a potential function

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