What is a Digital Badge?

“Online representations of learning experiences and activities that tell a story about the learner’s education and skills” 

Gamrat (2014) 

What is a digital badge?

In an educational context, a digital badge is a new and alternative way to recognise and incentivise students and staff for the achievements and participation in various learning activities.  

“A digital badge is a representation of an accomplishment, interest or affiliation that is visual, available online and contains metadata including links that help explain the context, meaning, process and result of an activity”

Gibson (2015)


Where did digital badges come from?

Digital badges emanated from the intersection of digital gaming practice, reputational focused commerce sites such as eBay, and media culture (Abramovich, 2016).  Originating from a pilot project developed by Mozilla, open digital badges (also known as micro credentials) are becoming hugely popular across educational institutions, corporations, and other organisations as a way of recognising and validating students, staff, in a variety of institutional and educational settings (Belshaw, 2016). The concept of digital badging has its roots in gamification and also draws upon physical badges in use in organisations such as the Boy Scouts.


What can digital badges be used for?

Digital Badges provide another way of providing alternative credentials for learners in a higher education setting. Badges can be used for many reasons including documenting participation and engagement, recognising achievement of skills and competencies, and are suitable for mapping continuous professional development. Abramovich (2016) relays that digital badges can be used not just as a method of providing credentials but can be used as an assessment tool for students (Muilenburg and Berge, 2016).


What are the benefits of digital badging?

Digital Badges are used to incentivise and engage learners, map an individual’s learning path and recognise and reward learning and achievement (Gibson et al., 2015). In relation to social policy and the social sciences, digital badges can compliment teaching practice and evidence-based learning which is fundamental to the concepts of teaching and learning, the scholarship of teaching and learning, and continuous professional development.


How do Digital Badges Work?

An open badge is a digital image that has metadata hard coded into it that allows for the badge earner to display their award on social media and online public profiles (Belshaw, 2016). Each badge must contain certain information including a badge issuer, how and when the badge was earned, and links to evidence-based learning (Bowen & Thomas, 2014). Ideally, the badge will link to web page with descriptions of standards, learning outcomes and badge criteria (Dowling-Hetherington and Glowatz, 2017).

Badge Criteria

Find out how you can earn your digital badge

UCC Staff & Students
Asylum & Refugee Communities
Community Organisations

Apply for your Digital Badge

UCC Staff & Students
Asylum & Refugee Communities
Community Organisations

Read More

Abramovich, S. (2016) ‘Understanding digital badges in higher education through assessment’, On the Horizon. Edited by A. Prof. Elizabeth King, Prof. Constan.  Emerald Group Publishing Limited , 24(1), pp. 126–131. doi: 10.1108/OTH-08-2015-0044. 

Belshaw, D. (2016) (7) Open Badges: trusted, portable digital credentials, Doug Belshaw – YouTube. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nh1PhPWra9w (Accessed: 16 July 2018).

Bowen, K., & Thomas, A. (2014). Badges: A common currency for learning. Change:The Magazine of Higher Learning, 46(1), 21-25.

Casilli, C., & Hickey, D. (2016). Transcending conventional credentialing and assessment paradigms with information-rich digital badges. The Information Society, 32(2), 117-129.

Dowling-Hetherington, L. and Glowatz, M. (2017) ‘The Usefulness of Digital Badges in Higher Education: Exploring the Students’ Perspectives’, Irish Journal of Academic Practice, 6. doi: 10.21427/D7Z13C.

Gamrat, C., Zimmerman, H.T., Dudek, J., & Peck, K. (2014). Personalized workplacelearning: An exploratory study on digital badging within a teacher professionaldevelopment program. British Journal of Educational Technology, 45(6), 1136-1148.

Gibson, D. et al. (2015) ‘Digital badges in education’, Education and Information Technologies. doi: 10.1007/s10639-013-9291-7.

Muilenburg, L. Y. and Berge, Z. L. (2016) Digital badges in education: Trends, issues, and cases, Digital Badges in Education: Trends, Issues, and Cases. doi: 10.4324/9781315718569.


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