What are Digital Badges ?

Digital Badges – An Overview

For all of us who try to learn something new, acquire a new skill or reach a deeper level of understanding of a subject, for example, it can help if we are able to mark our progress, to indicate how far we have come and take stock of the next stage. That awareness of how we stand with regards our learning progress (and taking responsibility for our own future development) is a key success factor in education. It is possible, for example, to consider a course as composed of a series of such waymarkers, some of which we’ll quickly stride past, others which might need pause for thought and a further glance at the map. We start to feel better on such a learning journey once we’ve a good few milestones behind us and a good pace at which to progress; ticking off the waymarkers one by one and being able to recount the adventures we may have experienced at each stage.

An alternative metaphor for such learner development is that of ‘digital badges’. It’s a term that borrows from two other areas: that of gaming (and ‘achievements’) and skills badges used by youth organisations. It’s a metaphor that is currently very popular and making significant inroads into education and training, both in the public and corporate sectors. But it’s a nomenclature that puts some people off. That’s a pity, since really what we are talking about is a form of ‘micro-credential’ which fulfils two purposes: (a) motivating and encouraging learners; (b) providing a form of recognised credit for a skill or new knowledge.



Such digital badges are usually designed to be robust and secure, ensuring that they cannot be counterfeited and that the learning to which they testify can be scrutinised through recorded evidence or links to a formal training curriculum and provider. The adoption of the ‘Open Badges Framework,’ which was developed by the Mozilla Foundation (a non-profit organisation) and which is now promoted via the Badge Alliance, has helped considerably in the adoption and spread of digital badges as a form of educational credential.


Many Learning Management Systems (eg Blackboard, Moodle, Canvas, etc) now provide the technology to issue digital badges and academic colleagues have been piloting their use in many subject disciplines and levels. They are also increasingly being seen as of value in continuing professional development and staff training.


In the All Aboard! project, we will explore the potential of digital badges in recognising and enthusing participation of those who engage with the National Digital Skills Framework. We’ll be collating and producing learning materials and awarding badges (and training those in Irish higher education institutions to do so) for many of the skills we identify in the Skills Framework.