This blog post links, indirectly, to my previous post on gamification. While gamification can help promote learning and engagement in a ‘fun’ way, digital badges can be used to reward and encourage learning. So – what are digital badges?
Digital badges are an excellent way to recognise student achievement and engagement. Badges can be awarded via Moodle on completion of an activity, for example, or after the attainment of a specific grade/mark in a quiz. Upon graduation, students can take their badges with them via Open Badges and export them to a ‘backpack’ service such as Badgr. The badges can also be linked to LinkedIn.
In the words of Dr Joanne Brindley (Senior Lecturer in Education): “The Academic Professional Apprenticeship is delivered via blended learning. As such, it was important to me that I was able to effectively monitor the engagement and development of the course members, on an individual basis. Digital badges were an obvious choice, as they would enable the course members to have the flexibility and autonomy to focus and work on tasks that met their individual learning needs, in a structured way, whilst also providing the course member and myself with an opportunity to gauge their personal progression.
The other benefit, was the ability to identify and set the criteria for each badge. In this instance, the badges were designed to reflect the values, knowledge and areas of activity in the UK Professional Skills Framework (UKPSF). By using this approach I can be assured, that upon completion, the course members have engaged with the dimensions of the framework required for Fellowship.”
For those new to digital badges here’s a quick ‘how to..’
Before issuing a badge you first have to create it. A variety of tools are available to do this such as Adobe Illustrator or sites such as Accredible Badge Creator (https://www.accredible.com/badge-designer/) and Openbadges.me (https://app.openbadges.me/) both of which are free to use, Openbages.me is the better of the two.
Figure 1 – user interface for creating badges in Openbadges.me
Once a badge has been created, you will need to download it so it can be uploaded to Moodle for issuing to students.
Figure 2 – Moodle badge created using Open badges
In Moodle badges are added via the ‘Administration’ menu, which is available by clicking on the cog icon on the top-right of your Moodle page, then clicking on More to access the Badges section (see Figure 3 below) which will allow you to manage and add new badges.
Figure 3 – Moodle badge manager
In the Badges section, choose ‘Add a new badge’. This will allow you to upload the image for the badge and set various basic details such as a description, issuer and badge expiry date. You can manage your badges here as well
Once the badge has been added, you will need to set up the criteria for the awarding of the badge. To do this, click on ‘Manage badges’.
You can award badges according to one of three criteria: manual by role; course completion; activity completion. (Note: for activity completion you will need to make sure this is enabled via Course settings).
Badges are automatically issued once the set criterion (for example, achieving a certain grade in a selected quiz) has been met. Students can view the badges they have been awarded on the Moodle course page. You will just need to add a Latest Badges block from the ‘Add a block’ menu.
The Mozilla Backpack, which allowed badge recipients to ‘store’ their badges online has now been replaced by badgr (https://badgr.io/recipient/badges) Students would need to download their badges from Moodle and then upload them to badgr. The reason for doing this is so any earned badges can be shared with an employer for example. At the moment badgr is not linked to Moodle but hopefully it will be added in the near future.
Students can view their badges via the ‘Latest Badges’ block in Moodle (this can be added by anyone with editing rights on your Moodle Unit/Course page).
Clicking on the badge icon in the Latest Badges block opens up full details of the badge such as recipient and Issuer. From here the student can download the badge to add to their online backpack which will be badgr. It is hoped that once badgr is integrated students will be able to add it to the backpack directly from Moodle.
So, are badges worth having?
One concern often raised regarding the use of digital badges is that, well, aren’t they just a bit inappropriate at university level? Will university students take them seriously?
To overcome the possible scepticism of students it is important to be clear what the badges are being used for. If badges form an element of gamification and/or are linked to assessment then the badges are more likely to be seen as something worth acquiring as argued by Samuel Abramovich (Abramovich, S 2016). The badges can be linked to the acquisition of specific skills required as part of an assessment or awarded based on the achievement of a certain grade. Greater value can be placed on the badges if they are relatively difficult to obtain: there needs to be an element of genuine challenge before a badge can be earned. Badges can also be awarded for completion of a task – however, the effectiveness of this approach is something that would seem to need further research. A project carried out by the University of Southampton (Harvey, F.2017), whereby Geography students were awarded badges as they completed course milestones, found that only 25% of students actually claimed badges as they progressed. The reason for this relatively low take up was not clear.
Outside education, digital badges are now being used by companies such as Dell as part of their assessment programme (see https://er.educause.edu/blogs/2016/9/digital-badges-and-academic-transformation). The more digital badges are recognised by major employers, the more likely students are to view badges as worthwhile. Indeed, a recent case study (Anderson, L. et al (2017) Open Badges in the Scottish HE Sector: The use of technology and online resources to support student transitions. Project Report July 2017. Universities of Dundee, Aberdeen and Abertay) found that that 40% of students would value digital badges if employability were to be enhanced by their use. For lots more useful information on digital badges visit
Abramovich, S Understanding digital badges in higher education through assessment, On the Horizon, Vol. 24 Issue: 1, pp.126-131 2016, https://doi.org/10.1108/OTH-08-2015-0044
Harvey, F Journal of Educational Innovation, Partnership and Change, Vol 3, No 1, 2017