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Best Practices | Digital Badging

For most of us, the mention of badges conjures images of those adorable cookie peddlers who show up at our doors each year. The badges they earn are sewn (or let’s be honest, ironed) onto their sashes and vests to signify the skills they’ve earned.


Digital badges work in the same way, but instead of attaching a medal to your clothes or hanging a certification on the wall, you’re attaching the badge to your online presence. Badges can be displayed on social network sites such as LinkedIn, or included in a resume, allowing employers and educators to easily recognize the earner’s skill set and competencies. They’re also being used increasingly in online courses to reward module completion or for exceeding expectations. Badges help to set course goals and allow students to visualize the learning progression. Badging, which is one part of the “gamification” of course design and requirements, can motivate students to produce higher quality work, and as some reports have indicated, can lead to an improvement in learning outcomes for students.


Blackboard’s latest upgrade included the Achievements building block, a proprietary badging mechanism for Blackboard. Once you’ve turned this on in your course (under Tool Availability), you’ll need to decide how granular you want to get with it. You can set achievements for each module, along with a certificate for successful completion of the course. The Achievements building block is completely customizable. You decide whether to award a badge to everyone earning a “C” or better on an exam, or to save them for your top 10% of scorers. You can base achievement criteria on group membership, grade criteria, or review status criteria.


Here in CIRT we’ve started using badges to show user progression through our Teaching Online Faculty Development Model courses. In TOL 4100, 5100 and 6100, students will see a new badge only after successful completion of the course. These badges can be sent to a user’s Mozilla Backpack to be stored and later distributed across the user’s social media accounts, resumes, and websites. In the future, we may add module level badges to show progression through the courses. We have also considered adding special badges that can only be “unlocked” by meeting certain higher standards in the course.


Badging adds another layer of innovation and engagement to the online learning environment.