What Are Digital Badges

What are digital badges?

Digital badges are virtual representations of a specific skill, ability, accomplishment or competency. Badges can represent anything. We’ve created an introductory video about digital badges and their benefits, but feel free to keep reading as well!

How do badges work?



In a nutshell, the badge process works as follows:

  1. A user makes a decision to create a badge. The badge creator will add all of the necessary information, including a title and description of the badge, all of the necessary steps to complete it, who will be responsible for evaluating it, as well as articulate what type of evidence must be submitted to successfully complete the badge.
  2. Once a badge has been created, it is disseminated to potential badge earners. This can occur either through a push (sending badges directly to potential earners) or a pull (earners can search for badges of interest to them in the badge catalog). Either way, a badge ends up in an earner’s queue.
  3. As per the requirements of the badge, the earner now creates the evidence needed to complete the badge.
  4. Once all of the needed evidence has been completed, the earner can submit their badge for evaluation, to an individual or group of individuals who were specified when the badge was created.
  5. The badge evaluator vets the evidence that was submitted. In the event that the evidence was insufficient based in some way, based on the standards set forth by the badge, then the evaluator will return the badge to the earner, with feedback explaining what needs to be corrected. The earner would then be given the opportunity to resubmit the badge for review again. Alternatively, if the evidence is sufficient, the evaluator can approve the earner’s request.
  6. If all evidence has been approved, the earner has now successfully earned their badge!
  7. Once a badge has been awarded, the earner may choose to share it publicly in whatever venue they deem appropriate. Badges might be included in ePortfolios or in LinkeIn profiles. If a user would like to consolidate their badges from multiple sources in one location, they can also export their Penn State badges to their Mozilla Backpack.

Why do we use digital badges?

Two words: evidence and transparency. When you earn a badge, its not just that a particular accomplishment of yours has been vetted by a third party.  What sets badges apart from other forms of credentialing is that the criteria and evidence of your ability is attached to the badge, available for anyone to see.

Consider a comparison between badges and the academic transcript. If a student has earned a B+ in Introductory Biology, it means they have done well in the course overall. But what specifically does the student know? What did the course teach and what did the student have to do to earn that B+? And perhaps as importantly, what might the student not know? A Biology Professor can likely answer these questions. But others less familiar with the course, the program, or even Penn State University, (for example, a potential employer) could not answer those questions from the transcript alone. The transparency and evidence associated with badges can address this problem.

Digital badges provide some exciting opportunities specifically related to information literacy and research skills.  In an information rich and highly networked society where the ability to critically evaluate and ethically use information is vital, information literacy skills are an underlying necessity for college graduates. Information literacy skills–the ability to effectively find and use information—are frequently taught during a one-time session with a librarian that is not consistently required in all college classes. This results in an unbalanced outreach to students, but badges provide a flexible way for more students to certify and report their competencies either to a professor, employer, or simply for their own edification.

Why do badges matter?

There are a number of reasons:

   People are learning valuable skills in a wide variety of settings and contexts, but often, those skills are unrecognized by traditional measures.

   Digital badges serve as a visual representation of learning and thus a compelling conversation starter for someone to understand the student’s skills

   Digital badges provide more flexibility for students to gain skills outside of the classroom or complement their learning with skills that aren’t offered in the classroom

   Employers, instructors, and others want to see student learning represented in new and more granular ways

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