Digital Badges – Building Blocks for 21st Century Digital Learning

Digital Badges offer the potential to transform the learner experience and build cross-industry skills recognition frameworks.

A simple but very powerful technology for enabling new models of learning are Digital Badges.

These can enable gamified learning models through to providing a complete framework for a common, industry-wide credential recognition system.

As the Racoon Gang describe they provide a modular approach for rewarding achievements and encouraging motivation.

“With digital badges you don’t have to depend solely on exams and other conventional assessment methods. The badges can be associated with everything, including class participation, information retention, attentiveness, positive behavior, etc.”

In his article the Power of Digital Badges David Niguidula explains how they can be utilized to define learning pathways, steps of progress required to achieve the badge. These journeys are often described as “quests”, highlighting the sense of adventurous fun and reward they offer students.

Educause Review covers some examples of universities now blending digital badge schemes into their awards programs; example institutions include the Open University and Newcastle University, and WES are pioneering their adoption.

Digital Workforce

Digital badges offer an ideal tool for integrating learning with the world of employment.

The BCS describes this as the future of professional development, with many organizations like Siemens using them this way. The Scottish Social Services Council using them to underpin workforce learning.

As the graphic demonstrates not only can they represent a very specific work-related skill set, but they are also ideal for helping our social networking efforts when seeking work.

Writing for the RSA Jillian Linton provides a great overview of how badges can help jobseekers stand out from the crowd. This Lincs report examines how they are ideal for supporting adult learners, with both combined highlighting how they offer great potential for helping those experiencing difficulty with getting back into the workforce.

Open Badges

When considering the goal of building a credential recognition system that spans across multiple organizations and industries a key feature of the technology is it’s open nature.

The Open Badges standard describes a method for packaging information about accomplishments, embedding it into portable image files as digital badges, and includes resources for web-based validation and verification.

Open digital badging makes it easy for anyone to issue, earn, and display badges across the web—through an infrastructure that uses shared and open technical technical standards. As Hastac explains :

“A digital badge is a validated indicator of accomplishment, skill, quality, or interest that can be earned in many learning environments. Open digital badging makes it easy for anyone to issue, earn, and display badges across the web—through an infrastructure that uses shared and open technical technical standards.”

In Endorsements 2.0 – Taking Open Badges and E-Credentials to the Next Level the author explores this scenario, looking at how a student uses their HIPAA certifications and as a way of explaining the The Open Badge specification, and its purpose to provide this type of assurance network.

“New features in the Open Badges Specification will soon make it possible for third parties to add verifiable endorsements to these e-credentials — a necessary step for their credibility in many settings.”


Organizations like Credly facilitate their universality across industries and their CEO describes how they help foster a more diverse and inclusive workforce. Credly raised $11m in 2019 and were recetly acquired by Pearson.

Users include Frederick College, where they highlight the value of digital badges:

  • Provide a more complete picture of your interests and experience
  • Show potential employers evidence of your up-to-date proficiency, relevant skill sets, and achievements
  • Help assist employers in matching you to their specific positions
  • Reflect your efforts to engage in more flexible ways of learning and scope of knowledge
  • Can be displayed on social media channels, LinkedIn, emails, and your resume
  • Display current knowledge in your occupational field and reflect professional development

They are widely used across industry, including learning platforms like Skilljar and Intellum, and corporate users like ISC2 and Cisco. They are also a great way to add value to your own technology product, for example Optimizely, a Digital Experience Platform, offers a digital credential using Credly. For developers seeking to achieve something similar there are Zapier integrations.

Credly Alternatives

Alternatives to Credly include Certifier, Virtual Badge, Sertifier, Badgecert, Accredible, Badgr, Certify Me and Give My Certificate. The principle features these vendors offer are:

  • Certificate creation – Create visually appealing certificates.
  • Issue certificates – Generate digital credential.
  • Manage certificates – Provide users with a dashboard for managing their credentials.
  • Verification – Authenticate digital credentials.
  • Social share – Enable publishing and sharing of credentials across networks like Linkedin.

Digitary is an example of a vendor enabling an ecosystem-wide approach. As they describe in this news:

“EduCampus and Digitary are excited to announce an additional feature under the collaborative framework agreement, enabling all EduCampus clients from Irish higher education institutions to be able to adopt Digital Badges. Sitting alongside the existing Digitary CORE solution for the issuance of academic credentials, such as degree certificates, academic transcripts, European Diploma Supplements (EDS) and other official academic documents; Digital Badges enables institutions to recognise all kinds of learners skills, competencies and learning experiences.”


As this tweet from Skills Development Scotland highlights digital badges offer an ideal starting point for modernizing education in such a way it supports the further modernization and growth of skills and employment.

Critically this is achieved through cross-industry collaboration, where organizations work together to define a common set of skills and achievements and recognize the credentials published by other partners.


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