Piloting Digital Badges in Graduate Education

Digital or open badges are electronic credentials that communicate expertise to employers, educators, clients, and coworkers. Although badges are a topic of interest and discussion, they are not widely recognized or utilized. Most who are familiar with badges agree that they have potential and merit as a way to document, reward, recognize, and communicate learning and expertise. For background on digital or open badges, please see our earlier posts:

As trainers, e-learning designers, online educators, OD professionals, association managers, and higher education administrators, I believe it is important that we explore this new development and contribute to the body of knowledge surrounding micro-credentials. We are piloting the use of digital badges to recognize students for outstanding performance in our capstone course, TRDV 499: Professional Portfolio, where students will have the opportunity to earn digital badges in addition to college credit.

One of the more complicated aspects of working with digital badges is locating a reputable tool to award verified badges. To streamline the process for their clients, Blackboard has partnered with Mozilla to allow students to transfer badges earned in online classes to a Mozilla Backpack. Instructors can create badges or “Achievements” as they are called in Blackboard for the successful completion of various assignments and for course completion. Instructors may create custom badges or use the standard badges provided by Blackboard. Students can then view and share earned achievements by transferring badges to their “Backpack” and posting them electronically on LinkedIn, websites, Facebook, resumes, etc. Badges are digitally signed and verified, and the description and criteria for earning the badge are digitally encoded for others to see. Each badge has metadata attached that tells the viewer who awarded it and what the recipient did to earn it (see below).



In TRDV 499: Professional Portfolio, our capstone course, students document their learning and performance by developing a portfolio that contains exemplary work products and a supporting research paper. In this course site, students can earn the following badges:                                                                                                 portfoliobadge4

As a “milestone achievement,” students can earn a badge for demonstrating excellence in the completion of their Master’s Portfolio.


499completionbadgeTo recognize students for excellence in the completion of TRDV 499, students can earn a “course completion achievement” badge for finishing the course with a final grade of “A.”


If you are an instructor or course designer, you can learn more about how to create and manage badges in Blackboard. If you are a student, you can view your achievements in the Tools menu and also transfer your Badges to Mozilla Backpack.


What are your thoughts about digital badges and micro credentials?


  • This blog is great I enjoy how this digital badges can help students to earn badges electronic throughout there TRDV class. this not only helps students it encourage them to want the finish and see how their achievements have reflected others and themselves over there coursework.

  • This sound great about the digital badges and Micro credential. This allow students so much lead way in their professional roles. It also gives them more opportunity for other job, as well as showing others how much success they have made in school. I agree that this is definitely something to honor as a student and to be able to look back at your success of how you or someone has made great progress.

  • I love the idea of digital badges. I think they are a great way to provide a snapshot of areas of expertise. I do wonder, however, how the true meaning of them will be easily conveyed to the reader/viewer. For example, if someone holds a badge in some form of instructional design or learning and development will someone outside of the field know what it truly means? Maybe the data behind it explains more, but in our busy world I wonder if anyone will take the time dig in a little deeper to learn more about what it means.

  • Professor Iverson,

    Kudos! This is another learning tool that I am excited to use to represent my achievements! Another added component that will enhance my credentials;as I build my portfolio, and most importantly something attachable to social media as I build my consulting reputation and business.
    Best Regards,
    SharE’ (Shar) Lee

  • Thanks to all for the comments and encouragement! For me, the addition of digital badges was a bit like jumping off the high dive, but I’m glad we are giving them a try.

  • I have not had any experiences with badges however this concept is something that are a great idea. I wish they were available when I first started this program!! However this concept allows us to showcase our accomplishments without seeming like we are flaunting them. The badges speak for themselves and us to the social networking world.

  • Badges are definitely something I haven’t had much experience with, so it is neat that we are going to have them in the TRDV 499 class. People have different opinions about them. After reading the “Show me your Digital Badge: A new Tool For Higher Education” blog (which I later shared with my coworkers), I thought it was a good idea for us to issue badges. My coworkers liked the idea, but they didn’t think it was something that was widely recognized, so we decided against using them for now.
    On the other hand, another person I talked to was very excited about using badges and gave me plenty of examples of how learners like seeing badges when it comes to gamification. They like to display them and show others what they’ve accomplished. So I guess, some learners think it is a great idea and with time I believe they will become more popular.

  • My first reaction to badges was I felt they were for other types of people, because they don’t motivate me. However, as I read through this article, I decided I like this idea! Now I want a badge!! I don’t know that it will mean anything to employers, but the accomplishment will feel good when we earn one! Great idea! I am glad we are doing this!


  • I am not very familiar with digital badges but I think this is an excellent idea which may prove useful in many ways. Having the opportunity to earn digital badges may motivate students and employees to strive for excellence and engage in optional professional development activities more frequently. Additionally, it provides prospective employers with a way to assess micro skills and motivation of potential employees. I think that this concept will grow in popularity at a very fast rate.

  • I have not had first-hand experience with badges, so I am glad that RU has introduced using them in the TRDV499 course.

    I have been thinking about using them for an internal certification program I am designing. I could see the value in using them to recognize learner milestones with the completion of projects.

    I also think badges would be a great way to encourage engagement with online learners by rewarding them for meeting a learning goal.

    It’ll be interesting to see how the badges will impact the experience in the course. I’ll try to post again at the end of the class to reflect final thoughts on the experience.

  • Digital badges do seem great for websites like linkedin and other professional social networks. Many people list skills they have but these can serve as further proof of how and where they learned or proved certain skills. It seems like professional girl/boy scouts where you work, prove yourself, and have something to show for it.

  • I think that digital badges are a great idea. This is no different from the badges that I earn with my Fitbit band to show my achievement. They collect the data from my workout and weight goals to let me know that I have achieved something. It provides you with a great feeling. I think that it would be even better to obtain one from an accredited institution to display on my LinkedIn account. Anytime you can prove that you have the credentials within your industry is a plus. I would love to see them incorporated through our Blackboard curriculum and courses. This provides additional motivation to do well especially if I can only obtain them by earning an A in the coursework. I would also like for them to go back to previous course and provide the badges. I can benefit from getting these by displaying them on my LinkedIn account or by inserting the link electronically in my resume when we get to that point meaning when all industries are on point for recognizing them. Great article. I even went back and read the previous articles on this subject. Nice.

  • I think digital badges are and excellent way to recognize the accomplishment of individuals. With these badges job seekers can include them in their portfolio, which tells a potential employer more about the their learning projects and other skills acquired during education at Roosevelt University. I’m thrilled digital badges are being offered in course TRDV499 for excellence in completing assignments. However, I do question whether employers will accept them as trusted credentials.

  • I think this is an interesting idea. However, I think it’s pretty cool that we will use it in 499. It reminds me of something my company does, which is award stickers for outstanding work. These stickers are supposed to be displayed on your laptops for everyone to see – including clients, who can then ask about them. BUT… I think a program like that requires enforcement to ensure it is universally applied. Meaning, anyone who has direct reports must buy in and be rated on their use and support of the program. For example, in my office, no one is giving any stickers. But in an office nearby, they are given out like candy. I see the same potential issue for badges. You have to have a supportive boss who wants to recognize your achievements for them to have any value. Plus, there is a chance to make people feel bad if they don’t have such a boss but work closely and are often compared to someone who does.
    On a positive side, it would be cool to have something that you own that you can take with you from job to job, from experience to experience, that demonstrates your outstanding achievements.
    So, to sum it up, I am on the fence – for now!

    • This is a great point Jen about universal use and acceptance and interesting story about stickers and your workplace. I’ve never heard of this, but it could be an interesting way to recognize and encourage accomplishment. I found Google’s gThanks system interesting as the interface is easy to use and publicly awarded (see Work Rules).

  • Sounds like a great way to showcase accomplishments but it also seems like it might be a bit too soon to say if an employer would take it at face value. I would think that there would need to be some sort of validation of the issuer and of the badge itself.

  • Digital Badges are a good idea! I think there is a trend in higher education toward specialties, not so much major, minor and grades anymore.
    If I hire someone I would love to see accomplishments beyond grades, community and student life. An electronic badge can also set Roosevelt apart from its competitors. I wished Roosevelt would adopt this practice in a broad sense across multiple disciplines.

    The more I write about it, the more I like the idea.
    Thank you to TRDV for being a first mover on this subject.

    Ute Westphal,
    MBA Candidate

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