Landing : Athabascau University

Digital badges in education

This article is from November 2013 and discusses some of the “new affordances” that digital badges provide for online educational activities and experiences. The article opens with a historical overview of badges (physical world) and moves onto a brief history of digital badges (relatively new in 2013), the various implementations of badging systems and diverse group of organizations embracing badging systems, and a sharp rise in interested of digital badging based on Google Trends data.

The authors categorize badges as a “gamification element” and rightfully wonder towards the end of the paper how this may influence intrinsic motivation, this is something I have been curious about as well, so will need to search if other literature has covered this relationship of digital badging and intrinsic motivation.

The new affordances are broadly grouped as: motivation, recognition/credentialing, evidence, and research. Regarding motivation, I do like the analogy of badges acting as sign posts to guide the learners path and uncover future learning opportunities. So, a design decision could be present the user with subsequent badges to earn and this I think could be seen as part of a natural learning progression. This does not dictate a learner’s path since there should be multiple badges a learner could acquire next, even if it was a lateral move, say from studying networks to operating systems since there are some overlapping concepts between these two areas of study.

Recognition or credentialing is partly about displaying your badges and to me this has the effect of having your reputation precede you, that is badges signal things about you before your interact with someone. I think this can be good or bad in the sense that those seeking to acquire certain skills/competence can more easily find others who have already achieved those skill sets, however it may create silos where or minimize interactions where people only seek others with certain badges. I think it may have the effect of making ‘cliques’ (or something like ‘cliques’, perhaps need a better term). So, how does the design and implementation of a badging system amplify the good and suppress the bad?

Another item I thought of was using badges to indicate an area of interest, like a beginner’s badge or “interest badge”. So, the badge does not represent any acquired skill/competence, but indicates to others things you are interested in learning. This way, instead of the learner seeking a teacher, a teacher (formal, informal, or peer) can seek out students to help. This could be another way to accrue social capital as you should be viewed as a pretty helpful person and passionate about the topic if you are willing to seek out others and impart that knowledge. Also, some people are shy to ask for help or otherwise initiate a conversation/relationship, so this type of badge may help alleviate anxiety from some (provided someone approaches them), if not the anxiety grows and they wonder why nobody is helping them.

Evidence of achievement was interesting because there is a point in here I have not come across yet and that is a direct link to the “digital artifact” via the badge, essentially evidence to support the badge, this is different from linking to validate credential from issuer. This would mean that others could view your work and make their evaluation/critique of the work. This also introduces the idea of achievement level, whereas before I thought of a badge in binary, either you have it or you do not, similar to a pass/fail grade which I think may help minimize extrinsic motivation (need to find literature related to that assumption). Moreover, solutions like are adding more to digital badges than the basics defined in some other articles. From

“For example, while a student’s overall grade and ranking in a course is important, it may be interesting to potential employers to be able to view that student’s code and final presentation and see what types of engagement they had with a community, as well as impressions from mentors or instructors. With Accredible, students can also supplement the certificate with portfolios pieces, personal notes, etc.”

So at what point does a badge become a resume and cover letter? Is a badge a resume and cover letter with statistical power as found in Accredible’s implementation of badges?