Demystifying Digital Badges

When you think of earning a badge what comes to mind?

Sheriffs in the Wild West with a gold star, police officer badges, or maybe even Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts? These type of badges may identify what role you have, youboy scout patchr skill set, what achievements you have earned, or perhaps even values you commit to. Video games often utilize badging system concepts by allowing players to ‘level-up’, or gain rewards, badges, or increased skills with advancing levels by meeting goals or benchmarks in the game. So what is a digital badge, and where does it fit with education?


What are digital badges?
Digital badges, also known as open badges, emerged in education around 2011, as visual, mobile recognition of achievement, learning, skills, or experiences. Digital badges represent accomplishments empowering students to guide their own learning experiences, by providing specific and credible evidence of their knowledge, skills, and attitudes. Similar to the psychology of gaming, the initial efforts toward integrating digital badges in education offered promised of equity and access, as well as ways to motivate learners and recognize accomplishments.

There’s something about having a badge that just makes you feel so official.
Gloria Rueben, Actress

Digital badges in education can offer a more comprehensive, individualized picture of student success through college programs, beyond the transcript. Digital badges have been developed with one of four purposes in mind:

  1. Authorize specific knowledge, skills, or abilities a student gains from a course
  2. Issue a certificate for training or learning achievement or practices
  3. Acknowledge an accomplishment with intent to motivate the learner
  4. Recognize efforts, activities, or participation outside of a course

Programs can identify what learning or experiences may have been critical to the development of the student, and recognize achievements in skills or abilities that may not be identifiable by transcript alone. Arguments have been made that digital badges can provide a potential employer with specific evidence of training or experiences that can be used to evaluate the applicant. Many higher-education institutions have developed programs for digital badges including Purdue University, Penn State University, Illinois State University, George Washington University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of Notre Dame, and University of California at Davis, just to name a few.


Digital Badges in Nursing at CI

Digital Badges in Nursing
Digital badges have been piloted in nursing here at CI with these concepts in mind. There are currently nine badges available for nursing students: Two are award-driven badges based upon clinical performance or GPA at the end of the nursing program; Four are specific to nursing education, skills, or behaviors, including recognition of excellence in soft skills such as communication or empathy; Three others are intentionally aligned with three of the four California State Channel Islands University Pillars to acknowledge student efforts and growth academically in the ‘CI way’. The newest badge that will be available this fall, will acknowledge students who have completed the influenza vaccination immunization training to be prepared for flu shot clinics.

Digital badges should have specific evidence that details the what the learner accomplished to earn the badge. We are distributing these digital badges through Credly, an industry-leading badging platform that collects the competencies for earning the badge, and verifies that the badge is coming from a credible source. Digital badges are readily available to be shared across social media (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn), ePortfolios, or among peer learning groups. The intent for nursing students as they develop ePortfolios this year is to integrate digital badges into their ePortfolios, providing a personalized comprehensive digital method to document their experiences and share their growth with future employers! Teaching and Learning Innovations is using digital badges for faculty development for OTPP and BLPP as well!

Want to know more about Digital Badges?
Join the Digital Badges Workshop on Tuesday, October 11th in the FIT Studio from 12:00pm – 1:00 pm, find out more about the Digital Badges in Nursing project website, or for further questions email: