In the 21st century, opportunities for learning have gone beyond the classroom setting. Today, traditional methods of assessment make it challenging to recognize and display individual experiences, skill sets, knowledge, and achievements beyond institutional records. Innovative technological advancements offer a unique opportunity to provide badges in a digital format as a verification of acquired accomplishments. Badges can enhance learning experiences, motivate, and connect learners to multiple learning pathways, opportunities, and resources individualizing the learning for the student (Hastac, 2016).
In the literature, electronic badges are referred to as digital badges, open badges, or micro-credentials, often used interchangeably. The literature indicates digital badges are valid indicators of skills, educational achievements, competencies, and knowledge, which can be managed and displayed by learners (Hastac, 2016). The validity of the badge depends on the on the metadata associated with the earned digital badge and the organization or provider of the badge (Rath, 2013). The metadata is necessary because it allows for others to verify the authenticity of the digital badge issued. The badge is considered valid when the metadata consist of the organization issuing the badge, a brief description of the badge, and criteria to earn the badge, and the date issued (Gibson, Ostashewski, Flintoff, Grant, & Knight, 2015).
In order for badges to be successful, they require three necessary elements, “they have to represent some enjoyment to the learner, they must recognize work that extends beyond a student’s typical academic ability and the student has to value what the badge represents” (Anzalone, 2015, para. 5). Students have the ability to display or share their digital badges on websites, blogs, social media profiles, and online portfolios. This allows for the students’ skill set, knowledge, and accomplishments not usually seen in resumes to be appreciated and acknowledged. Digital badges allow the students autonomy and empower them to guide their own learning pathway (Kim, 2015).
The use of digital badges in education is increasing. Many institutions and organizations of higher education like UC Davis, Purdue University, Penn State, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Yale University, and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) are either using digital badges or are in the process of developing them for their institution, which demonstrates that digital badges are here to stay (Tally, 2012; Opperman, 2015).