Badges, badges everywhere!

If you’re a regular reader, you’ll know we’re proponents of open badges as a means of recognising staff CPD and the informal learning that happens on and alongside university courses (see previous blog posts on the topic).  We’ve also been working with staff here at York St John to develop some in-module pilots of open badges and will see new badge schemes emerge in Biosciences, Sport Science and Residential Services over the coming months. So, I’m always on the lookout for interesting examples of open badges being used to motivate or reward learners, and recent weeks have been full of opportunities to hear from people with the same interest.

Open badges are evidenceCreating Learning Pathways with Open Badges

Learning Pool webinar with Bob Price (Newport City Homes)

On Wednesday 25th March, I attended an open badges webinar by Bob Price (a learning developer with Newport City Homes housing association) hosted by commercial  e-learning and VLE provider, Learning Pool. Bob took us through an introduction to the concept of open badges as a digital, visual means of recognition. Unlike their older sibling, digital badges, open badges are not locked into specific programmes, accounts or apps – they are portable and can be displayed in multiple profiles or circumstances.  Bob noted that in a similar webinar 18 months earlier, the majority of examples of open badge use were North American. Now, however, open badges are growing in popularity this side of the pond and we are also seeing more examples aimed at the school level. Some UK examples include:

  • City & Guilds are badging the whole route through their 14-19 vocational TechBac programmes, building an online CV of all learners’ completed activities as well as the skills and competences developed on the course.

Employers are demanding more dynamic and talented recruits – technical skills are just part of what they want City & Guilds has worked with industry to understand what additional attitudes and competencies are important and how to recognise them Through Open Badges, TechBac® rewards learners who demonstrate these characteristics so they can clearly articulate their level of ability to employers. (City & Guilds, 2014, p. 17)

  • The Borders College e-Learning team has been awarding open badges to students and staff via a Moodle Badge. Pilots were conducted with NC Digital Media and NVQ Hairdressing level 1 students using three badge levels (Bronze, Silver and Gold Moodle User). Students were awarded their first open badges for best practice in Moodle use (i.e. developing their Moodle profile statement and photo). A higher level Platinum badge is awarded to staff and students deemed to provide outstanding contributions within Moodle or demonstrate best practice in the use of technology in the classroom.

  • Pain Community Centre – free badged online courses on pain management from Cardiff University –

  • The Open University have started badging their free OpenLearn courses aimed at informal learners wanting to develop their study skills. Their Badged Open Courses (BOCs) differ to MOOCs in that they are designed to be completely asynchronous; there is no start or end date and can be worked through at the learner’s own pace

  • Barclays have launched the Barclays Digital Driving Licence (endorsed by City & Guilds) which is an interactive learning experience aimed at helping people of all ages to build their digital skills. Learners can take short modules on basics like online safety, and progress to more advanced topics like analytics and coding. Learners can choose which topics/skills are most relevant or interesting to them and earn open badges for their efforts. 
  • A BBC/Digital.Me partnership as part of the BBC’s Make it Digital campaign to inspire the younger generations to get involved and develop their creativity and skills with digital technology, coding and programming.

Having seen some in action, we looked at the types of learning pathways where badges can be applied; designing the badges is the easy bit compared to deciding how they will be awarded. Bob’s advice echoes our own: where possible, look to existing frameworks or standards which are familiar to your students, discipline or profession and map badge competencies or activities to these. There are three broad pathways to earning badges:

  • Flat form: badges are not dependent on each other; issued for one-off tasks or events.
  • Dependent: key badges are dependent on other badges (X + Y = Z)
  • Levelled: graded badges with increasing difficulty (bronze, silver, gold) – rewards progress beyond an initial level.
Newport Homes: Intern Badges

Newport Homes: Intern Badges

In the case of Newport Homes, they are using badges to recognise the achievements and constant learning of their six-month paid interns – known collectively as The Academy – who have gained essential skills and completed BTEC WorkSkills modules. There are four badges up for grabs over the six months, starting with an introductory Academy badge upon completion of an intensive induction programme. This is followed by health and safety and essential training badges, finishing with an Academy Alumni badge at the end of the programme. Participant response has been very positive with all of the interns earning and claiming their badges, and some asking to be signposted to more opportunities to earn badges. All commented on the potential of badges to demonstrate their employability to businesses and make them stand out from those without such evidence of their skills and experience.

You can listen to the full webinar below:

or browse the slides here:


Open Badges for Engagement, Participation and Progression in the Arts

DigitalMe and ArtForms, Leeds

Thursday 26th March saw a range of Leeds-based Arts providers gather to hear about the recently completed BadgeLab Project. BadgeLAB Leeds was a collaborative arts engagement and research project that ran from September 2014 to March 2015. The project partners, DigitalMe, ArtForms Leeds and Sheffield Hallam University, were funded by the Digital R&D Fund for the Arts – Nesta, Arts Council England and the Arts and Humanities Research Council – and arranged this event to engage the wider Arts community in Leeds with the open badges agenda.

The project

The project aim was to explore how open badges could increase young people’s engagement with arts-based activities in and around Leeds, which are often ad-hoc, not formally recognised and via discrete events or short programmes. Tim Riches (@triches) from DigitalMe gave an overview of some successful badge projects that preceded work on BadgeLab Leeds, including the ‘medals’ issued by the SupportertoReporter programme for young football fans developing themselves as budding sports journalists and media producers, and the industry-endorsed skills badges on the Duke of York’s iDEA award, which supports young people in developing digital entrepreneurial skills.

As the arts-based partner, ArtForms elicited support from several local artists and arts organisations to pilot badges within their offer, resulting in badged activities at city-wide events such as Light Night Leeds, and the March of the Robots Parade and Party. Open Badges have also been awarded for session-based activities such as robot making, den building, 3d animation, and making ancient Greeks and Roman-style clay pots. To hear more about the badges issued, watch the project video below or check out the BadgeLab Leeds badge library.

The platform

The project used the Makewaves platform to design and issue the badges. Makewaves is a safe social learning platform for 5-19 year olds targeted at teachers and organisations issuing badges to younger students. It integrates with Mozilla Open Badges Backpack, so students under 13 can earn badges on Makewaves and convert them to open badges when they are old enough. Teachers, schools or organisations create a verified account on Makewaves (only trusted organisations can create and issue badges on the platform). They can then enrol or approve students onto their Makewaves ‘channel’. Students can earn badges from their associated organisation as well as from the browsable public library of badges. Reiterating Bob Price’s point that open badges are now emerging from the school system, hundreds of organisations have featured school-age badges on the Makewaves platform, including Computing At School (in association with British Computer Society), Rising Stars, Comic Relief and the National Literacy Trust.

The research

The project’s research partners from Sheffield Hallam University’s Cultural Communication and Computing Research Institute (C3RI) were involved in every step of the project and have focused on three key questions:
  • what are the motivators for engagement?
  • what are the challenges to engagement?
  • what solutions to these challenges are emerging from the pilots?

The project report is due to be published in the next week or so, but Katie Hill from C3RI shared some headline findings at the event.

  • 90% of the respondents were happy or very happy about receiving an open badge for their participation. The main reasons given were a sense of pride and achievement, a sense of being rewarded, and having a record of their work they could reflect on.
  • The artists involved found designing the badges to be a useful process as it forced reflection on their offer and how participants would benefit.
  • The differing routes to issuing badges have different claim success rates. Earners are unsurprisingly more likely to claim badges where the teacher/training provider have a more active role in the issue/claim process, e.g. issue by email rather than claim code. This is important to factor into ‘light-touch’ events where you have little time to explain the concept of open badges and any claims process.
  • Different age groups place different value on badges; younger participants expressed excitement at their sense of achievement (akin to the paper certificate being chosen for the fridge!), whilst older teenagers were more focused on employability value of them.

The future

The project team and their arts partners were enthusiastic about their experiences with open badges and are eager as ever to badge the city of Leeds. They are keen to forge more partnerships to develop a city-wide badged programme of activities akin to Chicago’s Summer of Learning, where the City’s youth are invited to explore hands-on science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM) activities throughout the Summer, and can earn badges for every learning initiative they interact with. In the meantime, DigitalMe are opening up many of the BadgeLab Leeds badges to the wider online community, so that anyone on Makewaves can choose to ‘take’ one of these badges from the public library and earn it by submitting their evidence online. Similarly, they are inviting educators/organisations to contact them if they would like their badges to be uploaded to the BadgeLab Leeds channel and publicised to school-age children – this could be a useful ‘testing ground’ for a badge before launching it in a face-to-face programme or session. For York St John students, it might also be of interest to students who work with young learners or youth in the community and would like to get involved in issuing their own badges to school-age children.
This is all in keeping with DigitalMe’s ongoing projects to Badge the UK and Badge the World! Badge the UK is a collaborative effort from charities, teachers, educators, employers and consultants – led by DigitalMe and sponsored by the Nominet Trust – aimed at raising awareness and adoption of open badges in the UK. In their own words:
We aim to create a new digital skills currency which raises the value of authentic learning and uses the web to connect young people to opportunities for education, jobs and fun!
– See more at:
The Badge the World website is an interactive mapping of innovative open badge projects around the world. The idea is for the Badge the World website to record what’s happening internationally, but also to provide a space for people working on open badges to learn about others’ work, discuss the issues and challenges, and potentially find collaborations. If you’re involved in open badges or interested in issuring or earning them in the future, don’t forget to pledge your support and put yourself on the map!
My Storify brings together some of the tweets, images, links and videos shared on the day. 
If you are interested in hearing more about how open badges could be integrated into your teaching or student support, get in touch with the TEL team at, on Twitter via @YSJTEL  or leave a comment below.


Roisin Cassidy

Working to the Directorate’s annual objectives and the TEL Quality Framework, Róisín’s role as a TEL Advisor is to proactively support and develop staff in using technology to enhance the student learning experience. Her main focus will be to advise academic staff on effective use of learning technologies to develop innovative learning resources, processes and practices. She will also provide staff advice and development on the core TEL systems and technologies, with particular responsibility for Mahara and Turnitin. Róisín is also interested in how ‘Open Badges’ could be employed to facilitate motivation and reward in student learning and staff development at York St John. Roisin is the primary contact for colleagues in the Faculty of Arts & the Business School.

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2 Responses

  1. Ian Wilson says:

    Interesting post Roisin, always great to see established practice in this area. 10 days of Twitter badges were well received – do you have any plans for badges that reflect academics use of technology to support teaching and learning – maybe I could apply since I didn’t get an e-pedagogy teaching fellow when they existed – just make them at a simple level that I can achieve the lowest one please 🙂

  2. Thanks, Ian. Yes, I think that would be great! We are considering a wider ADD open badges offer mapped to relevant CPD frameworks e.g. the HEA UK Professional Standards Framework which includes understanding/demonstrating ‘the use and value of appropriate learning technologies’ as Core Knowledge (indicator 4). It’s a work-in-progress though as we’re still working out the details – we’re keen to future-proof our badge offering and ensure room for development – so watch this space!

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