Digital Badges: What they are and how they are changing assessment as we know it


What are Digital Badges?

“Open Badges are visual tokens of achievement, affiliation, authorization, or other trust relationship sharable across the web. Open Badges represent a more detailed picture than a CV or résumé as they can be presented in ever-changing combinations, creating a constantly evolving picture of a person’s lifelong learning”

Do you know how to use a microscope? Prove it! Know the basics of biomedical engineering? Show what you know by earning a digital badge. Digital badges are virtual credentials that document your learning, and give you a way to record your accomplishments over the years. Sort of like a resume, but better, because they are awarded and verified by educators. Stored in a digital backback and connectable to LinkedIn, digital badges will follow you throughout your lifetime, ready to show anyone, anywhere, exactly what you know and can do.


Why Digital Badges?

The days of rote memorization, discrete facts, and knowledge for knowledge’s sake are gone. As the Next Generation Science Standards and Common Core State Standards are adopted throughout the country, students are now required to think outside the box, engage in inquiry-based learning, and derive meaning from investigation and analysis. Such activities and subsequent learning is dynamic, personalized, and ever-changing. So how do you assess it?

Enter digital badges…

Digital badges are the next generation of assessment, as they provide students and teachers a way to show and record exactly what they know and can do. Maybe you passed that test on microscope use back in 5th grade, but can you prove that you know how to do it? Could a potential employer look at your report card and know exactly what you can do based on your grades? Until now, the answer has traditionally been a resounding ‘no’. ‘Grades’, as they are typically used, do little to represent precisely what was done to earn the grade. This is precisely the problem that digital badges solves, as they provide a way show your interests, document your learning, and make your skills (hard and soft skills) visible. As opposed to a resume, report card, or transcript, digital badges show anyone, anywhere exactly what you know and can do. For example, by the time a student graduates high school, they may have accumulated a portfolio of badges to show potential employers and college admissions exactly why they are the right candidate.

Say you are interested in becoming a mechanical engineer. To learn what it takes to become a mechanical engineer, develop essential skills, and prove your knowledge to future colleges and employers, you might want to start your journey by earning a digital badge in prototyping, beginner mechanical engineering, and graphing calculator use. Is space for you? Earn a digital badge in stargazing or become a beginner astronaut! Because digital badges are flexible and can only be earned by proving or demonstrating your knowledge, they have the potential to completely revolutionize assessment as we know it.

Imagine this…

You are interviewing for your dream job. You show your prospective employer an impressive portfolio of accomplishments spanning nearly 12 years – since middle school! He is impressed by your dedication and deep understanding of the field. Two days later you accept a job offer – your dreams have come true!

While this may sound like a dream, it is precisely the opportunity presented by digital badges!

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