What is a Digital Badge?

An example of a digital badge image
Digital Badge Example Image

Digital badges are a type of digital credential. Digital credentials are the evolution of traditional physical credentials. Digital badges are one of the main types of digital credentials alongside digital certificates. Digital certificates utilize a more formal certificate style of presentation. Digital badges are pictorial, using shapes, colors, banners, icons, and fonts to represent the credential award. 

Digital badges serve as digital proof of an individual’s competences. They offer easy and instant verification from the dedicated digital credential page. Third-parties such as potential employers and recruiters can easily verify a candidate’s abilities and gain a deeper understanding of their held knowledge and skills. 

The versatility in the design and accompanying metadata of a digital badge enables issuers to use them for both formal and informal purposes. They are issued across a variety of applications to recognize achievements, illustrate growth, represent membership or affiliation, and show proof of a qualification, completion, clearance, or competence. 

The information included on a digital badge informs users of what the badge earners had to demonstrate in order to gain that badge. The accompanying metadata helps to communicate the value of the digital badge and encourage users to earn the badge for their own professional development goals. Useful metadata commonly added to digital badges includes:

  • Badge name
  • Badge description
  • Issuing organization
  • Links to the issuer’s website and sign-up pages
  • Links to issuer’s other credentials
  • Recipient details
  • Links to the recipient credential portfolio
  • Badge earning criteria
  • Issue and expiration (where applicable) dates
  • Uploaded evidence
  • Skill tags
  • Badging pathway details (where applicable)
A labeled example of a digital badge page

Digital badges are created, issued, managed, verified, and shared online. Recipients receive a unique URL for their digital badge which can be shared to social media, added to LinkedIn profiles, embedded in email signatures and on digital resumes, and uploaded to smartphone wallets. Their digital badge is a visual, shareable representation of their gained knowledge, skills, and competencies.

What is a Digital Open Badge?

Open Badges are digital images that are embedded with verifiable data about the represented award. They were developed by the Mozilla Foundation in 2011 alongside the Open Badge Standard, a group of specifications and open technical standards for embedding information into portable image files. Only digital badges that meet the Open Badge standard are considered digital open badges. To meet the standard they must contain verifiable information on who earned the badge, how the badge was earned, what the badge represents, who the issuing organization is, and details of what the recipient had to demonstrate to gain the badge. 

A visual representation of a digital open badge with data embedded inside
A representation of a digital open badge

How Are Digital Badges Used?

Digital badges are extremely versatile in their use. Issuers have full control over the design and accompanying metadata that details what the digital badge and how it was earned. This enables them to represent everything from membership affiliation and event attendance to the individual modules within a degree and complicated certification programs. Common examples of digital badge uses include:

  • To represent learning outcomes in professional certification
  • In training programs to reward training completion
  • In higher education to represent completion of modules within diplomas, degrees, and assessment pathways
  • To represent achievements, skill, and knowledge acquired through online learning
  • By professional associations and non-profits to represent membership and learning
  • To represent affiliation, attendance, engagement, or involvement in events
  • To represent individual module completion within a certification program
  • To represent overall completion of a certification program
  • To recognize product knowledge and training outcomes in corporate training
  • By LXP (Learning Experience Platforms) and LMS (Learning Management Systems) as a value add to their issuing customers
  • By awarding bodies to digitize and modernize their verifiable credentials

Why Use a Digital Badge?

Digital credentials, including digital badges and digital certificates, provide an insightful snapshot into a candidate’s specific skills. Traditional credentials offer some evidence that the named individual has completed a program but they lack useful information like demonstrable skills and earning criteria. Digital badges improve the communication behind the evidence and bring increased context to the recognition of achievement, knowledge, skills, and competencies. 

An example of program details and skill tags on a digital credential page
Example of program details and skill tags that appear on a digital badge page

Using digital badge metadata, issuers can detail exactly what skills a learner had to show, what criteria they needed to qualify, and the level of experience they hold having earned the credential. This is necessary to communicate the specific value of the digital badge and is used to promote the issuer’s credentials to prospective learners.

For example, consider a traditional certificate vs a digital badge awarded for a basic understanding of Microsoft Excel. The traditional certificate informs a user of the issuing organization, the recipient name, and possibly an issue date, expiration date, and any educational credits earned. The digital badge describes the program in detail, how long it took, what tests or exams the candidate needed to pass, and the specific skills they can demonstrate such as ‘Applying Number Formats’, ‘Using Functions in Formulas’, and ‘Applying Cell Styles’. It’s easy to understand which credential paints a clearer picture of a learner's abilities and which credential a user is likely to explore to earn for themselves.

What is an Example of a Digital Badge?

Below is a selection of digital badge examples. These include examples of branded, white label, and animated digital badges.

Accredible Demo Digital Badge Example

Accredible white label digital badge example
White label digital badge example

Accredible Demo Digital Credential

Accredible White Label Demo Digital Badge

White Label Animated Digital Badge Example

GONG White Label Animated Digital Badge

Event Digital Badge Example

ASU+GSV Attendee Digital Badge Overview

White Label Digital Badge Example

CrossFit LLC Digital Badge Example

Digital Badges as Micro-Credentials

Digital badges are commonly used to represent incremental or short-term certifications known as micro-credentials. Micro-credentials are a framework for delivering competency-based qualifications that are usually shorter than a comprehensive certification. 

Issuers use micro-credentials to award learners that study these bitesize chunks of knowledge within a short time frame. They can be issued as standalone awards, issued as stackable awards that increase in complexity as learners progress, and issued as individual nodes or modules within a certification program. 

Learn more about micro-credentials in our article: What are Micro-Credentials?

Digital Badges as Stacked Credentials

Digital badges are used as verifiable awards for stacked credentials and stackable micro-credentials. Stacked credentials are a framework for acquiring knowledge in a structured way that also offers flexibility to the learner. These credentials can be stacked:

  • Vertically - Grouped credentials that increase in complexity, e.g. level 1, 2, and 3
  • Horizontally - Similar credentials that have optional levels of complexity, e.g. Excel level 1, Word level 1, and Powerpoint level 1
  • Hybrid - A combination of vertical and horizontal stacking, e.g. Excel levels 1, 2, and 3, Word level 1 and 2, and Powerpoint level 1

Learners that pursue stackable credentials have the flexibility to choose which credentials they will earn and to what experience level. This is useful for solving departmental and organizational wide skill gaps without having to commit to comprehensive certification or training programs. 

Learn more about stacked credentials in our article: What are Stacked Credentials?

What are the Benefits of Digital Badges for Issuers?

The core goal many organizations have when making the switch to digital credentials is to save time and money when credentialing. Freeing up these resources gives credentialing managers more time back to support other departments, improve customer service and support, and focus on driving company growth. 

Beyond saving resources, digital badges enable issuers to:

  • Recognize and reward achievement
  • Build engaging badging programs
  • Motivate participation and completion
  • Retain control over issued badges
  • Market their programs to drive growth

Let’s explore these benefits in more detail:

Recognize and Reward

Digital badges are used to recognize and reward the achievements of individuals and illustrate their growth. They are commonly used in the education sector, by massive open online courses (MOOCs), and online certification providers across various types of assessments. The benefit of using digital badges to recognize achievement is the additional contextual information that increases the value of the award. Issuers can also create stackable micro-credentials that are earned over time to represent a learner's mastery in a subject or across multiple topics.

Badging Programs

Badging programs or badge systems are the organization of digital badges into learning pathways that learners follow in order to achieve a specific outcome. Individuals gain digital badge awards as they complete modules or nodes within the learning pathway often earning a final credential available on completion. Badging pathways better motivate learners towards completion while offering valuable, incremental awards that they can use to showcase their competencies. 

A visual representation of a linear digital badging pathway
A visual example of a linear digital badging pathway

There are many different badging pathways issuers can use depending on their required outcome. Learn more about badging pathways in our article: What are the Different Types of Badging Pathways?

Motivate Participation and Completion

Digital badges are used to drive motivation through recognition of efforts and increased visibility into expiration. The anticipation of a shareable, verifiable award motivates individuals to complete their certification, upskill their abilities, pursue lifelong learning, or get involved with an event. This is especially effective when using digital badges as a form of gamification. According to a study by the University of Colorado, gamification results in 14% higher scores on skill-based tests, and 11% on factual knowledge tests. 

An example of an expiration notice on an expired digital credential
An expiration notice example on a digital credential

The increased visibility into the validity of a digital badge helps to motivate users to renew their association membership, refresh their skill set, or retake a program to restore an expired certification. Through Accredible, digital badge pages get updated with a page-width red banner that states that the credential has expired and can no longer be verified. As individuals are likely to be sharing their digital badge, using it on digital resumes, and adding it to their LinkedIn profile, this increased visibility means they are more likely to return and renew their digital badge award.

Retain Issuer Control

One of the biggest challenges of traditional credentials is the lack of control once the credential has been issued to the recipient. Issuers have to trust that the recipient is positively representing the program, will not spoof their credential once expired, and is not doing anything that could lead to fraudulent activity. 

Digital badges and digital certificates remain in full control by the issuer. They can be manually expired, updated, or removed at any time and issuers can choose to restrict how their digital credentials are shared by recipients. Not only is this useful for preventing credential fraud, the retained control allows issuers to update credential details based on organizational changes or corrections. For example, changing the stakeholder name and signature, replacing or updating branding and logos, and correcting typos without needing to re-issue. 

Drive Program Growth

Digital badges provide the benefit of marketing reach for issuers. As digital credentials are made to be shared by the recipients, issuers can use this increased reach to drive program growth. Their members, alumni, learners, and candidates become authentic sources of organic marketing and their shares provide positive testimony for the credential, program, and the issuing organization. 

An example of a digital credential shared to LinkedIn
An example of a digital credential for ASU+GSV shared to LinkedIn

Issuers can encourage their recipients to engage with and share their digital badges through clear call to action buttons in the credential delivery email and written/video guidance on how to use their newly earned credentials. By including links on the digital badge page to the issuer’s website and course sign-up page, any interested viewers can explore the credential and enroll on the program. Referrals, shares, and engagements are all trackable from the Accredible Credential Management System dashboards in real-time. 

What are the Benefits of Digital Badges for Recipients?

Traditional credentials are at risk of loss and damage, lack security, fail to convey value, and can be hard to validate, especially if the issuing body is no longer active. Digital badges provide solutions to these challenges by providing increased security, effectively communicating value, assuring longevity, and can be easily shared or carried between jobs. 

Digital badges enable recipients to build personalized professional portfolios of development that they can use to showcase their competencies and easily verify their new skills, abilities, and knowledge. Once a recipient has received their digital badge they can:

  • Share their achievements to social media
  • Add their digital badge to their LinkedIn profile
  • Embed their digital badge image in their email signature
  • Add their digital badge URL to their digital resume
  • Upload their digital badge to smartphone wallets
  • Access their digital badge from anywhere across any device

Let’s explore these benefits in more detail:

Portable Competencies

Candidates want to be able to provide evidence of their new skills or acquired knowledge during interviews and employment reviews. Digital badges that have been added to their digital resume, LinkedIn profile, or uploaded to their smartphone wallets are easily retrievable and presentable. This allows third-parties such as recruiters and employers to verify a candidate’s claimed abilities instantly. 

An example showing adding a digital badge to a smartphone wallet
An example showing adding a digital badge to a smartphone wallet

Digital badges that are compliant to the Open Badge standard can be uploaded to any existing ‘badge backpacks’ providing a central repository to store, manage, and display all their earned credentials. 

Award Longevity

Issuers retain control over the credential details and validity but the credential is the property of the recipient. This allows them to build development portfolios that can be carried between different roles, jobs, and careers. Even if a credential has expired or the issuing organization has closed, the metadata and recipient details of that credential are still available to view. When recipients go to renew or reskill and their previous program is no longer be available, they can find a program that closely matches their expired credential. This provides assured longevity for the recipient against the loss of their hard-earned credentials. 

Shareable Achievements

Reaching a goal, completing a certification, becoming a member of an esteemed association, and being a volunteer or event speaker. These are all achievements that individuals want to celebrate with their friends and family. Digital badges are easily shared to social media platforms including Twitter and Facebook, added to LinkedIn profiles, and embedded in an email or on a webpage. 

Through shareability, recipients get the benefit of:

  • Celebrating with their friends and family in the moment without additional steps or restrictions
  • Showcasing their achievements, qualifications, or affiliations in their email signature
  • Improving their promotion and employment opportunities by showcasing their achievements on recruitment sites

This increased visibility into a candidate’s competencies can be the difference between standing out from the crowd during job searches and connecting with recruiters online.

Digital Badges vs Digital Certificates

Digital badges and digital certificates are both used to represent achievements. The credential to use largely depends on the issuer’s preference, the type of program they are offering, and what recipients want to do with their digital credential e.g. digital badges are embeddable, digital certificates are printable. The key differences between digital badges and digital certificates are:

Digital Badge

  • Visual award
  • The badge image is embedded with data
  • Badge designs use shapes, colors, ribbons, and icons to represent programs and branding
  • Can be be embedded in email signatures and on webpages
  • Commonly shared and engaged with online or added to digital wallet cards
  • Used to represent module or node completion within badging pathways

Digital Certificate

  • Formal award
  • Traditional certificate format displaying data
  • Uses logos, copy, recipient and stakeholder details to represent programs and branding
  • Designed to be shared as a URL as proof of achievement, membership, or knowledge
  • Support for QR-code allowing printing and hard-copy verification
  • Used as a completion or final credential for learning pathways

For more information on what digital credential to use, refer to our article: When Should I Use a Digital Badge and Digital Certificate?

Designing a Digital Badge

Digital badges should be recognizable as belonging to the issuing organization. This can be achieved by using branding, fonts, icons, imagery, and taglines from the issuer’s brand guidelines. The more eye-catching the digital badge design is, the more likely that it will engage third-parties as they scroll through social media timelines. 

Examples of digital badge design
Examples of different digital badge designs belonging to a single issuer

Digital badge designs aren’t restricted to static shapes. We’ve seen organizations create animated digital badges, text-based digital badges, and digital badges that look like traditional membership cards. How the digital badge looks is entirely up to the organization and Accredible allows issuers to create an unlimited number of badge designs to use across their programs. 

It’s important to consider what badging pathways or credentialing frameworks are being used when designing digital badges. Will the digital badges be issued as standalone awards, do they belong to a progressive collection, and is there a final or completion digital badge within the target pathway? This will impact the elements of design, such as adding level indicators, creating a stand-out final badge, and adding specific text to the design. Explore the best practices and other considerations for digital badge design in our article: What Should Be Included on a Digital Badge?

An example of progressive digital badge designs
An example of progressive digital badge designs

How to Create a Digital Badge

A screenshot of Accredible's digital badge design tool
Accredible's badge designer

We offer a free to use open badge design tool, available at Badge.Design. The design tool provides a library of background shapes, ribbons, and icons for issuers to use to create their digital badge designs. Using the design tool, issuers can upload existing images or GIF backgrounds, download their completed badge design as an SVG or PNG file, and download individual design assets for editing.

Once the issuer has signed up, either on a paid or trial account, they will see an option to view existing design templates and add dynamic text within the badge design tool. The dynamic text or attributes feature enables issuers to add elements to their digital badge designs that automatically update depending on the connected data. 

Badge design tool - attributes feature screenshot
Attribute example from the Accredible badge designer

Attributes are used to add recipient names, course names, credential IDs, issue dates, or any information that is likely to change between issued credentials. Issuers can also create their own custom attributes including plain text, URLs, email addresses, and images depending on the requirements of their digital badge design.

For more information on using the Accredible digital badge design tool, refer to our Knowledge Base article: How to Create a Digital Badge Design.

Animated Digital Badges

Using animation on digital badges is a great way to make the design really stand-out when a user visits the digital badge page. Animated designs must be created as GIF images and then imported into the badge design tool using the Image Upload tab. 

Animated digital badge example from GONG
Animated digital badge example by GONG

When shared or downloaded, the badge image will be static (non-animated). It’s important that issuers ensure the first frame of the GIF is the image they want users to see when the digital badge is downloaded or shared.

Challenges and Misconceptions of Digital Badges

Organizations of all types and sizes are using digital badges both inside and out of learning environments, but to some issuers they are still considered a disruptive technology. This leads to a number of misconceptions around the use cases, benefits, and value of digital badges. There are concerns that digital badges are seen as no more than digital stickers, that their learners don’t need or won’t appreciate digital badges, and that the price of switching is prohibitive due to the need to replace internal systems. 

These challenges are solved by:

  • Meeting with or surveying recipients to understand the demand for digital badges
  • Effectively planning digital badge metadata so the value is clearly conveyed to users
  • Providing guidance on what digital badges are and how recipients can use them
  • Assessing different digital badging platforms to understand what integrations or API support is available
  • Completing an ROI assessment to compare the current credentialing costs against potential costs/savings of a digital badging solution

To explore more common misconceptions around digital badges and how Accredible solves these challenges, read our article on the Top Ten Issues with Digital Badges and Certificates.

Choosing a Digital Badging Platform

Once the decision has been made to switch to digital badges or begin issuing digital badges to candidates, issuers must then decide whether to buy an existing digital badging platform or build their own solution. They will also need to consider whether they only require digital badging or need the option to issue digital certificates as well. There are a number of services offering digital badging functionality but only Accredible offers fully format agnostic issuance, allowing organizations to issue digital badges, digital certificates, or both together. 

To identify the best platform for their badging needs, issuers should create a primary list of must-have features and a secondary list of features that would be nice to have. They use these lists to review and assess the suitability of different platforms by comparing platform feature lists, using trial accounts, and exploring platform demos. 

For a comprehensive breakdown on the process of evaluating digital badging platforms, read our article: How to Choose Digital Credentialing Software.

Making the Switch to Digital Badging with Accredible

Digital badges enable issuers to illustrate growth, incentivize behavior, and recognize achievements while benefiting their recipients with shareable, verifiable digital badge awards.

If the goal of the business is to:

  • Save time when designing, creating, issuing, and managing digital badges
  • Reduce costs while expanding the applications of credentialing
  • Grow awareness of their digital badges, programs, and the organization online
  • Provide a convenient, portable method of competency verification for recipients
  • Protect the integrity of qualifications by preventing fraudulent claims
  • Build engaging badging pathways supported by module and completion credentials
  • Scale their credentialed programs by driving program growth

Accredible provides the solution through our feature-rich digital badging platform. Start the digital transformation today and give your teams the tools to create, issue, and manage digital badges with ease. Contact our team for a platform demo or reach out for a tailored quotation

Further Reading

Download our free Planning and Launching Your Digital Badging Initiative Guide and explore the five high-level steps to successfully launching your own digital badging program, alongside our helpful tips and best practices for digital badging.

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