If you’ve ever noticed the patches that girl or boyscouts wear, then you’ve already had an insight into the precursor to digital badges. Like their fabric forefathers, and the video game based older siblings, digital badges are all about recognizing accomplishments – an idea that has enormous potential in Edu.

And a number of factors are paving the way for the rise of the badge. Financial pressures are encouraging more and more academic institutions to take a long hard look at their programs to make sure that students are learning what they say there are. Those same financial pressures are affecting our students, pushing people to look for opportunities to to learn without crushing their savings or incurring extensive debt. And with the support of technology, that means a new era of learning through MOOCs and open educational resources, or the less formal YouTube videos, podcasts, or communities of practice. Add in gamification, the rise of learning analytics, and students perpetually looking for opportunities to  and you’ve created a climate in need of exactly what the digital badges brings to the table. What do individuals know? This is the question badges are here to solve.

So how will digital badges work (at Penn State)?

At a high level, they work like this:
A system flow diagram for the Penn State digital badge system

Someone decides they want to create a badge. The determine a set of criteria for that badge, most notably, what evidence will be required to be submitted in order to prove that you earned it. Once published, a badge can either be searched for by, or pushed to (in the case of a class, an advisor, etc) a badge earner where it will reside in a queue until they are ready to work on it. In time, they submit whatever evidence is required. That evidence is then reviewed by someone the badge creator specifies. If everything looks good, a badge is awarded. If not, the evidence is sent back to the earner for revision and resubmission. Once a badge has been earned, it will be added to a user’s portfolio, where they can determine how public or private they want it to be, share it with others, or archive it using Mozilla’s open badge framework (if they are planning on leaving the University).


What Can A Badge Be Used For Once Earned?
In a word: proof. Think of badges as an infrastructure to support the next version of an eportfolio. Badges can help provide supporting evidence that can certify prior knowledge, give you a leg up in a job interview, make historically less tangible competencies more clear, or provide greater opportunity for personal, academic, or professional reflection and development.

Does Penn State Offer A Digital Badging System?
We’re builiding one as we speak! In conjunction with Dr. Kyle Peck and with the support of COIL and TLT, we’re currently developing a system that should support the use of digital badges for academic and co-curricular use at Penn State and beyond! We look to deploy the system for a pilot during the fall of 2013.

Im Interested in Learning More About Digital Badges. What Now?
You’ve come to the right place. Email us at gaming@psu.edu and we’d be more than happy to talk with you about how you can bring digital badges to life.



How do you make foundational chemistry memorization interesting to students? Have them play Chemblaster – a game designed to make learning elemental symbols, ion charges and polyatomic compounds fun!

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