Pedagogy Resources

Your guide to better teaching. 

Table of ContentsGlossary


Recognition of achievement or rank, tied to gaming mechanics, credentialing and social communication. 

What is Badging?

People have long used badges as a way to signify heraldry, rank and achievement. In the digital world, badges are used to mark successful assessment outcomes, to reinforce certain behaviors, to motivate students to engage in deeper learning, to build a sense of community and to build portions of student portfolios.

A digital badge has several components:

  1. name
  2. description
  3. visual design that illustrates meaning and scales well at different sizes and media
  4. issuer information
  5. criteria for attainment
  6. evidence or proof of work, portfolio
  7. award date

This information can be kept locally within a course, or shared with a public repository like An individual could collect and display a number of badges from several institutions in this manner.

Three Rows of Five Circles above a row of two circles (Centered), each containing heraldic emblems such as the sun, lions, hippogriffs, fish, the Stafford Knot, etc.

Various heraldic badges representing families, officially recognized as supporters of William, Earl of Stafford as recorded in a manuscript of the College of Arms by John Anstis Garter, 1720.

Screenshot showing the digitla attributes of a badge

A digital badge has different attributes each potentially leading to a related information associated with the badge.

How Can I Use Badging in My Course?

Badging for Achievement

Badges can be awarded to students as a recognition of certain behavior or mastery. You can leave the existence of certain categories of badges hidden, only discoverable upon award, or make the criteria for badge award known to your student. In the first case your students will have a pleasant surprise. This type of reward encourages students to explore what else might lead to the recognition of achievement. You can use students’ motivation to earn known badges with published criteria to guide them into desired activities. Here are a few examples:

  • writing a certain number of positive posts to the class discussion board
  • using a number of different types of cited sources in a paper (journal article, conference proceeding, interview, court case, motion picture, pamphlet, etc.)
  • high completion rate on series of optional readings
  • early submittal of homework or projects
  • attendance of office hours
  • attempts made at revisions
  • visits made to the UAF Writing Center for related classwork

This is the visual element associated with the “Constructive” badge in UAF JRN 101 class. It is earned by commenting ten times on peer posts. The flavor text associated with the badge reads:

“Rumor has it the Chairman overheard you giving some constructive feedback to one of your peers! He asked Agatha to make a note in your file… The Chairman likes employees who help one another! Way to go!”

Badging for Credentialing

If students are taking your course for credentialing beyond a grade, perhaps for an associated certificate or recognition of independent scholarship, you can offer a badge with a digital link to the criteria and proof of their work. The badge can then be displayed to potential employers. This type of credentialing can offer a richer description of effort, more so than a simple grade.

Many non-profits have used badges to recognize the work done by volunteers. This gives the volunteer recognition, but also helps the institution recruit more volunteers.

UAF GEOS 380 uses badges to recognize specialized study in a course that offers survey level coverage on various geological and climate hazards but also recognizes independent study in areas of interest to students. In order to earn the Tsunami badge, a student must develop a working disaster preparedness plan for a coastal community in response to tsunamis.

Questions and Considerations

In order to be effective in a classroom, whether face-to-face or online, an instructor needs to be strategic with her use of time. All but the most trivial badging systems require many hours if not days of development time. Today’s students are exposed to many badging systems created in games and credentialing systems. If you plan to implement badging in your class realize that you are competing in an arena with high-quality and well-designed badges.

Given this factor, you should ask yourself what it is you are trying to accomplish with a badging system. If you think badging will help your students achieve a learning outcome then there are several approaches you might consider in your development:

  • Get some help with graphic design for the visual elements.
  • Use an existing badging system that is already shared with the public and meets your goals.
  • Work with colleagues in your discipline to create meaningful badges that tie programs and degrees together.
  • Make badge development an optional student project with the idea that they will be used in future classes.
  • Develop a reduced set of badges that meet the needs of a single lesson. Each semester build upon your work.

Still reading? Not deterred? Well dig in and just work at it. If this is your passion then badge away!
Beyond the time involved in development, you should realize that your students are guided by different motivations. Some will very much appreciate the rewards of earning badges in your class. Some will not. If you are after student engagement you shouldn’t rely on badging alone.


Beyond generating the images and criteria for badges, you’ll want to use a course management system that can automatically award badges once students accomplish a goal, or be notified when you have to manually review criteria and award badges yourself. Below is a short list of technologies to explore for your class:

  • The Blackboard Achievement Course Module
    Blackboard provides a simple system that allows you to tie automatic badge awards to graded assignments with varied criteria, as well as manually recognize more complex milestones.
  • Mozilla OpenBadges
  • BadgeOS, WordPress plugin that is available on UAF eLearning’s family of websites. BadgeOS also maintains a list of organizations that use badging to credential achievement and volunteer labor.

Research Foundations

Cameron, J. (1994). Reinforcement, Reward, and Intrinsic Motivation: A Meta-Analysis. Review of Educational Research, 63(3), 363-423.

Denny, P. (2013). The effect of virtual achievements on student engagement. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI conference on human factors in computing systems (763-772). New York, NY: ACM.

Fanfarelli, J. R., & McDaniel, R. (2015). Individual differences in digital badging: Do learner characteristics matter? Journal of Educational Technology Systems, 43(4), 403-428.

In Practice:


Robert Prince’s “Journalism 101: Media & Culture” uses role play and game mechanics to create a student world for students to explore as they work through course materials.

Geological Hazards

Jessica Larsen’s “Geological Hazards” course uses badging to recognize student achievements and case studies to connect student work to the real world.


Dan LaSota and Owen Guthrie, UAF Instructional Designers, discuss digital badging in this Google Hangout-On-Air.