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Module Enhancement
UCD Digital/Open Badges Pilot
Project: UCD Digital/Open Badges Pilot
Project Team: Leone Gately
Collaborator(s): Faculty interested in utilising digital badging within modules and programmes; Centres/units involved in the provision of extracurricular and co-curricular student activities; Providers of non-accredited staff CPD; All Aboard Project Team members representing NUI Galway, UL, MIC


All Aboard: Digital Skills in Higher Education through the National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning


January 2016 to end of academic year 2016/17 (June 2017)

As part of UCD’s involvement in the All Aboard Digital Skills in Higher Education national project, UCD lead on a UCD Digital/Open Badges Pilot to contribute to the exploration and evaluation of the use of digital badges as a means of recording attainment of skills and knowledge by staff and students in higher education. Within UCD was envisaged that the pilot wouldl align with appropriate implementation activities under UCD’s strategic initiative of Defining Educational Excellence.

A digital badge is a visual representation of a skill, achievement or knowledge gained which can be displayed or shared online via a variety of platforms (e.g. blogs, websites, ePortfolios, social media sites etc). Digital badges have metadata embedded which outline information about the badge i.e. the badge issuer, criteria for earning the badge, evidence of achievement, expiration of the badge etc. Those who earn badges can use display platforms such as Open Badge Passport (which will be used for this pilot),  among others (i.e. Mozilla Backpack or Credly) to display their badges online making them available to potential employers, voluntary organisations and other interested parties.

Digital badges are commonly used to recognise learning that occurs outside of the classroom e.g. extra/co-curricular activities such as volunteering, mentoring, tutoring, participation in societies and entrepreneurial schemes. Badges can also be integrated into academic programmes and modules where they are linked to a specific skill or seen as a type of ‘micro-credential’ or milestone intended to motivate and encourage learners.


The aim of the pilot was to leverage digital badges to complement the existing learning, training and professional development environments by recognising achievement, engagement and knowledge acquired through both formal and informal learning opportunities. The Digital Badges Pilot aimed to work with a number of partners in different contexts to examine how badges can be used to support teaching and learning. Contexts include:

  • Faculty who are interested in embedding badges or in a programme or module.
  • Those involved in providing extra/co-curricular opportunities and activities for students.
  • Centres/Units that provide professional development/training for staff that is currently non-accredited.

During the pilot, it was envisaged that badges would be implemented in various learning contexts, with variable criteria and evidence, and by a variety of issuers across UCD thus providing scope to evaluate badges as a means to credentialize in Higher Education. The experience and feedback from those who participated should inform or contribute to:

  • the development of good practice guidelines for embedding digital badges on a sustainable basis
  • the development of an institutional badging infrastructure (if required)
  • institutional policy recommendations and guidelines for the use of digital badges in various learning and training contexts.
  • evaluating the use of badges in various contexts, cataloguing badge-issuer and badge-earner experiences with the concept of badging in general; and with various badge creation, issuing and display platforms as part of the All Aboard project.

This pilot aimed to provide those who participate, with support and training on the use and deployment of digital badges for specific learning contexts. Dependent on context, both Blackboard & Open Badge Factory platforms were options for managing badges during this pilot.

Training was provided for participants on the use and deployment of digital badges to include direct support for the duration of the pilot: (i) to understand pedagogical best practice in relation to badging, (ii) to develop a badge taxonomy specific to the context and (iii) to design and issue badges.


The UCD Digital Badges Pilot Report outlines the implementation and evaluation of the UCD Digital/Open Badges Pilot, led by UCD Teaching and Learning in the context ofparticipation in the All Aboard project on digital skills in higher education.

The report distinguishes between ‘internal digital badges’ that are used only within a programme or module to scaffold learning, and ‘external open badges’ that serve as a public statement of the knowledge, skills and competencies developed by an individual through activities that are often co-curricular and non-accredited.  The experience of the pilot illuminates in practice many of the issues that are being identified in the emergent badging literature. It also helps to develop a practical understanding of the opportunities and challenges presented by open badging for the University. Open badges are an emerging concept and evolving technology. Research to date has focused on pilot implementations but is moving towards the articulation of good principles for policy and practice.

The report makes two recommendations: firstly, that curricular ‘internal digital badges’ could continue to be implemented by lecturers within programmes and modules using the Achievements tool in Blackboard Learn; and secondly, that ‘external open badges’ should come within university-level purview to ensure quality oversight, with several requirements outlined for consideration.

Next Steps:

See the UCD Digital Badges Pilot Report