Article at the Open Badges in Education workshop

This summer I presented a paper at the 1st International Workshop on Open Badges in Education (OBIE2014). In our study, we were exploring the potential of open bagdes in formal higher education. The study was carried out in the “Creating Digital Learning Resources” course for the educational technology master students.

When designing our badge system, we did a literature review to understand current approaches for using open bagdes in higher education courses. The following four approaches were identified:

  • composite badges can be achieved by completing multiple assignments;
  • activity-based badges can be awarded automatically based on measurable learning activities;
  • grade-based badges are based on the grades that the learners have received;
  • hierarchical badges are divided to several levels, some of which may be composite badges based on lower level badges.

Considering these approaches, we recognized that none of these were focused on learning outcomes. The Estonian higher education system has a strong focus on outcome-based assessment, therefore in our context the open badges should be also directly linked to learning outcomes.

We designed a badge system where the learning outcomes of the course and the assignments were connected to badges. The course had 7 learning outcomes, 8 assignments and 15 different badges. There was a basic knowledge badge for each of the six main topics of the course that was awarded for the blogging assignments. For group assignment on creating a digital learning resource the students were able to earn one of the three skills badges. Finally, there were six advanced knowledge badges for the literature review on a chosen topic.


At the end of the course, we carried out focus group interviews to evaluate our approach on using badges in formal higher education. The students pointed out feeling of recognition and confirmation about accepted assignments as the main benefits of using bagdes. They noted that the badges would become more valuable, if they are used in several courses, not as a one time experiment. Some students were also interested in recognizing prior learning with badges.

The proceedings of the workshop are now published by Springer:

Põldoja, H., & Laanpere, M. (2014). Exploring the Potential of Open Badges in Blog-Based University Courses. In Y. Cao, T. Väljataga, J. K. T. Tang, H. Leung, & M. Laanpere (Eds.), New Horizons in Web Based Learning: ICWL 2014 International Workshops, SPeL, PRASAE, IWMPL, OBIE, and KMEL, FET, Tallinn, Estonia, August 14-17, 2014, Revised Selected Papers (Vol. 8699, pp. 172–178). Cham: Springer. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-13296-9_19

Our presentation is in SlideShare and there is also a video recording.

I am planning to use badges again next spring in the same course. For the next iteration, I have the following plans:

  • offering at least two levels of badges for each assignment;
  • providing more choice of different badges / learning paths;
  • encouraging learners to propose and design their own badges.
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