Badging in Online Courses

In online education, badges can be used for anything from increasing motivation and student engagement to highlighting student achievement, marketable skills, and course artifacts. According to Diaz, Finkelstein, and Manning (2015), “The use of badges can help connect a series or progression of learning experiences, illuminate pathways to learners, and more clearly demonstrate achievements to an external audience.” Micro-credentialing, or badging, is changing the way that skills can be demonstrated, assessed, and showcased to instructors, peers, and future employers.

Use of badging systems is spread across degree programs, professional certificates, training programs, professional development, and co-curricular and extra curricular activities (Diaz, Finkelstein, & Manning). Below are some use cases for how badging ecosystems can be incorporated into a higher education, online degree program  

Use Cases

Student Motivation and Self-Regulation

  • Completion of student orientation: Award badges upon completion of the student orientation to motivate students to complete the orientation tasks and steps. Additional badges can be embedded throughout the orientation (such as “University Tour Guide,” or “APA Expert”) and awarded based on milestone completion. 
  • Soft skill achievements: Award badges to students that demonstrate soft skills in their coursework, such as communication skills or teamwork skills.
  • Participation and task completion: Awarding badges to encourage participation or upon task completion may work as an additional motivator throughout a course or program.
  • Student success: Offer badges to highlight student success opportunities and to encourage students to take advantage of the student success opportunities that are offered to online learners, such as the writing center or online tutoring. 


Gamification of Course Content

  • Scavenger hunt: Embed badges throughout a course or program to further engage students to interact with content in a different way and seek out opportunities to build their badge collection.
  • Finding resources: Reward students that seek out potential content of interest for resources or supplemental materials that could be used in future iterations of the course. 
  • Community-building or group membership: Offer badges to encourage students to join and participate in groups, communities, or professional organizations related to their plans of study. This can also relate to university clubs or groups.  


Academic Skills and Achievements

  • Progressive achievements (by course, program): Offer badges to showcase course and/or program achievements, milestones, and accomplishments. These badge groups can build off previous knowledge and progressively evolve into a larger badge group or accomplishment. (For example, showcase a student’s developing communication skills
    as they build on this skill throughout the program and progress into an “Advanced Communicator.”)
  • Individual skills or knowledge development: Badges can also be offered for stand-alone skills or knowledge development throughout a course or program. 
  • Degree of knowledge development (novice -advanced-expert): Offering building blocks of competencies with varying degrees of knowledge development can show evidence of how skills have developed over the length of a course or program. 
  • Verifying achievement and evidence of assessment: Badges can be tied to specific learning outcomes to verify and provide evidence and provide evidence of stated learning outcomes and details how exactly students demonstrated mastery.
  • Pathways: Create learning paths for students to follow through badging.


Professional Development and Networking

  • E-Portfolio companions: Badges can reflect milestones and achievements that are highlighted in an e-Portfolio and can further provide evidence of skills or related accomplishments to the major tasks/courses/objectives of interest in the e-Portfolio. This can serve as an evidence-based showcase of skills.
  • Social media tie-in: Badges can be linked to social media accounts, such as Linkedin, to show potential employers or other interested parties and increase recognition. 
  • Resume: Links to badges and a summary of the badges earned may be useful addition to student resumes. 

Popular Badge Providers

While there are many badge providers available to institutions or courses that wish to participate in the micro-credentialing movement, two popular providers, Credly and Accredible, can work with you to seamlessly integrate their offerings into your online course and platform.


The University of Texas at Austin Center for Open Educational Resources and Language Learning (n.d.). Create Badges and Badge Systems. Retrieved from

Diaz, V., Finkelstein, J., Manning, S. (August 2015). Developing a higher education badging
initiative. Educause Learning Initiative.