Badge, Skills Badge, Open Badge, Competency Badge


Badges are tools to represent an individual's achievements, certifications, or abilities. There are several types of badges such as digital badges, skills badges, open badges, and competency badges. 

  • Digital Badges are a digital representation of individuals’ achievements, consisting of an image and metadata uniquely linked to the individual’s skills. Digital badges have an issuer (institution that testifies), an earner (learner), and displayer (site that houses the badge). Badges can be displayed, accessed, and verified online.
  • Open Badges are digital badges that contain embedded metadata about skills and achievements. They are shareable across the web.
  • Competency Badges represent single or sets of competencies with defined market value in professional or academic settings. Competency Badges are usually offered through microcredential or degree programs. 
  • A Skill Badge is earned through completion of a series of tasks or labs, and  then a final assessment or challenge to test a learner's skills. 
  • A Certification badge validates an individual's knowledge and understanding.  

Badges use digital technologies to show learning achievements, and open badges use standards that support portability and ecosystem connections. Badges can be created or awarded by employers, education institutions, or organizations. Badge criteria are publicly viewable, embedded in the badge, and also verifiable. Badges are flexible, and can expire or be revoked. 

Ecosystem Relationship

Badges relate to documented awards by responsible and authorized bodies that demonstrate an individual has achieved certain learning outcomes or knowledge levels. Badges are used to represent competencies and to show linked experiences and learning. Badges are often used in conjunction with modular learning, degree pathways, and other credentialing. Badges can represent credentialing. Because of these reasons, badges and badge backpacks fall under the umbrellas of verification, standards, and data.


  • In support of the higher education IT community, EDUCAUSE has implemented a Microcredentialing (digital badging) program. Those meeting the established criteria have an opportunity to earn and display digital badges in recognition of their engagement with the association.
  • To develop in-demand skills and streamline employers’ hiring process, Education Design Lab launched the 21st Century Skills Badges in 2018, offering a suite of eight microcredentials – or digital badges – and a facilitator’s toolkit to help education and industry leaders understand and evaluate students’ 21st century skills.  Community colleges, universities, and employers to develop the badges, which students can display on LinkedIn accounts or resumes, and are designed to be “machine readable” by the increasing number of search algorithms that recruiters use to identify talent pools.
  • IBM Technical Training Education Badges are Skill Badges that can be earned by taking a class from IBM. Anyone who fulfills the requirements for a badge can earn an IBM Technical Training badge. This includes internal IBMers, clients, and business partners.

Alternative Terminology

See Also

  • Skills and Competencies: Skills define specific learned activities, and they range widely in terms of complexity. Knowing which skills a person possesses helps to determine whether their training and experience has prepared them for a specific type of workplace activity. Competencies identify the observable behaviors that successful performers demonstrate on the job. Those behaviors are the result of various abilities, skills, knowledge, motivations, and traits an employee may possess. Competencies take “skills” and incorporate them into on-the-job behaviors. Those behaviors demonstrate the ability to perform the job requirements competently.
  • Portability: Portability refers to credentials, certifications, or badges having value locally, nationally and even internationally. This value is represented in contexts such as labor markets and education systems. The recipient's credentials, certifications, or badges are usable in a variety of environments and contexts, meaning the recipient can move vertically or horizontally within the ecosystem.
  • Digital Credential Ecosystem / Marketplace: Digital credentials are similar to digital badges in the sense that they create opportunities for learners and workers to demonstrate qualifications, skill sets, claims, or achievements through digital certificates or documents. Digital credentials are verified and awarded through the digital credential ecosystem. An ecosystem or marketplace of schools, training programs, institutions, industries, employers, and career pathways allows for the issuing, awarding, and verification of these digital credentials and gives them validity. 


Credential Engine’s Counting U.S. Postsecondary & Secondary Credentials (2/2021): Open Badges are digital badges that contain embedded metadata about skills and achievements and are shareable across the web. Any organization can issue a badge in accordance with the Open Badges specification, published by the IMS Global Learning Consortium, which standardizes how badges are digitally represented.

1EdTech/IMS Global: Open badge is a specific type of digital badge that conforms to the Open Badges standard. Open Badges are verifiable contain detailed information about the achievement and what the recipient did to earn the badge.

Non-degree Credentials Research Network (NCRN): Digital badges (aka e-badges) are a validated indicator of accomplishment, skill, quality or interest that can be earned in various learning environments. They can be displayed, accessed, and verified online.

OECD: Digital badges are defined by SURFnet as digital pictograms or logos that can be shared across the web to show the accomplishment of certain skills and knowledge.” The skills or experience to which they attest are highly variable (from general to specialised skills and knowledge, and from cognitive to noncognitive skills), and may or may not be related to an academic programme of study (as with academic certificates) or industry and professional standards (as with professional certificates).

State University of New York (SUNY): Use of digital technologies to represent competencies and various learning achievements; electronic badges should include meta-data on the evidence of learning and link back to sponsoring institution and evaluation criteria.

Rutgers (2019): Credential awarded for completion of a short program of study or for demonstration of a targeted set of skills. These are newly emerging.

Understanding Certifications - Workcred, CSW, GWIPP (2020): Digital representations of individuals’ achievements, consisting of an image and metadata uniquely linked to the individual’s skills. Digital badges have an issuer (an institution that testifies), an earner (learner), and a displayer (site that houses the badge).

Western Governors University: A badge is a digital object with underlying metadata that represents a shareable learner achievement and/or credential earned. Metadata should include evidence of learning and link back to sponsoring institution and evaluation criteria

Western Governors University: A competency badge is a single or set of verified competencies with a defined market value that prepares the learner for a specific professional or academic skill or task. Competency badges are typically offered as part of a degree or microcredential program.

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