Open Badges: Acknowledging Soft Skills Acquisition

Colin Loughlin, Ceri Hitchins, Charlotte Barton, Julia Anthony, Heather Barker, Steven Warburton, Irinia Niculescu

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingPaper in conference proceedingpeer-review


In 2010 the Mozilla Foundation established the Digital Open Badges concept as a virtual incarnation of physical counterparts such as a paper certificate or a youth organisation merit badge. Digital Open Badges offer embedded, verifiable, metadata containing information such as the issuer and award criteria. Open Badges can be used to reward learning, participation or achievement. They can be stored in various online environments, including the Mozilla 'Backpack' and social media platforms. Open Badges have been used to evidence informal learning, professional development, community and voluntary work. This study is part of an ongoing project at a UK Higher Education Institution (HEI) to evaluate the potential of awarding Digital Open Badges in different contexts across the institution. It was decided to trial Open Badges on a programme run by Learning Development staff in the Library to support high achieving students, acknowledging and rewarding soft-skills acquired as part of the programme. Central to the success of the scheme was ‘buy-in’ from the students themselves; in order that the Open Badges had meaning and value to the recipients, a Participatory Design approach was adopted to engage students in the development process. Participatory Design is an iterative methodology that 'attempts to examine the tacit, invisible aspects of human activity' (Spinuzzi, 2005, p. 164) and incorporates them into co-produced systems. Soft-skills are an important complement to formal education in the 21st Century workplace (Devedžić et al., 2015). Measuring and rewarding ‘soft-skills’ such as; critical thinking, communication, leadership and team-working, has proved problematic in the past. Key objectives were to establish a set of soft-skills metrics and, a sustainable approach to acknowledging the acquisition of those skills. This presentation will discuss the outcomes from the study, including an assessment of the sustainability of Open Badges as a mechanism for rewarding soft-skills acquisition in an informal setting.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication15th European Conference on E-Learning
Subtitle of host publication(ECEL 2016)
EditorsJarmila Novotná, Antonín Jančařík
PublisherACPI (Academic Conference Publishing International)
ISBN (Print)978-1-5108-3267-1
Publication statusPublished - 2016 Nov 27
Event15th European Conference on e-Learning - Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic
Duration: 2016 Oct 272016 Oct 28

Publication series

NameProceedings of the European conference on e-learning
ISSN (Print)2048-8637


Conference15th European Conference on e-Learning
Abbreviated titleECEL 2016
Country/TerritoryCzech Republic

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Educational Sciences


  • Open badges
  • soft skills
  • particpatory design


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