Skip to content

Digital Badges in Education Improving Job Prospects

Digital Badges


Ever worry you’re not telling your full story when applying for jobs?  Your resume shows your work history and the degree you may have earned, but what about all the skills you’ve amassed along the way?

And what about your rich variety of experiences that have taught you so much?  Old-school resumes simply don’t leave much room for that type of multi-dimensional information.

For everyone who’s ever wished there were a way to display achievements like new skills acquired or milestones reached, there’s good news.  Some universities have finally caught up with the information age and many now offer what’s called digital badges in education.

What they Do: Digital Badges in Education Round Out the True Picture of Your Accomplishments

Digital badges in education serve to fill the gaps left by the traditional resume, allowing students to show potential employers what they’re really worth.

They represent a new way for students to show potential employers what they’ve achieved in college, while ensuring recruiters that there’s a benchmark for quality that allows them to trust the badges’ worth.

How Do These Badges Work?

Digital badges are a way to recognize achievement on a much more micro level than a full academic degree.  They are visual- those who earn them get an actual image to display on their personal website, portfolio, blog, or social media.  And they do look like tiny badges.

For the prospective employer, those tiny badges may serve as launching pads to further information about how and where the badge was earned.  They’re linked to further data, including things like the coursework that led to earning the badge, the institution or company that issued the badge, and when it was issued.

At the forefront of digital badges in education is Mozilla, the company that brought us the Firefox browser.  They’ve created a platform for issuing, earning, and creating digital badges,

They’ve also created a way for students to collect their badges and display them in a portfolio.  It’s called the digital “backpack”, and it makes it very easy to show off your collection to everyone you know, including future employers.

How the Came About: Digital Badges Reflect a New Way of Teaching

As instructors transform their classrooms with new ways of teaching using technology and the internet, the need for new ways of assessing students has come about too.

Likewise, as entire school curricula have veered towards becoming more digital and less classroom-centered, so now have the ways in which student achievement is shown.  More often, students are taught via a wider range of formats, from traditional (on-campus) classroom settings and lecture halls to online courses taken remotely.

This represents is a loosening of definitions of what constitutes progress and merit in our higher education system.

No longer are grades fully applicable in all situations.  Sometimes it’s more appropriate to simply show progress rather than to judge the quality of a student’s overall work.

Why Educators Need Digital Badges

The resulting hybrid system of education offers a welcome convenience to students, but presents more than a few challenges for instructors and administrators.  That’s on top of some already challenging formulas for how students earn credit.

Colleges have had to be creative in the past, as they’ve sought to recognize the learning that takes place outside the classroom.  Now they’re doing it again with digital badges in education.

You see, for years, colleges have worked on ways to assign college credit to non-traditional learning.  One result of these efforts is that it’s now possible, in some cases, to earn college credit for military service as well as work/life experience.

Now, digital badges are being considered as one way to reflect those and even more aspects of learning (there is even talk about finding a way to translate digital badges into college credit, by the very same organization that brought us college credit for military experience and job training).

In a 2011 speech at the MacArthur Foundation Digital Media and Lifelong Learning Competition, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said:

“Many of our veterans bring back employable – and even exceptional – skills, competencies and achievements, gained all over the globe. Yet these talents can be overlooked in the civilian workforce, because they may not appear on traditional resumes and transcripts.

Here, badges can be a game-changing strategy.”

-Former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan

In addition, a growing number of massive open online courses (MOOCs) allow students to earn college credits which may be applied to a degree.  Many of these offer digital badges, too, for partial completion.  That’s important because not everyone who starts a MOOC finishes.

Finally, as many instructors’ grading systems have become more “holistic”, the need for evidence of progress in specific skills and milestones has grown sharper.  Digital badges in education, in other words, could not have come at a better time.

What Digital Badges Can Do for Job Seekers

Badges are a way to recognize learning, not grades.  Yes, recruiters want a holistic picture of a job applicant, but they also want tangible evidence of skills and milestones.

A student may have earned a degree in business, but does she have what it takes to succeed?  An internship on the resume is nice, but a digital badge measuring the specifics of her actual “fieldwork” in the industry speakers louder.

Digital badges in education allow students to tell richer story with their job applications.  When you can show competency in hard skills that employers look for, and it’s portrayed alongside a media-rich display of the details of your badge, that’s a good story to be able to tell.

A Final Word

Digital badges in education are a way for students to show future employers all the ways they’ve learned and the diverse ways in which they’ve prepared themselves for the job market.  Students get to show more of their achievements than what’s measured by traditional assessment systems, and in the end… that’s always a good thing!

Our academic team will be pleased to help you identify colleges that are now giving students an opportunity to earn digital badges.  Ready to learn more?  Click here to schedule a complimentary consultation.

Jack Schacht has over 40 years in marketing, management, career development and business leadership. As president of College Funding Advisors and co-founder of My College Planning Team, he brings his unique talents to help families identify and implement strategies that can help them substantially reduce college costs.

Back To Top