Digital Badges and Librarians

boy scout merit badges
Image by Douglas Muth from Ardmore, PA, USA (My old Boy Scout merit badges) [CC-BY-SA-2.0

by Sara Samuel

What are digital badges?

Just as a physical Girl Scout or Boy Scout badge indicates an accomplishment or rank, so does a digital badge. Digital badges are electronic files that are represented with an image and  corresponding information that can validate a person’s accomplishment is embedded with the file - including links to the issuing organization, a list of requirements, and evidence for completion of those requirements. Just as a girl scout leader has to sign a statement that a girl scout has completed the requirements for a badge, an organization will issue the digital badge upon successful completion of the listed requirements. Digital badges can be displayed on a personal or professional website, or shared through social media. HASTAC (Humanities, Arts, Science and Technology Alliance and Collaboratory) has a great informational website about digital badges that includes videos and example badges. You can also read more about the benefits and challenges of digital badges at the following resources:

Can we apply digital badges to librarianship?

At the beginning of the school year, Instructor College Steering Committee (ICSC) had a few conversations about how we could possibly change the outcomes of Instructor College (IC). IC used to be a series of workshops given over a short period of time, and participants would receive a certificate at the end of the series, acknowledging their participation. Since then, ICSC has evolved to be more of a group that organizes IC events for library instructors without having any recognition tied to them. ICSC had the idea that we could become more like the IC of old by using digital badges to recognize people who came to IC events and were able to demonstrate that they learned something that could impact their instruction. Do you think digital badges could realistically be used as a professional development tool here at UM Library? Beyond professional development, library instructors often give open workshops and teach students skills that they may not get formally recognized for in a traditional classroom setting. Do you think digital badges could be used to incentivize participation in open workshops at the library? Would they be an effective motivator for students? For either of these to become viable, library administration would have to provide support. There would need to be high level coordination between groups that organize the various events that people can attend here at the library so that there is consistent recognition of participation. For both the professional development and the open workshops, a reward system could be set up: earn x number of badges during the year, and you can get a free MLibrary umbrella (students, faculty) or additional travel money to attend a conference (library staff). Would it be worth creating a digital badging infrastructure to support these kinds of awards?

What’s currently being done at U-M?

If you’re wondering about any local initiatives, the LIT Learning Technology Incubation Group (LTIG) and the USE Lab from U-M Library are spearheading a digital badging project called Mblems. Mblems were issued this year to recognize undergraduates’ co-curricular learning in Engineering.

mblem example badges
Mblem Digital Badges project
© 2014 Regents of the University of Michigan

Partnering with the M-STEM Academy, the Mblem digital badges represent a flexible, portable, and verifiable format in which to recognize, display, and transmit learning opportunities. The pilot study, funded by a Transforming Learning for a Third Century Quick Wins grant, ran through Winter 2014. Questions about this project may be directed to (Text for this section was taken from an informational message from Steve Lonn in the January 17, 2014 internal Library Newsletter.)

Want to try digital badging yourself?

To test out the digital badge concept for myself, I set up a Mozilla Backpack and earned 2 badges. You can check them out on my profile page - proof that I understand digital badges and can use a browser! If you want to try it out yourself, you can earn your first badge by taking the badges 101 quiz. Diana Perpich, current chair of Instructor College Steering Committee, has developed a badge just for us at U-M Library by using Credly, a platform for creating and issuing digital badges. To earn the badge, you will need to do 3 things:

  1. Find & read at least 1 popular article about digital badges.
  2. Find & read at least 1 scholarly article about digital badges.
  3. Write up your opinion about digital badges as they apply to librarianship.

To request your badge, please follow these steps:

  • Go to
  • You will need to either create a Credly account, or sign into Credly using LinkedIn or Facebook.
  • Click on the Document icon to upload a document that contains citations for the articles you found, as well as your position paragraph about digital badges and librarianship.
  • Click on “Claim this credit”

Your evidence will be reviewed and the badge will be issued if you have successfully met the criteria. If you don’t want to go through the badging process, you are welcome to leave your comments below.

What do you think about digital badges? Do you think we could implement a digital badging system for professional development or student motivation here at U-M Library?