The idea of badging is not new. If you know a little about boy scouts or girl guides it’s easy to understand how they work.
Here’s the basic idea.
When you’ve proved that you know something, or that you can do something, then you get a physical emblem as a reward.
You might want to curate a collection of your badges by stitching them onto your shirt, blanket or perhaps a sash that went over your shoulder.
This is a way of signalling to others your skills and also your skill level. It’s nonverbal. But it also triggers a kind of social proof.
In this case, social proof means that if people you respect have a badge for a particular skill and you see yourself as like them (or you want to be like them), then you are more likely to want the same badge and work towards it.
Digital badges are similar.
The idea grew out of computer gaming. When you complete a certain task in a game, you are rewarded with a digital badge that signifies your accomplishment.
We all respond to incentives. And digital badges inside games incentivise you to complete different stages, perform particular actions or show that you’ve reached higher levels.
Digital badges also work in education and training.
They are an easy and efficient way for professional organisations, businesses, industry groups, communities and others to incentivise, reward participants for skills learned.
Learning skills can happen through professional development activities or through any kind of learning across the spectrum of informal to formal.
In some case, if they can be verified, this may also include your lived experiences.
The focus can be broad or narrow, depending on what is needed. And often with badges, whether physical or digital, the focus is on skills, application of learning or an achievement of some kind.
The process of gaining the badge might be as simple as completing a task for a low stakes badge.
Or it could be more involved like taking an exam or submitting evidence for assessment in a higher stakes situation.
And the social proof aspect still applies.