Our project began in September 2020, with the overall aim of identifying a system of digital accreditation which could enable learners with limited job prospects to gain recognition for informal and non-formal learning and skills, thus increasing their possibilities of joining the workforce.

The demographic that the respective project partners work with includes a large percentage of those who are distanced – or are in danger of being distanced – from the labour market. Our badge project is therefore focussed towards finding solutions for this target group which is comprised of many different minority groups, each with specific challenges. The main factor which must be taken into consideration is the issue of access – limited financial resources, potentially limited technical (digital) skills, and possible language limitations require that digital accreditation solutions must be accessible for badge earners in terms of cost and comprehensibility. Some of the individuals we work with may have had limited access to formal education, whilst others have an education and credential history which is inaccessible due to the political climate in their homeland. The credentialling system must therefore allow for documentation of skills, knowledge and achievements gained in informal and non-formal learning contexts, to help the individual build a profile which can improve their prospects in the labour market. Even if not attending formal education, learning opportunities can be varied – both in time and space. Another important feature of a credentialling system must therefore be that achievements can be accumulated from different arenas to give a dynamic portrait of the bearer which can be contantly updated, irrespective of where learning takes place.

We believe that implementation of a transparent, portable recognition system can improve the integration of marginalised groups through acknowledging and giving credit for skills that have not been formally acquired, simultaneously promoting social entrepreneurship and motivation for life-long learning.

Through systematic thorough analysis of the existing digital badge initiatives and extensive stakeholder-focussed research, our mission is to create a needs-based, technologically innovative toolkit for the implementation of open digital badges.

Already in the primary stages of our project, we became aware of a plethora of terms pertaining to digital credentials; digital badges, digital open badges, open badges, ebadges, micro-credentials, to name but some.  In addition, the technical architectures behind digital credentials include digital repositories, platforms, eco-systems and blockchain technology.  In the literature, many of these terms are used synonymously, however we recognised a need to focus our research to achieve the initial aims of our project; to find a digital system which can help narrow the gap between vulnerable social groups and the work marketplace.

We therefore chose to focus our research on (Digital) Open Badges, which can be defined as a clickable graphic which contains an online record of:

  1. An achievement
  2. The work required for the achievement
  3. Evidence of such work
  4. Information about the organisation, individual or entity that issued the badge

(Lemoine and Richardson, 2015, cited by Chakroun & Keevy, 2018))

One important and crucial distinction of (Digital) Open Badges is that they can be used to represent learning and skills acquired in non-formal and informal learning arenas, in addition to formal education.  This feature is particularly important for those in our focus groups ; those with little – or limited – proof of formal education.

We initially planned to create a list of all digital badge platforms and collate information on their interfaces, applicability and usage, however we discovered quickly that the existing badge systems all utilise one of very few platforms to host their badges.

During our research we experienced first hand and therefore understood the challenges with obtaining empirical evidence about how badges have been trialled in different projects, and the degree of success badge systems have been met with.  We therefore decided to shift focus and create a multi-faceted, searchable overview of publications which could be useful for anyone interested in implementing a badge system.  The interactive resource we have created categorises the literature according to stakeholder, content and technical architecture, so that the reader is able to apply filters to find pertinent information.

Whilst our resource bank does include some studies from within formal education arenas, we have chosen to include these as they exemplify use of (Digital) Open Badges to document non-academic skills, which are transferable and valued within the workplace.

Our resource bank is a work in progress, and we are constantly adding new resources which we deem relevant for stakeholders looking to implement digital badges.