Digital Badges: What do Associations Think?

A new initiative in eLearning that is growing in popularity among associations is Digital Badging. Digital Badges are defined as "a validated indicator of accomplishment, skill, quality, or interest that can be earned in many learning environments" by the Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Alliance and Collaboratory (HASTAC). Describing the appeal of digital badges, HASTAC says, "Digital badges are a powerful new tool for identifying and validating the rich array of people's skills, knowledge, accomplishments, and competencies. Digital badges inspire new pathways to learning and connect learners to opportunities, resources, and one another".

Association Learning Technology wordcloud WBT SystemsIn our overview of Association Learning Technology Trends for 2016, we noted that analysts at Tagoras had identified that the popularity of digital badges grew out of the increasing prevalence of mobile learning and a continued growth in social learning. These offer learners the opportunity to engage in brief, on-the-go learning experiences, and to share, display, and validate learning achievements in both formal and informal settings. Tagoras noted, "Learners increasingly appreciate and seek out ways to demonstrate their ongoing learning".

Recently, we decided to ask some of the associations using TopClass LMS about their attitudes toward digital badges. We are so grateful to our association partners who took the time to respond to our survey. It was really interesting to hear their input and feedback, which is outlined below.

What Associations think about Digital Badges

Digital badgesOverwhelmingly, associations are in favor of the concept of using a tool like digital badges to recognize members’ achievements in completing courses and achieving certain education program goals. As with LMS integration to the association website, the ability to maintain brand consistency in badge design is very important to associations.

All of our respondents are also in favor of allowing members to share their badges outside of their LMS, for example in social media networks, AMS or community platforms.  Some associations made the interesting observation that associations may need to consider guidelines for how or which badges are shared, to protect relevance and the reputation of the association’s education programs. As the technology behind digital badges is so new, this reflects debates in the wider education community about the best way to implement and share badges.

Many associations are also excited about the potential for badges to encourage community engagement in discussion forums and participation in education and certification programs. For associations that operate a mentoring or coaching program, the potential for mentors and coaches to reward proactive participation with digital badges was an exciting prospect.


When we were designing the new functionality for TopClass LMS version 10, we contacted our Association clients and asked them to give us their insights on digital badges. Based on the feedback we received, which is summarized above, we were able to build a solution incorporating their feedback that:

  • extends the existing social learning features of TopClass LMS,
  • is relevant to association learning needs,
  • provides useful, accessible tools for learning administrators.

As noted by our CTO Linda Bowers in the press release announcing the availability of TopClass 10, we really enjoyed working with our clients and we are so grateful to our wonderful user community for taking the time to provide their experience and insight. Check out a sneak peek at the new features.


What do you think about digital badges? We would love to hear your thoughts - contact us to let us know if you see digital badges as a part of your future education programming for your association, or if you would like to talk to us about implementing innovative, new learning solutions for your members.


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