Digital Badges and CBT

Competency-Based Education (CBE) is a teaching approach where students must demonstrate mastery of a skill or concept. Rather than a traditional exam-based educational model, where the students’ knowledge is tested cumulatively, CBE is based on the mastery of individual topics. Students demonstrate proficiency of each individual skill before advancing to the next. This ensures everybody learns at his or her own pace.

At UMass Boston, we strive to utilize effective new teaching practices such as CBE. One example of CBE at UMass is the use of digital badges.

Digital Badges

A digital badge is an online representation of a skill you have earned. They can be used in e-learning environments to certify accomplishments, track growth, increase motivation among students, among other things.

These badges take the form of a digital emblem/image that can be collected by students and viewed by both students and instructors (and potentially even by the public). It works much like the Boy Scout badge system, only it’s digital.

(A video from the MacArthur Foundation on digital badges)

Benefits and Use of Digital Badges


Studies have shown that by highlighting and commending achievement, digital badges increase student motivation, therefore, their participation and engagement with the material. Not only do badges serve as reward for exceptional performance, but also act as record for challenges a student has overcome.


Digital badges carry metadata that indicate where, when, and how a badge was earned. Additional information attached to the digital badge might include the credentials of the issuer, among other verifying details. This metadata travels with the badge so that a viewer can see the whole story of the badge holder’s growth.


With Mozilla’s Open Badges initiative, the sharing of badges has become very fluid. It is easy to share your digital badges on social media or through other technological pathways. This flexibility across platforms encourages communication and more active participation. It makes it easy for students to show publicly how they are progressing in their learning.

Profile Building

Many companies and educational institutions have begun to recognize digital badges as a valid form of credentials. Digital badges are quickly becoming more acceptable as a way demonstrating the value of your skill-set to potential employers or higher ed institutions. With digital badges, students can display their specialization and commendations to the public in a manner that has potential for tangible rewards.

Badges in Blackboard

Blackboard has Mozilla Open Badges integrated into the Achievements tool. This enables instructors to issue digital badges in Blackboard courses.
Badges in a Blackboard course are tied with the learning activities in the course. Before setting up a badge in your Blackboard course, you first need to design and set up the activities that lead to the badge. For graded activities, a Grade Center column will need to be present to be associated with the Achievement. For ungraded activities, the Mark Reviewed status will need to be enabled.

Building a Badge in a Blackboard Course

In a content area:

  • Build graded learning activity, and/or
  • Build activity with review status

Using the Achievements tool:

  • Select badge type
  • Set rule for criteria for score/grade or review status of learning activities
  • Choose an image for the digital badge
  • Choose location for display of earned badge
  • Allow badge to be published to Mozilla Backpack (recommended for badges that carry significant competency that a student would benefit from sharing outside of Blackboard, on their portfolio, resume and social media sites).

Here are detailed steps on how to build a badge in Blackboard.

Publishing and Sharing a Badge

A digital badge earned in a Blackboard course may be published to a Mozilla Backpack (if the instructor has enabled this feature). This transports the evidence of the student’s learning and achievement to a space outside Blackboard Learn. From the Mozilla Backpack, students can publish and share their digital badges on social media and elsewhere.

Students will need to create a free account with Mozilla Backpack with their UMB email address to be able to publish the badge. Have them follow the instructions below to create an account and publish a badge.

Create Account with Mozilla Backpack (for students)

Please note: The email address associated with a Mozilla Backpack must match the email address associated with the Blackboard account with which a user earns badges.

  1. Go to
  2. Click Log in or Sign Up.
  3. Type in your UMB email address in the provided screen and follow the steps to create an account.

Publish Badge

For best results, log in to your Mozilla Backpack in a separate tab in the same browser before starting publishing.

  1. Earn a badge in a Blackboard course
  2. Go to My Achievements or My Badges area on the Course Menu
  3. Locate the earned badge and click Publish to Mozilla (screenshot below)
  4. Follow the prompts to authenticate with your Mozilla Backpack account until you receive a confirmation that your badge was published.
  5. Share Badge Collection on the web.


Share Badge

Badges collected in a Mozilla Backpack can be easily shared in social media platforms in a number of ways. Here are some ideas:

Here is an example of a Mozilla Backpack that was shared on Twitter (click the link in the post to view Backpack).

Additional Info

Using Achievements in Blackboard
Open Badges
The Lure of Badges (Blackboard)
Case Studies
Deeper Overview

Get Help

Request an appointment with an Instructional Designer to get help with building badges in your Blackboard course: