Summary of Findings
In mid-2022, 1EdTech Consortium (formally IMS Global Learning) and Credential Engine surveyed badge technology providers—replicating questions from a similar survey conducted in late 2018 and mid-2020. The goals of the study were to assess the number of Open Badges available to earn, the total number of badges awarded to earners, and to understand trends and issues about Open Badges from the perspective of technology providers. Respondents self-reported the badge count data.
Fifty-three different software platforms were identified that support Open Badges and were invited to participate in the survey.
Respondents were asked to provide counts of all badges available to be earned (defined as badge classes by Open Badges) and counts of all badges issued to recipients (defined as badge assertions by Open Badges).
Counts were requested to be reported as totals for the United States as well as totals for any location of the issuing organization. Badge counts are totals for all time, not limited to a specific period. Additionally, respondents were also asked to comment on key trends or important points regarding the badge industry as a whole. The survey sponsors stated that only aggregated data and no individual responses would be made public.
Of the fifty-three invited companies, thirteen responded with a response rate of 25%. The companies and organizations that responded to the survey were: Certif-ID, Digital Knowledge EdTech Lab, Digitary, Edalex, Idaho Division of Career Technical Education, iDatafy, Idcert, Instructure, IQC, Learning Vault, Participate, Pearson, and Reiss Romoli. These companies are based in Australia, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the United States, and the majority serve users across the globe.
There are 521,070 total badges worldwide that individuals can earn, 430,2721 of which are available from issuers in the U.S. To date, there have been 74,780,775 badges already issued.
These data represent continued growth from the 2018 survey and the 2020 survey. In two years, there has been a 10% increase in total badges available to be earned and a 73% increase in issued badges. In four years, there has been a 172% increase in total badges available to be earned and a 211% increase in issued badges.
For the first time, the Badge Count survey also collected information concerning badge issuers, counting 26,285 badge issuers around the world, 14,921 of which are based in the U.S.
The 2022 survey included one open-ended question for respondents to “comment on the badge ecosystem as a whole, especially with regards to key trends or points underappreciated in the general public.”
According to respondents, there is a growing awareness and acceptance of the badge ecosystem. This is likely due to the positive user experience and the added perceived value that badges provide. Digital badges are being used in a variety of contexts and sectors, including secondary education, post-secondary education, professional development, and corporate training. Some organizations are using badges to recognize competencies, track progress towards credentials, and renew certifications, while others are just starting out and plan to issue badges specifically for the education sector. In addition, badges are seen as a valuable marketing tool for education providers, particularly as employers begin seeking specific competencies and individuals look for new opportunities. A few comments also highlighted the need for structured data practices to consistently represent valuable information according to the badge's scope.
1Credential Engine. (2022). Counting U.S. Postsecondary and Secondary Credentials. Washington, DC: Credential Engine
Implications for Credential Providers
With so many badges being issued by so many organizations for so many different types of achievements, it's more important now than ever for badge issuers to be explicit about the meaning and value of their badges. Too often, individuals' achievements are undervalued because they are not documented or easily shared with others. For example, a badge obtained for a state occupational license should be explicitly differentiated from a professional certification badge, from a certificate program badge, and from any other type of credential.
Thankfully, through the long-standing partnership of 1EdTech and Credential Engine, the practices and data standards necessary for consistently providing this information are readily available. Any credential can be fully described using the Credential Transparency Description Language (CTDL) schema in the Credential Registry including badges. Similarly, any OpenBadge can contain a link to credential information in the Credential Registry via the alignment property. Moreover, the forthcoming Open Badges 3.0 version supports enumerating specific achievement types directly in the badge itself, many of which align with CTDL credential definitions.
Badge issuers should update their organizational processes for documenting badge achievements. When badges are issued for credentials, these badges should be enriched with CTDL descriptions of the credentials using links to the Credential Registry.
For more information about these practices, please see the linked resource.
Suggestions for Future Research
The survey sponsors propose the following suggestions for improving the depth and breadth of this annual badge count survey.
- Identify and differentiate between badge authors or creators and the providers that issue the badges to accurately represent credential providers.
- Investigate the relationship between badges and other types of credentials, including those that are awarded in addition to or as a proxy for other types of credentials.
3. Study the effectiveness of digital badges as a marketing tool for education providers, particularly in terms of attracting employers seeking specific competencies or individuals looking for new opportunities.
4. Research the use of badges in various contexts and sectors, including higher education, K-12 education, and as micro-credentials, to better understand their potential value and impact.
5. Investigate the feasibility and potential benefits of implementing structured data practices to consistently represent valuable information according to the badge's scope. This could include exploring how such practices may enhance the usefulness of badges for employers and individuals seeking new opportunities.