Summary of Findings
In mid-2020, IMS Global Learning Consortium and Credential Engine surveyed badge technology providers—replicating questions from a similar survey conducted in late 2018. 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. Twenty-six different software platforms were identified that support Open Badges. Twenty-five1 companies were invited to participate in the survey.
1Data from Moodle, a platform that can issue Open Badges, was not obtained due to the tens of thousands of decentralized Moodle installations worldwide. Moodle Statistics can be found at https://stats.moodle.org/.
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 twenty-five invited companies, twelve responded for a response rate of 48%. The companies and organizations that responded to the survey were Campus Labs, CanCred, Cineca/Bestr, Concentric Sky/Badgr, Credly, Digital Knowledge, LRNG, Idaho SkillStack, Italian Quality Company, NOCTI, Open Badge Factory, and Participate. These companies are based in Canada, Finland, Italy, Japan, and the United States, and the majority serve users across the globe. Based on the information reported by the respondents
- Total number of available badges to be earned: 475,000
- Total number of available badges to be earned from issuers in the United States: 381,561
- Total number of all badges issued to date: 43,363,239
The data represent significant growth from the 2018 survey. In 1.5 years, there has been an 82% increase in total badges available to be earned and an 80% increase in issued badges.
This growth cannot solely be attributed to the larger number of survey respondents from 2018 to 2020. While the number of respondents more than doubled from the 2018 survey, the first-time respondents in 2020 accounted for 4.25% of the total available badges and 2.31% of the total badges issued.
A number of respondents commented that few people have an understanding of digital badges.
- "With regard to our badge recipients, they are not always aware of what a badge is or what it represents and many do not retrieve the badges awarded from the 'locker' we provide."
- "In Italy, Open Badges are not known or used in practice very much."
- "Idaho is now three years into using badges and have found that this is still a new concept."
Some respondents offered suggestions for increasing understanding of digital badges:
- "We need more issuers outside formal education."
- "A greater commitment and recognition by LinkedIn could help a greater diffusion and acceptance by users as a tool for employment empowerment and personal growth."
- "Just recently, our State Board of Education added a definition for micro-credentials that recognizes badges as an approved credential. Our next step is promoting the value of badges and helping different customers understand the complexity behind the badge."
Suggestions for Future Research
The survey sponsors propose the following suggestions for improving the depth and breadth of this annual badge count survey.
- Formalize an annual badge inventory research agenda.
- Develop systematic solutions to identify, verify, compare and categorize digital badges based on metadata that includes connections to other credential types (e.g., part of a certificate program or apprenticeship) as well as provider name and type (e.g., the name of the school or company imparting the skills and knowledge and whether that provider is a university, high school, independent non-profit or company).