Using Digital Badges to Add Gamification to an Online Course

Using Digital Badges in Your Course
Online LearningStudent Success
Reading Time: 2 minutes

Dr. Billi Bromer is a Professor of Education at Brenau University



Digital badges are an element of gamification that you may consider including in an online course. Incorporating gamification doesn’t mean diminishing the content in any way or turning your course into something non-academic. Gamification is accomplished by adding elements of game playing to a course. In other words, it’s a tool for motivating and engaging students. We know that students find motivation through grades and there is nothing wrong with that. However, students also enjoy knowing more or being able to do something they couldn’t before. Think about playing chess. How do you feel when you can pull off a new move successfully or beat an opponent who’s been giving you trouble?


Digital Badges Are Voluntary Bonuses

If you like to play games, you know that an important aspect is that it’s voluntary. In a game there’s an end point to reach. There are rules, and there is some sort of feedback to a player as he or she plays the game. Some games, like video games, indicate levels of skill as you play. As you get better you may earn in-game titles like “Novice” or “Pro.” Additionally, other games (like board games) reward you with items that determine who wins the game in the end. It is fair to say that goals, rules, and feedback are also part of an online course, but it’s equally fair to say that participation in assignments is not voluntary in most online courses.

The bottom line is that games can encourage you to get better at something. A digital badge, which is simply any visual indicator of an achievement, can provide feedback as a learner’s skill increases in an identified task. That can make it more desirable for a student to keep improving (Burns, 2018; Guttierrez, 2016; Schaaf & Quinn, n.d.). So, why not apply that principle to learning in an online course?


Use Badgr to Add Badges to Your Course

Most students want to get better at whatever they are learning or doing in a course. Therefore, incorporating digital badges can be a motivator. Badgr is a system in which you can create and manage digital badges. It is available within the Canvas Learning Management System.

Here are some specific ways to incorporate badges in your course:

  • Earning badges for learning challenges that appear at different levels of progress.
  • Using badges to move through learning modules based on performance.
  • Gaining points with badges after completing actions such as early submission or completing additional optional tasks. These points can then be redeemed for a class privilege such as extending an assignment deadline.

I included digital badges in a new online Introduction to Education course available in Canvas. There are four major topics in the course divided across several weeks. In addition to the required readings and assignments on each of the four topics, students can complete additional readings and assignments and earn a “Pro” badge in that topic. Students can then apply their acquired badges for privileges in the course, such as a deadline extension on an assignment or exchange them for a few extra points toward a final grade.


Looking for more tips on how to get your students to be more active in your course? Check out our free Student Engagement Handbook!