Digital badges promote information literacy skills in remote learning settings

July 29, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Digital badges are a way for Penn State students to earn recognition for skills and knowledge gained through self-paced achievements. In the current virtual and socially distanced learning environments, these microcredentials — including a series of badges offered through Penn State University Libraries — provide a concrete way for students to demonstrate evidence of their learning to instructors and potential employers.

Through the University Libraries’ digital badge program, instructors can partner with the Libraries to offer badges on 10 different information literacy topics for their students to earn.

“We work with faculty to assign our badges in their courses and encourage their students to participate,” said Emily Rimland, the Libraries’ information literacy librarian and learning technologies coordinator, who leads the digital badge program. “Instructors see the value in helping students understand academic research skills and receiving proof of their knowledge.”

Since 2013, when the digital badging program was implemented, the Libraries has issued more than 9,200 badges in 152 course sections. Faculty work with their students to help them complete the requirements, which are then evaluated by one of 16 librarians from four campuses who serve as evaluators.

“Now that many classes are taught remotely, this is a great option for faculty to add in-depth information literacy skills to classes in a way that can be done virtually,” Rimland said.

For those who remember earning badges as a Boy Scout or Girl Scout, digital badges provide microcertification for discrete skills in a similar way. Each badge has three to six required steps for completion, which serve to expand students’ understanding of a topic in three ways: (1) breaking down large, daunting concepts into small, practical tasks; (2) combining elements of games to tap into learners’ motivation; and (3) translating recognizable elements of in-person learning to an online environment.

Students complete most of the required steps by composing written responses to questions about content they have learned. The badge is issued after a librarian evaluates the student’s responses to verify that they understand the topic. Participants can then display the badges on personal websites, online resumes and social media platforms, such as LinkedIn, to share their accomplishment. 

“Presenting these skills in a nontraditional way gives badge holders another topic to discuss during job interviews,” said Rimland. “Many companies and organizations place a high value on digital badging programs for employees’ professional development and lifelong learning.”

Badges cover a variety of skills that support all students’ academic success, such as Citations, Academic Integrity, and Evaluating Web Credibility.

“Badges present learning opportunities that help students enhance their skills and give them confidence,” Rimland concluded. “They also introduce a new mode of instruction into the curriculum, benefiting faculty and librarians alike.”

Faculty who would like more information on incorporating the University Libraries’ information literacy digital badges into their course content should contact Rimland at

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated August 26, 2020