Digital badges: Pinning down employer challenges




digital badges, digital credentialing, employability, online learning, skills development, graduate recruitment, employment, micro-credentials


Digital badges hold considerable potential for employers and recruiters, as they evidence accomplishments of skills and competencies at a more granular level than a traditional degree certificate. Badges are a validated, online graphical representation of an achievement, which is accomplished by undertaking criteria-based learning activities. Despite the established educational benefits of badges in higher education, limited research has been conducted into employer awareness, acceptance, and use of digital badges in recruitment practices. To address this research gap, a mixed method study combining quantitative and qualitative data collection was conducted before and during the COVID-19 health pandemic. Approximately 700 employers were emailed and invited to complete the initial survey and 73 responded. One of the major survey findings is that 97% of respondents were unfamiliar with the concept of digital badges. Significantly, however, despite the lack of employer awareness there was no widespread resistance to the concept of badges, but a strong appeal for further clarification of their value, credibility, and security. Analysis of the data reveals stronger partnership working, between the higher education sector and employers, is pivotal to establish effective digital credentialing systems. Recommendations for higher education institutions have emerged from this study, which aim to balance pedagogical digital badge practice with employer needs. Such synergies are crucial to address the changing skills agenda, to prepare students to thrive in physical and virtual work environments. Given the paucity of research in this field, further studies are warranted, to investigate the impact of digital badges on the employer community.


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Author Biographies

  • Joy Perkins, University of Aberdeen, Scotland

    Joy Perkins is the Educational & Employability Development Adviser in the Centre for Academic Development at the University of Aberdeen. She works in partnership with academic Schools and other stakeholders, to enable cross-fertilisation of employability ideas and practice across the University. Her research interests and recent publications are in areas such as: integration and assessment of graduate attributes in the academic curriculum, enterprise education, work-integrated learning, and the role of employer engagement in curriculum development.

  • Mary Pryor, University of Aberdeen, Scotland

    Mary Pryor is the Senior Academic Skills Adviser in the Centre for Academic Development at the University of Aberdeen. She works with students at all levels of study to develop their critical thinking and communication skills, and with academic Schools to facilitate exchange of pedagogic ideas and practice across the University. Her research interests and recent publications include, embedding graduate attributes in the curriculum, and engaging employers to enhance teaching, learning and student employability.


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How to Cite

Digital badges: Pinning down employer challenges. (2021). Journal of Teaching and Learning for Graduate Employability, 12(1), 24-38.