The use, role and reception of open badges as a method for formative and summative reward in two Massive Open Online Courses


  • Simon Cross
  • Denise Whitelock
  • Rebecca Galley


Open online learning courses such as cMOOCs and xMOOCs differ from conventional courses yet it remains uncertain how, and if, existing common yet costly practices associated with teacher-driven formative and summative assessment strategies can be made to work in this new context. For courses that carry no charge for registration or participation, authors of open online courses have to consider alternative approaches to engaging, motivating and sustaining study and for helping participants manage, plan and demonstrate their own learning. One such approach is that of open badges or similar such visual public symbols that communicate to others a particular quality, achievement or affiliation possessed by the owner. This paper reports the role, reception and use of open badges in two ‘massive’ open online courses delivered in 2013 with attention to varied functions of badges and the a distinction between formative and summative applications. The paper will then draw upon data from end of course surveys, which specifically asked about badges, pre-course surveys, and user comments made during the course on platforms such as Twitter to examine what value participants ascribed to the open badges. Although there was found to be a broadly positive response to badges in both MOOCs, the reasons for this were often very different, and approximately a quarter of respondents remained sceptical or concerned about their role. The paper concludes by reflecting on the open badge as a formative instrument for providing the learner with an indication of progress and achievement.