CREATE releases report on Digital Badges and Learning

Good badges, Evil badges?
An Empirical Inquiry into the Impact of Digital Badge Design
on Goal Orientation and Learning

Melissa L. Biles, Jan L. Plass
New York University

Bruce D. Homer
The Graduate Center, CUNY

download full-text PDF: HASTAC Report Badges and Learning CREATE

There has been a lively debate recently among members of the badges community about the impact of badges on people’s motivation. Some are concerned that badges might stifle students’ intrinsic motivation and cause them to be more focused on winning new badges than on the work they are doing. Others support the use of badges, considering them superior to grades for evaluating student performance (OpenBadges, 2012).  Yet whatever the differences, there seems to be agreement that the way badges are designed, and how they are interpreted by the learner, will ultimately determine the effects they will have on users.

We collected evidence to inform the discourse on the purpose and function of badges, and to develop theory-based, empirically validated design patterns that will support badge designers and issuers in their design decisions.  Our research agenda was composed of three main areas:

(A) When designing badge systems, game designers make conscious decisions about which types of accomplishments or skills to recognize via badges. These choices can affect how players perceive the function of those badges, relative to the game structure and their own personal goal orientation and other internal characteristics. In the present study, we were therefore interested in how game designers and game players perceived badges. For game designers, we are interested in what functions they attributed to incentive systems and badges, and what considerations they follow in the design of these systems. For game players, we are interested in the value they place in badges and how their player style interacted with badges in a games-for-learning context.

(B) Develop a Badges Impact Survey (BIS) based on the results from Part 1 and a theoretical framework of situated learning, situational interest, and achievement motivation. This scale measures the effects of badges on goal orientation and perceived learning.

(C) Conduct experimental studies on the effects of badges on goal orientation and learning outcomes by modifying a geometry game to issue badges with specific designs and measuring their impact on these variables.


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