How and why are digital badges being used in higher education in New Zealand?

Keywords: digital badges, micro-credentials, adoption, higher education, tertiary, learning, New Zealand


Digital technologies, as mediators and facilitators of learning, are altering tertiary education; how and when it occurs, what it entails, who has access, and how capabilities and skills are acknowledged. Digital badges are one such technological tool. Created to acknowledge competency, skill or achievement they have been adopted for a variety of purposes including to motivate learners, recognise achievement and accredit learning. Internationally, the use of digital badges is growing; however, much of the existing literature addresses the potential of digital badges while there is a relative paucity of empirical research, particularly in the Australasian region. This research explored the use of digital badges within New Zealand’s public higher education sector. Using a mixed methods approach (national survey of staff followed by interviews), results revealed over half of the institutions were using badges or planned to in the future. Identified benefits included displaying achievement, motivating learners and evidencing learning. Challenges were also noted, including faculty members’ lack of knowledge about badges, inconsistent use and lack of formal regulation of badges. The findings suggest that badge use is at the early adoption stage and provide valuable insights from which to develop future practice.

Implications for policy or practice:

  • Decision-makers need to be mindful that organisational culture considerations can affect the success of badging systems and micro-credentials.
  • Implementers of digital badging systems need to ensure staff understand the value and credibility of digital badges.
  • Staff responsible for awarding digital badges need to be involved in decisions about how and why they are used beyond individual units of study.


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Author Biography

Maggie Katherine Hartnett, Massey University

Senior Lecturer

Institute of Education

Massey University

How to Cite
Hartnett, M. K. (2021). How and why are digital badges being used in higher education in New Zealand?. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 37(3), 104-118.