Digital Badges

Boston is home to a rich tapestry of opportunities for young people to acquire the skills, knowledge, and experiences that they need to succeed in school, college, and future careers. Boston After School & Beyond is piloting the use of digital badges in order to unite the city’s often fragmented learning ecosystem and to supply young people with a new currency for demonstrating progress and mastery of these skills both in and out of school.

Badging Sociedad

These badges are visual representations of a young person’s learning experience that goes beyond attendance and grades—symbols of accomplishments and skills that can be learned in any number of settings across Boston. Based on Boston Beyond’s efforts over the past several years of using common measurements to assess the quality of learning opportunities throughout the city, we are now piloting a line of data driven, skill based, digital badges for Boston students.


How do Badges Work?

Each badge is driven by data and powered by a uniform set of skill-based criteria. The criteria for earning each badge comes from a combination of our Achieve, Connect, Thrive (ACT) Framework skills and the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) science & engineering practice standards. Evaluation of these skills is informed by behavioral indicators in National Institute on Out-of-School Time (NIOST)’s Survey on Academic and Youth Outcomes – Teacher version (SAYO T), a validated measurement tool that Boston Beyond, Providence After School Alliance (PASA), and our various partners have been using for several years to assess skill development.

The results of these evaluations then qualify students to earn two different badges for each competency– one for overall achievement and one for meaningful growth. The five social-emotional competencies that have been identified for this pilot are as follows:



Critical Thinking

Critical Thinking

Engagement in Learning

Engagement in Learning







Following a successful badge pilot during summer 2015, Boston Beyond in partnership with Cityspan has established a digital badging infrastructure comprised of valid, reliable measurement tools and a shared citywide database ( in order to ensure the quality, uniformity, and transferability of these badges. This digital badging database will recognize, validate, and link competencies that youth gain in and out-of-school to the web of caring adults around them, their potential employers, and institutions of higher education.


Boston Beyond has been and continues to work in partnership with Providence After School Alliance (PASA)National Institute on Out-of-School Time (NIOST), The PEAR Institute: Partnerships in Education & Resilience (PEAR), and Cityspan, with the generous support of the Noyce Foundation, to create and pilot our digital badges.


This summer, these badges were piloted at six different summer learning programs across Greater Boston: Dorchester House, Hale Reservation, MathPOWER, Sociedad Latina, Thompson Island, and Boys & Girls Clubs – Blue Hill Club.

DohMathPOWERSociedad Latina   

Research and Reports

Badging Practice Brief'Digital Badges' Would Represent Students' Skill AcquisitionDigital Badges in AfterschoolThe Practicality of Digital BadgesAre Badges Useful in Education?

Badging Practice Brief: Recommendations from Boston Beyond’s 2015-16 Badging Pilot Program

Badging Practice BriefIn the summer of 2015 and the 2015-16 school year, seven long-time partners of Boston Beyond with experience measuring program quality and skill outcomes for youth piloted this digital badging system. These programs predominantly served students in grades 6 through 8, with one program serving 4th and 5th graders. Based on interviews with the educators who piloted the digital badge system, this brief contains promising practices and recommendations for others looking to implement the system.

Click here to read the full report.

‘Digital Badges’ Would Represent Students’ Skill Acquisition

toc coverNot sure what a ‘Digital Badge is? A 2012 article in Education Week gives a foundation in badging knowledge. From the skeptics to the believers and all the ramifications for the field of education, this article touches them all at a very basic level.

Click here to read the full article.

Digital Badges in Afterschool: Connecting Learning in a Connected World

afterschoolThis compilation of case studies written by The Afterschool Alliance, examines exemplary digital badge pilots across the nation including our valued partner, PASA. Complete with a comprehensive list of lessons learned by each pilot and a brief explanation of the technical software supporting digital badges, this body of work serves as a powerful orientation tool to digital badges.

Click here to read the full report.

The Practicality of Digital Badges

practicalityThis document presents the positive applicability of digital badges specifically in the Career and Technical Education field. John C. Foster, the President/CEO of the National Occupational Competency Testing Institute quantifies the impact of badges on the motivation, academic interest, and self advocacy levels of high school students.

Click here to read the full report.

Are badges useful in education? It depends upon the type of badge and expertise of learner

badges usefulThis commonly referenced study by Samuel Abramovich from the Learning Research and Development Center out of the University of Pittsburgh, is among the first of it’s kind tracking the impact of badges on students.

Click here to read the full report.