Competency-Based Teaching

Rather than a traditional exam-based educational model, where the students’ knowledge is tested cumulatively, Competency Based Education (CBE) is based on the mastery of individual topics. Students demonstrate proficiency of each individual skill before advancing to the next. This ensures everybody learns at his or her own pace.

At UMass Boston, we strive to utilize effective new teaching practices such as CBE. One example of CBE at UMass Boston is the use of digital badges for indicating mastery of competencies along a learning path.

Digital Badges

A digital badge is an online representation of a skill you have earned. They can be used in online learning environments to certify accomplishments, track growth, increase motivation among students, among other things.

These badges take the form of a digital emblem/image that can be collected by students and viewed by both students and instructors (and potentially even by the public). It works much like the Boy Scout badge system, only it’s digital.

Use and Benefits


Studies have shown that by highlighting and commending achievement, digital badges increase student motivation, therefore, their participation and engagement with the material. Not only do badges serve as reward for exceptional performance, but also act as record for challenges a student has overcome.


Digital badges carry metadata that indicate where, when, and how a badge was earned. Additional information attached to the digital badge might include the credentials of the issuer, among other verifying details. This metadata travels with the badge so that a viewer can see the whole story of the badge holder’s growth.


With Mozilla’s Open Badges initiative, the sharing of badges has become very fluid. It is easy to share your digital badges on social media or through other technological pathways. This flexibility across platforms encourages communication and more active participation. It makes it easy for students to show publicly how they are progressing in their learning.

Profile Building

Many companies and educational institutions have begun to recognize digital badges as a valid form of credentials. Digital badges are quickly becoming more acceptable as a way demonstrating the value of your skill-set to potential employers or higher ed institutions. With digital badges, students can display their specialization and commendations to the public in a manner that has potential for tangible rewards.

Badges in Blackboard

Blackboard has Mozilla Open Badges integrated into the Achievements tool. This enables instructors to issue digital badges in Blackboard courses.

Badges in a Blackboard course are tied with the learning activities in the course. Before setting up a badge in your Blackboard course, you first need to design and set up the activities that lead to the badge. A Grade Center column will need to be present to be associated with the Achievement.

Get in touch with our Learning Designers to learn more about using digital badges in your course. 



A demonstrated knowledge, judgment, skill in a particular area.

All Glossary Terms