Are Certificates Badges?

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The other week I attended a webinar run by the fine folks at the Turnitin Academy and they thoughtfully sent me a certificate of completion. At this point I thought "Is this certificate just a big rectangular badge?" at which point I realized I had the inspiration for another blog post.

Art Work and Tone

One way in which the two differ is the presentation or artwork style. Traditionally, a badge is relatively small and may have some sort of symbolic artwork on it. Here are some examples from Mozilla School of Webcraft, FourSquare and Kyle Peck. Styles of awards and award merit language arrange from very professional to 100% outrageous ("Player please?" Oh, please!")

In contrast, certificates are much more serious in tone. They often feature old-fashioned type faces and official logos (and signatures). The content typically marks the user's accomplishment and the time the certficate was issued in very formal language (sometimes in Latin). They are meant to be official acknowledgements from respected institutions that some achievement has been noted.

Already the styles are very different in terms of tone. It shouldn't matter, but it's something to consider when considering badgification.

I should add here that a badge logo could go to a certificate type description. They don't have to be mutually exclusive.


Something else to consider is granularity. In many systems, a badge is awarded for a specific accomplishment, while certificates may be awarded for a larger scale accomplishment.

For instance, the TWT Certificate program awards one certificate for completing a portfolio which contains a set of elements (e.g. a teaching philosophy statement, example presentation...). But could a set of supplementary badges be included? I was thinking of one for accessibility, but we could include multimedia creation, exceptional use of a tool like Voicethread, ANGEL or the blogs or something similar. Badges could be a way to further personalize the experience or even provide stepping stones to the final certificate.

Badges and Certificates Together

As with any new system it's worth looking back to previous analogues to see if we can learn anything. Certificates are a known model here at Penn State. What should be adapted for badges? What should be discarded?

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