Building Digital Capacity for Higher Education Teachers: Recognising Professional Development Through a National Peer Triad Digital Badge Ecosystem

Roisin Donnelly 1  and Terry Maguire 1
  • 1 National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning, , Ireland


Digital Badge design and practice at a national level is a relatively new field of scrutiny and this study reports on a sector-wide initiative for building digital capacity with the design, and implementation of an ecosystem of 15 open courses in teaching and learning with digital badges to recognise the professional development of teachers in Irish higher education. Each course is provided in three delivery modes and mapped to Ireland’s National Professional Development Framework for teachers. This enables multiple access points for teachers to engage in professional development via the Framework and recognize their engagement through peer triads and a digital badge ecosystem. The paper critically discusses and reflects on the study of the complex phenomena of the application of the open courses within professional contexts. A novel dimension is the implementation of a peer triad system for recognition of PD. Implementing the open courses digital badges ecosystem was challenging as this different form of assessment required a clear understanding of all stakeholder expectations, the language of recognition and how the learning outcomes could be met and validated using a peer triad assessment. This paper concludes with sectoral learning on nationally recognized open course development, including success factors for building digital capacity, challenges encountered and transferability to other contexts.

If the inline PDF is not rendering correctly, you can download the PDF file here.

  • 1. Acree, L. (2016). Seven Lessons Learned from Implementing Micro-credentials. Raleigh, NC: Friday Institute for Educational Innovation at the NC State University College of Education.

  • 2. Blumenstyk, G. (2019, May 24). Why a New Kind of ‘Badge’ Stands Out From the Crowd. The Chronicle of Higher Education [Blog post]. Retrieved from

  • 3. Brown, M., (2020, July). Micro-credentials at DCU. Paper presented at the EDEN 2020 Annual Conference, Timisoara.

  • 4. Casilli, C., & Knight, E. (2012, June 11). 7 things to know about digital badges. Educause [Blog post]. Retrieved from

  • 5. Enrenreich, J. (2020, July). Micro-credentials in HE. Paper presented at the EDEN 2020 Annual Conference, Timisoara.

  • 6. Gibson, D., Ostashewski, N., Flintoff, K., Grant, S., & Knight, E. (2013). Digital badges in education. Education and Information Technologies, 20(2), 403-410.

  • 7. Gallagher, S. R. (2016). The Future of University Credentials: New Developments at the Intersection of Higher Education and Hiring. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press.

  • 8. Greenberg, S. (2018, April 27). Clearer Distinctions between Traditional Programs and Micro-credentials will improve outcomes for both. The evoLLLution [Blog post]. Retrieved from

  • 9. Hickey, D., Willis, J., & Quick, J. (2015). Where Badges Work Better. Open Badges in HE.

  • 10. Jones, W. M., Hope, S., & Adams, B. (2018). Teachers’ perceptions of digital badges as recognition of professional development. British Journal of Educational Technology, 49(3), 427-438.

  • 11. Mayrath, M. C. (2012). Technology-based Assessments for 21st Century Skills: Theoretical and Practical Implications from Modern Research. USA: Information Age Publishing.

  • 12. Mewburn, I., Freund, K., & Rutherford, E. (2014). Badge trouble: piloting open badges at the Australian National University. Rhetoric and Reality: Critical Perspectives on Educational Technology ASCILITE 2014, Dunedin, New Zealand.

  • 13. National Forum. (2015). Snapshot of Non-Accredited Continuing PD for staff who teach in Irish HE. Dublin: NF.

  • 14. National Forum. (2016). Professional Development Framework (PD Framework) for all those who teach in Irish Higher Education. Dublin: NF.

  • 15. National Forum. (2017). All Aboard Initiative – Digital Skills in Higher Education. Dublin: NF.

  • 16. Oliver, B. (2019). Making micro-credentials work for learners, employers and providers. Australia: Deakin University.

  • 17. Ralston, S. J. (2020). Higher Education’s Microcredentialing Craze: a Postdigital-Deweyan Critique. Postdigital Science and Education.

  • 18. Uggeri, M., & Barlassina, L. (2019). Challenges and Opportunities of Micro-Credentials in Europe: Briefing Paper on the Award, Recognition, Portability and Accreditation of Micro-Credentials. Retrieved from


Journal + Issues