100,000 Open Badges Milestone Reached: What have we learned?

It is now over two years since RWA implemented an Open Badge reward system for our online learning and assessment platform, the Aviva Development Zone.

April 2016 saw us issue our 50,000th Open Badge for a successfully completed course. Now, roughly eight months later (Jan 2017), due to the increasing popularity of both the platform and of Open Badges in general, we have passed the 100,000 Open Badges issues milestone.

The accelerated growth we have seen has prompted us to update our experiences, and once again share our thoughts and learner feedback.

The growth of Open Badges

Open Badges are a visual token, which denotes the attainment of a standard, or successful completion of a course. They are a flexible method for providing evidence of learning undertaken, and validation of skills gained and achievements.

Badges enhance traditional CVs, elevating them beyond a traditional list of qualifications, into an accurate, and constantly evolving account of an individual’s skill set and commitment to lifelong learning.

Businesses can encourage personnel development by rewarding learners with open badges following the successful completion of a course. Each badge contains unique details of the issuing organisation, date, course, etc. Badges can be displayed on CVs, blogs, social media sites, ePortfolios and web sites, and can even be included in email signatures.

Open Badges offer:

Digital verification of task achievement (baseline assessment score)
Expiration dates (allow assessments to be completed annually for ongoing measurement)
Full customisation to allow RWA to maintain our own brand recognition
Social network integration for learners to share achievements
Displayable (every learner on the Development Zone has an achievement wall to display badges)
Full support for our formative assessment learning model
A growing and very supportive online badges community to share ideas and progress

How does a learner get one of our badges?

Learners using the platform (www.mydevelopmentzone.com) are issued with a badge following the successful completion of one of the hundreds of courses available, with subjects varying from professional skills to communication, marketing, and timekeeping.

The key to our approach to using badges is that learners must achieve a baseline score on each assessment to unlock the badge. This baseline was originally set at 70% across all of our assessments. This means that in order to achieve a badge for any of our online courses, the learner must achieve a minimum baseline score of 70% on the gap analysis assessment for that course.

However, in January 2017, we increased the baseline from 70% to 80%, in order to make successful completion of a course more challenging.

Since increasing the baseline, we have not seen a decline in the number of badges being issued, as learners have risen to the challenge, in fact the number of badges continues to increase, showing their effectiveness.

Badges expire every 12 months, which means that learners must re-assess their knowledge on an annual basis to evidence maintenance of knowledge and to highlight any knowledge gaps or risks to the business.

Badge rewards are issued automatically by the Development Zone learning platform. The learner gets a notification email, a notification on the platform, and the badge gets added to their Achievement Wall, their Badges store, and their annual training record for use in company appraisals.

Increasing adoption of Open Badges

It is difficult to show growth in terms of number of badges awarded each month as our user numbers have grown significantly, and we have added over 100 new courses where more badges can be earned, so the opportunities to issue badges has increased.

What our analysis does show is that we are now issuing over 5,000 open badges per month on the Development Zone and 18 months ago, that was under 3,000 per month:

Open Badges Issued

The increase in badges issued is partly down to an increase in user volume and available courses, but moreover, it is due to an increase in usage and focus on e-learning.

We have also seen a significant amount of growth in terms of usage of our own Development Zone platform:

Usage grew 464% in the last two years (measuring the no. of interactions on the platform)
On average, our active learners access the site 5 times a month and visit 110 pages per visit
User numbers doubled in 2016 and continues to grow every month

If we take a typical month, in this case November 2016, we can see that:

1 in 3 of our total users logged into the platform during the month
6150 Open Badges were issued
Each user spent an average of 25 minutes on the site
Whilst we do not attribute this growth wholly to Open Badges, what it does show is that our approach to online learning and assessment which focuses on delivering a learner centric user experience is keeping our learners engaged, educated and coming back for more on a regular basis.

The team at RWA believe that Open Badges play a fundamental role in adding to the great user experience and high standards that we expect.

Our formative learning model has shown that where learners take an initial gap analysis assessment, the average score has been 69.1%, but having completed learning on the platform and by using the tools we provide, we have taken that average score up to 86.2%.

What about the future?

Over the last two years, we have focused on embedding open badges into our e-learning culture and believe we have been successful. We are now looking at a number of strands for future development in a number of areas:

In The Workplace: We will continue the consultative work and educational piece around using Open Badges as part of an appraisal system within the workplace. Our system provides, downloadable learning records which include activity reports, CPD logs and badge rewards, and we are working with our supervisor clients to look at how we can use the evidence based badge rewards to support appraisals and employee development offline.

In Education: We firmly believe that Open Badges have complimentary role alongside formal qualifications. We are working on learning pathways to bridge the gaps in skills employers have identified during recruitment. In addition, we are also working on course content and pathways designed to smooth the transition into the world of work, including time keeping, professional behaviour, and interview preparation.

In Community Development Scenarios : Our work has also led us to start looking at opportunities for skills development in local communities where badge rewards can be used to engage individuals and highlight development opportunities for those who want an evidenced based approach to employability and skills development.


Open Badges are still a new concept. Whilst large pockets of acceptance and support exist, we still regularly find ourselves explaining the principle in its entirety.

What has changed in recent months is the acceptance that the concept receives from those who are unaware of Open Badges. Employers are increasingly willing to accept that a skills gap exists, and that a method for both evaluating and bridging the skills gap would be of huge benefit to their organisation.

Our focus up until now, has been providing the Development Zone within the UK insurance broking industry and we have shown how our model and system has been extremely effective for gap analysis, risk management and skills development.

We have recently launched a business skills development version, My Development Zone, which is applicable to any business, community group or individual; providing access to the wide variety of tools and the growing learning database that we are building.

For more information on My Development Zone, visit www.mydevelopmentzone.com and take advantage of the 14 day free trial.

What will be interesting to see as this grows is how quickly the number of badges that we issue will increase and also how more and more individuals and businesses feedback their experiences of open badges so that we can continue developing and improving how reward based learning engages the learner.

We would be very interested to hear from anyone who has similar or different experiences or would be interested in looking at how our solutions might benefit their own development or businesses.

Business e-learning platform: www.mydevelopmentzone.com

Insurance industry e-learning platform: www.mydevelopment.zone

About the author

Tom has worked at RWA for over 12 years, starting as Operations Manager before taking on roles as Operations Director, CEO and most recently as Director leading the company into the digital age.

Before joining RWA, he was involved in helping develop the operations of one of Wales’ fastest growing utility consultancies as well as leading the Key Accounts team of a major commercial energy supplier.

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