Moodle 2.5 was released a few weeks ago, allowing for Open Badges integration. Quite a few readers have asked me whether there remains a point of using labels for badges, now that Open Badges can easily be integrated with their Moodle courses. In this post, I try and outline why I have been gamifying my courses with labels, and why using labels for badges still makes sense for some users. This is week 11 of my ‘gamified Moodle course vs. non-gamified experiment‘.

What is Open Badges

Mozilla Open Badges

There have been a few great blog posts (1,2) written about Open Badges and Moodle. As explained in this Wikipedia entry, [quote]Open Badges is a program by Mozilla that issues digital badges to recognize skills and achievements. The badge structure allows one to display real-world achievements and skills which may help with future career and education opportunities.[/quote]

Why not simply use Open Badges

Moodle label badges and open badges

I am not stubborn, I think Open Badges is a project full of potential! Timing was the real issue. I started ‘gamifying’ my courses long before Moodle 2.5 was released, about 18 months ago in a bid to increase engagement in my courses. My ‘hack’ was never intended to compete with Open Badges, I only thought it out to bridge a gap. Now that I have used labels for badges for a while, I believe I am going to use both systems in parallel, as they serve a different purpose in my everyday teaching.

1. Works with any version of Moodle 2

Moodle 2 versions

A lot of institutions have upgrade policies that dictate when software can be updated to the latest version. Some institutions even prohibit software to be updated during an academic cycle. I also know quite a few Moodle administrators who refuse to update to the latest major version until all of the major bugs, found post-release, are ironed out. Last but not least, some of us rely on third-party plugins that don’t always get updated promptly for compatibility. All, or some of these reasons will prevent a significant number of Moodle administrators to update to Moodle 2.5 or above for a while yet. My ‘hack’ works with any version of Moodle 2, but doesn’t work on Moodle 1.9.

2. No reliance on the Moodle administrator

enable badges

In Moodle 2.5, the Open Badges integration can be disabled altogether by the system administrator. This may happen in institutions that want to keep complete control over the the ‘certifications’ they award. There is also a useful set of new permissions to granularly allow/prevent users to create, view and manage badges, which means not all teachers may be able to create and issue badges. With my ‘hack’, unless the administrator has disabled labels (more than unusual), nothing should stop teachers from creating their own badges. 

3. More suited to link to existing reward system

Open badges backpack

Once awarded, Open Badges may go into a ‘backpack‘, which makes the whole system appear rather ‘official’. I view Open Badges as a system to show that specific skills have been acquired/mastered by a student. I can see myself using only a few Open Badges per course, for fear to devalue the system. Some of my current ‘badges’ reward some pretty low level achievements, and I do not think they would have their place in student’s Open Badges backpack. I have been able to tie in my ‘badges’ system to our existing whole school reward system, whereas I don’t think Open Badges would work with it. I wouldn’t award enough badges, or at least not regularly enough and it wouldn’t help with my goal of increasing student engagement.

4. Ability to hide badges, per badge

Hidden badges

I may be wrong here but I believe it is only possible to show/hide all available badges with the Open Badges Moodle integration (through this capability). With my system, badges can be hidden/shown until they are unlocked on a per-badge basis, using the ‘Restrict access‘ option. 

5. Checking badges is a passive process

With the Open Badges Moodle integration, a user needs to visit a ‘badges’ page to view their badges, or access their profile page where all badges are shown. There is a block that allows users to see their latest badges, but not all badges are shown at once. With my system, there is no need for a user to visit their user profile to view all of the badges they have been awarded.

6. Open Badges are linked to a user profile

Open Badges Moodle profile

By default, with the Open Badges Moodle integration users can see each others’ badges through profile pages. Whilst this can be changed by editing the permissions, it can be an issue in some school settings. In my system, badges are not tied to a user profile.

7. No design limitations for badges

When a teacher creates an Open Badge in Moodle, there are design restrictions such as the type of image allowed (only .jpg and .png are allowed), and once uploaded badges are cropped and resized if necessary.

With the ‘labels for badges’ system, there are no restrictions as to what badges are, as long as it can be displayed in a label (i.e. any valid HTML). For example, any type of image is accepted .svg for retina ready displays, .gif (animated, for little ones), etc. Badges can be text, videos, etc.

8. Both systems can co-exist

As mentioned at the beginning of this post, both systems can co-exist and even complement each other. I am planning on using Open Badges for more official, assessment linked badges, or skill-based evidence and my system for less official and more frequent rewards. 

Features unique to Open Badges

Here some of the best features of the Open Badges Moodle integration, that are simply not possible to replicate with the ‘labels as badges’ system (bar going into the database).

Manually award badges to users

With the Open Badges integration, teachers (or others with the capability) can award badges manually. My system cannot do that, unless a teacher maitained checklist is created.

See badge recipients

With the Open Badges Moodle integration, a teacher can easily view a list of users who have been awarded a specific badge, along with a timestamp.

Message user when badge is awarded

A notification is sent to users when they have been awarded a badge. This could be useful in other areas than just badges, but that is another debate.

Any/All activity(ies) for completion criteria

The completion criteria to a badge is better than the overall completion criteria for Moodle activities. Badge creators can decide whether a badge is earned when any or all conditions are met in a list of conditions. The normal completion criteria across Moodle is all or nothing.

I can see both systems happily co-exist in my day-to-day teaching. What are your feelings about Open Badges? 


Spoiler alert – this week I give away freebies! This week has been very quiet on the ‘gamified vs. non-gamified Moodle course experiment‘ front, as my students were off-timetable for a whole-school Inter-Disciplinary Unit for most of the week. I have been asked a few times to share my entire course for others to download, but I won’t be able to do that, mainly for copyright reasons. Instead I have decided to share individual resources & activities that you can use in your Moodle 2.x course (2.1 or above), namely a question bank, quizzes, a lesson and a database template.

Scratch 1.4 question bank for Moodle

I have created a 120 question bank to test my students’ knowledge of the Scratch 1.4 blocks. I have not used the scores to inform a student’s ‘level’ but I have noticed that students are now using blocks they would have stayed away from in the past. Use this question bank to produce your own quizzes.

Scratch 1.4 Moodle question bank

Download link

Warning – Right-click on the link and ‘save as’

Scratch 1.4 quizzes for Moodle

You can use some of the quizzes that I have created using the Moodle question bank mentioned above. They are arranged by level of difficulty, and are aimed at 12 year olds with little experience of Scratch. Most students have been able to complete up to ★★★, but it is worth noting that none of the quizzes seem to have really stretched my high achieving students.

SampleLevelDownload links
1 star Scratch 1.4 Moodle quizDownload link
2 star Scratch 1.4 Moodle quiz★★Download link
3 star Scratch 1.4 Moodle quiz★★★Download link
4 star Scratch 1.4 Moodle quiz★★★★Download link
5 star Scratch 1.4 Moodle quiz★★★★★Download link
1 white star Scratch 1.4 Moodle quizDownload link
2 white star Scratch 1.4 Moodle quiz☆☆Download link
3 white star Scratch 1.4 Moodle quiz☆☆☆Download link

Click here to learn how to import these Scratch 1.4 quizzes into your own Moodle.

Scratch ‘lesson’

This activity is a very simple use of the ‘lesson’ module. There is no questioning involved, simply a series of links to great Scratch 1.4 tutorials, organised by level of proficiency. The ‘book’ module would have probably been better for this, but I don’t have it installed on my (old now) Moodle 2.2 version.

Scratch 1.4 Moodle lesson

Download link

Click here to learn how to import this Scratch 1.4 lesson into your own Moodle.

Scratch creations sharing database

My students were encouraged to share their Scratch creations once they were satisfied with the outcome. Others were then encouraged to download the file, rate it, offer a helpful comment, fix bug or add functionality to the program and re-upload it. This has been a successful activity and one that I highly recommend other teachers to try out. Note that it is worth spending the time discussing with the class what constitutes a useful comment. I have used the fantastic ‘book review’ preset found here.Moodle database template

Download link

Click here to learn how to import this Scratch creations sharing database into your own Moodle. Click here to learn more about Moodle database templates.

Enjoy! All of the resources on this page are provided under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. Do feel free to re-upload remixes using the comments section below. Contact me using the ‘contact form’ at the left of this screen should you have issues with posting links to the comments section. 


Week 9 of experimenting with gamified and non-gamified Moodle courses. Today marks the beginning of iMoot 2013, the Worldwide e-conference on all things Moodle, and this year there are a few presentations on the gamification of Moodle. In this post, I list all of the sessions that ‘gamifiers’ might be interested in (all session times in Perth time, Australia, or UTC+8). If you have not registered for iMoot 2013, you can do so here.

Using Gamification to Increase Course Engagement and Autonomy of Non-Traditional Online Students

Presenter: Thomas Wilson

Sessions: Friday 24th May 2013 02:00, Saturday 25th May 03:30

[quote style=”boxed”]Thomas works for an institution that provides online courses for non-traditional students, namely, persons who are ordered by a court or agency to complete a specialized class such as anger management, alcohol/drug awareness, or DUI risk education to satisfy court requirements. Since students are responding to the game elements of the courses, i.e., maximizing “points”, he decided to use this game principle to (1) keep students more engaged and (2) increase autonomy, i.e., to reduce the number of phone calls for support.[/quote]


 (click here instead – picture doesn’t work :()


Gamification in Moodle. More than just Moodle badges

Presenter: Natalie Denmeade

Sessions: Saturday 25th May 2013 14:00

[quote style=”boxed”]This presentation includes demonstrations of core Moodle features and plugins to provide learners with rewards, feedback, levels, progression loops, boss fights, and achievement badges. You will see examples of Conditional Activities, customised Progress Bars, custom scales, and the newly released Badges Block.This presentation includes demonstrations of core Moodle features and plugins to provide learners with rewards, feedback, levels, progression loops, boss fights, and achievement badges. You will see examples of Conditional Activities, customised Progress Bars, custom scales, and the newly released Badges Block.[/quote]  

Dissection of a Gamified Moodle Course

Presenter: Julian Ridden

Sessions: Friday 24th May 03:30Sunday 26th May 06:30

There is no excerpt for this session (yet) but having seen what Julian, aka Moodleman has done before, I would strongly recommend you to drop by one of his sessions.

Open Badges in Moodle

Presenters: Emily Gogligoski, Julian Ridden

Session: Saturday 25th May 05:00

[quote style=”boxed”]Hear about Open Badges from Emily Gogligosky from the Mozilla foundation, whilst Julian Ridden will talk about the implementation of Open Badges into Moodle. I am really excited about this session. This session will talk about the exciting potentials offered by OpenBadges and Moodle.[/quote]
I am *really* excited by this session; It’ll be interesting to hear about Open Badges from someone who works at Mozilla foundation.

Gamify your Moodle courses – Increase student engagement with conditional activities & badges

Presenter: Frederic Nevers

Sessions: Sunday 26th May 14:00, Monday 27th May 06:30

[quote style=”boxed”]It is possible to ‘gamify’ your Moodle courses using out-of-the-box Moodle capabilities (i.e. without relying on third-party modules). In this presentation, Fred will show you how to gamify your existing courses, using free and easy-to-use tools. He will be sharing all of the tips & tricks he has gathered building & using gamified courses, and also talk about the mistakes he has made.[/quote]

Right, I’d better go and finish preparing for my session…


I have been sick for most of this week so no massive updates. I will soon be asking my students for feedback on the gamified/non-gamified Moodle courses. Are there any questions you think I should ask? Please write your questions using the Google Moderator series embedded below. If you don’t have a Google account, please write your question in the ‘Comments’ section at the bottom of this page. If you cannot really use the Google moderator form below, please click this link. You can upvote or downvote questions. I would really appreciate your help with this.

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Note: For those wondering how I got Google moderator on this page, I used this and this.