Science Success Story

Did You Know? XSEDE Offers Digital Badges to Recognize Competencies, Promote Training

By Faith Singer-Villalobos, Texas Advanced Computing Center

A badge is a symbol or indicator of an accomplishment, skill, quality, or interest.

From the Boy and Girl Scouts, to PADI diving instruction, to more recently popular geo-location games, badges are being successfully used to set goals, represent achievements, and communicate success in many contexts.

Put simply, a digital badge is an online representation of a skill you've earned.

XSEDE provides a large number of training opportunities for potential and existing users of its resources as well as staff members.

Topics covered include an array of HPC skills and new technologies in both traditional and non-traditional HPC disciplines. The goal of this training is to enable learners to refine their skills and gain the competencies they need to be effective HPC researchers and practitioners.

XSEDE awards badges to learners who demonstrate competency in topics relevant to the use of XSEDE resources.

Sandie Kappes, a senior project coordinator and instructional designer at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, led the Badge pilot program for XSEDE in 2015.

"This effort recognizes learner skill development from participation in a variety of XSEDE training opportunities," Kappes said.

One such training example is the OpenACC workshop provided by the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center. In this workshop users learn how to use OpenACC compiler directives to take advantage of GPU resources available on XSEDE.

Three badges – beginner, intermediate, and advanced – are offered to recognize OpenACC skills. Although attending the workshop is recommended, anyone can attempt the assessments to earn any of the badges.

"The XSEDE OpenACC beginner badge is one of the most popular to date," Kappes said. "Another popular one is the Big Data badge."

Andreas Achazi is a postdoctoral researcher in computational chemistry from Germany. He simulates chemical reactions in silico instead of performing them in the lab. Achazi is starting to integrate machine learning into his research. So, he signed up for the XSEDE Big Data workshop to learn more about this field.

"It was a packed two-day workshop with introductory talks about scalable data analytics, machine learning, and hands-on exercises," Achazi said. "After the workshop we had two weeks of server access to continue training. To earn the intermediate badge, I had to finish quizzes and a practical task with the software that we used during the workshop."

XSEDE's badge site uses the Moodle open source learning management system to issue its badges. Moodle is a widely used, robust infrastructure  that  provides  a  variety  of  teaching  and  learning  tools and enables issuing of badges using the Open Badges standard.

The Open Badges Standard  is a technical framework for creating, issuing, and displaying badges. It's a specification used to attach metadata to a digital badge image detailing the accomplishment achieved and verifying the criteria for earning the badge and who issued it.

Open Badges are non-proprietary and can be issued and earned by anyone. XSEDE's badge earners can store their badges within the XSEDE Moodle site or another badge collection site such as They can then share them on social media sites or via email.

A learner's collection of badges can serve as a virtual resume for sharing their competencies with peers and potential employers.

Kappes and Jeff Sale, who is a learning technologist at the San Diego Supercomputer Center, work with XSEDE technical subject matter experts to determine the necessary skills for earning a badge. Assessments are then developed to enable measurement of these skills.

"Right now, we mostly conduct objective quizzes to determine if someone has these competencies," Kappes said. "Some of the badges may also include an exercise which requires submission of documentation to demonstrate a competency."

The quizzes enable automatic awarding of a badge whereas exercises require manual grading by an XSEDE staff member.

For future badge offerings, Kappes wants to explore a variety of assessment methods to determine which are most suitable and how best to implement them.

Current XSEDE Badges

XSEDE OpenACC — Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced


XSEDE MPI Workshop Badge - Beginner




XSEDE HPC Data Visualization — Beginner, Intermediate


XSEDE HPC Big Data — Beginner, Intermediate


XSEDE HPC OpenMP — Beginner, Intermediate


Training Webinar Designer



This work was supported by the National Science Foundation under Award Number 1053575.

For more information, please contact Sandie Kappes, NCSA, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign,