Certificates vs Badges in Moodle – what’s the difference?

There are various ways to motivate your students to complete a course. Two of the most popular are certificates and badges. But what is the difference, and what is best way to use both tools to help your students succeed?


Certificates are traditionally given to a student at the end of a course to prove they have mastered a particular skill and are now qualified in some way. The information on a certificate can simply state the student’s name, education institution, course title and date. However, you can opt to provide more information, such as study hours – helpful for professionals who take courses for Continued Professional Development (CPD) – names of modules, grades, or other details relevant to people who might view the certificate.

It is important that certificates are easy to share online. You can offer certificates in PDF format and create a QR code or unique text code for the student to put on their resume. Some educational institutions create portals for employers to access, so they can view the student’s certificate secure in the knowledge that it is from a legitimate source. 

One point to note is that certificates should only be given when a student completes substantial study. If you award certificates after one module, for example, then you risk devaluing the certificate itself. The certificate will have more value when given out on completion of a full course. 


There is another way to recognise student success as they progress through a course. Badges appear as small icons on a course page or a student’s profile and can be awarded for completion of specific modules or tasks. You can add other information, such as reason for attaining the badge, quiz score, etc, and make it viewable when the student clicks on the icon. This is captured as metadata and added to the badge.

Badges work well in online courses and can be a useful motivator as students collect them, perhaps in competition with others. Badges are designed to be issued for smaller achievements. Because Moodle uses the Open Badges standard, badges can be displayed externally via “backpacks”. This allows users control over how their achievements are shared.

Certificates vs Badges in Moodle

You can award certificates in Moodle by adding the one of the certificate plug-ins, Custom certificate or Workplace course certificate. Both have very similar features, so try them out to see which you prefer.

You can customise certificates to include any information you want. You can also play with the design by adding different backgrounds or generate a QR code or unique text code. They are awarded manually, or made accessible on completion of a series of other activities on a course.

The Badge feature is already integrated into the core Moodle system. So you do not need to download a plug-in. Again, you can customise badges to include all the information you need, although you should keep it brief. Badges are designed to be a marker of success, so there is no need to go into lots of detail. You can even offer badges in different languages.

Awarding Badges can either be a manual process or automated. Educators set the points at which badges are automatically awarded in a course. For example, after a certain score on a quiz, or contributing to discussion forums.  

Many online educators use a combination of certificates and badges to motivate their students. They are a proven method that increases the chances of course completion. So, do consider them for use in your own e-learning programs. 

If you need any advice or training on setting up certificates or badges in Moodle, get in touch with Pukunui. 

Vinny Stocker

Vinny leads the Malaysian team. He's a published author, instructional designer, and Moodle consultant at Pukunui. Vinny also runs LMS training throughout South East Asia.

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