The emergence of open online learning courses brings in to sharp relief the viability of existing forms of teacher provided formative and summative assessment. For such courses that carry no charge for participation alternative structures for engaging, motivating and sustaining study need to be sought. Badges or similar such visual public symbols that communicate to others a particular quality, achievement or affiliation possessed by the owner may have a role to play. This session will cover some potential social and psychological roles for badges and then report on the reception and use of badges in two ‘massive’ open online courses delivered in 2013. This will highlight the varied functions badges performed with particular attention to how they may support and guide learning in a ‘formative’ capacity during a course and the need for effective pedagogic design and alignment of the course badging strategy. This discussion will draw upon data from end of courses surveys that specifically asked about badges, pre-course surveys, and user comments made during the course such as on Twitter.