What Counts as Learning: Open Digital Badges for New Opportunities is a free publication available here: http://dmlhub.net/publications/what-counts-learning
Open digital badges are simple tools that have the potential to change our current system of credentialing, creating ways to recognize more diverse learning pathways and opportunities for both learners and institutions for generations to come. How, then, do we go about building on this potential? How do we design relevant, innovative, and transformative badge systems that connect people’s multiple spheres of learning and link them to new opportunities?
This research is an early response to designing badge systems grounded in actual practice. It provides a building block for anyone interested in designing open digital badge systems, and also for educators, policymakers, technologists, humanists, scholars, and administrators who have a stake in how badge systems might impact learning, assessment, and opportunities for lifelong learners.
What Counts as Learning: Open Digital Badges for New Opportunities
Mozilla Open Badges Community Call
Wednesday, November 19, 2014
• What are the three most important things you would share with another
organization just getting started?
• What are the three main challenges to widespread adoption of your badge system
for your organization?
• What are three things have you learned about badge system design?
• What would you do differently if you were to start over?
Building the team
• Average core team size was roughly 5 to 6
• Teams were as large as 10 people, especially
for those with content and multimedia
experts, and for those who built custom-designed
• Choose your team wisely.
Who are my stakeholders?
• Stakeholders will define the boundaries of
• Every stakeholder group represents a
boundary that must be navigated and crossed.
• Don’t skip the process of identifying
stakeholders, no matter how tempting it may
be to do so.
Teachers are stakeholders
• Engage teachers and faculty as co-creators in
the design of the system.
• Train teachers first, and well, and make this
training an ongoing process.
• Think carefully how teachers will be involved
in the badge-issuing process.
Find a common language
• Identify terminology specific to badges.
• Make sure everyone working on the system
can understand the language of badges.
• Communicating design ideas from content
experts to design experts to programming
experts is hard.
• Have early conversations with the web
Explain badges early
• Give all of your stakeholders time to become
familiar with the concept of badges.
• Get started before the badge system design
• Create a shared understanding among anyone
who will have a stake in the system.
• Develop strong stories about how badges
Design for relevance
• Map your badges to whatever your
community finds valuable.
• Ask your learners what they value — avoid
assumptions as much as possible.
• Same for other stakeholders, including faculty,
administrators, and external stakeholders.
• Think early about data. What can your badge
system tell you?
Build external partnerships
• Build value and relevance at the beginning of
the design process.
• Define your trust network.
• Think hard about what gives your badges
“weight” with external stakeholders.
• Answer the “so what?” question.
• Have meaningful answers that go beyond
badges as an aspect of a learner’s identity.
• Foster the collective belief in the value of your
• Fail fast.
• Put all aspects of the system in harm’s way
and test with real users.
• Release smaller parts first instead of big
• Engage all users in the design process early.
• Designing learning pathways is more complex
than developing curricula and defining course
• Create shared assessment criteria so that
badges can be connected between different
• Align badges to standards where possible.
• Think about tagging badges so others can find
• Check your assumptions about navigation!
• The system will fail if you don’t get this right.
• A “clunky” platform will make understanding,
earning, and sharing badges difficult.
• Without a seamless user experience, learners
may not even share their badges.
• Do not underestimate the design elements of
• Simpler designs are better.
• Think how badges will display on different
• Distinguish single-lesson achievements from
more significant achievements.
Number and type of badges
• Experiment early. Start small.
• Keep things simple.
• Consider using other features to increase
engagement and chart progress.
• Carefully consider learning outcomes and
Badge system technology
• Hire the most experienced programmers
• Focus early and hard on the technical side of
badge system design.
• Prepare for complex technical challenges if
you are integrating with legacy systems.