What We Learned: The Sprout Fund & Digital Badges

Sharing a new collection of resources covering the history of digital badges in Pittsburgh, plus key considerations and design principles for developing high-quality digital badges for learning.

The Sprout Fund has been working to help people develop digital badges in Pittsburgh and beyond since 2013. Through events like the 2014 National Summit to Reconnect Learning and the 2015 Learning Pathways Summit in Pittsburgh, Sprout convened stakeholders to explore the prospect of using digital badges as a way to recognize student learning and achievement. In 2015, Sprout also led a community-wide process to develop shared learning competencies and engaged regional employers in a discussion about connecting badges to workforce development goals. From 2014 through 2016, Sprout worked with more than 50 community partners who began using digital badges to capture summer learning through Pittsburgh City of Learning, and Sprout provided support to six teams to create cross-disciplinary, badge-enabled learning pathways during the 2016-2017 academic year.

As of 2017, the technology underpinning digital badges is still in development; however, the design principles and shared practices that have emerged for digital badging are increasingly sophisticated. Sprout has helped organizations in Pittsburgh and across the country design their own digital badges, and Sprout’s badge development process has been tested and refined by a national community of practitioners.

As a result of our efforts in Pittsburgh and beyond, there is now broader awareness of digital badges as a way to recognize and reward learning. Educators working in schools, after-school programs, and informal learning spaces are increasingly considering digital badges as a way to document and reward students for learning anytime, anywhere.

Sharing What We’ve Learned

We’re proud to have played a role in the early stages of this work and we’re eager to share what we’ve learned about digital badges along the way. Today we’re releasing What We Learned: The Sprout Fund & Digital Badges, a collection of resources that covers the history of our experience with digital badges and includes key considerations and design principles for developing your own high-quality digital badges for learning.

In addition to some downloadable worksheets and reference guides, we’ve included descriptions of the key steps in our process and a discussion about why we pursued these steps, what we were trying to achieve, and the insights that emerged along the way. We hope that these resources will help practitioners thoughtfully design and begin to issue digital badges in their programs.

The publication includes five main sections:

  • Key Considerations for the Badge-CuriousUse this section to read about the history of digital badging and Connected Learning and some key considerations for the “badge-curious” — that is, people who are considering using digital badges for the first time.
  • Case Studies: You can read about Sprout’s history with badging and browse some brief case studies of badging in Pittsburgh.
  • Design PrinciplesTo get started with designing your own badges, use the self-assessment tool to see whether badging is a good fit for your program. Then, use a series of worksheets we’ve created to help you design your badges.
  • Platform & Technology ConsiderationsFinally, explore some key ideas that should guide your thinking as you pick tools to support your work.
  • Links & Resources: You can also browse a list of links and resources that we’ve curated of the best and most useful badging resources out there.

We hope that these resources will help others build on the good work that’s been started in Chicago, in Pittsburgh, and across the country. We believe in the potential of badges and other new forms of assessment as tools that help make all learning count.

If you’re interested in getting started with badges, or if you’d like to share your own stories of success, we hope you’ll get in touch. We’re eager to share what we’ve learned to help other programs better serve their students. If you’d like to learn more about our work, please contact The Sprout Fund at connect@sproutfund.org.

Read What We Learned on Medium.

Published July 18, 2017

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