Wayne Skipper // December 4, 2018

LRNG + Badgr: Unlocking Opportunity Through a Shared Digital Backpack

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This post by Connie Yowell and Wayne Skipper originally appeared on Medium in December 2018.

We’ve known for quite a while that it’s time to reinvent and reimagine the way learning is recognized and credentialed. With the evolution of learning, comes a sense of urgency to start recognizing learning that happens outside of the classroom. This need, coupled with an airplane conversation created the idea of Open Badges, a digitally verifiable record of achievement. Open Badges create a common language for learning that allows us to describe these learning experiences in the same way we describe academic achievements and industry certifications. While we both believe you can never replace educators or physical school buildings, we also know from experience that badges can unlock youth potential by creating connected learning experiences that connect young people directly to opportunity.

The history of badges, in large part, started with funding from the MacArthur Foundation. In particular, the 2013 Digital Media and Learning competition catalyzed dozens of projects that put badges into use in real learning environments. From that foundation, MacArthur funded Mozilla to build the Open Badges standard and a technical infrastructure that allows both traditional and non-traditional educators the ability to reward learners for a diverse set of skills like coding, editing and remixing. The primary feature of that infrastructure was a central service called the Mozilla Backpack, designed to help learners aggregate badges from multiple sources.

The emergence of digital badges revolutionized the way the world thinks about learning achievements. This led to rapid growth and widespread adoption as organizations sought to use the common language created by badges to break learning experiences out of traditional silos and put them directly into the hands of learners. This growth led to the need to improve the world’s badging infrastructure, and to that end the MacArthur Foundation tapped Concentric Sky. Concentric Sky was the lead author of the Open Badges 2.0 specification on behalf of MacArthur, and as part of our work developing the standard, we created Badgr.

Since its launch in 2015, Badgr has grown from a simple open-source project into one of the world’s leading credentialing platforms trusted by over 10,000 partner organizations around the world. Badgr was selected as the native badging system for Canvas, and serves up fully verifiable digital credentials for millions of users around the world. On August 15, 2018, Mozilla announced that it would retire the Mozilla Backpack and pass that role to Badgr.

Recently, Badgr and LRNG joined forces to unlock even greater opportunity for LRNG’s more than 50,000 users and allow for greater access to LRNG’s high-quality content. This, along with LRNG’s official Open Badge Compliant certification from IMS Global, means great changes ahead.

A New Kind of Backpack

This partnership will allow LRNG users to curate badges from various sources, then share them out selectively. This setup fulfills the initial vision of the MacArthur funding, creating a true foundation for lifelong learning, making it portable and accessible from anywhere so the learner can update or move them around at their discretion.

When badges are earned on the LRNG platform, they’ll now be distributed through Badgr and will live in the Badgr ecosystem. This means users can now stack badges with those earned through outlets like Digital Promise, Canvas and thousands of academic institutions and organizations. The integration will create the ability for users to access their entire Badgr Backpack while on their LRNG profile — the same Backpack view users see in Canvas and other applications.

This partnership not only affects youth currently on the platform but also opens up the content readily available on LRNG.org to other young adults. For example, an instructor designing a Canvas course could build off of LRNG badges, or create a competency assessment that pulls through to an LRNG badge in order to support a playlist.

What’s Next?

LRNG is gearing up for Summer 2019 and thinking through what functionalities and API’s can support greater opportunities for youth and further connect in and out of school learning. Through our merger with SNHU we’ll be building true pathways to competencies that can count for college credit or career skill attainment.

Already, we’re working with Classcraft on an API that has allowed their educators and classrooms to access LRNG’s playlists. Students can now complete our playlists and then unlock points and prizes within the Classcraft game, creating more opportunity for engaged classrooms and ensuring that learning counts — no matter where a student is.

LRNG has also created an API to integrate into the One Summer Chicago application process so that badges can be applied to level up a youth’s internship opportunity for the summer. Youth get a more advanced internship based on the number of badges they completed in the year prior. And, towards the end of January 2019, we’ll be integrating into the Crisis in Space game with content and playlists centered around critical thinking.

Both of the teams at LRNG and Badgr are excited to bring our users and members the new opportunities available thanks to this integration. Stay tuned and follow us on Twitter at @WeAreLRNG and @BadgrTeam.