Project Q&A With: LevelUp

Project Q&A With: LevelUp

LevelUp is a web-based system that enables learners of all ages to develop skills that align to their goals. Learners achieve this by mapping content, curriculum, and everyday learning experiences to their progression on an individualized competency map. LevelUp will enable anytime, anywhere learning to be mapped to many systems, including K-12 schools, colleges, extra-curricular activities, or job training.

What were your initial goals for the badges? Did those goals change at all throughout the design process?

Our initial goals in our grant description are very close to our results. The only thing we didn't anticipate is how long and complex the integration process would be. We tried several solutions before we found one that worked, but the process took more development hours than we would have liked. The creation of the badges and the alignment to Common Core Standards actually went faster and smoother than we thought.

How were the criteria for the badges determined. What pedagogies (if any) informed the learning and badge system design?

The criteria for the badges were built into the lessons themselves, so it wasn't too hard to convert into a badge. The University of Denver helped to specify the criteria, as did a math teacher. We have built a system that allows us to modify the criteria after the fact so if, through trial, we find the initial criteria to be insufficient, we can override it for all badges or for individual students. We’ve empowered teachers to override it and officially validate it as credit bearing.

What are 3 things you learned about badge system design? What would you do differently if you were to start over?

We would keep the badges mostly as is. We would still like more controls around the difference of 1st-party issuers versus 3rd-party issuers (systems that push the badge for a creator, but aren't the creators of the badge). We are augmenting the badges with competency data, but are okay with doing that within our system rather than forcing that on the Metadata spec.

What is the main challenge to widespread adoption of your badge system for your organization?

The main challenge to adoption is the integration into the school system. We have a very basic integration, but widespread adoption will require more significant effort since the systems we are integrating into don't want to play well with badges at this time.

What is your badge system testing strategy? How have you or will you be testing your badge system prior to deployment?

We are testing it very casually in spring of 2013 and some students have played the game and been awarded badges. Fall of 2013 will see one classroom using this substantially as part of the curriculum, so we will be able to observe the overall impact and progress of learning using badges versus the classes that don't.

What plans do you have to scale your badge system?

We are not having as easy a time convincing teachers that they need badges. They all care and need the learning data (competencies and scores) behind badges, but don't care if the format is badges or just data integration into their LMS systems. Some of the high school teachers and students have expressed that it feels a little childish, but when structured around the format of a game, it is well accepted since badges are already a mainstay of video games.

How successfully are you getting institutional buy-in, or adoption from your learners?

We are using the learning experiences as the primary drivers of participation and badges are a nice extra that they get from it, but that it is an optional extra rather than a primary one. This is necessary within the school system since data that leaves the school system has to be optional and opt-in by student or parent. There is too much concern currently about forcing external data to be shared.

For those who want to follow the development, implementation, and adoption of your badge system, what social media sites will you be posting updates to?

We are posting regularly to Twitter now. We are getting our EffectiveSC blog launched this month.

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