Project Q&A With: Leverage for Digital On-Ramps

Project Q&A With: Leverage for Digital On-Ramps

The Leverage™ for Digital On-Ramps project will implement the Leverage™ Badging System by Pragmatic Solutions into the infrastructure of the Digital On-Ramps (DOR) project lead by the Urban Affairs Coalition, Philadelphia Academies, Inc. (PAI) and others. DOR aims to create practical solutions to one of Philadelphia’s most formidable challenges: preparing all Philadelphians to work and compete in the 21st century economy by providing a digital framework for delivering comprehensive education and workforce training to youth and adults (ages 14-65). The Leverage™ System will be integrated into PAI’s Post-Secondary and Career Readiness (PSCR) Course, a developmental multi-year DOR course designed to provide 21st century and post-secondary readiness skills for 900 students.
The Urban Affairs Coalition (UAC), with Pragmatic Solutions (PS) and Philadelphia Academies Inc. (PAI) we designed and built the Digital Onramps (DOR) platform - a social network for badge earners who participate in PAI's Career and College Readiness Curriculum (CCRC).

The CCRC is a series of surveys, quizzes, live events, and other activities that help high school students develop skills and direction for their post-high school careers or college experience.

PAI and UAC defined elements of the CCRC that developed different 21st century skills. As students used DOR to access CCRC activities - they earned skills points. When they earned enough skills points they would earn a badge.

The DOR platform included a leaderboard, events calendar, teacher access to evaluate the CCRC quality of work. DOR was designed to work with SMS messaging, on mobile devices and even when there was no access to the internet

What are the 3 most important things about building a badge system you would share with another organization just getting started?

I firmly believe that badges = currency and like currency an group has to backup it's value, and people have to want to earn it and accept it:

  1. There must be enough Earners earning the right badges made by the Creators to pique the interest of Acceptors
  2. There must be enough Acceptors to motivate Earners to seek out badges made by the Creators
  3. There must be enough Creators so that Earners can acquire enough badges to pique the interest of Acceptors

Who were you addressing with your badge system design?

The DOR audience was high school juniors and seniors in Philadelphia Public Schools

What were your initial goals for the badges?

The goal for the badge system is to create a platform for students and adults to prove that they have the right skills to enter the workforce and for companies and colleges to identify skilled labor by their badges. Those goals did not change throughout the design process.

What types of badges are you using (participation, skill, certification, etc.)?

Skill Badges - the user would do things to earn points which would eventually earn them badges

Are there levels or pathways represented in your badges?

There is a master badge one would earn by earning all available skills badges

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

The PAI team translated their CCRC so that each workshop or project would earn users skills 21st century skills, specifically: Creativity, Collaboration, Literacy and Adult Social Networks. By earning enough points in each category a badge in that skill could be earned.

What are the 3 main challenges to widespread adoption of your badge system for your organization?

  1. Working with a school district in a major budget crises
  2. Teaching the newness of digital badges for learning
  3. Secondary funding to complete the project

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

We beta tested the project with 300 students, we observed how long it would take to explain, have the students sign up and any challenges in working in the school environment.

What are the top 3 factors that the success of your badge system are contingent upon?

  1. Acceptance by the school district
  2. Additional Funding
  3. Participation of potential employers

What have you done, or do you plan to do, to evaluate your badge earner community?

Digital On-Ramps for Philadelphia Academies Inc. (DOR4PAI) is a partnership between Urban Affairs Coalition, Philadelphia Academies Inc. (PAI), Philadelphia Youth Network (PYN), and Pragmatic Solutions.

DOR4PAI is implementing a badges for learning style online learning experience in four Philadelphia high schools (Parkway West, Abraham Lincoln High, Horace Howard Furness High School, and Roxborough High School). The program consists of a set of web-based tools that assist in the teaching, and tracking the progress toward, various 21st Century Skills for participating students. The online tools are intended to enhance the educational experience by providing a visible symbol of accomplishment, evidence of skills attained, clarified and universal rules for achievement, and permanent record of success.

As the lead implementation agency for DOR4PAI, Philadelphia Academies Inc., engaged the OMG Center for Collaborative Learning, a nonprofit evaluation firm based in Philadelphia. At the outset of this work the OMG Center team is gathering and analyzing relevant program documentation. Using a Business Process Improvement approach to the review, OMG will identify the goals of the program, core activities leading to the goals, policies and procedures guiding the activities, and individual roles responsible for implementation. Overarching the document review is an analysis of the use of data (or information) in the process to measure progress toward specific program targets. Following the review, a summary of findings regarding the program’s implementation processes as designed will be shared and discussed with key stakeholders.

What will you do with the results of your evaluations? What research, if any, will be based on these evaluations, and do you plan to publish the outcomes?

The understanding developed from OMG’s review and discussion will serve as a guide for the remaining activities for Philadelphia Academies, Inc., and will be shared with a citywide Digital On-Ramps advisory committee, which includes IBM, the Mayor’s Office of Education, PYN, the School District of Philadelphia, Drexel University, Urban Affairs Coalition.

Please describe any impact your badge system may have already had on your organization and your learners.

At this stage the impact level is hard to measure and in general low

How would you characterize the impact your badge system will have on the badge ecosystem?

We believe that our efforts to centralize badge earning will help to bring a larger audience to the badge ecosystem, by developing a trusted environment backed by leaders in the city we believe that DOR will be accepted by the population faster through unified marketing, outreach and implimentation.

What plans do you have to scale your badge system?

DOR4PAI is an early stage badging project of the larger Digital-On-Ramps system, and the lessons learned from this early stage project are intended to inform the larger scaling up of this system to an eventual 175,000 people. A copy of the vision for the larger Digital On-Ramps system is attached.

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

The OMG Center Process Evaluation will illuminate that answer for us. However, we know that there is interest and “buy in” among our participating teachers and schools as indicated in focus groups with both teachers and students. There have been technological glitches as expected in an early stage project, and we are addressing those as a team so that the program can be grown over time.

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 have @digitalonramps &


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