Project Q&A With: S2R Medals

Project Q&A With: S2R Medals

Supporter To Reporter (S2R) is a real-life learning program that allows young people to take on the roles of sports journalists, media producers, and mentors. S2R Medals will recognize and reward the skills and achievements gained by young reporters who learn and demonstrate a rich array of competencies acquired through their participation in the program. Competencies which will be assessed, endorsed, and validated through S2R Medals range from technical skills such as recording, editing, interviewing and social media creation, to transferable skills such as collaboration, meeting deadlines, taking responsibility, and mentoring others.

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

  1. Learn by doing
  2. Collaborate
  3. Don’t make assumptions

Badges allow us to capture these skills in a way we have never been able to previously, allowing young people to create an online portfolio of their work to share with colleges and employers. S2R uses the safe Makewaves Open Learning community to run the program and connect schools across the UK.

We created a badge ecosystem based on the existing S2R learning program and will launch the badges into the Makewaves community of over 3500 schools and 60,000 learners worldwide. We expect the main take-up to be with youth ages 10 - 14 years old.

The goals for the program are:

  • To enable any school to replicate the successful S2R program in their own setting and deliver a quality learning experience to their young people
  • To motivate/incentivize/challenge students to learn something new independently via the Makewaves platform
  • To provide an easy and appropriate way for students to capture their learning and share it across the web

Who were you addressing with your badge system design?

S2R Medals are designed primarily for young people ages 11-19. However, younger students can also complete badge activity if capable. To enable this audience we also addressed teachers, after school program facilitators and regional coordinators for sports and media provision for youth.

The badges have also been designed with a view to endorsement by media and sports industry bodies. Criteria has been designed to meet the needs of:

  • Core curriculum for teachers
  • Work/college readiness skills for colleges and employers
  • Interest areas and common media skills for young people.

What types of badges are you using (participation, skill, certification, etc.)? Are there levels or pathways represented in your badges?

S2R is a sports reporter-training program where young people learn to create media, apply their skills in a professional situation, and mentor others. Our badge system recognizes the range of competencies gained, and rewards attainment, in each of these three skill sets.

All the S2R badges are designed to reflect real-world transferable skills, including social media creation, reporting, interviewing, editing, time management, collaboration, responsibility, motivation, and mentoring others.

“Community Achievement” badges show the variety of smaller skills gained through the program and are used as markers within the community to show progress.

“S2R Medals” reward higher skill levels achieved through developing these competencies and are named Journalist, Producer, and Coach.

  • The Journalist set shows core skills such as research, interviewing and editing.
  • The Producer set shows their successful application to a live working environment.
  • The Coach set shows the ability to pass on skills and mentor others.

Each medal has a Bronze, Silver and Gold Level, for example: Silver Journalist and Bronze Coach. Gaining the S2R Medals requires students to attain relevant Community Achievement badges, alongside assessment by educators.

The original model has not changed; however, the number and type of smaller community achievements required has been modified in response to user feedback and as we have identified additional key steps that benefit from badging.

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

Supporter to Reporter is an existing learning program run by DigitalMe, which develops skills and confidence through sports reporting. Young people take on the role of a Journalist, Producer and Coach, learning communication, media creation, collaboration and leadership skills, before applying their skills for real at a sports event. Young people who take part in the program demonstrate increased confidence, aspiration and transferable skills that they can take into the world of work.

Badges allow us to capture these skills in a way we have never been able to previously, allowing young people to create an online portfolio of their work to share with colleges and employers. S2R uses the safe Makewaves Open Learning community to run the program and connect schools across the UK.

What did you learn about badge system design? What would you do differently if you were to start over?

  1. Value is vital. Students need to know that a badge has a real-world value in terms of access to opportunities, further training or employment. Teachers and parents also require real value in order to justify making time and resources available to support the young people. Students also preferred to receive badges from ‘experts’ rather than peers. Experts ranked in order of preference would be external/industry, teachers, Makewaves, other students who had already achieved the badge or proved their expertise in some form.
  2. Stealth badges drive engagement/progression. Students responded well to receiving smaller community achievements regularly and automatically from the system. This provided feedback on their progress and positive reinforcement of their abilities. Badges also created social cache amongst peers and the challenge of completing levels or outcompeting peers increased activity.
  3. Sharing is not universal. Students varied greatly in their desire to share their badges. For some it was a key marker of success and they were keen to share with friends, family and potential employers. However, equal numbers were concerned about how their friends would perceive them for showcasing academic achievements - especially in overtly social spheres such as Facebook. Some felt displaying badges for achievements could lead to bullying, even though they personally felt positive about gaining them. In these cases students felt more comfortable sharing badges in more formal spaces that they viewed as more “professional,” e.g. their Makewaves profile.
  4. Simplicity is Key. Looking back, we feel our badge ecosystem may be too complicated. If we were to start again, we would possibly simplify and create fewer badges to make it easier for people to work through the program independently.

You can find more views on what we learned on our blog at:

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

  1. The sports theme is a little restrictive. More general journalist/reporter badges would appeal to schools, which they can then apply to their chosen theme.
  2. Both students and teachers have said that endorsement by industry and media representatives would make the badges more appealing and provide more perceived weight in terms of credentials. We are currently exploring opportunities for endorsement through sports clubs and media organizations as part of a new grant for S2R Medals.
  3. Our badge system is reliant on teacher take-up (to issue higher level badges). We have reviewed this and still feel this “expert” review plays an important part in retaining value in the program; however, this is one of the challenges we face in achieving widespread adoption. We have mitigated this risk by creating teacher support materials that help teachers work through the program and issue the badges. Learn more at:

We have identified some platform improvements that will help learners discover badges, signpost learners through a pathway and enable better progress measuring. These developments are now being funded by a new project.

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

In May 2012, DigitalMe put a call out for pilot groups for S2R Medals and received responses from over 25 groups keen to get involved. With these groups, we ran a co-design day in July 2012 with teachers, students, academics (Karl Royle from Wolverhampton University and Tony Archdeacon from Liverpool Hope University) and industry experts from The Youth Sports Trust and Mozilla London. This was an opportunity to present our initial S2R Medals framework and run workshops to unpack the skills, criteria, and evidence required at each level. It also enabled us to understand some of the practical implications of running the program and badge system within a school, and to explore the value, motivation and social aspects of badges for both students and teachers. Read more about the co-design day at

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

We have gathered a range of feedback from teachers and students about Open Badges and learning, some of which can be seen at

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

Over 600 S2R Medals have been awarded. The program has been opened up to schools beyond the initial pilot group (3,500 schools, 60,000 young people within the Makewaves community) and the uptake has been extremely positive with young people quickly earning the lower-level badges. The mid- and high-level badges have only just been released so we are yet to see how many students progress through to these levels and how this will work within the system. We have seen evidence of students discovering the lower level S2R Medals by stealth, asking each other for help and requesting information about how they can get the next badges. The earners are typically youth ages 10-14 years old.

We have seen evidence of new schools and students engaging with the program, who hadn’t previously, and teachers using the program and supporting materials to develop lesson plans and structured learning activities. Previously, S2R had often been run as a club in schools, not always with a focus on developing skills. The badges seem to have provided a learning pathway and motivation for learners. We are still in our early days but something we will continue to explore as the program scales.

Impact on our organization

The process of designing a badge ecosystem has led us to develop organizational best practices in this area. We have created a new Badge Design Canvas Tool that aims to take organizations through a supported badge design process to help them create a robust roadmap for their badges. This canvas was based on our DML design experience and includes feedback from the DML community and Mozilla team. It is licensed under Creative Commons and available online for people to use:

Learn more about our experiences at:

What plans do you have to scale your badge system?

We will roll out S2R medals to 12 sports clubs across the UK and 80 schools connected to these clubs. Over 800 young people will work through the program and get the chance to apply their skills at professional matches at the sports clubs. The practitioners at the sports clubs will be trained to deliver the program and issue badges, enabling us to roll out the program regionally in a supported way. This project focuses on increasing speaking and listening attainment in the most disadvantaged young people and will provide us with more evidence of the impact of badges for learning. We have also launched the badge system into the Makewaves community of 3500 schools with a “Report on Your Sports Day” campaign to help schools get started.

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?

Twitter: @digitalme_ & @MakewavesTweets @Cliffmanning @LucyDme

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