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This project was submitted by an applicant to the Digital Media and Learning Competition.

BadgeStack: Open Source Learning & Community System

Applicants are highly encouraged to develop software and widgets that extend the Open Badge Infrastructure. Software and widgets of high value to many badge issuers may be considered for a stand alone grant ..." [Source: DML Competition Stage 2]





BadgeStack Logo BadgeStack is an open source badge-based learning system created by LearningTimes. It is:

Built as a learner-focused system, BadgeStack enables any organization to configure and manage online learning communities with badges, activities, assessments, and rewards unique to their own population. Every aspect of the badging system can be customized, including:

  • badge structure and visual identity
  • overall community look and feel
  • content, assessment protocols and rules
  • public and internal badge sharing settings
  • learning paths
  • community interaction
  • points, leaderboards and rewards

A screenshot of the BadgeStack web site, showing thumbnails of various aspects of the systemWith BadgeStack’s powerful architecture, every organization can have a completely different learner experience, allowing them to experiment, iterate and learn from entirely new approaches to badge-empowered learning.

Through the DML Competition process we have been introduced to many institutions eager to begin issuing badges. Nine of these organizations are DML stage 1 winners and/or stage 2 applicants who have elected to work in close collaboration with LearningTimes and endorse this application. In addition to their innovative badging systems, these organizations have also proposed powerful plugins to BadgeStack that extend badge-issuing functions in their respective types of learning environments.

Supporting all of these partner projects will immediately impact the learning landscape and advancement of the badge ecosystem. It will also generate innovations to a robust badging system, helping countless other organizations begin to meaningfully issue badges.

Our proposal includes a detailed description of the BadgeStack system, followed by insights into the ways our partner organizations hope to utilize BadgeStack with the support of the MacArthur Foundation, Mozilla Foundation and HASTAC – while contributing our collective contributions back to the open source community of developers, educators and learners.

The BadgeStack Project

A picture of the BadgeStack Project home page, showcasing an illustration of a group of people and a squirrel proudly displaying their digital badges.The BadgeStack Project puts a thoughtful, flexible, community-driven, badge-empowered learning system in the hands of organizations.  BadgeStack supports a community of developers (extending the system through plugins, themes and new core functions) and a network of badge issuers and content contributors (sharing open educational resources and fully-conceived badges).

The overarching goals of our involvement in the Competition are to:

  • implement and support badging systems in unique learning contexts;
  • jumpstart a collection of innovations to BadgeStack tailored to the specific needs of different kinds of issuing organizations;
  • foster support for adoption of the open source BadgeStack system by the badge-issuing community at large.

Content experts, instructors and organizations will have the option of sharing the badges they create with other badge-issuers using the BadgeStack system’s Public Content Library.

BadgeStack aligns perfectly with the spirit of the ecosystem OBI hopes to create.  BadgeStack brings self-directed learning opportunities together with online community interaction. Each organization can configure the system to strike the right balance between individual skill and knowledge acquisition and peer-to-peer involvement. The experience is at once a powerful new social learning management system and an online community platform.

Multiple forms of assessment; progressive badge levels, taxonomies and hierarchies; portability; design; skills and community rewards; granularity, for example -- are supported by BadgeStack, allowing each organization to customize their own badge system to the needs of their community.

BadgeStack Architecture and Connection to Open Source Ecosystem

The following chart highlights key elements of the BadgeStack architecture and its relationship to the open source ecosystem. Badgestack Ecosystem: this diagram shows the relationship between BadgeStack and the open source ecosystem. Sections include: Network and site management, user and group controls, assessment engine, nomination and review system, and connections to the Mozilla OBI backpack.

Enlarge image (PDF)

BadgeStack powers end-to-end learning. It supports every facet of the badge-earning and issuing continuum, making it the only tool an organization needs to enter the badging ecosystem.

The BadgeStack system is one of the most comprehensive plugins to the open source WordPress software, which has been selected by over 60 million people and organizations to power the content on their websites. WordPress is supported by hundreds of volunteers, and extended by thousands of plugins.

With the BadgeStack plugin and a BadgeStack-compatible theme installed, a WordPress site is transformed into a complete badge-empowered learning system. End-users never see the WordPress admin interface, as all learning activities and community interaction take place and are managed through BadgeStack functions on the front-end of the site.

BadgeStack Dashboard: the entry page for a learner in BadgeStack, it displays the progress a learner has made and suggests where to go next.

BadgeStack takes advantage of the free BuddyPress plugin to enhance community functions. Thousands of WordPress plugins are available to BadgeStack users to further customize deployments.

BadgeStack Plugin Framework

The BadgeStack system itself is designed to be extended through BadgeStack-compatible plugins. While functions central to all BadgeStack users are added to the core BadgeStack system, anyone can add specialized functions as plugins.

IMS Conformant Logo

Example: BLTI BadgeStack Plugin

The BLTI BadgeStack plugin brings single sign-on support between a BadgeStack site and any IMS Global Learning Consortium BLTI-conforming platform, including Moodle, Blackboard, and Desire2Learn (D2L). The NYC Department of Education uses this plugin to move learners from a formal learning management system into a fun, more informal learning community.

Learn more:

Existing Mozilla OBI Integration

Mozilla LogoBadgeStack is the first learning system to integrate with the Mozilla Open Badge Infrastructure (OBI).

When the BadgeStack OBI setting is enabled, selected badges can be set as OBI-sharable. Learners may choose to have their earned OBI-sharable badges sent automatically to the Mozilla Open Badge Backpack.

Mozilla OBI evidence URLs link back to a publicly accessible area of BadgeStack showcasing an official certificate of authenticity for each earned badge.

Learn more:

Mozilla Open Badge Backpack: This image shows the Mozilla Open Badge Backpack filled with badges earned using BadgeStack

System Customization Options

BadgeStack gives each organization tools to craft rules and configure virtually every aspect of the system. Here are some examples:

  • Badging Terminology: completely customize BadgeStack’s vocabulary across an entire system
  • Social Network Sharing: Enable social sharing of badges
  • Artifact sharing: allow users to share evidence and artifacts publicly.
  • Manage User Status, Roles and Privileges: Define privileges that can be acquired through achievements.

Learning Customization Options

Every organization can set up its own badge structure, badge types, taxonomies, assessment methods and rules. For example, Learning Pathways configure the permitted movement through the Badge System, such as:

  • Sequential: Learners complete levels of badges in a specified order
  • Non-Sequential: Learners select badges to acquire in any order
  • Prerequisite Badges: Learners must completed required badges before they can earn other badges.
  • Balance Settings: Customizable rules to dynamically modify the algorithms that govern the relative importance of community involvement versus independent achievement.

Badge Customization Options

The two foundational badge types include: Skill/Knowledge Badges, which are earned through the successful completion of defined learning activities or quests, and Community Badges, which reward community involvement, contributions and quality interaction with others. Badges can be issued through any combination of achievements and social contributions, and a dedicated assessment engine permits performance towards badges to be reviewed in a variety of ways.

Quests: Defined activities completed in pursuit of Skill and Knowledge Badges and can be renamed anything (i.e. “Tasks”, “Gauntlets”, etc.) As learners participate in a community and fulfill quests, they produce artifacts that earn them badges. These contributions are recorded in a Journal area, providing an ongoing transcript of their progress.

Assessment Engine

BadgeStack allows each badge issuer to set the criteria for how they will determine a learner has earned a badge or a set of badges. For example:

  1. Expert Review: an instructor, expert, or mentor reviews submitted evidence.
  2. Peer Review: Peers review each other’s contributions.
  3. Peer Nomination: thresholds are set to allow one or more peers to nominate others for badges.
  4. Automatic Trigger: the system issues badges based on a vast set of criteria, including prior achievement, user status, and activity in the community.

Visual Badge Identity

BadgeStack default badges address the need for internal community achievements, as well as externally shared badges that carry organizational identifiers.  Organizations may use the BadgeStack system to create their own badges, or the BadgeStack system accepts external designs.

BadgeStack Sample Badge Design Template: Shows quest tokens, core badges and reward badges

Example: There are four levels of Skill Badges in the DIG/IT Digital Literacy badging community in New York City. Each level includes five core badges and a sixth master level badge (depicted with stars):

BadgeStack - Sample Levels: Shows 4 rows of 6 badges.  The last badge in each column is a mater badge, depicted with a star.

BadgeStack graphically links the quests required to complete each Skill Badge.
Diagram shows how quests relate to each Badge: Completing multiple quests results in earning a Skill Badge.
In DIG/IT, to balance self-directed learning and peer engagement, learners earn all badges in a level plus a number of community or reward badges before they level up:

Diagram shows how learners must earn all badges in a level plus a number of community or reward badges before they level up.

See a brief video on the DIG/IT implementation:

The BadgeStack Collaborators

BadgeStack is great for any organization wishing to issue badges for learning and community involvement. Nine such groups have teamed up with LearningTimes in Stage 2 (see chart below). Each organization models a different approach to badge-based learning in unique settings and subject areas.

With BadgeStack as its base, each applicant will:

  • create a unique experience that rewards the outcomes important to their learners;
  • implement a sustainable management and assessment plan appropriate for their implementation;
  • contribute open source extensions to the BadgeStack community, adding specialized functions to benefit like-minded organizations.

Each of the following organizations endorse this application.

DML Winners/Applicants Collaborating with LearningTimes

DML Winners/Applicants Collaborating with LearningTimes: Smithsonian, Digital On-Ramps, MoneyWizdom, Citizen Schools, HYPE, STEM Scouts, USC Joint Educational Project


The following Badge System planning documents have been prepared for this stage 2 application as appendices:




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