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LevelUp: Connecting Learners to Any Content


“… a teacher who is confident that a struggling student can grasp the appropriate concepts but who isn’t able to provide the student with the engaging content he or she needs.”
“… a parent who wants to prepare their child for the coming school year, but either can’t afford summer enrichment programs or can’t motivate their child to participate.”
“… a child in Kenya who wants to learn about science and technology and has a computer in the classroom, but whose teacher doesn’t have the knowledge or experience to guide them.”

This is where LevelUp comes in.

LevelUp is a learner-mentor connection platform that bridges the content and experiences students have anywhere in life to the reporting and progress required in school.

That’s a mouthful, so let’s dissect it a little. There are learners who need to find quality educational experiences but don’t know where to begin looking.  No two learners are precisely at the same point in their learning progress, so the LevelUp platform tracks detailed information about individual progress and what type of content has worked in the past for each learner.

Critical mentors in our equation are parents and teachers. Educator Benjamin Bloom demonstrated that one-on-one tutoring yields the highest learning results, yet is difficult to scale. LevelUp will use technology to create this tutoring effect by giving teachers and parents the tools to differentiate each student’s learning – even within a group environment. In the absence of quality teachers or involved parents, the platform will allow access to mentors and quality content providers from around the world.

A Case in Point

Before we go into the details of the system, lets first imagine a LevelUp experience. George is an 8th grade student who is struggling with math, and therefore acting out. His teacher, Julie, is new and can’t figure out why he is struggling. She knows that he spends a lot of time playing computer games and hears him talking with his friends about fairly complex calculations he has to perform, but when it comes to her class, he seems to check out. Her school uses Moodle and she decides to open the LevelUp plugin.

Because George has used content from the LevelUp Library before, he has a very detailed map of his progress, including exact activities and standards. Julie sees that he has done well with most of the math standards and that he is only struggling with geometry concepts. She performs a simple search asking LevelUp to suggest content that will fill in the gaps for him. LevelUp matches content with his profile, accomplishments, and his penchant for games. Two results top the list because they are a good match and they’ve also contributed well to other student results. She chooses one – the game Outpost – and assigns it to him for extra credit.

Five days later George comes back and tells Julie that he not only beat the game, but started creating his own levels. She opens LevelUp and sees a real-time report of the progress he’s made over the last week. She can see that he had to repeat certain levels early on, but at level 3, he seemed to accelerate and pass the rest of the concepts with ease. She reviews level 2 with him and uncovers what finally clicked with him. She uses this knowledge to better understand what it takes to have breakthrough moments with him. It is a success.

LevelUp accomplishes its ease of use because of the way that it handles content and learner progress.


A concept of the LevelUp home page.

Intelligent search with natural language and learner history.

Co-branded content-provider pages and their badges.

Content and badges aligned and tracked to learner's goals.

First, the Content

We view content providers as mentors. They have knowledge that they would like to teach, and while LevelUp will be a digital distribution format, the content can be anything but. The allowable content types range from digital apps and games to books, videos, physical materials, seminars, tours, and any other experience that provides quality educational learning.

Every provider will have a customizable page that will contain all of the content that they have listed with LevelUp. While LevelUp is free, the content may or may not be free. The provider will set the pricing structure. LevelUp will provide an easy-to-use checkout system as well as allowing for payment through other payment systems (like iTunes). The content may or may not be hosted with LevelUp, depending on the needs of the provider.

EffectiveSC believes in making quality educational content available to all people, across the globe, regardless of economic restrictions. We are planning for an eventual donor-based system to help connect quality, effective, paid content with those who can’t afford it.

The heart of this system, however, is the way that content is tagged. The general content is tagged with a variety of parameters, like content style, format, special needs, subjects, and others. That is valuable, but doesn’t do much more than all the other learning registries out there. The power comes from the most important type of tag – badges.

Next, the Badges

Badges are the core method of communication within LevelUp. Badges mark the milestones and achievements of each learner’s educational journey. Here’s how it happens.

Every piece of content is tagged with a single badge or a set of badges. Each badge correlates to a certain moment in that content. This might be after someone has finished a chapter, or finished a level in a game or attended a seminar.

While state and Common Core educational standards will be important to support K-12 schooling, LevelUp also allows for any competency standard to be referenced in a badge. This will allow the badges to also be used for non-school systems like the Girl Scouts, or for classrooms that would like to teach skills beyond the narrow set defined by state standards. The Achievement Standards Network is a great open-source resource for cataloging these standards.

To track the progress or growth of those standards, we support Dr. Robert Marzano’s scoring guide. He identifies this progression along a 4-point scale that aligns with the way humans learn, and is shown to be more accurate and transferable than percentage scores.

Sometimes there will be content that doesn’t explicitly teach something in a way that fits this 4-point scale, but rather supports a standard. An example of this is Angry Birds which uses physics principles that might be very useful as an engagement mechanism for a teacher, but doesn’t explicitly teach that concept. This type of content can be tagged with a standard, but will be identified as “support” rather than given a 1-4 score.

Real-Time Reporting of Badges

Setting up each badge will be a one-time process when the content is either created or tagged. Once the badges are in place, the badges can be reported via an API or through a simple, online form that the learner, teacher, or content provider fills out to indicate progress. LevelUp badges will be saved in a Mozilla Open Badge format so that outside software can process the dynamic and adaptive data.

Progress will be tracked real-time or close-to-real-time which allows the learning to rapidly adapt. Because the badges are reporting very precise details of learning, students, teachers, and parents will be able to identify gaps or stumbling points very easily and adjust their content to better meet the needs of each learner.

For those schools that accept the badges as official credit, like Adams County District 50, the reporting will allow the teacher to evaluate the content, assess what the student truly learned, and award credit that eventually applies to graduation. LevelUp will use crowdsourcing to help validate the content.

In Addition

Other features will include accreditation of badges, rewards that span multiple badges, adaptable and planned paths across multiple pieces of content, and direct tie-in to the data within Learning Management Systems.

Next Steps

  • EffectiveSC is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. EffectiveSC was created by the founders of EffectiveUI, an award-winning user experience agency in Denver, Colorado. EffectiveUI has a proven track record with the research, design, and development of many systems like LevelUp.
  • LevelUp is an open source project. The LevelUp catalog and associated searching tools will be freely available to everyone across the world even if the content is not. EffectiveSC is currently planning on an open-source model that is similar to Wordpress with custom installations as well as a hosted solution available.
  • EffectiveSC has partnered with Adams County District 50 to be the first school district to deploy LevelUp.
  • The first piece of content to be comprehensively tagged will be a math game called Outpost, sponsored by the Gates Foundation.
  • EffectiveSC is building partnerships with content providers, like the Girls Scouts of Colorado. In addition, we are seeding the library with existing, publicly available content and creating badges for those pieces of content. Many projects within the DML Competition, like the Disney-Pixar Wilderness Explorers Badge, align very well with LevelUp.
  • We are actively building partnerships with Learning Management Systems to incorporate the content directly into the classroom via plugins and APIs.
  • We are actively seeking funding to complete the LevelUp system.



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