Executive Vice President of Product Development at EverFi, Inc., Kara Hedges, joins us today to discuss the significance of EverFi’s recent launch of its first open-source badging platform.

SC: What changes in the education market recently created the demand for an open-source badging platform with EverFi?

KH: There has been a realization in the education community that we need new ways of recognizing and encouraging student achievement. We were surprised that there were no open-source badging projects designed to make it easy for education companies like EverFi to issue and manage badges within their platforms. So we built Sash and along the way decided it would be even greater to share with the education community. Now other companies can use this badging platform and contribute code changes. Together, we can create compelling and effective learning experiences for all of our students.

SC: What role does badging play in proficiency- and competency-based learning?

KH: We believe that digital badging truly allows students to aggregate a compilation of skills and abilities in a unique and interesting way.  As such, we have been very thoughtful in the initial rollout and approach of our digital badge program within our learning platforms. We have taken into consideration many factors, including the varying learning styles of students, as well as the intrinsic and extrinsic motivational opportunities – and  consequences – that can come with offering badges as part of a teaching and learning environment.  We have continually and actively sought feedback from teachers and administrators at all levels within school systems and have taken steps to reduce the likelihood that these badges will become the central and only focus of motivation.

SC: Do you envision badges someday replacing seat time policies and age-based grades?

KH: We see digital badging more as a way to help bridge educational experiences that happen in and out of school, and to recognize other skills, norms, or practices valued by the school, teacher, or community.  As part of our learning platform experience, badges can be earned in a variety of ways, ranging from skill-based badges in a specific topic area, to knowledge badges that convey mastery of required concepts within the courses.  For instance, students within our Financial Literacy platform can earn badges for passing formative assessments on particular topics, such as Credit Scores or Taxes, but learners can also earn the distinction of “Financial Literacy Certified” for accumulation of an entire set of badges within the curriculum.

SC: It’s believed that badges can paint a more realistic picture of a student. What makes it most different or more beneficial to traditional grading systems?

KH: To date, traditional learning programs and transcripts can at times fall short of showcasing an individual’s skills set and achievements. Ultimately, with the addition of digital badging components, learners can display a more well-rounded or holistic perspective of their academic career.  As a result, we believe that incorporating digital badging helps actually support and augment existing grading systems in both formal and informal learning environments , thus expanding, not constraining, the possibilities of how students can be evaluated.

SC: Were the badges based off of the Common Core State Standards or another standards-based system recognizing student knowledge and achievement?

KH: EverFi’s education platforms focus on the tough issues facing students, from financial literacy and student loan management to cyberbullying awareness, digital citizenship, and alcohol abuse prevention.  These curriculums are developed in alignment with relevant curriculum frameworks at a national and state level, including The National Standards in K-12 Education, Jumpstart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy, ISTE (The International Society for Technology in Education) National Educational Technology Standards, as well as applicable components of the Common Core State Standards. As such, many of our digital badges offered within the learning experience for students have been designed in accordance with these standards.

SC: Where do you see the most potential for EverFi badges?

KH: We envision digital badges as a way for students to gain access to a variety of opportunities (internships, etc.) based on the competencies they have demonstrated as a result of earning badges.  In addition, our intent is to have these badges follow learners wherever they go, whether they switch school districts or go on to college.  In the past, there has not been an easy way to display and port a list of achievements/skills that will be acquired over time in different learning environments – both formal and informal. Now, students using the EverFi platform can start to communicate and display badges that reflect the range of their abilities and qualifications to internships, jobs, and additional education opportunities.

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