Piloting 21C Skills and other Badges

Making All Learning Count: Competency-based Education
In the 21st century (21C), learning can take place anytime, anywhere, at any pace, and with the learner at the center. This is something we at Mozilla know well. One of our goals is to provide people with open access to skills, tools, and resources needed to use the web to improve their lives, careers, and organizations.
Competency-based learning has emerged as one way to make anytime anywhere learning “count.” While learners’ traditional progression towards mastery has been measured by credit hours or “seat-time” in traditional educational settings, competency-based learning empowers learners to demonstrate mastery regardless of how and when the learning occurs. It also identifies learning targets at a more granular level than the course-level grading system. This enables afterschool providers and other community partners who already provide valuable learning experiences to both continue their work and recognize learning so that it counts toward learning pathways.
In collaboration with the Afterschool Alliance, Mozilla Foundation has worked with three statewide afterschool networks in Maryland, Oregon, and Michigan in a project funded by the C.S. Mott Foundation. These three networks are piloting 21C skills and other badges in afterschool programs to gain a deeper understanding of what is needed to help informal learning become formally recognized for college and career-readiness. The lessons learned from this pilot will be shared and taken to scale with other statewide afterschool networks and afterschool initiatives.
This blog post provides a spotlight on pilot progress in Maryland, Michigan, and Oregon, all of whom participated along with other state networks at the Competency-Based Education & Digital Credential Design Meeting.
Michigan After School Partnership (MASP)
One of 30+ states to legislate policies in support of competency-based learning pathways, Michigan has eliminated seat-time requirements to move away from traditional transcript models of education. Instead, Michigan has built out a statewide badging program that draws on both in-school and out-of-school providers for rigorous and relevant content. Badges, aligned with high quality after school enrichment opportunities, are helping high school students demonstrate proficiency in Michigan’s college and career readiness standards.
Michigan After School Partnership (MASP), in partnership with the Michigan Department of Education, Office of Education Innovation & Improvement and Career and College Ready initiatives, has focused on piloting STEM competencies for high students in a Renewable Energy Summer Camp and in the Eastern Michigan University’s 21st Century Community Learning Center’s Bright Futures middle school program. They also used badges as a STEM endorsement of the Michigan School Age Youth Development Credential for professional development credentialing for youth development workers. Michigan is now working to collect more data to inform badging policies and to refine the state’s badge system rating rubric as a way to ensure quality assessment.
According to Mary Sutton, executive director of MASP, statewide success in Michigan depended on cultivating strong relationships with several key offices within the Michigan Department of Education. Partnerships with the office of improvement and innovation and the education technology/data coordination and curriculum /instruction units were crucial to making things happen and opening additional doors for including afterschool as a valid component in competency-based learning conversations.
Maryland Out of School Time Network (MOST)
Maryland Out of School Time Network (MOST) worked first with Wide Angle Youth Media (WAYM) and then with Digital Harbor Foundation (DHF) to develop digital badges that recognize both technical and workforce skills in Baltimore. MOST convened an advisory committee which included key stakeholders from the Baltimore City Public Schools, the University of Baltimore, and the Maryland State Department of Education, as well as representatives from ed tech companies familiar with badging and student information systems.
“We know may young people are acquiring both technical and 21st Century skills in their classrooms and from informal learning experiences,” says Ellie Mitchell, Director of the Maryland Out of School Time (MOST) Network, “however, employers who provide internships and summer employment programs often are unaware that students have these skills. Digital badges help translate the potential of students to future employers and raise the bar on the kinds of experiences that are offered.”
Working with Baltimore City Public Schools, WAYM identified three skills badges that reflected workforce-oriented and technical skills that were already being measured through a proven and tested rubric that the organization had previously used. Together, both organizations aligned criteria and evidence in the badges with National Media Arts Standards and Common Core State Standards.
In addition, Digital Harbor Foundation developed an additional four STEM-focused technical skill badges. Together with DHF, MOST has launched its 21C skill badges and have offered them to anyone in Maryland who wants to try to earn them. They are also working with Digital Harbor Foundation on badges that will lead to college credit with colleges in Baltimore County.


OregonASK partnered with the Technology Association of Oregon Foundation, Concentric Sky (a tech start-up based in Eugene OR), Business Education Compact, Umatilla School District, Equal Access to Education, and the Northwest Council for Computer Education to build a badge system to identify pipeline for STEM workforce in Oregon. OregonASK works with hundreds of programs throughout the state, and Mozilla Clubs are an opportunity to engage youth with critical content and create meaningful ways of building program efficacy and student engagement.
In the Umatilla School District, OregonASK helped to develop middle school web clubs to prepare students to participate in a tech-based innovation economy and while earning badges for skills learned. OregonASK has worked to create digital literacy pathways that connect afterschool and traditional school opportunities, particularly those that address learning in informal science programs.
In all three of these pilots, it’s clear that partnerships and persistence are critical in making afterschool count towards competency-based education. The use of micro-credentials to measure afterschool learning are part of growing number of badging efforts across the country. Look for a compendium of these promising practices to be released shortly.