About the Badge System
CS2N uses a badge-based system to motivate students, help them to define pathways and set goals, and indicate that they have mastered concepts.
CS2N Badges
CS2N Badge Examples

By participating in CS2N activities, students can earn badges to mark their accomplishments, and motivate and guide their learning. Teachers can use student badges for formative assessment in class groups, or earn their own badges to mark professional qualifications. The following are some examples of CS2N’s Badge-enabled activities:


CS2N uses a badge-based system to motivate students, help them to define pathways and set goals, and indicate that they have mastered concepts.

Two Key Problems

Badges are a Core Component of CS2N that Seek to Solve Two Key Problems:

  • How do you capture a record of students’ learning in a form that is recognized and valuable everywhere?

  • How do you encourage students to continue beyond the initial stages of engagement into long-term and lifelong learning

Information View an example of a badge pathway!

Badges Should be M.A.G.I.C.! CS2N Badges are designed with 5 major goal areas in mind.

  • [M] otivation

  • [A] ssessment

  • [G] uidance

  • [I] dentification

  • [C] ertification / Credentialing

Motivate Learning

Modern digital badges are descendants of both the merit badge systems from the Scouting tradition (e.g. Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts), and the Achievement systems of online video gaming. Both connect accomplishments with a compact, portable form of recognition designed to motivate earners to pursue further achievement.

Our initial research has focused on this aspect of Badges, and found that their ability to motivate learners is real, yet nuanced. Certain types of learners respond differently to certain types of Badges, both positively and negatively. The implication for Badge Design is that the details matter: a clumsily-designed system could end up hurting some learners’ motivation rather than helping!

CS2N Badges have been in redesigned to include only the types of recognition that were found to have net positive gains in student motivation.

Assessment Tools

A Badge stands for an accomplishment, and must communicate this clearly and credibly to both the earner and anyone who could potentially be evaluating the earner’s qualifications. Further, since Badges can be awarded in real-time, they can be used as milestone markers in formative assessment.

Two of the main ingredients in making these things possible are Hierarchy and Evidence.

Hierarchy (Badge Types)

Hierarchy refers to the arrangement of Badges into organized categories indicating purpose and significance. It is important that a viewer be able to instantly distinguish an achievement representing a single lesson completion, from an achievement that represents the successful completion of a months-long consolidated project.

CS2N Badge Graphics

By structuring Badge designs accordingly, a viewer can immediately begin to ascertain the scope of an achievement and begin to understand it in context.

This hierarchical structure also allows us to build specialized tools that exploit the automated real-time awarding of small and medium-sized Badges to give the teacher an up-to-the-minute way to monitor student progress in a class:

Member Progress

A Badge can only be taken seriously if it can back up its claims with evidence. Badges, therefore, must include some form of proof to back up their claims – the stronger the claim of accomplishment, the stronger the evidence that must back it.

Allowable Evidence in CS2N takes many forms, including student-submitted artifacts (for instance, attaching source code to a Programming Badge), instructor endorsement (digital signature by a certified instructor), performance-based assessments of AI-driven tutoring systems, and online exam scores. Select the badge below to see an example:


A Badge stands for an accomplishment, and must communicate this clearly and credibly to both the earner and anyone who could potentially be evaluating the earner’s qualifications. Further, since Badges can be awarded in real-time, they can be used as milestone markers in formative assessment.

Two of the main ingredients in making these things possible are Hierarchy and Evidence.

Suggesting Trajectories

Many out-of-school learning experiences either lose cohesion after the initial stages of engagement, or stop altogether because the learner has no idea where to go next. Providing a Mapped Pathway like the one below offers several key advantages:

Pathway Example

First, this Pathway is concrete, illustrated as a sequence of Badge-slots that lead to an end goal. The trajectory illustrated begins with an introductory-level experience; a startlingly high percent of learners who engage in introductory-level experiences never progress beyond that level. The presentation of this suggested trajectory informs the learner about further opportunities, and provides a viable “default” path forward.

Second, that goal and the steps leading up to it are aligned directly with a specific learning framework, in this case the Computer Science Principles standards under development by the College Board in collaboration with the National Science Foundation. Progressing along this trajectory is, by nature, progressing in the pursuit of recognized Computer Science skillsets. Pathways can also be aligned with Industry certifications.

Documenting Flexible Trajectories

Eligible Achievements

It is important to note that each “blank slot” in the Pathway can be filled by a number of eligible Badges. These Badges can be earned in a class setting, an out-of-school setting, or even a combination of the two. The Basic Programming slot can be filled with a Badge earned in any programming language, with any physical, digital, or simulation-based curriculum tools, so long as they cover the applicable skills and document them with the applicable evidence.

Artifacts and Evidence

The circular slots in the bottom half of the Pathway are a portfolio-style collection of Project-scale activities that the learner selects to serve as evidence of his or her proficiency in key topic areas. The seven slots in the illustration above align with the seven Big Ideas in the CS Principles Standards Framework.


Part of the core functionality of Badges is their ability to call attention to the qualifications of their owners. To that end, it is important that the badges be both portable and machine-discoverable.


No Badge is an island. All Badges are part of a larger ecosystem of delivering, assessing, and credentialing learning. Thanks to the recent and ongoing efforts of the Mozilla Foundation and the extended badging community, a standard data format for the interchange of Badge systems across the internet has been created: the Open Badge Infrastructure, or OBI.

The OBI allows badge Issuers to grant badges to earners, then export them in a standardized format to any Backpack – a service that specializes in collecting and arranging badges from multiple sources – and from there (or directly) to a Displayer , a service such as Facebook or LinkedIn that specializes in the presentation of qualifications and credentials.

All medium and large CS2N badges are free to export into the OBI ecosystem, for any user over the age of 13.

Machine Discoverability

Machine Discoverability

In a world where the relevance of information is contingent upon the ability of search engines to uncover it, a digital Badge provides its earner a unique advantage. By embedding an invisible packet of specially formatted information – Learning Resource Metadata Initiative (LRMI) metadata – CS2N badges can be easily discovered, understood, and filed correctly by major search engines and learning management systems.

The LRMI format is widely supported – it was created in direct collaboration with major search engine providers and educational systems developers such as Pearson, and is slated for integration into the WWW-wide Schema.org project that defines the major recognizable classifications of information on the internet.

Moreover, the key piece of information captured by this data is Standards alignment. This means that not only are LRMI-tagged badges discoverable, but they tell search engines and educational databases directly what Standards-aligned skillsets the badges represent.

CS2N large badges, and most medium badges, contain embedded LRMI information that allows them to be discovered, indexed, and associated with the correct Standards by any online system.

Labview logo

Badges are records of accomplishments, but not all accomplishments are equally relevant. The top tier of CS2N Badges – Certifications – represent real-world credentials that are already valued and defined by industry, academia, and other key stakeholder groups. By aligning Pathway outcomes with milestones that already have cultural and representational validity, the value proposition of pursuing completion becomes clearer, and the risk of “reinventing the wheel” is removed.

CS2N’s first Pathways are aligned toward the Computer Science Principles framework – the forerunner work for what is expected to become the entry-level Advanced Placement Computer Science exam – and the National Instruments Certified LabVIEW Associate Developer Certification, an industry-standard first-level certification in the visual programming language that powers LEGO MINDSTORMS robots, but also sophisticated aerospace laboratory equipment and self-driving cars.


While the mnemonic may suggest a certain panacean quality to Badges, our own perspective contains a far healthier dose of scientific skepticism. As a new area of research, a reasoned understanding of Badges must be based in both the predictions of existing theories of learning science, and the emerging base of badge-specific research.

You can visit our Research section for a selection of background and ongoing Badge-specific research.


In order to create a compelling value proposition for educators, the benefits of a new system need to outweigh the cost of switching from the old one. Thankfully, Badges can be used to power a broad range of powerful tools and generate compelling new opportunities for teachers, coaches, and mentors alike.

Automated Assessment Tools

One of the main design tenets of CS2N Badges is that they should support both formative and summative assessment. As the frontline facilitators of learning, this means that teachers are the foremost beneficiaries of formative assessment tools that leverage the “badge trail” students leave as they progress through an activity to create automated reports and alerts about student progress, mastery, and especially any lack thereof.

Professional Development and Certification Opportunities

Badges represent qualifications and help those with specific skillsets to stand out. Teaching itself is a skill that can be recognized, assessed, and ultimately Badged. CS2N Teaching Badges are instructor certifications that are awarded through a combination of Professional Development training and demonstrated mastery.

In addition to the inherent benefits of being able to represent and provide evidence of his or her qualifications, a CS2N badged instructor is granted the exclusive rights to endorse student work in the courses he or she is trained in. Instructor endorsement upgrades key student badges from the standard version to “gold” status, reflecting the higher level of validation that the credential has now received, and the accordingly greater confidence that can legitimately be conferred upon its claims.

To learn more about our research, go to the research page »