Badges Work for Vets


The information contained in this project appendix was gathered from the original project proposal that was funded in 2012 and interviews with project leaders through the end of 2014.  This appendix and the overall design principles database from the DPD project does not reflect further evolution of the project or developments after the final interview that took place in 2014. As of the final interview, Badges Work for Vets had issued badges and developed a functioning badge system. Based on the information, we have classified the this system as an implemented  (rather than a partial or suspended) badge system.


Badges Work for Vets is a veteran-run initiative that aims to translate military training and experience to civilian skills accessible to potential employers. Two seasoned veterans and a trained veteran psychologist worked together to form a badging system that both highlights veterans’ skills and positions them in a workforce network, increasing potential employment.

The extensive data contained in open digital badges sets this project apart from other employability efforts in that employers have access to a veteran’s military history – including skills and accolades – alongside a translation of how that history translates to the civilian workforce. Badges for Vets is an effort to recognize prior learning and achievement among this population in a way that would be understandable by the audiences to which they wish to present their qualifications in post-military life: civilian employers. The system allows an employer to search for veterans within a specified radius and offer them an opportunity to sit for an interview. Originally, making veterans’ skills salient for employers and fostering this employer-veteran relationship were the project’s sole goals. However, soon after the site was launched, the veterans began using the site to connect with other veterans. The digital badges worked to make accolades and experiences salient for other veterans, which helped them connect to one another. The Badges Work for Vets team was initially surprised at this second layer of interaction, but are encouraging it by adding new veterans to the site daily.

Evolving Practices and Design Principles

What follows is a list of practices as they relate to the general and more specific design principles in each category of practice. The headings name a (a) General Principle, (b) Specific principle, (c) Specific practice. Below each heading, we indicate what stages this principle appeared in the project: as an (a) intended practice, (b) enacted practice, or (c) formalized continuing practice.

Design Principles for Recognizing Learning

The badging project planned for the badges to receive endorsement from external organizations in conveying the skills represented by a badge. To this end, the effort aimed to translate the skills of veterans to meaningful terms that are easily understood by a civilian workforce.

Use badges as a means of external communication of learning > Endorsement and translation of skills

Intended, enacted, formal

Badges Work for Vets intended for their badges to be recognized by employers as credentials signifying their civilian skill sets. They also intended for their badges to be recognized by the Veteran’s Administration, however the project has yet to gain recognition from the VA. There is also an effort to connect to other veterans groups, but no formal relationships have been formed as of yet.

Promote discovery > Discover learners > Promote badge earners’ skills to employers

Intended, enacted, formal.

The core purpose of the badge system was to enable employers to identify veterans who had the skills they were looking for by helping those employers understand how veterans’ military skills translated to the ones necessary in the civilian workplace. Additionally, veterans began to discover other veterans on the website, fostering a digital community of individuals with shared interests.

Design Principles for Assessing Learning in Digital Badge Systems

Rather than assess veterans’ military and civilian skills, the goal of Badges Work for Vets is to develop a system within which veterans can translate their military skills to civilian skills and mark those with badges. These badges then serve as a tool for employers to use when assessing a veteran applicant’s qualifications for a specific job. Some skills are readily transferable from military to civilian skills, but for those that are not so readily transferrable, the project intends to hire a “script writer” or “skills translator” to rewrite the military skills. These translations would be included in the metadata of the badge.

Use leveled badge systems > Competency levels > Translation of skills

Intended, enacted, formal.

The project intended to hire people to aid in “translating” military skills to civilian skills. They had some trouble with this at the start, and after going through several avenues including hiring a graduate student, they ended up doing most of the translation themselves. Some of the concerns that arose in the translation process related to older veterans’ skills possibly being “out of date,” as well as a more general concern that the translations might lead to dividing the veterans into classes. While the military does assign levels, a major goal of Badges Work for Vets is to build a sustainable veteran community.

Design Principles for Motivating Learning

This program hopes to provide veterans a way to take the skills and experience they gained while serving in the military and translate them into terms easily understood by the general public. In this way, badges will showcase veterans’ skills, enabling them to find employment. Badges provide an easy way for prospective employers to understand the valuable assets that veterans bring to the table.

Build outside value for badges > Evidence for outside opportunities > Potential to gain employment

Intended, enacted, formal.

The goal of having the veterans report their skill and display badges is to make a profile visible to potential employers who may offer them an opportunity to interview for a job. Because earning these badges may be connected to future employment, badge developers hope to motivate veterans to earn badges. Ultimately, the project hopes to help veterans gain opportunities for employment by translating their military skills into civilian skills.

Recognize identities > Targets a specific group > Veterans

Intended, enacted, formal.

This badge project is specifically targeted toward veterans. Because only veterans are able to earn badges within this project, they may feel a sense of community and a solidified identity about their status.

Engage with community > Involvement in digital community >Network with community members

Not intended, enacted, formal.

While the Badges Work for Vets project did not intentionally foster networking opportunities between veterans, the community members have been using the system to reach out to fellow veterans. They are building friendships and mentorships without any prompting from the designers. As it turns out, communication with other veterans, in the context of profiles connected to their military experience, was highly motivating to get veterans involved on the site, even when those participants were not actively looking for employment.

Design Principles for Studying Learning

Badges Work for Vets employed research practices to collect data and metrics on the badge system. The initiative observed the users of the badge system as well as their behaviors and habits. With this in mind, the effort measured the impact and utility of the badges.

Study badge impact>Research OF badges > Data collection and analysis

Intended, enacted, not formal.

The project employed descriptive statistics (DPD Follow-up Interview). Based on the data collected, the project saw the veterans see their skills represented by badges in meaningful ways, and the hiring officers responded positively to the translation of infantry skills to civilian terms. The badging initiative asked who were the users and whether they were looking for work. Veterans fill out training profiles on the website. At the same time, the project does not plan to conduct formal analysis of the site on a continuing basis (DPD Follow-up Interview).


Badges for Vets. (n.a.). Badges for Vets: Helping Jobs Find Veterans. Helping Veterans Find

Jobs DML Stage 1 Proposal. Retrieved from

Badges for Vets. (n.a.). Badges for Vets DML Stage 2 Proposal. Retrieved from http://


Burg, E., Sparkman, B., & Taylor, R. (2012, September 5). DPD Initial Interview.

Burg, E., Sparkman, B., & Taylor, R. (2014, January 30). DPD Follow-up Interview.

Project Q&A with: Badges for Vets. (2013, July 1). HASTAC. Retrieved from

Recognizing Principles Assessing Principles Motivating Principles Studying Principles
Specific principles: Specific principles: Specific principles:

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Mozilla Open Badges
Digital Badges are web-enabled credentials of learning or accomplishment. -Erin Knight, director of the Badge Alliance
Badges contain detailed claims about learning, links to actual evidence of learning, and they're shareable over the web. -Dan Hickey, DPD Project Lead Investigator
To me, digital badges represent the bridge between formal learning & informal structures. -Alex Halavais, DML research competition winner
Open Badges can help people tell a verifiable story about their accomplishments. -Nate Otto, DPD Project coordinator
Regardless of where you start, it’s more than likely you’ll end up somewhere other than your intended destination. That’s okay. Systems are living things, and your badge system needs to be flexible. You must embrace a bit of chaos in its design. -Carla Casilli, Director of Design + Practice at the Badge Alliance