Microsoft Partners in Learning Network Badges


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, Microsoft’s Partners in Learning had issued badges and developed a functioning badge system. Based on the information, we have classified this badge system as an implemented (rather than a partial or suspendedbadge system.


Microsoft developed a badge system for the Partners in Learning Network (PiLN) of educators and school leaders to promote technological competencies and relevant skills in today’s digital age. A worldwide initiative, the Microsoft Partners in Learning organization aims to equip educators with the capacity to teach information & communications technology (ICT) and 21st century skills.  They argued, “The abundance of knowledge, resources, and accessibility to information available today requires a different approach from the generic one-size fits all engagement models of the past”  (DML Stage 1 Proposal). Given rapid technological advancement, the project built a system of recognition and assessment to assist educators in their professional development. The project envisioned the construction of a badge system to recognize educators for their abilities and accomplishments.

PiLN built a system with existing content structures and a technological platform in place. Their goal was to ensure that their badging system integrated well with the OBI (HASTAC Q&A). The project integrated badges into its original programs, serving to share and acknowledge the achievements of educators.

The effort outlined the development of two main types of badges: (1) Designation Badges and (2) Activity Badges. Designation Badges are awarded for completing two courses, which are Microsoft Fundamentals and Teaching with Technology. The badge system issues Activity Badges as a quantitative measure of activity and interaction to promote community involvement. Additionally, Activity Badges are awarded for accomplishments in the Partners in Learning Regional and Global Forum competitions, which further emphasizes educators’ identities.

Figure 1.

Figure 1.

The main goal of Activity badges in the PiLN is to “encourage continual engagement and drive activity” within the network (DML Stage 1 Proposal). To this end, the badging effort designed points that when accumulated lead to a metabadge that speaks to the role and identities of educators (Figure 1).  By accumulating points, educators can earn badges that showcase their identities and demonstrate their capacity to equip students with technological skillsets.

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

PiLN aligned their badge systems to standards of the UNESCO Competency Framework for Teachers (CFT). Moreover, the initiative issues badges to educators and encourages them to discover new learning resources and opportunities that had not originally been accessible or recognized. The badges appreciate educators for their knowledge and capacity to teach technological skills.

Align badges to standards > Use national or international standards > Alignment to UNESCO Competency Framework for Teachers (CFT)

Intended, enacted, formal.

The badging system planned to align badges to standards. They envisioned that the training modules would vary from short, digestible technology-focused transactions to more formalized PD aligned to the UNESCO framework and competencies. The project mapped some badges to standards of accredited institutions and agencies.

Recognize educator learning distinctively > Issue badges to educators

Intended, enacted, formal.

The project’s focus was on awarding educators badges with the intention of teaching them to use innovative techniques with Microsoft technology. The program offered professional development opportunities through the courses offered on the platform.

Promote discovery > Discover learning opportunities > Find new classroom resources

Intended, enacted, formal.

PiLN intended to help educators gain access to new tools and curricular material that  teach ICT and 21st century skills. Lianne Morgan, Solutions Director of Wire Stone, asserted that the focus was to drive engagement with professional development (PD) and introduce educators to tools through the courses. She explained that “the badge system is really set up to drive engagement with PD and engagement with Microsoft programs, like the Microsoft Expert Educator Program or the Microsoft Innovative Tools program, where we wrap PD courses, PD in-person training around schools and educators to drive use with the tools” (DPD Follow-up Interview). Overall, the badge system enables educators to discover and access new tools they can apply in their classrooms.

Design Principles for Assessing Learning in Digital Badge Systems

PiLN built a leveled badge structure, awarding metabadges for an accumulation of points within the system. Additionally, the project integrates computer scoring systems in reviewing evidence to strengthen the validity of the learning claims made by badges. PiLN designed assessments for badges that are aligned to UNESCO’s Competency Framework for Teachers.

Align assessment activities to standards: create measurable learning objectives > National/State standards > Alignment to UNESCO’s Competency Framework for Teachers (CFT)

Intended, enacted, formal.

The badge system aimed to develop assessments for UNESCO’s CFT. The project implemented measurements for skills and competencies before issuing badges aligned to the standards.

Use leveled badging systems > Metabadges > Award badges for accumulating points

Intended, not enacted, not formal.

The project envisioned badges that would be available to teachers and industry professionals after earning points for activities that would lead up to the badge. Specifically, they planned a hierarchical system of points, badges,  and designations. With these categories, they aimed to use badges to recognize increased participation and skill improvement.

In the badge system implementation, the project has focused on simplifying their efforts. Morgan asserted that the project looked at the “underbelly of the badging infrastructure…[and] made a big turn away from complexity and kept badges at a one-to-one level” (DPD Follow-up Interview). She elaborated, “The more that we evaluated that and started writing requirements… the more we said that we’ve got to keep this simple and make sure that it’s one-to-one interactions that do not add a lot of complexity around laddering badges, laddering learning, and laddering engagement around reputation management” (DPD Follow-up Interview). To effectively carry out the badge system, the project concentrated on a streamlined form of the badge earning process. Further, Scott Burmester, Partners in Learning Network Manager, added, “the more complex that is, the more development resources you need in order to build that underlying support engine, which then takes away from other priorities on network…and unfortunately takes away from development resources that work on other parts of the network” (DPD Follow-up Interview). The decision to simplify the badge design enabled Partners in Learning Network to allocate its development resources in a reasonable manner and run the badge system more effectively.

Enhance validity with expert judgment > Use computer scoring systems > Employ computer-based scoring to assess validity of learning

Intended, enacted, formal.

PiLN planned for a computer scoring system to validate the claims made by badges about learning and skill development. Morgan illustrated this principle with the course Teaching with Technology, which is aligned to the UNESCO competency framework.  Educators complete assessments, administered through an online scoring system and developed by teachers and psychometricians (DPD Follow-up Interview).

Design Principles for Motivating Learning

The badging initiative enables educators to display their badges to others in the community. This functionality can highlight their identities and roles, motivating educators to pursue further professional development. Further, the project sustains engagement through promoting collaboration between educators and the capacity for them to share insights and knowledge with one another.

Display badges to the public > Learners can choose to share their badges with others > Badges made public on profile pages within PiLN

Intended, enacted, formal.

The badge system intended for learners to be able to share their badges with the broader community on their profile page. This enables users to display their badges to others and share their skills and accomplishments with the broader community.

Recognize identities > Roles within a system > Acknowledge the achievements and competencies of educators

Intended, enacted, formal.

The badge system intended to recognize the identities of educators by displaying them in the form of badges earned. In this way, badges help illustrate educators’ accomplishments and capabilities.

Promote collaboration > Personal badge that is earned through collaboration > Professional development

Intended, not enacted, not formal.

PiLN aimed to motivate earners by providing evidence of participation in professional development activities. The badge system provides educators with an opportunity to connect with peers and administrators, and share classroom practices. This may impact motivation by fostering collaboration in the pursuit of further professional development. However, the badge system has not developed a badge that is awarded on the sole basis of collaboration (DPD Follow-up Interview).

Design Principles for Studying Learning

While Partners in Learning did not initially specify any research practices in their DML Stage 1 Proposal, the badging effort later indicated the intent to analyze the impact of the badging system and shared the data that it collected on the project. In light of this, Partner in Learning signals the objective of evaluating the effectiveness of the initiative.

Study badge impact >Research OF badges> Data collected on usage and participation

Intended, enacted, not formal.

The project did not articulate specific research practices in their initial proposal. However, on the HASTAC Q&A, they indicated that the system would be analyzed. They have worked with hundreds of teachers, and their work within the system has provided copious data. The project collected data on the badging system, noting the metrics of how many badges have been awarded.


Partners in Learning Network. (n.d.). Microsoft: Partners in Learning Network Badges DML

Stage 1 Proposal. Retrieved from


Project Q&A with: Partners in Learning Network Badges. (2013, July 1). HASTAC. Retrieved


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