Roadtrip Nation


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, Roadtrip Nation badges and badge system were still in development. Based on this information, we have classified this badge system as a partial  (rather than an implemented or suspended) badge system.


As part of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting’s American Graduate: Let’s Make it Happen digital badge initiative in the MacArthur Foundation/Digital Media & Learning Badges for Lifelong Learning competition, Roadtrip Nation envisioned the development of a badge system that would present evidence of students’ learning, skills, and abilities to colleges and employers. Roadtrip Nation is an oral-history program that focuses cultivating the skills of students in communication and digital literacy. The program website explains that Roadtrip Nation “empowers students to map their interests to future pathways in life” (Roadtrip Nation). To this end, the project effort sought to design badges, document learning, and equip students with a portfolio of evidence that would prepare them for college and their careers.

Although Roadtrip Nation has existed for well over fifteen years, since 2008 the program “has been creating innovative self-discovery resources” ( Offering an array of resources, the initiative strove to engage students further, increase student retention, and boost college completion rates. The Roadtrip Nation curricula can be adopted for “both traditional and non-traditional environments, giving youth everywhere the chance to define their own roads in life” ( In addition to having created a curriculum, the project had already issued and displayed badges on its website. In their badge system, students have been earning badges and talking about their achievements in the forums. The badge design effort aimed to develop digital badges that would be integrated into the program’s existing curriculum.

Roadtrip Nation intended to add badges to an existing curriculum and website that already awards badges. The original badges were participation oriented in which students earn a badge for finishing an activity. The new badges would have focused on the actual learning that occurred in the activities at a greater level of detail. In this sense, the project planned to use new badge credentials to supplement pre-existing activities and fine-grained quantitative badges. To this effort, Roadtrip Nation expressed an interest in exploring assessments for learning and rewarding youth for their success. As the project issued engagement badges, the effort planned to develop new badges that would be appropriate to attach evidence for employers to see. Based on the DML proposal plans, culminating badges would have been OBI-compliant, but the move to adopt this change was not practical for the existing community. Because students are already engaging in the activities on the site, it was not viable for the initiative to introduce a new system of recognition midway into the process. Rather than designing a new set of OBI-compliant badges, Roadtrip Nation decided to continue running the badge system already in place prior to  the start of the DML competition.

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 digital badge initiative awards badges for a broad array of skills. While the badges are not mapped to a specific set of standards, they acknowledge students for a range of skills and abilities, including those encompassed by the 21st Century Skills framework and highlighting students’ collaborative and communication skills. Although the project does not implement a leveled badge structure, Roadtrip Nation awards badges to students for accumulating a number of points for completing program activities.

Recognize diverse learning > Acknowledge students for both hard and soft skills

Intended, enacted, formal.

Roadtrip Nation intended to recognize diverse learning, aligning badges to the model of 21st Century Skills. Originally, the badges already issued by the project offered acknowledgement for an array of skills. Roadtrip Nation strove to persist in recognizing diverse learning, as it implemented its DML proposal and developed badges attached with evidence. In the implementation, the effort has resumed with its initial badge system, which continues to recognize diverse skills.

Use badges to map learning trajectories > Level badges > Levels

Intended, not enacted, not formal.

The badge development effort aimed to design credentials for individual skills while also aggregating them into sets. Roadtrip Nation already provides a collection of engaging educational resources, offering the opportunity to create a system of badges across all American Graduate educational resources that would highlight the skills and competencies developed by participating students. One of the  project’s challenges is to identify all the skills students can attain while participating with these resources and design a system of badges that recognizes both individual skill sets, while also providing recognition of the aggregate set of skills achieved by these students. In the constructed badge system, Roadtrip Nation realized that their original badge system better fits the goals they want to achieve. While the effort has not developed a leveled structure of badges, in the existing badge system, students can earn points that accumulate and lead to badges, which represent specific skills.

Design Principles for Assessing Learning in Digital Badge Systems

Roadtrip Nation planned to develop assessments to measure learning and collect evidence of skills and abilities represented by badges. As the project proceeded with carrying out its DML proposal, it realized that its original badge system model better suited the purposes of their organization. In light of this, Roadtrip Nation chose to continue with its initial model, halting further development of assessments for learning recognized by badges.

Promote “hard” and “soft” skills > Combination of collaborative learning and discrete skills >  Opportunity to build skills across curriculum

Intended, not enacted, not formal.

The initiative planned to design activities and assessments to measure and promote a range of skills and competencies. As described in their DML Stage 1 Proposal, “[s]tudents are not required to participate in and complete each of the available American Graduate educational resources. Rather, a menu of resources is being developed for the Initiative, and will be made available to educators and students through their local Public Media Community Hub stations” (DML Stage 1 Proposal). In the badge system implementation, Roadtrip Nation decided to stay with their initial model and does not employ assessments linked to receiving badges.

Align assessment activities to standards: create measurable learning objectives > Common Core State Standards > Development of assessment practices within project

Intended, not enacted, not formal.

The badge development project aimed to address multiple measures of assessment and align those measures to standards. Roadtrip Nation recognized that their badging practices embody completion practices and intended to move toward more assessment practices. As of the DPD Follow-up Interview, the project does not align assessment activities to standards. Rather, it continues to run its original badge system model.

Design Principles for Motivating Learning

Roadtrip Nation, one of three badge design efforts affiliated with American Graduate, aimed to issue badges as a vehicle to further engage students and motivate them to more fully explore the resources that the program has to offer. The badge system rewards students for accomplishing tasks and activities, encouraging them to persist in learning and tackling new challenges. In addition, digital badges map the trajectories of learning that students take, boosting their motivation to continue on their learning paths.

Set goals > Display of goal trajectory > Link badges to students’ learning trajectories

Intended, enacted, formal

The digital badge initiative planned to show students’ learning trajectories with badges. Although the initiative decided to resume with its initial badge system, the project’s original model had already carried out this function and continues to showcase the pathways of student learning.

Set goals > User-determined goal trajectory > Enable students to set the pace of their learning

Intended, enacted, formal.

The badge development project aimed to design badges in which users would be able to determine their goal trajectories. In the existing badge system, users are able to set the pace in which they earn their badges and design their own learning experience.

Give badges for small accomplishments to hook in learners > Award badges to motivate learners and increase engagement

Intended, enacted, formal.

The original badges that Roadtrip Nation issued carried the intention that they would reward learners for small accomplishments, engaging them in persisting with the activities and developing their skills further. Since the project chose to stay consistent with their initial badge system framework, the badge system still employs this practice.

Build outside value for badges > Evidence for outside opportunities > Employability/college readiness

Intended, not enacted, not formal.

The initiative envisioned that badges would motivate learners by offering evidence of employability and college readiness. The proposal described that the project’s “goal is to ensure that students gain appropriate recognition for their work and are able to leverage skills mastered as they pursue their education and careers. . . .having the ability to show evidence of these skills and competencies can help students achieve advancement through formal channels, continue their education, find career paths and ultimately get jobs” (DML Stage 1 Proposal). Because Roadtrip Nation implements its original badge system design, the project does not carry out this practice. Instead, the badge system offers badges mainly to motivate learners in completing the activities.

Design Principles for Studying Learning

Roadtrip Nation intended to conduct research on the implementation of their proposed badge system design. As of the DPD Follow-up Interview, rather than transitioning to their proposed badge development plans, the project decided to stay the course with their original badge system model. In light of this, the project has not carried out studies on the badge system proposed designs.

Improve badge impact > Research FOR badges > Student impact of badges

Intended, not enacted, not formal.

The badge system planned for an exploration of how involvement in the programs is changing student understanding and participation. As the project has not continued with its DML proposal plans, this practice has not been implemented.


Corporation for Public Broadcasting: American Graduate Initiative Badges. (n.d.). DML Stage 1

Proposal. Retrieved from


Corporation for Public Broadcasting: American Graduate Initiative Badges. (n.d.). DML Stage 1

Proposal. Retrieved from


Kruse, S. (2012, August 29). DPD Initial Interview.

Kruse, S. (2014, December 4). DPD Follow-up Interview.

Roadtrip Nation. (n.d.). About Roadtrip Nation. Retrieved from


Roadtrip Nation. (n.d.). About Retrieved from


Roadtrip Nation. (n.d.). Programs. 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