StoryCorps U


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, StoryCorp U had not developed a functioning badge system or issued badges. Based on this information, we have classified the Storycorp U badge system as suspended (rather than an implemented or partial) badge system.


A component of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting’s American Graduate: Let’s Make it Happen initiative, the program, StoryCorps, envisioned the development of a badge system to build media literacy and storytelling skills. As explained on their website, “StoryCorps is the acclaimed American oral history project… helping the country recognize the power and value in the stories we find all around us, teaching the importance of listening and helping us realize that every story counts and every life matters equally” ( Branching off from StoryCorps, StoryCorpsU offers a College Readiness Curriculum for high schools to incorporate into their classrooms. StoryCorpsU introduces “an interactive, year-long youth development program for high-need schools that uses StoryCorps radio broadcasts and animated shorts to support the development of identity and social intelligence in students” ( The program encourages teachers and students to employ their curriculum in a formal classroom setting, striving to increase student retention and boost college readiness.

The program features a curriculum in which students record audio clips and participate in the creation of media on Voicethread. As it stands, the program’s curricular activities involve a manual process in which students record audio files and upload to FTP. The StoryCorps team listen and transcribe the files, causing a prolonged process with less feedback. The program elaborates that “students listen to StoryCorps stories and or view StoryCorps animations, then participate in discussions to analyze, think critically about, and reflect on the interview segments, making connections between the stories and their own lives” ( Given this workflow, the initiative aimed to monitor progress within the program through the development of digital badges, integrating the badges into an existing curriculum.

The badge development initiative envisioned the design of a portfolio-style system that would showcase badges earned through StoryCorp. A critical question the project discussed was where students spent their time learning and completing activities, leading to the recognition that students engaged with one another on the Voicethread website for a substantial amount of time (DPD Initial Interview). To this end, the effort would need to develop an API for Voicethread where badges can be displayed. While the project initially wanted to integrate with the Voicethread online multimedia platform, advancing with this plan presented roadblocks in the implementation of the badge system, for the involvement of a third-party platform would entail time and resources beyond the scope of the project. As of the DPD follow-up interview, the project has suspended further development on the digital badge system.

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 envisioned that it would align digital badges to standards, such as 21st Century Skills and Common Core State Standards. Additionally, the project planned to design a leveled badge structure. In other words, individual badges would add up to a collection or set of overall skills.

Align badges to standards > Use national or international standards > Alignment to 21st Century Skills

Intended, not enacted, not formal.

StoryCorps initially planned to align badges to 21st Century Skills, such as critical thinking, collaboration, creative problem-solving and teamwork, in addition to skills acquired during the development of digital media. These include project management, research, communication, and leadership skills, in addition to technology and written communication skills, cultivating their capacity for audio or video recording and editing, interviewing, producing, and directing, among others.

The project has not continued development on this practice, for the implementation of the proposal would have involved the significant participation of a third-party platform, VoiceThread, obstructing further construction of the badge development system.

Use badges to map learning trajectories > Level badges > Build a structure of levels

Intended, not enacted, not formal.

The project proposal indicated that digital badges would acknowledge specific skills while combining them together. StoryCorps has not progressed with this practice, given the challenges presented in carrying out their badge system plans that would require VoiceThread to make modifications to meet the badge system’s goals.

Design Principles for Assessing Learning in Digital Badge Systems

In light of badge system plans, StoryCorps aimed to develop assessments that would measure learning and provide evidence of learners’ skills. The initiative envisioned the development of measurements for both collaborative and technical skills. Additionally, the project aimed to align assessments to standards that would provide a common framework for which to view and interpret skills.

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

Intended, not enacted, not formal.

StoryCorps aimed to develop a range of “hard” and “soft” skills. The project “envision[ed] the creation of a flexible American Graduate badge system that will accommodate skill sets that are common throughout all of the educational resources, such as the development of 21st Century Skills” (DML Stage 1 Proposal). The effort has not advanced this principle, because the project has not implemented its badge system.

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

Intended, not enacted, not formal.

The initiative intended to design multiple measures of assessment that align to the Common Core State Standards. Since StoryCorps did not fully build out its badge system, it has not proceeded with aligning assessment activities to standards.

Design Principles for Motivating Learning

As one of three projects affiliated with American Graduate, StoryCorps planned to create badges to boost student engagement and encourage them to take advantage of all the resources the program offers. Badges earned could also supply evidence of employability when students start searching for jobs. The goal of the program is to motivate students to begin the program, persist, and leverage the experience to ultimately attend college and develop their careers.

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

Intended, not enacted, not formal.

Badges would appear to motivate earners by providing visible evidence of employability and college preparedness. StoryCorps explained that “[t]he skills that students can develop through American Graduate are highly relevant, important and valuable to their future education and career worlds; consequently, 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). The project has not gone forward with this practice, as it suspended development given the challenges in implementing their vision of a badge system connected to the VoiceThread platform.

Engage with the community > Involvement in the digital community > Website interaction

Intended, not enacted, not formal.

Through badges, StoryCorps U hoped to motivate students to work on their website (as opposed to Twitter, Facebook, etc.) and leverage badges to boost engagement in an online curriculum. As the project has not built its badge system, however, it has not put this principle into practice.

Design Principles for Studying Learning

The project planned to conduct research on the badge system. As StoryCorps has not fully constructed its badge system, the effort has not proceeded with carrying out studies and collecting data.

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

Intended, not enacted, not formal.

StoryCorps was interested in digital literacy skills that are represented in the badges and how they affect future educational endeavors. On the other hand, the project has not carried out this principle, given that development is halted on the badge system.


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.

StoryCorps. (n.d.). About StoryCorpsU. Retrieved from

StoryCorpsU. (n.d.). About StoryCorpsU. 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