Helpful Resources for Evaluating Educational Products

 How do you decide upon an educational product? Do you use a systematic process, go with your gut, choose what is most popular, or perhaps go with suggestions from trusted colleagues? The task of sifting through thousands of options can be overwhelming, evening impossible. However, when you do look at a product or narrow down your list, there are resources to help you evaluate it. This is not a 5-minute process, but if you are going to make a significant investment and/or make a decision that impacts students, it calls for a deliberate, systematic review. A careful review of educational products is hard work, but our students are worth it. In fact, you could even involve students in using one or more of these tools to help review products.

9 Questions for Evaluating Educational Innovation – This short document gives you a helpful list of important questions to ask when you are evaluating educational products. It is simple but gets at many of the important factors to consider when selecting a product or service.

The Pearson Efficacy Framework – Pearson Education created a framework for evaluating the efficacy of educational products. This report outlines that process. It is a longer document (56 pages), but it is well worth the time and effort to read. It will give you a robust understanding of what sort of factors to consider when you are reviewing educational products.

The Online Efficacy Tool – This is really just an extension of last resources. It is a link to a tool created by Person to evaluate educational products. It will take you through the review of a product based upon outcomes, evidence, planning and implementation and capacity to deliver (the broad categories included in the Pearson Efficacy Framework).

Conducting and Report Product Evaluation Research – Many companies provide “research” to back up the value of their product. This document is a guide for companies on how to conduct such studies of their products. It comes from the Software and Information Industry Association. Reading this will give you a better understanding of how to judge the quality of a research report about a given educational product.

How to Evaluate Educational Software and Products – This is an old resource (from 2000), but the list of things to consider/review is still excellent. It is a short two-page resource with a robust list of considerations.

Want to issue open badges? Here are some options.

NOTE: If you notice a service in this list that is no longer active or you see one that is missing, please use the form at the bottom of the post to submit changes.

As I’ve written a bit about micro-credentials and digital badges this year, I have a growing number of people asking me about how they can start designing and issuing badges. While I like getting into the strategic planning part of things, most of these questions are just about what tools and technologies exist to issue badges. So, this post is my initial answer to that question.

Of course, one’s decision depends upon a number of factors: goals, desired features, essential features, reporting requirements, technical acumen, financial resources, whether there is need for long-term record-keeping, whether the badges are part of a formal academic offering, etc. Nonetheless, here is my rough draft list of some current options for badge design and issuing solutions. This is not an exhaustive list, but it does introduce you to a variety of current possibilities.

My one criterion for including an option is that it is compliant with the Mozilla Open Badge Infrastructure. If it is just a closed badging system, I’m leaving it off the list for now (my apologies to groups like Schoology). This is a fast-moving time in the badge world, so new players are likely to emerge. For this reason, as you look through this list, you will see that many of these are still in beta. That is also something to keep in mind as you consider your options.

Like everything I write on this blog, this is a rough draft. So, I would appreciate help expanding and improving it. If you have any more commentary on one of these options (including if you are from one of the companies mentioned in the list), please consider including a suggested description or revision in the comment area. I will review the comments occasionally and use them to update the article. Also, if you know or learn about other badge issuing solutions, please consider listing and describing them in the comment area. I will incorporate them granted that they meet my one criterion. Finally, I have a couple of emails out to some companies on this list, asking for help describing their product, especially those that I was not able to try out for myself. I will use their replies to improve the list also.

Acclaim Open Badges – This solution from Pearson allows trusted Universities, schools and organizations the chance to issue badges, while also giving the recipient a, “secure way to share online that they have achieved something important. They focus on working with clients that are “high-stakes credentialing organizations and academic institutions.

Achievery – This is a robust stand-alone or integrated solution for creating, issuing and displaying badges. If you are an academic institution or organization, you can sign up to participate in their public beta. Like most betas, know that there is no guarantee that it will continue to be free or even come out of beta. UPDATE: On April 8, 2015 Achievery announced that they will suspend their badge issuing services.

BadgeForge (site not active as of March 2016) – This is yet another beta that allows you to design, create, review submissions, and issue badges. It also includes options for badge earners to “set their own goals and earn their own recognition in the form of badges.” As such, this is a promising model for self-directed and student-centered project-based learning educational settings.

BadgeCraft – This is an option that is currently issuing badges in multiple languages, and can be easily and quickly translated into other languages. – Added 1/5/16

BadgeList – This is includes an option to create groups. Then you can easily issue badges. It allows for one to also “create and organize” evidence of learning.” – Added 7/30/14

BadgeOS – This free WordPress plug-in from LearningTimes (connected to Credly) allows you to design, review submissions, and issue badges right through your WordPress blog. I love how this plug-in allows for easy submission of evidence and a means of reviewing and having a text-based conversation with the submitter through a private comment tool. There is a growing number of free or inexpensive extensions that allow added features like leaderboards and reports.

BadgeKit – This kit of tools from Mozilla provides a solution for “creating, designing, assessing, and issuing badges.” Right now, this option is a private beta, but if you the technical acumen, you can download the open source code from GitHub and run it on your own server.

Added by Jade Forester of the Badge Alliance on 7/30/14 –

The hosted version of BadgeKit is being used for select partners in the 2014 Cities of Learning initiative ( If your organization has the technical resources, you can host BadgeKit on your own servers by downloading the code from Github ( A tutorial for this process is available here:

Alternatively, there are a number of other badge issuing options available – we’ve put a list of offerings from a number of badge issuing partners on our wiki:

Badgr at Concentric Sky – Badgr is a free and open source achievement recognition and tracking system used to issue, organize, and share Open Badges.

Blackboard Learn – If your organization uses Blackboard for an LMS, then you are ready to issue badges. Simply use the “achievements” tool to design, review submissions and  issue badges.

Canvas + BadgeSafe – Canvas, another increasingly well-known LMS, also has the option of designing, reviewing and issuing badges using BadgeSafe.

Concentric Sky

Credly – This is a user-friendly and robust solution for people or organizations interested in creating and issuing badges. You can use their tools to build simple visual designs or you can upload badges that you designed on your own. They have a number of existing integrations with everything from WordPress to Salesforce, along with an API that gives you the option of integrating it into other systems as well. I used Credly for my first two MOOCs. While there was not an integration with the LMS that I was using at the time, it was as easy as uploading a batch file each week and sending out the badges.

Drupal Modules – There are a few projects underway to refine modules that allow you to create and/or issuing badges through Drupal, a popular open source content management system. I’m far less familiar with these options, but you and check them out here.

ForAllBadges – This is a stand-alone solution for designing, managing, and issuing badges, with a focus on K-12 education. They recently combined this service with ForAllRubrics, allowing for a nice rubric interface for reviewing badges. is a social networking platform that can be to to create and issue Open Badges. It is, a community of thousands of schools sharing their creativity and raising achievement with badges.” – Contributed by Matt Rogers on 7/28/14

Moodle Open Badges – Like other Learning Management Systems, Moodle has the option of designing, reviewing submissions, and issuing badges. You have the option of building site-wide or course-specific badges. If you are a Moodle user, you can enable open badges in the “advanced features” section of the “site administration.”

Open Badge Factory (site not active as of March 2016) – While issuing badges through built-in features of a Learning Management System is an option, there are some downsides, and Open Badge Factory offers an external solution that integrates with a few LMSs. You can integrate OBF with an LMS like Moodle (as well as Totara and Optima). You can design, create, manage, and issue badges with this solution. Plus it allows you to generate reports. This is a pilot through December of 2014, but you can contact the developers to see if you can participate in the pilot. – Okay, so this one is not a platform for issuing badges, but it is a user-friendly tool for the graphic design part of building your badge. It includes a simple step-by-step process to create a badge. Then you can download it to your computer and upload it to whichever tool you choose for issuing.

Passport by Purdue – This one is a private beta right now, but it is a system designed to allow faculty to issue badges for student completion of challenges. Looking at their introductory video, it seems to be a learning management system and electronic portfolio designed around badges.

RedCritter – This services provides a place to display badges. – Added 4/27/2015

YouTopia – This is more than a badge-issuing service. It is a sort of LMS or CMS that allows you to create challenges, issue badges and provides a place for people to display badges they earned. – Added 7/28/14

WPBadger – This simple and light-weight WordPress plug-ins allow you to issue badges from from your WordPress blog.

Rosetta Stone was not designed for younger kids, but…

I had a wonderful evening conversation with a couple of people from Rosetta Stone at the 2013 Education Innovation Summit.  Early in the conversation, I mentioned that my son’s school was using Rosetta Stone.  It was early in the conversation, so I was hesitant to start so negative, but my compulsion to be candid and honest won out in that moment.  “Honestly? He hates it, especially because he is still five and the voice recognition doesn’t work well with his developing language skills. It is painful to watch my poor son repeat the same word fifty or more times, with tears starting to roll down his face, wondering what he is doing wrong.” To my surprise, they were not surprised.  Over the next few minutes, I learned that Rosetta Stone was never designed for younger kids. It was primarily a tool for adults.  Early elementary schools and teachers starting using it and starting asking for new ways to use it, even with the warning that it was not originally designed for younger kids.

I also learned that Rosetta Stone was well on the way to addressing this.  While they could not give details at that time, they simply noted that they were working of redesigning the software so that it is developmentally appropriate for different ages of kids, and to eventually provide tools to align with foreign language standards and the sort of data that could serve as helpful formative feedback for a teacher who is trying to customize learning experiences that meet the needs of each learner.

As we talked further, I asked if they ever considered designing learning experiences around the software, creating a sort of blended learning experience. Again, they could not say much but they confirmed that this is exactly the sort of thing that was part of their current efforts.

All of this background explains why I was delighted to read the most recent weekly EdSurge (the best Education news source for those who want to read some of the more interesting and emerging education headlines).  Rosetta Stone launched a Kids Division! This is exciting and promising news for those who are interested in leveraging educational technology for language instruction. Given the caliber of talent that Rosetta Stone is adding to their team for this and related divisions, I expect to see some great educational apps emerge in the upcoming years, the next generation of adaptive language software that is designed to promote language learning that is not limited to a single student sitting in front of a screen.



Audience, Student, Classroom Response Systems #edtech #clickers #studentresponse

The educational research is clear.  Feedback helps learners.  It also helps teachers to help learners.  We know that immediate feedback has a powerful impact upon learning.  When I have worked with clients on strategies to increase retention, comprehension, and higher order thinking skills; the conversation often turns to types of feedback and strategies for providing that feedback.

I’m talking about formative rather than summative feedback.  As some like to note, formative feedback is a the check-up and summative feedback is the autopsy.  We want to empower teacher and learner to both develop the ability to gather ongoing real-time data about their learning and then make the appropriate adjustments.   Having established the “why” of feedback, now we can look at the “how.”

Can educational technology help in creating a feedback-rich classroom experience? Most who are reading this probably know that the answer is yes, and you are likely familiar with one or more options.  The good news is that the number of options is growing every month.  There are now solutions for a variety of teaching and learning contexts (tempted to take a digital divide diversion, but I’ll resist).  Quite a few of the options are free, granted that you can get some sort of device in the hands of each learner (laptop, cell phone, ipod, etc.).  If you are planning to do a bit of research on your own, consider using some of the following search terms: student response systems, classroom response systems, audience response systems, live polling, real-time polling, and clickers.  Just to get you started, here are some possibilities (in no particular order).

  1.  Understoodit –
  2. Socrative –
  3. QuestionPress –
  4. InfuseLearning –
  5. Mentimeter –
  6. Polleverywhere –
  7. eClicker –
  8. Top Hap Monocle –
  9. Student Response Network –
  10. Learning Catalytics –
  11. iClicker –
  12. CPS Student Response Systems –
  13. Turning Technologies –
  14. LectureTools (Part of a collection of tools) –
  15. Real Time Voting –
  16. –
  17. Plickers – (All you need is an iPhone and a piece of paper for each learner).
  18. GoSoapBox –