A Conversation & Conference with CourseStorm

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Hi, everyone, and welcome to the fourth post in our series featuring various people and their organizations across the state of Maine who are utilizing and leveraging digital badging since MSOL started up in 2015. (Click here to see our first, second, and third post in this series.)

For this post, we’ll be highlighting the conversation we had with Brian Rahill: the CEO and co-founder (with Matt James) of CourseStorm – a startup that connects students to local, affordable education, much like Airbnb connects travelers with local, unique accommodations.  

In addition to how CourseStorm has been using badges, we’ll also be covering Brian’s experience at the “Competency-Based Education & Digital Credential Design Convening”: a conference that was held in Denver, Colorado, all about reimagining systems that make learning that occurs anytime, anyplace, and at any pace count towards college and career readiness.

Let’s get started!

Impossibly Simple Course Registration

So, as we mentioned, CourseStorm works hard to connect students with local, affordable education – but what do they do with badges?

Perhaps a better question would be, what does CourseStorm do for the education providers who offer badges?

Since MSOL started up in 2015, CourseStorm has been working with the Maine State of Learning to build and sustain an online badging tool for use by the MSOL network – that means that any programs that are MSOL members, (for example, Breakwater School in Portland) can use CourseStorm to award badges to their students.

“The question that CourseStorm hopes to help with,” Brian said, “is when someone is motivated to learn a new skill, and earn a new badge, what are the learning opportunities available to them? In short, how do we connect curiosity with credentials?”

By offering simple class registration software and showcasing the breadth of local, informal learning opportunities, CourseStorm is working to bridge that gap. Now learning providers can connect badges with the learning opportunities to achieve those badges, and students can quickly go from excitement to enrollment in a couple of clicks.


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In this work, then, of helping to leverage digital badging and digital credentials as viable options for competency-based education opportunities, Brian traveled to Denver, Colorado for a conference put on by the Mozilla Foundation on July 26th and 27th as part of a Maine cohort.

Some of the other states (including Maine) in attendance were Alabama, Arkansas, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and Vermont. The goals?

  1. To re-imagine systems that make any time, any place learning count towards college and career readiness;
  2. To think through how to leverage new flexibilities in policy for innovative practices (i.e. Every Student Succeeds Act – ESSA);
  3. To brainstorm strategic partners within states and communities; and
  4. To exchange ideas for policies, practices, and systems including those which utilize digital badges/digital credentials.

As Brian explained to me, in addition to these four main goals, each state’s cohort had different ideas for how to implement digital badging systems into their own educational infrastructures, along with area specific questions. The question for Maine’s cohort was, “How can we improve the value of badging [in Maine]?”

In other words, a way to conceptualize improving the value of badging in Maine would be to have digital badging serve as one of the bridges between “formal education” and “informal education.”  For the Maine cohort at the conference, the question was how to begin to have formal education institutions recognize the value of the learning that happens out of the institution in such a way that would allow for formal accreditation.

One idea which the Maine cohort thought of was connecting digital badges earned outside of the classroom with the guiding principles that are part of the Maine Department of Education’s expectations for graduating high school students.

The guiding principles state that graduating high school students in Maine will be: self-directed, lifelong learners, clear and effective communicators, creative and practical problem solvers, responsible and involved citizens, and integrative and informed thinkers.

The hope then, is that in the future there will be a model in Maine – using the guiding principles, perhaps – showcasing the potential of digital badging, and that it’s possible for formal education providers to utilize and leverage digital badging to recognize informal learning as satisfying formal education expectations.

Wrote An-Me Chung, the Director of Strategic Partnerships at the Mozilla Foundation of the conference, “[the states] are focused on identifying solutions around how to build systems where learning is more student-centered, how to recognize learning anytime and anyplace, and how to ensure multiple stakeholders, including students, are at the forefront of the design process. This was a first step in that direction and we look forward to following and sharing states’ progress.”

And we hope that we here at MSOL can contribute to Maine’s progress!
Do you have any questions about this post or about Maine State of Learning in general? Email us! We always love chatting. 🙂

Thanks, everyone!