About DML Competition 6: Playlists for Learning

Design it. Build it. Scale it.

We’re at a critical moment. More than ever, youth need viable alternatives to traditional learning pathways that help them succeed in a constantly changing world. After ten years of research and design experiments on connected learning, we have reached a tipping point.

Connected learning is a transformative pedagogical approach that provides unique opportunities to knit together academics, passions and interests in ways that meaningfully advance learning and opportunities. Connected learning is relevant for the real-world. It can happen anywhere, anytime, and across any device. It’s social. It’s hands-on. It’s active. It’s networked. It’s personal. It’s effective.

It’s time to think big.

How can we scale connected learning? How can we bring this powerful pedagogical approach to youth everywhere? How can we empower young minds and ensure that young people from all backgrounds have the opportunities they need to thrive in the connected age?

The sixth and final Digital Media and Learning Competition–Playlists for Learning–seeks to close the opportunity gap by scaling established connected learning resources and experiences through the development of playlists. This new approach, led by an innovative community of thought-leaders, academics, practitioners, educators, designers, technologists, and media artists, is leading the transformation of curriculum design and learning for our connected age. This competition is designed to support learning innovators in adopting, advancing, and adapting playlists for the custom design of connected learning.

Playlists for Learning encourages proposals that promote creative, interest-driven playlists that advance connected learning opportunities for youth both in and out of school. Proposed learning should be made verifiable and credible with the use of digital badges.

Press play to connect learning

A connected learning playlist is a curated group of digital and local connected learning experiences and resources (e.g. videos, websites, books, games, articles, etc.). A playlist weaves together these learning experiences into a sequenced pathway centered on a common theme. Playlists broaden opportunities to engage in cohesive, interest-driven connected learning experiences that combine in-school, out-of-school, employer-based, and online learning. A powerful tool for scale, they increase access to opportunities for all and bring transformative change to youth, especially those locked out of traditional paths to success.

By connecting the dots across digital and local spaces, connected learning playlists enable young people to easily find and pursue fun and engaging learning experiences that cross traditional institutional silos and curricula. Just as iTunes or Spotify playlists allow users to easily remix content across albums, connected learning playlists offer similarly personalized learning experiences.

The power of playlists lies in the opportunity for collaboration and discovery. One organization can design a sequence based on it’s own specific goals; multiple providers may want to work together to include many types and sources of learning. These collaborative playlists create a rich network of experiences for learners. As more and more playlists are built on shared distribution platforms, the connections across all learning experiences will increasingly form part of an expansive network of learning.

Unlock real-world opportunities

Successful completion of a playlist will result in a badge that has the potential to unlock real world opportunities. A badge is a publicly shareable digital credential that provides evidence of a substantive learning outcome.

Combined with playlists, badges guide a learner’s progression through a sequenced pathway and track the learner’s journey. Earned by completing a single experience, an entire playlist, or multiple playlists, badges provide validation and offer a credible way to represent significant accomplishments

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About the Digital Media and Learning Competition

The Digital Media and Learning Competition is a program designed to find and to inspire the most novel uses of new media in support of connected learning. Over the past eight years, the Competition has awarded over $12 million to more than 100 projects — including games, mobile phone applications, virtual worlds, social networks, and digital badge platforms — that explore how technologies are changing the way people learn and participate in daily life. The Competition is supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation through a grant to the University of California, Irvine. The interdisciplinary alliance HASTAC helps to administer the competition on behalf of UCHRI.

The MacArthur Foundation

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation launched its more than $200 million Digital Media and Learning initiative in 2006 to help determine how digital technologies are changing the way young people, learn, play, socialize, and participate in civic life. A new pedagogical approach, Connected Learning, emerged from these investments to become a framework for reimagining learning in the digital age.

In October 2015, MacArthur provided seed funding to launch Collective Shift, the organization behind the new LRNG platform, to advance broad adoption of the principles, practices, and products of Connected Learning. The Digital Media and Learning Competition is supported by MacArthur as part of its commitment to advancing the field of digital media and learning.

Connected Learning

Connected Learning is a pedagogy for the digital age that has emerged as a result of more than 10 years of research and design experiments funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. By connecting the three spheres of a learner’s life–academics, peer culture, and interests– it makes learning relevant to all populations, to real life and real work, and to the realities of the digital age, where the demand for learning never stops. For more information, see connectedlearning.tv.


UCHRI (University of California Humanities Research Institute) serves all ten campuses in the UC system, interacting with UC campus humanities centers, other campus research centers, and with individual faculty to promote collaborative, interdisciplinary humanities research and pedagogy throughout the University of California system and within the larger communities they inhabit. UCHRI bridges gaps between disciplines across the humanities and human sciences and seeks to overcome the intellectual and institutional barriers that can separate the humanities from other fields. Both the Digital Media and Learning Research Hub and the DML Competitions are administered under UCHRI’s umbrella.


HASTAC (Humanities, Arts, Science, Technology Alliance and Collaboratory; “haystack”) is an open alliance of more than 14,000 humanists, artists, social scientists, scientists and technologists working together to change the way we teach and learn. Since 2002, HASTAC has served as a community of connection where members share news, tools, research, insights, and projects to promote engaged learning for a global society.