Digital Media & Learning- The Trust Challenge Competition

Challenge Details

The Trust Challenge funds successful collaborations or “laboratories” where challenges to trust in connected learning environments can be identified and addressed. Successful labs will create scalable, innovative, and transformative exemplars of connected learning that bridge technological solutions with complex social considerations of trust.


$10,000 to $150,000 year-long development grants
$5,000 technology grants
$1.2 million will be awarded in total.

Development grant award amounts will be determined by project feasibility and complexity, team member expertise, length of time required to complete the work, and level of institutional support.

In addition to the larger, on-going development grants, “People’s Choice Awards” will be made to the three finalist applications that amass the most votes during the public voting process. These small grants will be up to $5,000 and must be used specifically for approved technology purchases for the applying organization/institution.


The Trust Challenge will accept applications from September 3 to November 3, 2014. Final applications are due Monday, November 3, 2014 at 5pm PST/ 8pm EST. Winners will be announced January 2015. See the full timeline for additional details.

Who can participate

The Trust Challenge strongly encourages collaboration. Successful proposals will include youth-serving organizations and institutions and institutions of higher learning anywhere in the world that serve as laboratories where challenges to trust in connected learning environments can be identified and addressed.

Teams must include

  • institutional/organizational stakeholders and administrators that can provide and direct project objectives, inform design and implementation, and increase opportunities for scalability.

Additionally, teams might also include:

  • technologists, web developers, app developers, badge system designers, etc. that can design, build and implement the proposed digital solution; and
  • researchers, educators, learning experts, policy advisors, legal counsel, etc. that can give careful consideration to complex social and institutional/organizational considerations around trust and learning.

See our FAQ for further information regarding eligibility.

Challenge Process

Step One: Identify the Trust Challenge connected learning laboratory site

Determine the youth-serving institution(s)/organization(s) or institutions of higher education that will serve as a laboratory where challenges to trust in connected learning environments can be identified and addressed. Labs might include museums, libraries, out-of-school programs, schools, school districts, governmental and non-governmental organizations, civic/community organizations, non-profits,  other youth-serving institutions/organizations or institutions of higher education located anywhere in the world.

Consider the ways in which the laboratory can better contribute to building an environment of trust that will optimize connected learning. What are the primary obstacles and concerns related to trust, safety, and privacy that need to be overcome?


Designing systems and digital environments that engender trust for networks of youth, parents of youth (where appropriate), and learning institutions.

  • What specific trust/safety/privacy concerns do the laboratory’s learner constituencies and their parents have with regards to the learning objectives of the organization/institution?
  • How can the lab facilitate trusted peer collaborations, connection with mentors, and connected learning experiences that are relevant to real life and real work?

Arming learners with the knowledge, skills, and tools they need to become savvy web citizens and to know when a system is safe and designed to protect their information.

  • What learning content and resources need to be created to support the development of digital literacies in youth and college learners so that they can access, navigate, contribute to, and understand the web in trustworthy, safe, and privacy-protecting ways?
  • What digital tools–apps, badge systems, platforms, online learning content, etc.– need to be developed and implemented to give learners better control over their information online, so they know the consequences of how their data are being used, by whom, and to what purposes?

Sharing data across platforms and organizations in productive ways that allow learners to pursue their interests and easily share and control their data across different learning networks.

  • What interoperable digital tools aligned to open technical standards need to be developed to help learners more easily share information and data, connect with mentors, and learn from each other across different platforms, products, and services in informed, safe, and privacy-protecting ways?

Promoting a culture of civility and respect online, enabling deeper and more supportive trusted engagement among learners, and encouraging the development of learners as responsible creators and stewards of an open, inviting, and egalitarian web.

  • What policies or tools must be developed to encourage respectful and responsible interaction online that deepens connected learning experiences for learners?
  • How will the lab bridge social and cultural differences to provide learners with opportunities to learn online in trusting and supportive ways that encourage the respectful representation of diverse lifestyles and opinions?

Visit our Examples page to see some sample scenarios of possible challenges to trust in connected learning environments.

Step Two: Formulate solution and assemble collaborative team

Trust Challenge applicants will develop digital tools, platforms, or solutions that address trust challenges in connected learning environments. Successful projects will create exemplar laboratories whose ideas and solutions can be scaled. Proposed solutions should engender trust, safety, and privacy in connected learning environments and empower learners to connect and learn anywhere, anytime in ways that are equitable, social, participatory, and interest driven.

Funded projects should be aligned with the principles of connected learning and develop one or more of the following:

  • social media tools, apps, and platforms that improve trust, privacy, and control of information, and safety online
  • digital badging systems or other online evaluation mechanisms, recognition and feedback methods to recognize learning across multiple spheres in ways that give learners control over how their data are used, displayed, and shared
  • educational or tech solutions to support better, more trustworthy online privacy and security practices and literacies for learners and encourage community building for learning and other productive purposes
  • online learning experiences, tools, or content explicitly designed to promote a culture of civility and respect that empower all youth, regardless of backgrounds, to become responsible creators and stewards of an open, inviting, and egalitarian web
  • interoperable data management platforms or solutions that include open standards and protocols for learning resources

Please see the FAQ for information on what the Trust Challenge will not fund.

Step Three: Develop and submit application

September 3, 2014 – November 3, 2014. Final applications are due no later than November 3, 2014 at 5pm PST/8 pm EST.

Applications must be submitted through the online FastApps system and will require:

  • an overview of the proposed collaborations and laboratory site;
  • a detailed description of the institutional challenge to trust in a connected learning environment;
  • a detailed description of the proposed digital tool, platform, or solution and how it will address the challenge;
  • a rationale for the importance of the tool, platform, or solution that takes into consideration Trust Challenge criteria;
  • a team roster and division of responsibilities;
  • budget and budget narrative;
  • proposed development process and timeline;
  • preliminary implementation and communication strategy, including a plan for engaging organizational stakeholders and audiences who will use the tool, platform, or solution; and
  • an indication of  how your proposed solution can be scaled for other institutional sites and learning communities.

For more detailed criteria and other considerations when developing your application, please see the FAQ and review the Challenge’s judging criteria. For further application details and instructions for application, please see the How To Apply page.

Step Four: Application revision (optional, but strongly suggested)

Step Four is optional, but strongly suggested.

Unlimited revisions to applications are accepted until the application closing date of November 3, 2014 at 5pm PST/8pm EST. The application saved in the application system at the time of closing will be the final application that will be submitted to judges for consideration.

Step Five: Finalists selected

A panel of expert interdisciplinary judges will review all applications and select finalists. The following criteria should guide the creation of proposals. Strong applications will engage meaningfully with as many of the following criteria as possible.

Judging Criteria


  • Do the partnering organizations/institutions create a compelling site of inquiry that engages issues of trust, access, and privacy in significant ways that further connected learning?
  • Does the proposal consider solutions that address technological, institutional/organizational, and social issues of trust, including policies and laws that may affect implementation?
  • Will the solution be developed with significant input from laboratory stakeholders, including youth, parents of youth (where appropriate), college learners, and educators to ensure successful adoption and implementation?

Connected learning

  • Is the proposal based on on principles of trust, fairness, and equity?
  • Does the proposal and its implementation advance the core values of connected learning in relation to issues of trust, privacy and safety?
  • Is the proposed solution, tool, or policy optimized to encourage trusted peer collaboration, connection with mentors, and real-life connected learning experiences?

Diversity, civility, and inclusivity

  • Does the proposal promote a culture of civility and respect online that recognizes diversity?
  • Are learners encouraged to be responsible creators and stewards of an open, inviting, and egalitarian web?
  • Has the proposal taken into account requisite policies, tools, and other safeguards to encourage respectful, safe, and responsible interactions online that enable deeper and more supportive, trusted engagement among learners?


  • Does the proposal address legal, technological, socio-economic, or physical barriers to participation in learning environments?

Digital, social, and emotional literacies

  • Will learning content or resources be made available to support the development of digital literacies in learners so that they can access, navigate, contribute to, and understand the web in trustworthy, safe, and privacy-protecting ways?

Control of data

  • Will use of the proposed digital tool allow learners to understand how their data is used by other people, corporations, and governments, and what the consequences of sharing their data can be?
  • Has the proposal made clear how learners will know that their data are safe?
  • Will learners be able to control their own creative work and personal data online?
  • Does the proposal and solution make clear how data are being used, by whom, and to what purpose and with what consequences?
  • Does the tool, platform, or solution communicate to end-users in transparent, user-friendly language how information and data are being collected, stored, and used?


  • Have privacy permissions been considered for different stakeholders?

Scalability and impact

  • Can the proposed solutions be scaled to similar trust environments and serve as exemplar projects?

Does the proposed digital tool or solution

  • enable learners to easily share their data across different platforms, products, learning networks, and services in informed, safe, and privacy-protecting ways?
  • use truly open standards and require the use of open licensing for data transfer that are accessible, secure, trustworthy, and that allow others to interoperate?
  • include an open protocol that allows secure authorization in a simple, standard method for desktop, web, and mobile applications?
  • allow code to be forked or hacked (open source solutions are mandatory except in pre-authorized exceptional cases)?
  • create strong mobile transferable and interoperable data standards that others can build on, especially for interaction between social networking and mobile devices?
  • have strong infrastructure security standards to maintain integrity and confidentiality of data transfer and storage?
  • include adequate and accurate documentation?
  • address ADA compliance and provide accessibility to people with visual and motor impairments?
  • detail a well-designed digital tool with attention to visual design and UX / UI?

Communication and implementation plan

  • Does the proposal include a realistic implementation strategy and plan for engaging organizational stakeholders and audiences who will use the tool or solution?
  • Is there a communications plan in place that will allow for transparent documentation of the project development process to foster public engagement and learning opportunities for similar laboratories.

Plan and Budget

  • Is the plan for developing the solution realistic and within the allowable budget?

Step Six: Finalists announcement and public voting for People’s Choice Awards

Finalists will be announced January 2015.

Members of the public will have the opportunity to vote for their favorite project on the Competition’s website. Finalists are encouraged to generate support for ideas by asking peers, colleagues, and fans to vote for their proposed project. The three proposals that receive the most public votes will be awarded a “People’s Choice Award.” These small grants will be up to $5,000 and must be used specifically for approved technology purchases for the applying organization/institution.

While public voting results will be taken into consideration by finalist judges, they will not determine final Trust Challenge winners.

Step Seven: Winners announcements

Winning proposals will be selected by an expert panel of judges and announced in January 2015.

Trust Challenge winners become part of the Digital Media and Learning community and will participate in year-long programming designed to support successful project development. Grantees will be networked with each other and, more broadly, into a highly innovative, cross-disciplinary community of technologists, educators, scholars, and thought leaders.

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