The COGS tagging system is the backbone of Unrulr

Every post in the Unrulr app has 3 major components: visuals (usually pictures and videos), a caption, and COGS.  Visuals and captions don’t need explanations – you can find them on most major media platforms.  But COGS?  COGS are unique to Unrulr.  COGS help Unrulr evaluate holistic learning and track authentic moments of growth.

COGS stands for Concepts, Outcomes, Goals, and Skills. COGS are a powerful tool – they transform the way we both create and track evidence of learning. COGS connect learner posts to the core competencies or values of an education program.

COGS are tags on steroids. Imagine hashtags, but instead of a learner tapping out #ijustcameupwiththisreallycoolhashtag on the fly, they pick and choose from the COGS defined by their community. 

Individual COGS are organized into sets— this hierarchical organization makes it easy for educators and learners to find the specific competencies they are looking for.

The benefits of using COGS

COGS are special. When learners tag their posts, they are:

  1. Building a sortable, filterable library of amazing things they’ve done
  2. Self assessing, and setting the stage for peer and educator assessment
  3. Creating a repository of experiences tracking some of the hardest-to-measure skills and values

A Library of Amazing

In Unrulr, learners build a library of vibrant evidence by documenting their learning process.  COGS make that evidence accessible and searchable. When a teacher asks “how have you worked on your ideation skills over the past semester”, learners don’t have to scramble to find a photo, or dig through a pile of projects.  They tap on the filter icon, and then hit Design Thinking: Ideation.  In two steps, they have all the images, videos and reflections which are connected to ideation.

And because Unrulr is designed to integrate with the process of learning, posts demonstrate, through their COGS, two important things:

  1. The skills and value demonstrated by the outcome
  2. The skills and values which grew during the journey

Coded evidence of outcomes is pretty fantastic.  But coded evidence of process? 🤯

Assessment in Disguise

COGS are as simple as tags. And COGS are also flexible assessment tools. When a learner selects Design Thinking: Empathy for the work they did during customer interviews, it looks like basic labeling to the untrained eye.  But it’s really self assessment; learners are looking at their evidence of work and deciding which skills and values are demonstrated.  When they declare: “I am practicing Design Thinking: Empathy”, they are self assessing.

COGS also crowdsource assessment and create a simple, specific feedback loop.  When a learner adds COGS to a post, they create a space for their community to respond.  Through direct interaction with those COGS, both peers and teachers can chime in and say either: “Yes, that’s definitely Design Thinking: Empathy” or “No, that’s not Design Thinking: Empathy”.  And, when needed, teachers can step in and tag posts with COGS that learners missed.

If you want to get meta(cognition), COGS are a resonance tool. When a learner selects COGS, they show what resonates with them.  When that same learner looks at the COGS they’ve chosen across their work, they can see what their strengths are and where the gaps lie: “I’ve done a lot of Ideation and Empathy, but why do I have so few Test COGS?”.  Learners can ponder their learning, and ask questions about why they learn how they learn.

Because They’re Your Goals

Part of Unrulr’s origin story is rooted in the idea of localized learning. Every community has different values – communities shouldn’t be forced to adopt an ill-fitting, off-the-shelf assessment framework. So COGS are designed to be flexible; schools prioritize the needs of their learning community, which are different from the needs of the community a town over, which are, in turn, different from the needs of a community across the country.

What does that look like in practice?  

Well, if Social Emotional Learning (SEL) is at the core of the work you do, then build your COGS to include Self Awareness, Relationship Skills, and Responsible Decision Making

If you run a growing CTE program, then focus on Quality, Innovation, and High-Quality Work.  

Are you preparing learners for the future of work?  Then use 21st Century Skills and include Critical thinking, Problem-solving, Emotional intelligence, and Digital literacy.

Yet even those COGS are fairly broad. We love when communities get place-based. The Hawaiʻi Department of Education uses a set of COGS based on HĀ.  Their COGS are an acronym for BREATH: Belonging, Responsibility, Excellence, Aloha, Total well-being, and Hawaiʻi.

For a localized, concrete example, letʻs look at what Kelly Fast has done with Global Impacts Micro School, a class at Notre Dame de Sion. Kelly has taken their learner success outcomes like “collaborative team player” and “solution-focused creator”— competencies in their experiential learning program— and created COGS for them, accompanied by descriptive explanations. 

By using localized COGS, Kelly gets a couple of major wins:

  1. The COGS turn into a lexicon tool, and create a shared language that extends beyond his classroom to everyone who sees his learner’s Unrulr posts (parents and the broader learning community).
  2. His class creates coded evidence of the values most important to the Notre Dame de Sion community. Instead of hanging on the wall as a poster, those values are now attached to images and videos collected by his students during the course of their learning. 

Pro tip: When designing COGS for your learning community, you should ask yourself these 3 questions:

  • What do you want evidence of?
  • Where will transparency help?
  • What makes your community, your community?


The COGS tagging system in Unrulr is a powerful tool that transforms the way we create and track evidence of learning by connecting learner posts to the core competencies or values of an education program. 

COGS serve as a metacognition tool, as well as a tool for crowdsourcing assessment. By incorporating COGS into their program, educators can provide learners with more clarity around learning objectives and give them a greater sense of agency and ownership over their own learning.

Now that you know all about COGS and how they can help to optimize your learning community, it's time for you to get tagging! Book a free demo to see COGS in action!

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