Open Thinkering


Tag: City & Guilds

So long Digitalme, and thanks for all the fish

Note: City & Guilds have asked me to clarify that Digitalme still exists and continues to offer badging services.

This announcement from Digitalme is a real shame:

Since we joined the City and Guilds Group in June 2016, we have continued to help all kinds of teams recognise learning with the Open Badge Standard.

At this point in our journey, it is time to say goodbye to the Open Badge Academy in order for us to focus on supporting the design, development, and implementation of quality programmes that leverage the Open Badge Standard powered by leading technology — Credly.

After leaving Mozilla in 2015, I consulted with City & Guilds up to the point at which they acquired Digitalme. I’d known the guys at Digitalme since before I started at Mozilla and was impressed with their dedication and effort. They’d built something people and organisations really wanted, so taking it to the next level with City & Guilds seemed to be their opportunity to scale-up.

The trouble was that City & Guilds didn’t really have much in-house technical capacity. They’re a 140 year-old credentialing organisation, who took a punt on a young start-up with the hopes that they could create a whole new business unit out of it. At the same time, to hedge their bets, they invested in Credly. Now, it seems, they’re scuttling Open Badge Academy (OBA) in favour of becoming a Credly reseller.

These things happen, especially as the Open Badges ecosystem matures. It’s been a few years since the demise of Achievery, which was a really forward-looking platform, but unfortunately a too early for the market. What I think is a particular shame with the way City & Guilds are handling the Digitalme situation is the way they are presenting existing customers with a lack of options:

We’re working on a simple way for existing users to download their information, including any badges they have earned so they can continue to share verifiable recognition of their skills.


To download your badge, go to your profile page and click on the Push icon under your awarded badge. Select the Download option to download this badge to your computer. This download will include data such as the issuer information stored within the image. We would recommend downloading the 2.0 version as this will still be verifiable after OBA closes.

One of the great things about Open Badges, of course, is that you can store them anywhere. Still, you would hope that existing users would, at the very least, be presented with a migration path from OBA to Credly. I would have thought that, given OBA isn’t closing until the end of August, City & Guilds could implement the upcoming Badge Connect API to allow users to make the migration.

The announcement focuses on the sunsetting of OBA, but in effect this is the end of Digitalme. My understanding is that there are very few of the original team left at City & Guilds, and the focus now is on reselling Credly’s products. (I’m happy to be corrected if I’m mistaken.)

A few people have been in touch with me since the announcement asking what they should do. There’s plenty of Open Badges-compliant issuers out there, but I usually recommend Badgr or Open Badge Factory to clients.

Full disclosure: these two platforms sponsor Badge News The Learning Fractal. We approached them for this sponsorship due to their long-term support of the Open Badges standard. Credly made the decision to end their sponsorship of the newsletter at the beginning of this year, and we would thank them for their initial support.

Image: Left high and dry (Explored) by hehaden used under a CC BY-ND license

Introducing the Open Badges 101 course! [pre-alpha]

Open Badges 101

Good things happen when we work open.

That’s why, when City & Guilds asked Bryan Mathers and I to put together some resources for staff and customers about Open Badges, we decided to create an open course rather than a series of documents. We’re doing it under the auspices of the Think Out Loud Club with everything CC-licensed. The code, originally created by P2PU, is available on GitHub.

While we could sit down and provide all of the content that we think would be appropriate for this course, we’re inviting the community to get involved with this project. All contributions will be, of course, celebrated and credited.

Click here to access the Open Badges 101 course

If you’d like to help out, there’s a call to action on each page that links to further information. You’ll need a (free) GitHub account to comment on the individual issues, but it’s all very straightforward.

While you can just sign up on the site to be updated as the work progresses, I’d encourage you to help us in creating a resource that will be useful to everyone in the Open Badges community!

The Increasing Significance of Technology in Further Education [FE Week]

The latest issue of FE Week features a supplement from City & Guilds. I’m currently spending pretty much all my time consulting with them at the moment, so I was delighted to be asked to collaborate with Bryan Mathers on this article as well as another (which I’ll post tomorrow).

Can you adapt to a changing landscape?

It goes without saying that this is a time of unprecedented change in Further Education. This is perhaps most evident in changes around funding but, in addition, an increasing drive towards data-informed decision making means the whole landscape is changing. At times such as these, it’s easy to feel powerless and it’s tempting to fall back on what we know – the tried and tested. However, as Darwin pointed out:

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.” (Charles Darwin)

Change is part of life. Sometimes it happens quickly, sometimes slowly. On some occasions it’s imposed, and at other times it happens organically. However change happens, we should be ready for it and use it to our advantage. In other words, depending on our stance towards it, the uncertainty that change provides can be viewed as either a problem or as an opportunity.

Particularly during times of change, technology is often presented as a panacea, a cure-all to the problems we’re facing. For example, there are possibly hundreds of solutions promising to ‘fix’ your issues around:

  • student retainment
  • efficiency savings
  • learner attainment

However, by itself, technology rarely provides a holistic solution or way forward. Rather, it is people and culture that drive change within organisations. Human agency remains key.

Technology is useful. There are certain affordances it provides that can greatly help us. These technologies are often those that we consider commonplace. For example, we (and especially students) take for granted the use of free instant messaging apps such as Snapchat, WhatsApp, and Instagram – or video conferencing tools such as Skype, Google Hangouts, and FaceTime. As the author and educator Clay Shirky states, “communication tools don’t get socially interesting until they get technologically boring.”

We don’t have to jump on the latest shiny technology, trying to retro-fit it into learning and teaching practices. Doing so is rarely beneficial. Instead, we should use increasingly-mature technologies to streamline and/or extend the core mission of educational organisations. One such example of this might be Open Badges. This is a global, interoperable system that allows for the trusted issue, exchange, and display of digital credentials.


There are many FE colleges – particularly in the North-East of England and Scotland – who have begun experimenting with Open Badges. The technology itself includes a built-in audit trail making verification easier, but the crucial difference between those using badges successfully and those not at all is organisational culture and people’s mindsets. Those places set up to embrace change understand that colleagues require at least two things to be successful when integrating any new technology:

1. Space to breathe – can colleagues ‘play’ with technologies without fear of an impact on their workload or professional identity?
2. License to innovate – will colleagues be sanctioned for stepping outside the status quo?

One of the most valuable things that educators can be given is time to reflect on their practice. For example, thinking about ways in which Open Badges can be used in a local context often acts as a ‘trojan horse’ for much wider professional conversations. At City & Guilds we’re using Open Badges as a conversation starter to think about the way we issue qualifications and credentials beyond 2015. All of us are faced with a changing landscape, and we can choose to spot opportunities as well as identify problems.

There’s no doubt that, whether it’s learning analytics, big data, badges, communications technologies, or something else, there will always be technological determinists as well as doom-mongers. Happily, the future is not fixed, it’s wide open. We can choose to adopt a playful, yet professional, stance towards technology – recognising it as a strand of equal weight with culture and people.

Images CC BY-ND Bryan Mathers

An exciting week for Open Badges

Earlier this week, IMS Global announced “an initiative to establish Digital Badges as common currency for K-20 and corporate education.” By ‘digital badges’, the post makes clear, they mean Open Badges. Along with the W3C work around OpenCreds and new platforms popping up everywhere it’s exciting times!

You’d be forgiven for needing some definition of terms here. Erin Knight’s post on the significance of the IMS Global announcement is also helpful.

  • Open Badges Infrastructure (OBI)– a method to issue, exchange, and display metadata-infused digital credentials based on open technologies and platforms.
  • IMS Global – the leading international educational technology standards body.
  • K-20 – kindergarten through to graduate degree (in other words, the totality of formal education)
  • OpenCreds – a W3C initiative to standardise the exchange and storage of digital credentials. Open Badges is being fast-tracked as an example of this.
  • W3C – the World Wide Web Consortium, the international standards body for the web.

The recent explosion of interest in badges is fascinating. Back in 2011 the rhetoric of the nascent Open Badges community was around badges replacing university degrees. This hasn’t happened – much as MOOCs haven’t replaced university courses. Instead of either/or it’s and/and/and. This is the way innovation works.

The initial grant-funding for badges was mainly in the US and has largely come to an end. What we’re seeing now is real organic growth. We’re in the situation where incumbents realise the power of badges. Either through fear of losing market share or through a genuine desire to innovate, they’re working on ways to use badges to support their offer.

We’ll see a lot of interesting work over the next couple of years. There will be some high-value, nuanced, learner-centric badge pathways that come out of this. On the other hand, there may be some organisations that go out of existence. I’m currently working with City & Guilds, an 800-pound gorilla in the world of apprenticeships and work-based learning. They’re exploring badges – as is every awarding and credentialing body I can think of.

Whatever happens, it’s not only a time of disruption to the market, but a time of huge opportunity to learners. Never before have we had an globally-interoperable way of credentialing knowledge, skills, and behaviours that removes the need for traditional gatekeepers.

If you’re interested in getting started with Open Badges, you might be interested in:

Do get in touch if I can help!

* BadgeCub is an extremely straightforward but experimental service that should probably just be used for testing. The ‘assertions’ will disappear after a while so it’s not a long-term solution!

Weeknote 14/2015

Update: I forgot to mention my activity as part of #lookjustphone, an experiment in creating a business or product solely using a smartphone. I introduced the concept to others, then created a pay-to-email me service followed by a hi-res wallpaper pack.

This was my first week of consultancy. (o^_^)o

It was a three-day week: I took Monday off and then Friday was a public holiday. Despite that, it was a fairly intense and tiring week — mainly due to travelling and meeting new people!

After playing with my children on Monday and taking them to the inflatables session at the local swimming pool, I caught the train down to London. That night I stayed in the Z Hotel Shoreditch next to Old Street’s ‘Silicon Roundabout’. Despite the great ratings, I thought it was pretty average.

I headed over to the London College of Fashion on Tuesday, part of the University of the Arts. They’d asked me to give a keynote and facilitate a workshop around Open Badges. I took the opportunity to weave in some stuff around digital literacies and learning pathways, too. It was a great day. You can see curated tweets from the day, including a link to my slides, in this post.

On Wednesday and Thursday nights I stayed at a City Marque Clerkenwell serviced apartment, which was much better. Very spacious, more facilities, and pretty much brand new! It wasn’t far from there to walk to the City & Guilds offices in Giltspur Street. I met up with Bryan Mathers, one of the main reasons I’m working with them full-time for the next five months, for breakfast. They do great sausage sandwiches!

Most of Wednesday and Thursday was met meeting various people at City & Guilds and getting myself acquainted with their IT systems. They’re using Microsoft Office 365, which I haven’t used before. However, it’s pretty straightforward: I installed the mobile apps and then set my email autoresponder to say that I only check my email first and last thing during the day.

There’s plenty of interesting work to be getting on with at City & Guilds and, from what I’ve sensed this week, an appetite to do things differently. I’m looking forward to getting to grips with ways in which Open Badges can be used to think differently (and adjacently) about their qualifications and credentialing offer.

I’ve never seen Kings Cross train station as busy as it was on Thursday night. This was understandable, as it was the day before a four-day weekend. I had a ticket but no reservation so, instead of standing for almost four hours on the way home, I decided to upgrade to First Class. I got a seat, sat back, drank some free whisky, and watched Léon.

On Friday I took everything out of my office in preparation for a carpet being laid. I also upgraded to Bittorrent Sync Pro as I’ve been really happy with the way it enables cloud-like file syncing, but only between devices I own.

Today (Saturday) I’ve been putting everything back into my home office. I’ve now got a carpet in there! It’s so much nicer than having laminate. There’s still far too much stuff crammed in too small a space, but at least it’s cosy and warm.

Due to being so busy, the only things I wrote this week were Wednesday Wisdom #31: Context (on Thursday!) and a link to my DMLcentral post, Peering Deep into Future of Educational Credentialing.

Next week is also a shorter week due to Easter Monday. I’ll be working in London on Tuesday and Wednesday and then from home on Thursday/Friday. 🙂

Image CC BY-SA Susanne Nilsson

Bryan Mathers: who are you and what do you do?


I’ve known Bryan Mathers for a couple of years now. We met through a shared interest in Open Badges and, during that time, I’ve seen him flourish as a visual artist. The interesting thing is that this is not his full-time job: it’s an interest of his that really impacts on his work.

Bryan kindly allowed me to interview him earlier this week to discover even more about what he does. You can listen to the whole 56 minutes of audio using the embedded player at the top of this post – or I’ve chunked it up in sections below! I think you’ll enjoy his insights. 🙂

(no audio showing anywhere? click here!)

1. Introduction


Notes and links:

2. How Bryan started drawing

Reflector / Creator / Curator

Notes and links:

  • We beat creativity out of kids.
  • Bryan was discouraged from doing art at school
  • Got started trying to visually represent programming concepts

3. Open Badges and community

A bluffer's guide to Open Badges

Notes and links:

4. Drawing and thinking

Formative vs. Summative assessment

Notes and links:

  •  Cartoon –
  • Doug’s work on ambiguity
  • Creative Commons licensing
  • Mix by FiftyThree

5. The drawing process

Teaching is not a delivery system, it's an art form (Sir Ken Robinson)

Notes and links:



Many thanks to Bryan for giving up his time to share his thoughts – and for the kind drawing he created especially for me! (above)