We have a keen interest in applying service design to further education and, in particular, student journeys. Up and down the country, we have met educators committed to seeing their students succeed and support them in any way they can. We have met students striving to reach their goals and others struggling to see the point of it all.


Three challenges have come back over and over again:

  • Retention – keeping students in education, even over the Christmas slump and when they have let work pile up before exams;
  • Achievement – helping students obtain their qualification and continue on;
  • Employability – preparing students for the world of work.


Living in the moment

Unfortunately, there is no magic wand. Just hard work and step-by-step improvements to help students see where their experience fits in the bigger picture: where they’re coming from and where they’re heading. Once we have achieved something, it can be hard to remember how we felt beforehand, but there’s an added complexity for young people who struggle to project themselves into the future. Not all are able to see how doing well at College will help them get an interesting job.

My learning journey

Open Badges capture and visualise this learning journey, including the invisible learning that goes on inside and outside the classroom. Open Badges are a Mozilla universal standard:

  • An organisation recognise that a learner has acquired a skill;
  • They award a badge which is visible to all in a ‘backpack’ or ‘passport’;
  • The learner can import, export and display this badge on a place of their choosing, on their CV for example;
  • In the context of employability, the Open Badges allow employers to spot whether the applicants have the skills and qualities they need from their future employees;
  • The Open Badges are also a powerful motivator to help learners develop those skills and qualities.

Open Badges bring together learners, employers, organisations and decision-makers in the education field.

Badgemaker 2016

At the end of 2015, Snook started a new phase of the Badgemaker project. It is funded by a grant from UFI Charitable Trust and includes Borders College and Dynamically Loaded as project partners. Although the project ends in August 2016, the need for a 3-year plan is emerging. The longer horizon will help us embed change in the College landscape and give us the time necessary to gather impact data.

Does helping students visualise their progress throughout their College journey motivate them to stay in education and obtain their qualification?

Does helping students and employers work together to identify the skills they need actually have an impact on employability?

Project approach

Continuous research is uncovering insights into what drives or hinders those who use the service and those who provide the service. Only by considering these two points of view at the same time can we design an innovative service that truly delivers value. This leads to co-design, the second core principle.

From the onset, sustainability was a priority. We wanted a project that would have a significant and lasting impact. We would try to go beyond a prototype that would require further funding to live on.


Badgemaker is providing new or renewed insights into the potential and difficulties of implementing Open Badges approaches in the Further Education landscape. Here are a couple to begin with and we’ll continue to share as we go along:

  • One shoe doesn’t fit all
    Several organisations have contacted us to scope how Open Badges could fit with their objectives and ways of working. In many cases, their particularities mean that a customised approach would be more likely to be successful.
  • The importance of the organisation’s journey
    BadgeMaker Phase I was about the learner’s journey. In Phase II, we are now focusing on the organisation’s journey: how can we help an organisation start from where they are today to where they want to be in the future? Given the stakeholders involved, budgets, policies, types of learner journeys, how do we help these organisations adopt badges?

With Badgemaker II, Snook and Borders College are exploring the idea that designing for the organisation’s journey is key to unlocking the potential of Open Badges. We continue to test our ideas in the real world and see how far we can go. If you would like to contribute to the conversation, we would love to hear from you.

Do get in touch: curious@wearesnook.com, read the project blog and join us for the next Open Badge Networking Group on March 17th, 2016.