Open Badges for Training and Development

Chromatrope have undertaken a large scale piece of innovation strategy work for the BBC Academy. The Academy is the department within the BBC responsible for creating staff learning and development training across the organisation, and includes everything from mandatory training for all staff, journalism, creativity, TV and radio craft skills as well as administering the BBC’s trainee and apprenticeship schemes. We wrote a blog post some time back about our interim work, but now have more to share on the project.

1: Open badge displays in Mozilla Backpack
1: Open badge displays in Mozilla Backpack

Our brief has been to create and apply an innovation strategy, to investigate how online training and development could be realised in new and different ways. Our strategic consultation has covered a pretty wide range, and where we can, we’re documenting here some of the more tactical development projects that have resulted from the work.

Open badges for learning and development was one such pilot. The initial proposal grew out of an understanding that there was a requirement for a mechanism that could help BBC staff and freelancers to record and maintain a record of their formal training within the organisation. In addition we felt it was important that the mechanism allowed users to capture their ‘informal’ and skills based learning.

Mozilla’s Open Badges project appeared to be one way for us to offer a means for the BBC to issue badges that could then be used by BBC staff as well as potentially the BBC’s audiences to record and share their skills, training and development achievements and work related learning.

2: Production case study badge shows issuer and criteria for earning badge
2: Production case study badge shows issuer and criteria for earning badge

Chromatrope worked with Mozilla and with stakeholders within the BBC to design and implement a series of pilot open badges from the BBC as issuer. These badges would initially recognise a user’s engagement with the ’TV Production Case Study’. To earn this badge users needed to watch and engage with a series of BBC curated films that outlined key roles in a specialist factual TV series including series producer and production manager. By doing this they could earn and display a badge which explicitly recognised their ‘understanding the essential roles in a series such as Crimewatch’.

3: Badges formed into collections for sharing via social media
3: Badges formed into collections for sharing via social media

During the discovery phase of the project we worked with a number of stakeholders to understand the editorial and technical requirements and constraints of the project. We attended Mozfest, the international gathering of Mozilla supporters and activists, where we ran a ‘Beta Badging the BBC’ workshop. Mozfest was a fantastic way for us to have face to face conversations with the creators and remixers of the technology that the BBC’s badge pilots would be using. The badge design and build itself was a straightforward process, made even simpler now that Mozilla has made it’s BadgeKit available.

4: User can supplement the badge with their own comments and share
4: User can supplement the badge with their own comments and share

The project has been evaluated and we’re hoping to see more badges from the BBC in the future. The Open University have recently announced that they are implementing open badges across some of their Open Learn content. It feels that issuing open badges should be natural progression for an organisation which is setting itself the challenge of becoming more open, with a more fluid workforce, and a requirement to where possible use existing, proven technologies and approaches. There is an interesting tension between the superficial informality of the learning captured by open badges, and the needs of an organisation to protect its reputation, and to manage risk by being obliged to provide a more formal and ‘accredited’ record of training and development. We believe that there is a place for open badges to be used more widely across organisations including the BBC, to capture and display informal learning and more formal training and development.

Design in a Nutshell

Design in a Nutshell Commission

As part of a series of ongoing commissioning innovation work for the Open University, Chromatrope were briefed to help commission a series of short films to act as a ‘design in a nutshell’ guide to key design movements. We wanted these films to be educational (of course) but also playful, distributable and with an appealing design aesthetic.

Discover Your Design Alter-Ego
Discover Your Design Alter-Ego

As well as the films we outlined a brief for a fun interactive experience which would help users to discover their design alter ego. Bristol based Thought Den won the commission and did a brilliant job in turning the ideas into a reality.

Innovation in News – BBC News Labs Radar

Chromatrope are really delighted to be working with the terrific BBC News Labs on the development of Radar, a new ‘innovation in online news’ blog. The site is initially being used as an internal tool by the BBC’s journalists, technologists and R&D specialists, but we’re working towards opening the site up publicly in the next few months.

Radar supports the work of BBC News Labs, by identifying and tracking online and mobile news trends and technologies that might have a place within the BBC’s news canon.

BBC News Labs itself is an incubator powered by BBC Connected Studio, and is charged with driving innovation for BBC News.

Playing Soldiers

Games fan Tom Richards looks at games based around war, and explores the many perspectives of conflict.

The portrayal of war in games is constantly evolving. Franchises like Call of Duty are just a small percentage of the many games offering different viewpoints to war. Conflict in the real world is ongoing, so how is conflict in the world of games changing?

One of the most well known war games is Call of Duty. From the franchise’s start in 2003, CoD puts players in wars and conflicts ranging from World War Two to more modern conflicts such as the Middle East, Russia or Ukraine or to the future where soldiers wear ‘Exo-Skeletons’ and have laser guns. Call of Duty focuses less on characters and story, and more on the gun-play. For this reason, it can be hard to form any emotional bonds with any of the characters, meaning that there doesn’t seem to be much point in all the killing and violence displayed on-screen.

Call of Duty
The newest addition to the popular franchise, Call of Duty

I don’t have a problem with violence in games and I strongly disagree with claims that real life shootings are inspired by digital ones. However, one mission in Modern Warfare 2, named “No Russian”, is undeniably one of the most controversial moments in gaming. This scene features CIA agent Joseph Allen in deep cover, joining a group of Russian ultra-nationalist terrorists in massacring innocent civilians in an airport. This disturbing scene, although possible to skip at the beginning of the game, still shocked a great deal of people around the world.

No Russian
The hugely controversial ‘No Russian’ mission featured in Modern Warfare 2

Another game based around war is the popular sci-fi role-playing game Fallout 3. This game is different to the likes of Call of Duty because instead of the character taking part in a war, it’s already happened. Fallout is set in post apocalyptic America in the year 2277, 200 years after nuclear bombs set off in the war between America and China devastated the world. Fallout gives the player a look at what can happen as a result of war. There aren’t really any winners. Each side suffers total losses, mutually assured destruction.

Fallout 3
The post-apocalyptic American wastelands featured in Fallout 3

This War of Mine gives a completely different perspective to Call of Duty and other games where you play as the soldier. Set in the besieged fictional city of Pogoren, rather than play as a gun-wielding super-soldier, the aim of the game is to survive as a small group of civilians. This War of Mine swaps explosions and adrenaline for a bleak, somber game that really tries to make players experience an unfamiliar situation.

This War of Mine
This War of Mine shows war from the perspective of civilians trying to survive in a war-zone

All three of these games are related to war, yet they all show war in a different light. There aren’t really any clear specifications for a war game because war affects so many different people from hardened super-soldiers to innocent bystanders. There are so many different viewpoints and stories that it can be difficult to fit into one game.

For great storytelling, games need good guys and bad guys. In the real world, the lines are much more blurred. Both sides commit atrocities and there are always casualties. Games can put players into a number of different roles; soldiers, refugees, terrorists, freedom fighters – It will be fascinating to see where games as a creative medium take our understanding of war and conflict in the future.

Tom Richards is a 14 year old gamer who loves the art, craft and science of games in all their various forms (except for fighting games). He believes a great game should include a good story, characters and zombies. As well as games he loves playing his bass and sax and tweets at @berkokid36

BBC Academy iTunesU

BBC Academy Content on Apple iTunesU

Chromatrope have been working as consultants to the BBC Academy on a range of innovation and development strategy and tactics, with the objective of re-thinking the delivery of online training and development. One of the most exciting projects has seen us working with both the BBC and Apple to bring BBC content to Apple’s iTunesU platform. After (many) months of careful negotiation we’re delighted to announce that BBC content currently available on and YouTube, will be officially launched, for the first time, on iTunes U on 19th January 2015.

The BBC Academy is the BBC’s training and development division, with a charter remit to train BBC staff and to help to train the wider broadcasting industry. As part of a recent review and ahead of its relocation to Birmingham in 2015, The Academy has signalled that it will increasingly focus on digital delivery for much of its learning content.

BBC Academy iTunesU
BBC Academy iTunesU

Chromatrope have had a key role in originating this project as part of our consultancy work, as well as brokering the relationships between key partners in both Apple and the BBC, we have worked carefully with the BBC’s editorial and legal departments to create a credible, dynamic and authentic content and user proposition.

Along with many other sections of the BBC, the BBC Academy already makes extensive downloadable content available through iTunes. Myles Runham, Head of Online, BBC Academy, said, “Our objective is to make our website content as widely available to audiences as possible. Extending this availability to free-to-access learning platforms such as iTunesU is a natural extension of that offer. I’m delighted that our content will sit alongside the wide range of content on offer from other institutions such as the British Council and the Royal Opera House, and universities including Oxford and Cambridge and the Open University.”

Academy material will sit within the ‘Beyond Campus’ section of iTunes.  Academy content now available on iTunes U includes behind the scenes footage of BBC1 programmes Crimewatch and Countryfile revealing how a television programme is put together. For those interested in storytelling, Sarah Phelps, writer of BBC1 dramas including the Crimson Field and JK Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy and Sally Wainwright who wrote BBC1 dramas Last Tango in Halifax and Happy Valley are among those sharing their expertise. And for those wanting to make people laugh, Richard Curtis, writer of comedy classics like Blackadder, The Vicar of Dibley, Four Weddings and Notting Hill is one of those sharing thoughts on being productive, staying creative and honing the process of finding the funny.

We’ll be writing up some of the other exciting BBC Academy innovation projects that we’ve involved with here soon, but for now we’re delighted to be able to have worked so closely with both parties to make this happen.