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Instructure Acquires Concentric Sky for Micro-Credentialing

With its third acquisition in the past year and a half, the ed tech company is expanding its Canvas learning management system with a new version of a tool that keeps track of a student’s competencies and certifications.

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Instructure acquired Concentric Sky for its micro-credentialing tool and rebranded it Canvas Badges and Canvas Credentials.
Continuing an acquisition spree of the past several years, Salt Lake City-based education technology company Instructure announced last week that it bought the software company Concentric Sky, whose micro-credentialing tool Badgr has been part of Instructure’s learning management system Canvas since 2018.

According to Crunchbase, this was Instructure’s seventh acquisition in five years, following the company’s purchase of the educational video company Practice in 2017; the digital portfolio company Portfolium and the curriculum platform MasteryConnect in 2019; the K-12 compliance tool Certica Solutions in 2020; and both the technology adoption vendor EesySoft and the data interoperability company Kimono in 2021.

Instructure’s news release said Badgr, to be rebranded as “Canvas Badges” in the merger, will serve as the default micro-credentialing tool within Canvas, keeping track of a user’s competencies in hard or soft skills such as management, marketing or analytics, to name a few. Users will also have the option to upgrade to a paid service, “Canvas Credentials,” that offers unlimited badging, leaderboards, analytics and personalized visualizations of one’s progress.

Instructure Chief Executive Officer Steve Daly in a public statement called Badgr the “gold standard” of micro-credential tools, adding that the acquisition gives his company the ability to expand its platform with the ever-evolving education landscape.

Instructure Executive Director of Government Affairs Christopher Downs told Government Technology the acquisition came about because Instructure realized that Concentric Sky had become a leader in the micro-credentialing space, serving tens of thousands of organizations globally. Both companies, he said, strive to provide open technology standards for a more equitable and intuitive user experience, which made the acquisition a natural fit for the company, allowing Instructure to make the micro-credentialing tool native to Canvas LMS and include it with other offerings.

“We really wanted to drive home our commitment to continuing to build the education industry’s most integrated teaching and learning platform. We see the future of competency-based education being at the forefront of that, and we felt this investment was a step in that direction,” Downs said. “It’s another investment to house those elements within the learning management system and make it easier for educators to access and use.”

In a 2021 interview with Government Technology, Instructure’s Vice President of K-12 Strategy Trenton Goble said schools need student performance data that can “flow into a data warehouse environment with clear and easy-to-use reporting” and gauge the impact of remote learning. One of the main advantages of Canvas has been its ability to integrate new digital learning tools into the LMS.

“The ability to integrate is, I think, key. It’s an expectation at this point,” Goble said in December. “[Choosing the right tools] is the toughest element for school districts. For districts that want to be open in allowing teachers to find their own tools in the K-12 space, you want those tools to integrate into the LMS.”

In a 2021 survey on student success and engagement in higher education, Instructure got the insights of nearly 8,000 students, faculty members and administrators, with 84 percent saying career readiness was the top concern. Downs added that the report revealed that 70 percent of respondents, with regard to higher education, said that having definable skills is more important than course titles or degrees.

“Showcasing competency in order to obtain employment was at the top of their list,” Downs said. “Micro-credentialing in the education experience allows you to do just that for higher ed.”

Credentials and their standards can be created by teachers, programs, departments, school districts or higher education institutions, Downs said. Once implemented in the classroom, Canvas Badges verifies and tracks achievements, including competency-based programs, and allows students to share their records so schools can view their personal journeys and achievements over time. Downs said Instructure has noted an uptick in investment in workforce development throughout the country and sees the acquisition as a chance to generate a database of credentials and badges for all adult learners.

“What I’ve heard from those who work in workforce development in states is that they can easily lose adult learners in the pipeline, and lose track of them,” Downs said. “I think there’s a real opportunity here, as we get adult learners skilled up for the new-age industries and jobs, to archive and manage their competency. With something like this, they take those badges with them for a lifetime.”
Giovanni Albanese Jr. is a staff writer for the Center for Digital Education. He has covered business, politics, breaking news and professional soccer over his more than 15-year reporting career. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Salem State University in Massachusetts.