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Free Digital Badge Toolkit Helps Students Show Off Their 21st Century Skills

A nonprofit that tests out new models of education and credentials has launched a free digital badge toolkit. The goal: to help schools outfit students with the skills employers are seeking. Education Design Lab's 21st century skills badge program covers eight microcredentials as well as facilitation tools. The badges are intended to be used on students' LinkedIn accounts, resumes and e-portfolios. In return, schools that use the badges agree to adhere to the specific language in their definitions, use a "360 assessment" at the beginning of the badge-earning process and share metrics and what they've learned in the process.

The skills covered in the new program are:

  • Initiative;
  • Collaboration;
  • Creative problem solving;
  • Critical thinking;
  • Intercultural fluency;
  • Empathy;
  • Oral communication; and
  • Resilience.

The badges have been piloted by a number of institutions, including Bay Path University in Massachusetts, Boise State in Idaho and Georgetown in Washington, D.C. All of these institutions and the others that have participated have digital badging programs in place that offer workshops and courses to help students attain the credentials.

For example, George Mason University in Fairfax, VA, runs a five-week blended workshop called the "Resilience Badging Challenge," which allows participants to learn and demonstrate the skills covered by the Education Design program. The challenge is taught by an associate dean for university life at the institution.

Other organizations — Checkster, Credly and IREX — have also been part of the testing.

The badges are also designed to be machine-readable to work with the search algorithms used by recruiters.

"Now, more than ever, it is increasingly important to find candidates who are a good fit," said Shonn Colbrunn, senior director of human resources at Spectrum Health System, in a press release. "A resume will show what degree someone earns, but it is more difficult to gauge their level of interpersonal skills. The rigor that goes into earning a digital badge provides a helpful indicator of what we can expect to see from that person on the job."

According to Education Design, besides the pilot universities, another 100 learning institutions in both higher education and K-12 have expressed interest in implementing the 21st Century Skills Badges.

"In a tightening job market, we need better signals than a resume to find candidates who are a good fit. We believe digital badges will be powerful market signals for employability, particularly in building more diverse hiring pools for roles where interpersonal skills matter more than technical know-how," noted Kathleen deLaski, founder of Education Design Lab.

Accessing the badges and toolkit require a free registration process and confirmation of a usage agreement.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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