Illinois State University
93% of employers said that soft skills are either an “essential” or “very important” factor in hiring decisions.
‘Human skills’ or ‘soft skills’ have never been in higher demand. A 2015 LinkedIn study found that 59% of US hiring managers believe it’s difficult to find candidates with soft skills. With this in mind, Illinois State University decided to reshape and redefine their Honors Program in partnership with Credly digital badges.
When former Associate Director Amy Oberts commenced her post with the Illinois State University Honors Program she felt it was time for a fresh approach to skill recognition and visibility; Time to revitalise the program to reflect the increasingly high interest in soft skills for the workplace.
Back in 2015, in collaboration with then Assistant Provost Dr Rita Bailey, Amy Oberts set out to re-establish what it meant to be an Honors student at ISU.
Digital Credentials Connect Honors Students to Opportunities
The innovative new Honors program incorporates digital credentials throughout the learning journey. Students can easily document their learning via their individualised online portfolios. This allows the full range of their skills to be visible and verified thus adding tangible value to the program. Incoming Honors students are equipped with customisable, electronic portfolios that showcase their digital credentials and related learning artifacts. Each credential corresponds to a curricular, co-curricular, or community-related opportunity and includes the option of attaching evidence to be reviewed and assessed by the Honors Program staff and its instructors. Students can pursue opportunities that match their interests and aspirations and access their Credly profiles to monitor their progress in the Honors Program. The Credly platform, part of the City and Guild group investment, provides all the functionality and ease of use for students to develop their learning pathway and for staff to monitor progress through the program.
The ISU Honors Program digital credentials are social-centric by nature and can be easily exported into professional portfolios, LinkedIn profiles and other social media platforms. This gives ISU unprecedented reach in terms of their ability to communicate the success of the Honors Program via Honors students’ personal and professional social media profiles. Digital credentials enable students to have more control over what, how and where they share their learning, This can provide a greater sense of ownership and participation in the learning process - characteristics that are not usually associated with traditional, closed certificates.
A revolutionary way for students to have skills seen and achievements recognised
ISU Honors students partake in multidimensional learning in different styles of teaching environments. The introduction of a digital badging program has empowered students in their pursuit to have these achievements verified and recognised in a digital, easily transferable manner. The style of recognition also takes into account student participation in co-curricular and Honors community events.
In an increasingly competitive, global job market ISU recognised that they could provide their students with a real advantage by adopting and integrating digital credentials. As early adopters ISU are preparing their students for the future and ensuring that potential employers can see every skill.
The majority of the first cohort of students to embark on the redefined Honors program will graduate in Spring, 2019. Time will tell the full extent of the positive effect that digital credentials have had on student learning as ISU graduates take up professional employment following completion of the program.
Illinois State University, founded in 1857, is the oldest public university in Illinois. ISU is currently the academic institute of choice for 20,784 students.
The ISU Honors Program exists ‘to promote exceptional learning for exceptional learners by enriching students’ learning experiences at ISU’.