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Illinois State University

The Redbirds revitalise and redefine learning frameworks with digital credentials.
Of all US colleges have issued digital badges
Students are enrolled on the programme
Badges issued so far

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.

“(We envisioned a program that would) offer multiple pathways and ample opportunities for students to engage in meaningful curricular and co-curricular experiences—a Program supported by tools that would recognise students’ present successes and be showcased to achieve future aspirations.”
Photo of Dr Rita BAILEY

Then Assistant Provost, ISU Honors Program

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.

“What excites me about digital badging is that I can show my future employers I am so much more than a resume and I have so much more to offer... I can (provide) tangible evidence of what I have learned.”
Photo of Mitch STENGEL

Sophomore Communication Education Major, ISU

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.

“We’re honoured to partner with Illinois State on offering a student service that is fast becoming a national model for the power of digital credentials to communicate the true value of the college experience...”
Photo of Jonathan FINKELSTEIN

Founder and CEO of Credly

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.

“We have a found a way to allow students to use badging to market themselves professionally, to be able to showcase their skills and talents they need to get into graduate school, or to move on in their professional life.”
Photo of Dr Rita BAILEY

Former Assistant Provost, ISU Honors Program

The Future.

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.

Logo for Illinois State University

​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’.

ISU's Badging Basics Chart

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