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After Year-Long Beta, Education Design Lab Launches Phase 1 of vsbl, a Turnkey Solution to Provide Learners with Credentials for High-Demand 21st Century Skills

 More Colleges are Embedding soft skills credentials into degree programs 


Washington D.C. – The Education Design Lab, February 11th, 2021. To meet demand from all types of learning providers, The Lab is opening access to the vsbl platform starting on February 15, 2021. After an extensive pilot with over 20 diverse partner institutions and organizations, colleges will be able to embed assessed badges into courses, employers can set up turnkey badge earning for internships or staff, non-profits can provide training to community members to create a more agile workforce and help level the hiring process for those without strong social networks. 

The Lab has developed a suite of assessed credentials for eight of the skills that employers seek most in entry-level positions, management track roles and, according to the several studies, these skills provide less advantaged learners and workers with the most agility to change careers in light of changing workforce needs given both COVID-19 and the pace of automation. 

As the economy continues to adjust to the harsh realities of a global pandemic, employers are in scramble-mode, working feverishly to build a nimbler workforce.  They are searching in earnest for individuals who index high on 21st century skills such as resilience, creative problem solving, collaboration and oral communication.  

The vsbl platform was developed at the request of college partners, as a vehicle for colleges to test-drive and scale both their overall badging strategies and the intentional credentialing of these 21st century skills, which heretofore have been implicitly credentialed through degree programs. Don Fraser, Education Design Lab’s Chief Program Officer says, “Increasingly, employers are selecting candidates through online search tools, so if learners want to stand out they have to have verified skills in collaboration or oral communication, for example. We have a responsibility to help them be more visible to employers with digitally discoverable high-quality credentials at the skill level, not just the degree level. “

Julie Fisher, Leadership Development Coach at Nusenda Credit Union which has offered 21st century skill development to multiple cohorts of employees says, “The Education Design Lab’s Digital Badge Program has provided our organization a valuable and practical way to enhance knowledge and skillsets critical for performance in the workplace and working well with others.” 

The turnkey nature of vsbl allows learning providers to integrate ready-made, rigorous short courses into their LMS or have them hosted by vsbl. The Lab provides virtual facilitator training for staff and issues the digital badges in conjunction with a variety of providers, including Credly and Badgr who have been critical partners in the launch of vsbl.  Currently, the curriculum can be delivered online or in hybrid form.  Performance-based scenario assessments called proving grounds have been designed with deep employer feedback. The process challenges learners to practice and apply their knowledge and, according to surveys of some of the learners who have been part of pilots, it provides them the “language and confidence” to articulate the specific skills they have acquired.  One student said, “The critical thinking course has improved my decision-making abilities a lot. Now I am more cautious and vigilant. I do as much research about a topic before drawing conclusions.”  


About Education Design Lab: Education Design Lab is a national nonprofit that designs, tests, and implements unique higher education models and credentials that address the rapidly changing economy and emerging technology opportunities. The Lab demonstrates where technology, rigor and design can improve opportunity for historically underserved and excluded learners to maximize their potential in the higher education system.

Education Design Lab works across disciplines and alongside schools, employers, entrepreneurs, government, foundations, nonprofits and innovators. The organization has significant experience managing national and local learning cohorts, working with organizations such as Lumina Foundation, the United Negro College Fund, Walmart, American Council on Education and the ECMC Foundation. Learn more:


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