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vsbl Platform Creates Hope for Rapid Adoption of 21st Century Skills Micro-credentials

Describe something as visible, and it means it can be seen. 

Describe a person as visible, and it means they are recognizable. 

Visibility is generally a good thing. It engages our senses and provokes our thoughts. It enlightens us. It gives us something to work with. We appreciate visibility.

When we launched a beta pilot of our vsbl platform in early 2020, our goal was to make learners visible; seen and recognized for the skills they have. In the midst of a global pandemic, over twenty 2 and 4-year institutions and organizations signed on to offer the Lab’s 21st Century Skills Micro-credentials (our first product on the vsbl platform). Learners who successfully completed the rigorous learning experience would earn a digital badge, a micro-credential that demonstrates competency and an intentional effort to acquire the most in-demand employability skills. In what will be a historically tight job market for years to come, our pilot partners, located in the US and abroad, recognize it is mission critical to provide learners with the opportunity to acquire 21st century skills and to offer a portable, digital credential that verifies their skills and makes them visible to the world.  Skills rather than degrees are the currency of choice for employers, and 21st century skills, in particular, are in even greater demand as companies seek to build a nimbler, resilient, interculturally fluent workforce. 

We are increasingly concerned that if we do not democratize 21st century skill acquisition and make it feasible and affordable for all institutions and organizations to do this with more intention, then learners of all kinds, but especially those who have been historically excluded from opportunities, will be passed over for by employers. 

Join the movement to make learning and 21st century skills visible. 1200 colleges have signed up for our 21st Century Skills Toolkit over the past three years and now we are ready to scale delivery of these Micro-credentials. 

How vsbl works

The vsbl platform was designed with our partners in mind. You need flexibility to offer the experience in multiple ways. You need dependability so the technology is not cumbersome. You need answers to your questions, help with your ideas, and support along the way. 

During the pilot, we focused on all of these areas. We successfully tested our ability to connect the vsbl platform to existing Learning Management Systems (LMS) through Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI), which enables the content to flow seamlessly into systems like Canvas, D2L, Moodle, and Blackboard.  In some cases, our partners did not have an LMS, so we hosted their learners directly on the vsbl platform–a feature often needed for employers, high schools, and community-based organizations or institutions seeking to engage non-matriculated learners, like incumbent workers. We were even able to test our mobile application which we knew would be vital for learners who are using their mobile devices as the primary way to connect to the Internet.  For those with connectivity issues, the content was made available to be downloaded and accessed offline.

Three of the Lab’s Eight 21st Century Skills Micro-credentials

 

Once connected, pilot partners were able to access learning modules from one or more of our eight Micro-credentials and enroll their facilitators in a brief interactive online course to familiarize them with the modules and accompanying technology. Facilitators earned badges upon successful completion of the training.  

The most common integration of the content was directly into an existing course. Like nutritional supplements, faculty would layer in the 21st century skills, turbo-charging their course and providing their learners with a recognizable credential and a more complete learning experience. 

We recognize that every organization is unique. vsbl offers the flexibility to integrate the modules in whatever way you see fit.

  • In some cases during the pilot, the modules were offered as a co-curricular standalone learning experience and in one case as a substitute for internships lost to COVID.
  • One of our international partners used the Critical Thinking course as an “education-to-employment initiative” to create employable engineers.

  • Pilots were conducted across multiple academic departments including engineering, nursing, and accounting, as part of other liberal arts courses and through Career Services. 
  • The skills offered (in order of interest) were Critical Thinking, Resilience, Intercultural Fluency, Empathy, Oral Communication and Initiative. 

Overall, nearly 400 learners participated in the pilot and close to 200 badges were awarded, demonstrating that being present is not enough to earn the badge. Learners needed to successfully complete the four end of module assessments, called Proving Grounds, which challenge learners to prove they know how to activate the skill when called upon. 

See additional use cases of the Lab’s Micro-credentials.

 

The vsbl learning experience

Grounded in learning theory, the interactive online modules challenge learners to apply what they are learning to the real world, to reflect on and question their experiences, old and new, and to assess their skills through a series of performance based simulations and activities. This format makes it stickier for learners and helps them understand and articulate their skills on a much deeper level. 

   

Learners in South Africa access the Critical Thinking course within vsbl.

 

Start making your learners vsbl today!

We are at a critical and exciting juncture in the history of learning. Education will either shy away from the moment and continue to uphold the status quo or respond to the moral imperative to course correct and help learners level the playing field to demonstrate what they know and become discoverable to employers.

Micro-credentials are gaining steam as a way to provide shorter-term learning that is more responsive to what the workforce needs. The technology and structure of digital badges enables learners to be more machine-readable by applicant tracking systems and discoverable by employers, through skill tags, which can be a gamechanger for learners who do not have a network to give them a leg up in the hiring process. For six years, we have been leading the charge on designing rigorous micro-credentials with employers and educators. We have poured our knowledge and expertise into our 21st Century Skills Micro-credentials, testing and iterating and are now proud to be able to offer vsbl, a best-in-class solution to the skills gap. 

 Key features of vsbl:

  1. Comprehensive online modules grounded in our nationally-recognized and globally utilized 21st century skills competency framework 
  2. Ability to connect to a learning management system for an integrated learner experience
  3. Access to employer validated, performance-based assessments and rubrics and a 360 assessment of 21st century skills that provide the learner with a self-assessment balanced against the perspectives of “others” such as peers, supervisors, and mentors
  4. 21st Century Skills Facilitator training for consistency of delivery
  5. Mobile compatibility to meet learners where they are

The buzz about vsbl is building and the Lab’s team is standing at the ready to help you launch your 21st Century Skills Micro-credentialing initiative. As a thank you to our Innovator Network, whose support helped the Lab arrive at this exciting moment, anyone who signs up by April 30 will receive an additional 50 badges at no cost.

Contact us to take advantage of this limited opportunity or to learn more (vsbl@eddesignlab.org).

 

Get started with vsbl today!

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