Meet Andrea. She’s 24, single, and has three cats that she adores.
Andrea is currently serving in the Navy and plans to transition into the civilian workforce in the next few months. She wants to get a good job after her six years of service without going back to school for a degree. She would love to work in IT and make her way toward a management role so that she’ll have the financial stability to start a family.
While in the service, Andrea gained a lot of skills, such as leadership, problem solving, and technology skills, and she wants her next employer to see all of the value she can bring to their workplace using those skills.
While Andrea is a fictional persona, she represents the goals and characteristics of the learner-earners – or (l)earners – the Education Design Lab aims to serve.
Over the past 18 months, the XCredit team at the Lab has explored the design question: How might we validate and credential existing skills to make (l)earners more visible in the talent marketplace?
In collaboration with our partners, the Lab spent XCredit’s first year prototyping an interoperable skills ecosystem to help military-connected individuals like Andrea, as well as unemployed and underemployed civilians, move toward the careers they want.
How does it work? Follow along as Andrea validates her skills within the XCredit ecosystem.
Andrea begins in a platform for military-connected individuals to connect their learning and experience to customized career and education opportunities. Within this tool, Andrea is presented with her Learning and Employment (LER) record, a document that tracks her experience, training, and competencies. Near the bottom, she sees her military experience has already been translated into a number of validated 21st century (or soft) skills, including those associated with Critical Thinking, Oral Communication, and Creative Problem Solving.
Along with her validated skills, Andrea sees that she has the option to validate additional 21st century skills by taking a few digital assessments.
When she clicks the “Submit to XCredit” link within her LER, Andrea passes into the Lab’s central “Ecosystem Hub,” where she’s greeted with a banner reading, “Welcome to XCredit!”
Within this Hub, she sees her skills profile, which lists all her validated skills, along with all the relevant assessments she’s able to take.
Looking at which skills she hasn’t yet validated, Andrea decides to begin with the “Listen Actively” assessment, a part of Oral Communication. She navigates to this section and launches the “Listen Actively” assessment, which moves her into an extended reality environment.
As the XR assessment loads, Andrea realizes she has the option to either click her responses with her mouse or speak her responses directly into her computer’s microphone. She loves how this option engages her as a human being, tapping into her empathy and engaging her soft skills.
Ten minutes later, she’s done. Andrea scores well on the assessment, and when she returns to the Lab’s central Hub platform, she sees her skills profile has automatically been updated, the “Listen Actively” skill now validated.
In her skills profile, Andrea sees that she only needs to pass one more Critical Thinking assessment to earn a Critical Thinking micro-credential, so she navigates to the Critical Thinking section of the Hub.
She clicks on the assessment, titled “Question Assumptions,” and this time, a chat-based simulation assessment launches in a new window.
After reading the assessment scenario and what she’ll be measured on, Andrea clicks “Play.” She then chooses an avatar that represents her, and completes the assessment by making choices in the chat-based simulation that follows. When she reaches the end of the assessment, Andrea sees her scores from the assessment pop up and is excited to see that she has validated this final Critical Thinking skill!
After Andrea navigates back to the Hub, she sees a notification that she has been awarded the Critical Thinking badge, so she opens her email. She can’t believe how quickly the micro-credential was awarded — right after completing the final assessment!
In her email is a message with a link to claim her badge, so she clicks the link and is redirected to the badging platform. Here, she claims her micro-credential, which identifies all of her validated skills.
Andrea feels a rush of pride, knowing that she’s being recognized for skills she gained in the service. She assumes this is the end of the process, but a pop-up informs her that there’s one more step she can take.
A digital skills wallet has been created on her behalf, and she’s encouraged to add her new badge to this skills wallet. Unsure of what exactly this is, she adds the badge to her wallet, where she learns that she’s able to pull in other learning and employment records to create a more complete picture of her skills.
Now, prospective employers will see that she’s validated one of the critical skills they’re seeking when hiring new employees.
Andrea is now ready to apply for the jobs she’s targeted, knowing employers will recognize the skills she gained in the service.
XCredit: What’s next?
During Year One, our instructional designers created sub-competency assessments and industry capstones measuring users’ critical thinking, oral communication, and creative problem solving skills. Through user testing, jobseekers and hiring managers alike evaluated the authenticity of the experience and the value users found in the 21st century skills micro-credentials. And after an externally conducted equity and bias review, the team addressed potentially problematic aspects of our assessments, including but not limited to an examination of representation of who held power and how people in simulations, especially people of color, were positioned.
Moving forward with Phase Two, the XCredit team has ambitious goals.
- We’re expanding the catalog of available 21st century skills credentials from 3 to 9, and the number of assessments from 23 to 110.
- We’re seeking ACE accreditation for all assessments so that credential earners are also eligible for college credit when validating their skills.
- We’re layering in additional skill validation methods and opportunities, further leveraging individuals’ lived and working experience in new and innovative ways.
- We’re conducting two research-focused pilots on our assessments and prototype ecosystem to enable early proof points, iteration, and improvement.
- And we’re expanding the ecosystem to incorporate further entry points and connections with external hiring systems, to help our users connect their skills to employment.
We, and Andrea, are just getting started.
This article was written by XCredit team members Casey Andree and Dr. Tara Laughlin. Follow our journey at https://eddesignlab.org/project/xcredit/.
Want to get involved? Email us at email@example.com.
Special thanks to our Year 1 XCredit partners, whose tools are featured throughout Andrea’s story above.