The Minnesota State IT Center of Excellence recently completed its nine-month digital badging pilot, Project ELEVATE, resulting in over 170 badges being awarded to students from five institutions across the system.  The project was substantially funded by a grant from the Education Design Lab, who was looking for partners to further their research and adoption of the 21st Century Skills Badges

The project began in October 2019, with three Minnesota State institutions on board to incorporate the Center’s Career Readiness D2L Modules into existing IT and computer science courses, assist students in improving their skills, assess the students’ work and award digital badges.  By January 2020, two more institutions had signed-up to join the project, resulting in a total of nine faculty members teaching the Modules in the spring 2020 semester:

Institution                                              Faculty Member                                Course                                                         Modules Offered                                               Badges Awarded


Metropolitan State University                 Sahar Ismail-Witt                ICS251 IT Work Skills                                                     Collaboration, Initiative Oral Communications                      17

Metropolitan State University                 Brahma Dathan, PhD         ICS372 Object-Oriented Design and Implementation      Collaboration                                                                         8

Metropolitan State University                 Ismail Bile-Hassan, PhD     ICS499 Software Engineering and Capstone                  Collaboration                                                                        24

Winona State University                         Pat Paulson, PhD               BUSA353 Business Innovation                                         Initiative                                                                               24

St. Cloud State University                      Prabesh Shrestha               IS340 Management Information Systems                         Initiative                                                                               28

Lake Superior College                            Vickie McLain                     CIS1500 Computer Support                                             Oral Communications                                                          21

Lake Superior College                            Vickie McLain                     CIS2976 Emerging Technologies                                     Collaboration                                                                       19

Lake Superior College                            Matthew McCullough         CIS1952 Network Administration: Windows Server           Initiative                                                                               23

Minneapolis College                               Brian Huilman                     ITEC1005 Preparing for IT                                                Collaboration, Initiative, Oral Communications                   13

 

Reactions from Students

After the semester ended and students had been awarded their badges, each faculty member asked students to complete a short survey.  134 students responded, producing these quantitative results:

  • 63% “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with the content in the Modules
  • 73% felt the content was either “all,” “mostly” or “partially” new to them
  • 72% said the Modules were the right amount of work (vs. either too little or too much)

As part of the survey, students were allowed to expand on their answers through a short written response.  Some of the notable quotes from those responses are provided here:

I enjoyed these exercises and they were a nice change of pace from the more program focused assignments throughout the major.

It gave me a good refresher on basic leadership techniques and helped me self-reflect to improve my own leadership.

I really like the video aspect that we submitted for some of the modules, and the scenario and questions included diverse perspectives and really felt like real world problems.

Reactions from Faculty

Once student feedback had been collected, the Center facilitated a closeout meeting with faculty, to hear about their experiences and ideas for improvement.  For the most part, faculty felt the Career Readiness Modules were beneficial for their students, and that the Modules were effective at helping students practice and improve their skills.  Some of the specific feedback from faculty included:

The fact that the module was integrated into D2L made accessing its content quite easy. Everything, including the quizzes, was set up quite well.

Several students commented that they found the materials very useful, especially in telling them what would be expected of them in the work force.

It gives instructors a chance to get to know student skills better, so they can evaluate them and provide further information to future employers.

Most students really need to improve their soft skills, and these modules give them a basis to measure their skill level.

The content of the modules aligned very well with my course.  Students seemed to enjoy the content and activities, particularly the 360° assessment.  I also received some very creative responses to video questions, which was great.

Reactions from Employers

Alongside of the work being done by faculty and students, the Center sought out professionals in technology careers, to gain their perspective on the importance of career readiness skills and the value of digital badges.  Through one-on-one interviews with four experienced technology managers from large Minnesota employers, the Center learned how critical skills such as verbal and written communications, collaboration and initiative are in the IT workplace.  Some of the key quotes from those interviews included:

What I look for when I’m hiring is 1) Organizational abilities; you have to be organized. 2) Teamwork; can you work in a team environment?  In the IT world, teamwork is absolutely crucial.  And then 3) self-motivation. I need to know, not only in their verbal approach during the interview, but also on the resume, are the self-motivated.

Overall the scenarios in the Modules are valid and will help students further deepen their skills by practicing how to respond to similar scenarios.

When I look at a resume, I’m looking for something that’s going to set an individual apart. These badges certainly would be something that I would look at and say, “This person went out of their way, or did something that not every student has.”

I think that in the IT field in particular, badging will take off, because we're already very familiar with certifications and that kind of mentality.  I think the more common it becomes, the more it'll differentiate folks that have these skills and have these badges, say, on their resume, or on their LinkedIn profile.

Implementation of Minnesota State’s new Badging Platform

One of the key goals of Project ELEVATE was to implement a new online platform to allow students to showcase their badges.  After evaluating two of the leading products on the market, the Center chose Credly as its badging platform.  The Center worked out an agreement between Credly and the Minnesota State system office, which enables all Minnesota State institutions to award digital badges.  Representatives from the Center and the Project ELEVATE faculty all participated in four hours of Credly training, and subsequently issued over 170 badges to students on the platform.  Below is an example of what the Collaboration badge looks like on Credly:

A screenshot of a social media post

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What the Future Holds

Going forward, the Center will continue to promote and support the Career Readiness Modules and Badges, helping faculty around the Minnesota State system incorporate them into their courses.  This past summer, an additional four modules were created, bringing the total up to seven, with another module in the works for this fall.  The hope is that all of the modules will be seeing some use across Minnesota State during the 2020-2021 school year, with the goal of awarding more than 300 badges.  Already, the Center knows of ten faculty members who will be using the Modules this fall, and others planning to implement them in the spring.

Learn More about the Modules and Badges

To learn more about the Center’s Career Readiness Modules and Badges, visit https://mnstateitcoe.org/career-readiness-curriculum, or contact us at itcoemodulesupport@metrostate.edu

Additionally, Minnesota State faculty with a StarID can login to https://mnsite.learn.minnstate.edu to see each Module in its entirety, as well as download zipped D2L course packages of the Modules.