In fall 2020, Lady Ramirez Molina (‘22, health administration) was well on her way to completing degree requirements that would lead to a career. But she was keen to explore her options by taking a variety of electives in her major. Of all the available courses, the Naples native and first-generation college student chose a new offering: the medical device industry course and the optional digital badge.
“I wanted more experience. The medical device industry wasn’t something I knew a lot about, and I wanted to educate myself on all the options I had in health administration,” Ramirez says.
“The badge helped me get an internship and then a full-time position at Arthrex,” she says. Ramirez transitioned into a clinical research associate role earlier this year. “It helped me choose a career path.”
For college students about to enter the workforce, it’s important to rise above the crowd of applicants to be more marketable to recruiters and employers. With various industry-specific micro-credentials, like the medical device industry badge Ramirez proudly displays on her LinkedIn profile, FGCU is helping students document the skills they gain in the classroom.
“Students may believe that if they have not had direct employment experience, they haven’t necessarily practiced and mastered essential skills desired by employers,” says Kristen Vanselow, assistant vice president in FGCU’s Innovative Education and Partnerships.
“FGCU’s industry-specific digital badges provide evidence that students demonstrate competencies and skills identified by employer partners.”
The partners’ collaboration with FGCU faculty and staff to develop the micro-credentials has helped create talent pipelines connecting graduates with local employers. These partnerships were highlighted at a May 16 panel discussion on campus featuring representatives of Arthrex, Gartner, Hertz and NeoGenomics. FGCU President-elect Aysegul Timur, who spearheaded development of digital badges as vice president and vice provost of Strategy and Program Innovation, moderated the discussion.
“We must continue to partner with industry and continue to innovate and create better solutions to make our students workforce ready,” she told participants. “These badges are really giving our graduates a competitive advantage.”
For individuals already in the workforce, it’s equally important to demonstrate advanced knowledge, experience and a commitment to continued learning. Earning a digital badge can supplement a résumé with evidence of certain skills.
That’s exactly what Regina Bale (’09, bachelor’s of elementary education; ’22, master in curriculum and instruction, educational technology) was looking for when she started the introduction to educational technology class and optional instructional technology (IT) essentials badge as part of her master’s program. Instructional technology is the theory and practice of using technology to help others learn, something Bale was already doing as a Collier County teacher.
“Any time I create a lesson plan, I ask myself, ‘what technology would enhance the learning?’ When I taught eighth grade physical science during the pandemic, I thought about how to use technology to teach remotely without losing the content and learning,” she says.
One way was to film herself doing science experiments in her driveway. Bale would post half of the video and let the kids comment on what they thought the outcomes might be. She’d post the video’s conclusion the next day and lead a discussion with her students.
The instructional technology essentials badge was designed by FGCU faculty in collaboration with pre-K-12 teachers, higher education faculty and staff, and private industry professionals to meet industry competencies.
Micro-credentialing programs help students like Bale demonstrate their preparedness for the workplace.
“The IT badge made it much easier for people to understand what I do,” she says.
“Oftentimes, employers and recent graduates do not speak the same ‘language’ about the transferable and professional skills they’ve gained,” says Vanselow. “Employers have confidence in our graduates who earn the badge.”
FGCU introduced digital badges in the 2020-21 academic year to address regional workforce needs. FGCU is enhancing the quality of students entering the workforce by expanding the micro-credentialing and digital badging initiative.
“These experiences are something students choose to complete above and beyond academic program and graduation requirements,” says Vanselow. “When the employer clicks on their badge, they learn what outcomes were mastered, what competencies and skills were assessed, and the criteria a student met to earn the distinction.”
FGCU currently offers three industry-specific digital badges: instructional technology essentials, fundamentals of medical device industry, and essentials of professional sales. Three more will launch in fall 2023: revenue management and analytics in the travel industry, emergency preparedness and management, and essentials for a nurse educator.
“My manager told me I was a top candidate because I had the medical device badge,” Ramirez says. “Having the badge now guarantees you an interview with Arthrex.”
Similarly, any student who earns the professional sales digital badge is guaranteed an interview with Gartner. Hertz will guarantee an interview for earners of the upcoming revenue management and analytics in the travel industry digital badge.
“I’m hugely excited about it,” Charles Vuono, Hertz’s vice president of revenue management, said at the May panel discussion. “The talent is here, but we have to move it along.”
Bale agrees that her instructional technology essentials badge made her more marketable. “It’s not like recruiters are going to read through your college transcripts,” she says.
“And because I took the badge program, it prepared me to talk about instructional technology and what my future in the field would look like. I thought I’d stay a classroom teacher, but the badge broadened my horizons.” Bale is now the environmental education coordinator for FGCU’s Center for Environment & Society in The Water School.
“In this weird, full-circle moment, I’m talking to folks at The Water School about possibly working on a geographic information system (GIS) badge,” Bale says. “Badging is contagious.”