Integrating 21st Century Skills Development and Assessment into Online Education

Concurrent Session 2

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

Preparing college and career ready students extends beyond content knowledge. Students need to build communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity skills. And they need a way to showcase their skills in applications and interviews. Come learn how micro-credentials can be used to integrate 21st Century skills into online courses.


Dr. Sandy Powell is an instructional designer for Brigham Young University Independent Study. She previously taught secondary math and science for over 16 years and was a visiting professor in the teacher education department at Brigham Young University - Idaho. Sandy earned her doctorate in Instructional Psychology and Technology from Brigham Young University, a master's degree in Educational Technology from Boise State University, and a bachelor's degree in secondary physical science education from Brigham Young University.

Extended Abstract

Does learning content knowledge alone provide a guarantee that a student will succeed? Employers and higher education institutions look for evidence of ability to communicate, collaborate, use critical thinking, and be creative. But how can entry level applicants show they have garnered these skills through their educational experiences?

In today’s world of education, it is not enough to simply teach content knowledge. We must look at the student in their entirety, as the whole child. This means that every course designed or taught must address skills that will better equip students to thrive in college and careers, along with solid content. Whole child learning is required in many states along with meeting state content standards. It is now an essential piece of course design!

Teaching the 21st Century skills of communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity in a traditional brick and mortar setting is not necessarily easy but has an advantage over an online setting. Traditional classroom teaching can provide opportunities for class discussion and other interactive activities that allow educators to dive into these topics and mentor students as they practice these skills. However, this is more challenging to accomplish in an online setting, especially when students are asynchronous. Measuring and evaluating these skills is another challenge. And then, how can students prove they have gained these skills?

This session will cover how a group of instructional designers for a private online high school have worked to develop model courses designed to integrate not only solid content learning, but also teach our students character attributes and 21st Century skills. We will share with you how we developed this integration model that seamlessly provides whole child education into asynchronous online learning courses of any content area. We will also share the micro-credentials we developed which allow students to provide proof of the skills they have gained. These micro-credentials can be shared in job interviews and on college applications.

During our session we will spend the first half presenting skill integration strategies in a variety of course content areas, interspersed with small group discussions and think-pair-share activities. Participants will be provided templates and examples of not only the various skills we have developed, but also how we have templatized the integration to create consistency in courses. Attendees will then engage with colleagues of similar content areas to discuss the strategies presented. During this portion, presenters will engage with groups allowing for time to ask questions. The remaining time will allow participants to practice implementing these integration strategies in their own content or design courses. It is the goal of the session that all attendees will take with them a list of skills as well as an example lesson that can be a resource for future design and course building.

Session Learning Outcomes:

  • Identify a 21st Century skill that students are likely to gain in a course you teach, facilitate, or design.
  • Select two or more assignments or assessments where student proficiency in the chosen 21st Century skill can easily be measured.

Session activities will include:

  • Small group discussion of possible 21st Century skills that integrate well within a subject.
  • Individual and group brainstorming session about assignments that measure 21st Century skills.