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University of Phoenix Brings Skills-tagged Digital Badging to Faculty Achievement and Recognition

By Sharla Hooper

Successful pilot focused on faculty storytelling skills leads to expansion of digital badging for faculty

In a groundbreaking higher education initiative, University of Phoenix faculty development has begun offering faculty members opportunities to acquire digital badges for associated skills acquisition, mirroring its approach and progress of skills-tagged curriculum and digital badging for students. The faculty skills badging initiative builds on the University’s commitment to faculty support and development, providing a new method for recognition of faculty achievements and skills.

The workforce has been shifting for some time toward recognizing skills gaps for workers, accelerated by the pandemic, and illustrated in the results of the University of Phoenix’s Career Optimism Index® study. As University of Phoenix focuses institutionally on careers and skills attainment, faculty skills recognition and digital badging is consistent with student skills recognition and provides faculty similar opportunities to share professionally their continued commitment to learning and skills acquisition.

“Our skill-mapped curriculum and individualized skills dashboard highlights for our students how they are acquiring skills as part of their progress in their programs,” states John Woods, Ph.D., provost and chief academic officer. “It made sense to apply the same approach to our faculty, in their delivery of the curriculum, to recognize how they are performing as practitioners, teachers, and as learners themselves.”

Building on its long-standing and robust approach to faculty development and training, the University’s effort to incorporate skills-tagged digital badging into faculty development began with a pilot program on storytelling. The program relied heavily on humanities-focused content—stories of all kinds and the theories and practices around listening and telling stories.

“Telling, hearing, and reading stories helps learners develop affective competencies like comfort with ambiguity and an appreciation for diversity, and delivers a measurable physiological empathy response,” states Eve Krahe Billings, Ph.D., dean, Academic Innovation and Evaluation. “The use of storytelling in the classroom permits students and faculty to connect on professional and personal levels.”

University of Phoenix practitioner faculty have an average of 26 years in their respective field of expertise and incorporate real-world experience and career-relevance into teaching practice. “Translating this insight via best practice in storytelling further strengthens learners’ ability to consume and understand the information,” states Billings.

“Training our practitioner faculty in storytelling skills provides them with another approach to interact with their students,” states Tahnja Wilson, director of Faculty Training and Development at the University. “This innovative, emergent best practice in teaching has not yet been widely realized across higher ed – particularly as it pertains to practitioner faculty and imparting real-world experience. We are excited to be among the first to include storytelling as part of our students’ higher learning experience, particularly considering the vast real-world experience of our practitioner faculty.”

The pilot program on storytelling consisted of a workshop, and a survey of participants found that prior to the workshop, 53% reported that they could “connect the use of story-telling to career-relevant content” and were “comfortable using storytelling in my teaching practice” as measures. After completing the workshop, this increased to 100% of participants reporting for the same measures. Faculty participants who successfully completed the workshop were then able to claim a University of Phoenix branded digital Storyteller badge.

Jane King, J.D., faculty teaching in the College of General Studies, participated in the storytelling workshop and found it helped her to overcome a lack of confidence in her own storytelling ability. “It was completely worth the hard work and has enriched my approach to teaching,” shares King. “In the courses I teach, I have added a story as a discussion prompt in every week’s discussions, often career-focused, in relation to a key concept. Students react positively to this more personal approach and are encouraged to consider their own experiences and to share their stories. Teaching and learning through storytelling then becomes a circular process resulting in a strong connection for the student between course concepts, everyday life and work, and future career.”

University of Phoenix has plans to continue to expand the faculty skills badging initiative as part of its overall approach to faculty development and improved performance.

About University of Phoenix

University of Phoenix is continually innovating to help working adults enhance their careers in a rapidly changing world. Flexible schedules, relevant courses, interactive learning, and Career Services for Life® help students more effectively pursue career and personal aspirations while balancing their busy lives. For more information, visit