CHICAGO, Nov. 1, 2020 — Inclusive Coding Academy (“ICA”), an organization that offers diverse 21st century skill-building workshops and coding bootcamps, is excited to announce the formal launch of a proprietary strength-based certificate and transcript offering.
In partnership with Autism Community Ventures and private donor networks, ICA’s previous bootcamps have incorporated a strength-based assessment process. That process is now being formalized as part of a unique evaluation and certificate offering.
President and CEO, Maureen Dunne, Ph.D., a former National Science Foundation Research Fellow and Rhodes Scholar, remarked, “The Academy is unique in that it not only offers an inclusive space to learn from renowned instructors and faculty, but offerings tailored to closing the historically wide gap between 21st century skills demanded by employers and the skills prospective jobseekers are bringing to the table. Another aspect unique to our programs is that each project team embraces the power of neurodiversity and includes at least one neurodivergent individual.”
Many of ICA’s programs embrace project-based learning with themes meaningful to the students. The online “Introduction to Web Design Course” kicked off this past weekend, and the students brainstormed several ideas for their final group project together. In the end, they decided to build a website for a nonprofit initiative called “The Spectrum PPE Project”, founded and led by Dr. Dunne. Spectrum PPE designs and distributes sensory friendly Personal Protection Equipment for neurodivergent children and adults. Some volunteers for the project previously learned 3D printing skills in a prior workshop sponsored by ICA.
Students who sign up for a course, coding bootcamp, or collection of workshops all receive not only a certificate of completion but also a strength-based transcript that they can show employers to demonstrate both their strengths and the skills they have mastered. No grades are provided. Instead, students are both highly encouraged and expected to deepen their collaboration, problem solving, team building, and communication skills – so-called “soft skills” that are increasingly important in the 21st century economy.
A prior participant of an inclusive “Introduction to Coding Games” workshop was a talented, young adult with autism who had been unemployed for years after graduating high school. He never attempted college as he was discouraged after so many rejections from employers. In the grant funded workshop, this participant excelled, quickly mastering Unity, a popular platform for coding 3D games. He even completed his independent game project an entire hour ahead of any other student at the event and won the workshop’s Grand Prize for Best Student Game at the associated Hackathon. The experience helped this student appreciate his many talents and the wider opportunity pathways, including higher education, that may be available to him in the future.
As part of the strength-based skills transcript, Dr. Dunne also includes written evaluation comments, highlighting key strengths exhibited and skills mastered within the context of a system developed over many years of research.
“Some bootcamp teams may decide to build a startup company after the program,” Dunne added. Dunne is also the co-founder and Managing Partner of the Autism Angels Group (the “AAG”), an organization helping to foster the formation and success of businesses promoting Neurodiversity. “The AAG investor network is interested in receiving pitches for such pre-accelerator projects, assuming they spin out into a startup company and meet our criteria with a Minimal Viable Product (MVP) and evidence of early traction. The fact that all of these project teams include at least one neurodiverse student and that ICA seems to attract a lot of students interested in entrepreneurship also make the program a natural partner for AAG as well as later stage social impact funds.”
Upcoming workshops include Introduction to Rapid Prototyping, Introduction to 3D Printing, Intro to Python, Machine Learning and Society and additional sections for the Intro to Web Design Course.