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  TOOLS: Transferrable Skills

TOOLS AS DEFINED BY The New Oxford American Dictionary, 2nd Edition)

  • A device or implement, esp. one held in the hand, used to carry out a particular function : gardening tools.
  • A thing used in an occupation or pursuit : computers are an essential tool | the ability to write clearly is a tool of the trade.
    ORIGIN Old English tōl, from a Germanic base meaning ‘prepare’.

TOOLS AS DEFINED BY Katharine Hansen and Randall S. Hansen in Dynamic Cover Letters, published in 2001 by Ten Speed Press (see page 13). See also the authors' website.

What are transferable skills? Simply put, they are skills you have acquired during any activity in your life -- jobs, classes, projects, parenting, hobbies, sports, virtually anything -- that are transferable and applicable to what you want to do in your next job.

TOOLS AS DEFINED BY the faculty of the LIS Program at UIS.

...[C]ertain B.A. learning needs do not easily fit into an interdisciplinary model of general education. Writing, computer literacy, research skills, the ability to cope with stress, physical fitness: these are tools that cut across all of the coursework and enhance your quality of life.

IDEAS from ERNEST BOYER about college learning that reflect on the TOOLS CATEGORY (from The Undergraduate Experience).

...The danger is that in a bid for survival, colleges will offer narrow skills training with a cafeteria of courses devoid of deeper meaning. If the college experience is to be worthwhile, there must be intellectual and social values that its members hold in common even as there must be room for private preferences.... (page 66)

...On three separate occasions, from 1969 to 1984, undergradutes were asked to indicate the "essential" outcomes of a college education. From the first survey to the last, "training and skills for an occupation" and getting a "detailed grasp of a specialized field" moved from near the bottom to the top. In contrast, "learning to get along with people" and "formulating value and goals for life" became much less important.... (page 67)

...In an era when an emphasis on narrow vocationalism dominates many campuses, the challenge is to help students related what they have learned to concerns beyond themselves.... (page 68)

...Individuals should become empowered to live productive, independent lives. They also should be helped to go beyond private interests and place their own lives in larger context.... (page 68)

...It is appropriate for educational institutions that are preparing students to be citizens in a participatory democracy to understand the dilemmas and paradoxes of an individualistic culture. (page 68)

...The college, at its best, recognizes that, although we live alone, we also are deeply dependent on each other. Through an effective college education, students should become personally empowered and also committed to the common good. (page 69)


LIS Professor Eric Hadley-Ives shares his thoughts about Tools:

Hopefully in all their courses our LIS students will gain transferrable skills. In almost every course they will practice their writing skills, their reading skills, and probably their computer skills. They will often work in cooperation with their classmates and their faculty facilitator, and thus practice their cooperative work skills. Perhaps most importantly, in most classes they will learn how to make critical judgments, how to think with scepticism and intellectual integrety, how to weigh evidence and argument, how to evaluate ideas and products, and how to identify values and ethical issues. Students learn to think about the consequences of actions, the rules of logic, the tendencies of human nature, the laws of the physical universe, and the principles of aesthetics.

All this learning gives students intellectual tools. Such tools can be applied in almost any occupational or personal setting. A person who has enhanced their ability to percieve accurately, think clearly, and communicate effectively will presumably have a better family life and love life, a more successful career, and a more satisfying worldview. Along with these tranferrable skills of the mind come some transferrable skills of behavior. For example, students may learn how to use technology to find facts that could answer their questions or help them make strategic decisions. Students should become familiar with good writing, and somewhat accomplished in their own writing and speaking ability.

There are many courses like this, where a narrow-thinking person may ask with incredulity, "of what use is that?" The answer is usually, "I'm gaining transferrable skills." Most students who study philosophy or history or English will not become professional philosophers, historians, or authors. They will, however, be better as managers, salespersons, executives, civil servants, engaged citizen intellectuals, and as life partners and parents. This is the key to college. Gain transferrable skills. Develop strengths in yourself that will help you attain happiness. Look for what will make you productive in a career, but look also for what will make you satisfied with your life. The tools you pick up in your classes will often help you in both areas.

Examples of courses that have strong tools content:

Some of our online courses:

CSC-318 Computer Literacy (4)  

UNI-401 Library Research Methods (3) 

CSC-318 Software Packages (2) 

CSC-319 Computer Programming (4) (CSC-318 or computer experience is a prerequisite)


One of our on ground courses:

COM-341 Communication Technologies (4)


There are many other courses with strong tools content.


Remember that if you are following a Boyer model of quality undergraduate education it is not necessary for you to have coverage in the tools category. The other seven categories are required (identity, heritage, language, institutions, nature/science, art, and work).



Revised 03/14 by ejhi