Alternate Paths to Program Growth - Key Takeaways

Last month, I co-presented a webinar on “Alternative Paths to Program Growth with Nicole Foerschler Horn, Vice President of University Partnerships at Education Dynamics

Together, Nicole and I shared what we’ve learned developing partnerships and supporting colleges and universities as they look to expand program offerings and build enrollments for their programs. In case you missed the webinar, I’ve put together a few key takeaways from the session. 

Partnerships are essential and so is alignment
You can’t do it alone.  I’m sure you’ve heard that before but in this context, it’s about developing partnerships both internally and externally.  Develop collaborations with your key stakeholders, with faculty, with other subject matter experts. Sometimes those experts are in-house and at times you may want to seek outside experts that understand your mission and goals, that engage you in the process, that don’t require you to give up total control. It is important to know your strengths and leverage those. Add capacity around those strengths and foster collaboration. Be mindful that even external partners have strength and weaknesses - a partner who excels in marketing may not have strong skills in learning design. Be sure to hire the right people for the job, and don’t assume one firm can do it all well. 

Seek input from a variety of perspectives - workforce goals, program goals, course goals, and most importantly learner goals.  Make sure your voice is heard throughout the entire process. Develop partnerships built on trust where your partner can be an extension of your own team. If you choose a vendor partner, establish solid connection points for them within your team. 

Don’t get lost in translation

As schools look to expand enrollment, many find themselves wanting to bring programs that have been successful in the traditional classroom setting to the online environment.  It’s easy to think that you can just “take what you have” and bring it online. Unfortunately that doesn’t work well and in the end, you’ll have unhappy faculty and students. How you engage a student in one environment, isn’t always the same in the online environment. It’s important to have a deep understanding of the modality in which the course will be delivered.  Think of it this way, there’s a big difference when you ask someone who is fluent in a language to help with a translation of that language vs. using a google search for your translation. The language expert understands the nuances of the language, understands what you are trying to communicate and helps you get the best outcome. The google search may give you a quick answer, but in doing so, you may find yourself lost in translation! Your learners will note the difference in their experience and the programs investing in learning design partnerships will offer a more fluid journey for learners. 

Remove roadblocks - from design to delivery

It’s important to understand what the impediments might be to learner success, to anticipate what challenges they may encounter throughout the entire student journey.  I can tell you from even the very initial steps of developing courses and programs for a partner, this mindset informs our learning design. When you are expanding your offerings, consider how the student will engage with the tools, technology and curriculum.  Embrace the most sound pedagogical principles when designing or adapting content. At Ease Learning our process, is not to “cut and paste” to move from on-ground to online delivery. We have developed a backward design approach that identifies the desired outcomes and then builds the pathway to successful get the learner to where they need to be. 

Another consideration as you are looking to program growth is how are you going to support your active learners?  Are you meeting them where they are? Are you staffing your helpdesk with the right skillset, if your program grows, how do you staff levels that meet the demand when it’s already hard to recruit and retain good tech support team members? 

The helpdesk can be the unsung hero of learner success.  And it’s important. Just think about the value one student brings to your institution.  A student can easily get frustrated with their course work. Maybe it’s a log-in issue, maybe it’s a question on the syllabus.  Can your helpdesk equally address either type of issue and most importantly, are they available when learners need them most? Is your help desk providing feedback into the learning design process to build continual improvements to the course and curriculum?  A bad experience can lead to low engagement which often leads to a student’s decision to leave the program altogether. It’s very infrequently that an institution will consider how a Help Desk can improve learning design, but I would challenge people to change their thinking around this, because the stakes are high. The cost associated with losing one student is significant.  It becomes critical when you consider the impact across your entire program and institution.  

To Learn More

Ease Learning has deep expertise in design, delivery and support.  Our learning design and help desk services along with our proprietary learning performance technology help institutions who are looking to scale new program growth.  Contact us to learn more. 

Here’s where you can access the webinar, Alternative Paths to Program Growth.

About the Author

Laurie Pulido, Founder and CEO of Ease Learning, is a visionary, helping to redefine education to drive student-centered learning. She has developed an innovative approach to learning design that incorporates best practices in pedagogy, leverages technology to enhance both the instructor and learner experience, and optimizes outcomes. Her company is focused on providing learning design experience and technology solutions that transform the learner experience. They specifically focus on innovative learning design, customer-friendly helpdesk services, and cutting-edge learner analytics.


Laurie Pulido