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Serving adults through their lifetime learning journey

April 29, 2021


Serving adults through their lifetime learning journey

By EAB Expert April 29, 2021 0 minutes Image-Rising-HigherEd-white-logo-w-Teal

Jennifer Palilonis

Director, Center for Emerging Media Design and Development; Ball State University

In 2019, Ball State University launched a new strategic plan: Destination 2040 – Our Flight Path.  The plan is organized under five distinct goals and 35 strategic imperatives. Each goal is intended to guide the university in both the short and long term and lay a foundation for the overall vision and mission, while addressing immediate social, cultural, community, environmental and economic needs. My capstone project was focused on Goal 2: Graduate Education and Lifetime Learning, which includes a strategic imperative focused on providing robust educational offerings and delivery methods that includes baccalaureate and post-baccalaureate micro-credentials, short-term learning modules, professional licensure workshops, and enrichment opportunities to accelerate career fulfillment and enhance personal development and wellbeing.

Goal Two recognizes a number of critical issues facing both our region and higher education in general. First, there is a seismic shift taking place in higher education. Traditional student enrollment is declining, while the number of continuing education and non-traditional students is increasing. As a result, the modern learner requires new and unique approaches to programming, service and support. Second, technology, including online education, is increasing expectations of learners who believe learning opportunities should be less expensive, more flexible, and tailored to their specific interests and needs. Third, Indiana’s economy is adjusting slowly to these changing dynamics, so the “skills gap” continues to widen. Regionally, East Central Indiana (ECI) is lagging further behind the state. Fourth, the COVID-19 pandemic has had an immediate impact on higher education. It is accelerating pressures that were already underway, including declines in revenue and student enrollment, and eroding public confidence in the value of a traditional college degree.

To address these concerns, Ball State is embarking on an exciting initiative to support adult learners in a lifetime educational journey that includes learning opportunities that go beyond traditional bachelor’s and master’s degrees. This new initiative will provide learners with a host of high-demand, non-credit offerings, career coaches, and enrichment opportunities.

Our first step will be to launch a small pilot program that will help establish the necessary structure, procedures, policies, and resources for this initiative. To foster these activities, my capstone project has included:

  • Leading design thinking focus groups and brainstorming sessions with deans, department heads, and faculty across campus to align unit strengths with potential non-credit programming;
  • Develop a process for our seven academic colleges to proposals new non-credit programs for consideration;
  • Facilitate cursory market research on proposed programs;
  • Assist with the evaluation and selection of a new technology platform for non-credit learners; and
  • Collaborate on development of a new non-credit business model and marketing and promotional plan.

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EAB has been an invaluable partner in this process, providing a plethora of resources. Here are just a few of the EAB reports that have contributed to our work at Ball State:

Likewise, I was partnered with capstone buddy, Maya Evans from University of Wisconsin-Madison. Maya’s institution is engaged in similar efforts across the university at the undergraduate, graduate, and non-credit levels, and I have been grateful for her insights, advice and encouragement throughout the project.

We have a long way to go toward achieving our goals. However, we believe the work we are doing at Ball State is critical to breaking down common barriers that adult learners often face when it comes to accessing professional and personal learning opportunities.

See the fellows’ blogs from the capstone projects

Amy Capolupo and others participated in the Spring 2021 EAB’s Rising Higher Education Leaders Fellowship

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