Reimagining Online Education with Episodic Academic Content

Concurrent Session 4
Streamed Session

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Session Materials

Brief Abstract

Ever wondered what would happen if your learners binged course content like they binge content from streaming video services? Join us to learn how Strayer University is blending the principles behind binge-watching with research-based instructional design practices to create episodic content that keeps online learners coming back for more!


With over 17 years of experience developing adult-centered online programs, Jennifer knows what drives student success— learning experiences that connect academic content to learners’ own lives in realistic, relevant, and relatable ways. Jennifer has managed e-learning initiatives and operations for public, private, and for-profit institutions of higher education. She has led the development of solutions focused on scaling instructional design processes using Lean and project management principles while building infrastructures to keep pace with the evolving state of online higher education. Jennifer earned a BA in Corporate Communication from Marietta College, an MAEd in Adult Education and Distance Learning from the University of Phoenix, and a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership from The University of Dayton. She is also a graduate of the OLC's Institute for Emerging Leadership in Online Education.

Extended Abstract


Upon completion of this session, participants will be able to:

  • Describe Strayer Studios’ story-driven approach to course design;
  • State the instructional benefits and potential challenges of creating episodic academic content;
  • Identify opportunities for infusing episodic academic content (stories) into blended and online courses to maximize learning.


Online education continues to develop as a flexible, in-demand learning option, particularly for students whose needs do not align with traditional education models. According to Babson Survey Research Group (2018), enrollments in online higher education increased for the fourteenth consecutive year in 2016 with over 31% of all higher education learners taking at least one online course. As demand increases and technology evolves, educators must abandon traditional assumptions about teaching and learning and reimagine education in the 21st century.

Curricula and instructional models have not kept pace with the digital space, leading to poor academic performance and low course completion rates for online learners. A recent study published by the Brookings Institute (Bettinger & Loeb, 2017) reports that in comparison to students taking in-person courses only, students in online courses perform “substantially worse,” are more likely to struggle in future courses, and are at greater risk of not persisting. The issue, however, is not the online environment, but rather the application of traditional models to the design of online learning experiences.

Strayer University set out to unlock the door to online student success. Through an in-depth analysis of how faculty and students interact with online content and the types of interactions that result in student success, we identified the key to successful online academic performance: student engagement with course content. We’re reimagining education to increase student engagement by creating binge-worthy academic content.


During this educate and reflect session, we will use the 5E instructional model (Bybee, 1997) to guide participants on the Strayer Studios journey to combine binge-watching with research-based instructional design practices to create academic content that keeps learners coming back for more!

  • ENGAGEWe begin with an introductory video and poll activity that draws participants into the session while also assessing prior understanding of episodic, story-driven course design.
  • EXPLORE- Participants learn the origin of Strayer Studios while developing a fundamental awareness of how to combine the principles of binge-watching and research-based instructional design to increase student engagement with course content.
  • EXPLAIN- We guide participants through a deeper exploration of episodic, story-driven course design by illustrating terminology and explaining key concepts of our approach.
  • ELABORATE- Using audience response tools and open-ended prompts, we ask participants to reflect on what they have learned and identify opportunities for infusing episodic academic content (stories) into their own contexts.
  • EVALUATE- We share preliminary findings from our implementation of an episodic, story-driven approach and check for understanding via audience Q&A.

Join us for this interactive session to learn more about creating episodic content that keeps YOUR online learners coming back for more!

Bettinger, E., & Loeb, S. (2017). Promises and pitfalls of online education. Evidence Speaks Reports, 15(2). Retrieved from

Bybee, R. W. (1997). Achieving scientific literacy: From purposes to practices. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Seaman, J.E., Allen, E., & Seaman, J. (2018). Grade increase: Tracking distance education in the United States. Wellesley, MA: The Babson Survey Research Group.