Facilitating LiFElong Learning: Meeting Learners' Needs Through Creative Partnerships and Pathways

Concurrent Session 8
Streamed Session Best in Track

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Session Materials

Brief Abstract

Instructional designers from an urban research university share their experience partnering with a large corporation and various academic departments to create and offer an asynchronous, gamified, competency-based online education program for Fortune 500 corporate employees that strives to meet learners wherever they may be on their educational journey.


Dr. Katie Sharpe is an instructional designer with a background in both education and research. Katie currently supports faculty with the design, development, and delivery of both online and on-ground courses. Her focus is on maintaining a high level of instructional impact by incorporating best practices in instructional design and creating positive learning experiences for students and faculty. As such, her research explores potential avenues to increasing students' educational experiences.
Dr. Scott Vann is the Assistant Director of Digital Learning for The University of Memphis. Scott oversees the UM3D team that manages the design, development and delivery of all UofM Global courses. Scott also is involved with corporate partnerships, such as the FedEx LiFE program, managing all instructional technologies. His focus is providing innovative technologies to assist faculty with designing and developing quality online programs for UofM Global. Scott has an EdD in Instructional Design and Technology. His primary research interests are within gamification-based learning, especially within faculty professional development.

Extended Abstract

Can universities collaborate with Fortune 500 corporations to provide employees the benefit of higher education while meeting a diverse group of learners’ needs, allowing learners to go at their own pace, and keeping learners engaged in the learning process? One university and corporation recognized the potential for doing so and, as such, were inspired to make certain no matter employees’ past experiences, they were able to take steps toward successfully earning a degree. An asynchronous, gamified, competency-based, online Academy was created as the first step toward earning that degree for employees without a high school diploma or college experience. The Academy was designed using self-directed learning theory and best practices in instructional design with the goal of equipping learners with the knowledge needed for academic success, work-life balance, and professional development.

This session will begin with a brief introduction of the presenters and the corporate partnership that led to the creation of this unique Academy. The variety of alternative and accelerated pathways to degree completion that are made available to employees who enroll in this program will be of particular focus within the introduction. (10 mins)

The presentation will continue with an explanation of how self-directed learning theory (SDL) was used to inform the design of the Academy. SDL theory necessitates the importance of creating an Academy that prepares students for lifelong learning projects in an online environment. As such, utilizing content and assessment informed by SDL allowed the Academy's design to focus on ways to build the individual skills and autonomous learning processes necessary to see students succeed in both an online degree program as well as lifelong professional development. (10mins) 

A live demonstration of the asynchronous, competency-based Academy and a walk-through highlighting the unique design of the Academy (ex. self-paced, gamification elements, multiple assessment attempts, and significant on-demand student supports) will be provided. Attendees will be given a sample student account to access and navigate the Academy during the presentation. Feedback from Academy students regarding their experiences as well as feedback from university leadership will be shared. Lessons learned during the design and implementation of the Academy and a roadmap of improvements (both those already made and those planned for the near future) will close the presentation.  (10mins)

Participants will be given an opportunity to reflect on the Academy experience and the affordances and challenges of this type of learning pathway. (5mins)

The presenters will close with an interactive question and answer session using Poll Everywhere. (10 mins) 

Key Takeaways:

  • Participants will hear how instructional designers designed and developed a self-paced, competency-based course and the theory/tools they utilized to do so to meet the needs of a specific corporate partner.
  • Participants will gain insight into students’ experience within the Academy through active demonstration and Academy access.
  • Participants will engage in dialogue with one another and the presenters about the challenges and successes of designing creative pathways to degree completion for employees through corporate partnerships.

Participants will have access to the following materials during the presentation:

  • Presentation slides
  • Student account access to demo the Academy
  • Poll Everywhere link for Q&A