Carolyn Muller is former interim director of LX Studio, which is part of the University of Central Oklahoma (UCO). This innovative studio services both the institution and external clients to develop and build noncredit offerings. LX Studio uses its proprietary learning environment modeling when creating courses to strategically apply concepts like design thinking. The team will do an assessment of the goals and learning strategies for clients they’re working with and then help build programs to scale.
In an interview with D2L, Carolyn shared her experiences in working as part of LX Studio and how it supports UCO and workforce development to assist businesses and nontraditional learners. Here’s what she had to say.
Using For-Credit Content for Noncredit Courses
LX Studio has our own instance of D2L Brightspace where we house the continuing education courses we deliver to the university and beyond. These include microcredential programs as well as other professional and noncredit offerings.
For instance, we have an offering through our Forensic Science Institute that an individual might be interested in taking even if they don’t want to sign up for a whole university degree. We have one of the leading forensics institutes in the country. Because the dean of that program is renowned for FBI and forensics, we took his Intro to Forensics course—which people just are fascinated with—and put that in our professional instance of Brightspace.
We have an Academy of Contemporary Music (ACM)—so essentially our university is a school of rock—and they’re trying to create small courses for someone who wants to come in and take a $10, $15, $20 or $50 course to learn a tool. We have courses like “How to copyright your music,” “How to brand” and “How to use social media” to make sure people know about your band or event.
These programs not only enhance our reach as a university, but also act as potential funnels for other programs. I might take a couple of ACM courses and then realize I could get an associate’s degree that I didn’t know was there. There could be a program where someone takes a couple of course offerings between an undergraduate program and a graduate-level program. How could we use that as a tool to say, “Now that you’ve taken a couple of these courses, maybe you’d be interested in a specialty program that the university has”?
We support workforce development in two different ways. First, we actively seek out partnerships and relationships with local businesses. Second, we run marketing and association-type events to bring in new business.
Within the metropolitan area, we’re trying to identify workforce needs to broaden our reach as a regional institution within Oklahoma. Right now, we’re working on a STEAM project with a STEAM engine group that got an ACE Impact Partnership grant. Our challenge is really around how we can promote construction, architecture and engineering within the state and create funnels from a workforce development standpoint.
We have a strong relationship with our chamber to understand what industries are coming. How can we identify what is being attracted into our state and then be that service provider to create educational funnels that lead to jobs?
While the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University are the two biggest state institutions, UCO actually has more graduates working in the Oklahoma City metro area. We see our continuing education efforts as a way to grow people who are graduates from UCO, whether we’re meeting our alumni’s specific need in educating them for the next part of their career, or whether they have employees who need to come to us for other education. We just really see it as an extension of the services that we want to offer and the value that we want to be seen as a metropolitan university.
Advice on Tackling Workforce Development With Continuing Education
One of the most important things about building good workforce development educational offerings is getting people to strategically think through their ideas. Every faculty member will want to create a program that they think is wonderful. But does that have a direct line to a need in the marketplace? And I think our team is really good at getting people to think that through.
One of the very first things we do is sort of a vision canvas that’s really just like a brain dump. We ask questions like “Why would you create this?” and “What is the value proposition?” and “Who is that market?” It gives people the chance to say, “Yeah, this is a great idea, but I don’t know if this is working” or “I can see now that maybe there isn’t as much value in that marketplace.” We want these offerings to be very targeted and really be driven by either a need in the marketplace or a niche that we specifically have that we could fill for our clients.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Continuing Education: The Guide to Getting Started
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Kari is a Content Marketing Manager at D2L who focuses on the world of corporate learning. She enjoys using her research, reporting, writing and multimedia skills to tell impactful stories.
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