5 Instructional Design in Adult Professional and Corporate Education Delivery

Nicole Westrick
Vanessa Williams

 

Abstract

In the world of adult professional and continuing education, a plethora of out-of-the-box options are available for organizations looking for professional training for their employees. Temple University’s Office of Off-Campus Programs and Training (TUOCPT) offers a wide range of non-credit programs for corporate partners with the vital addition of bespoke instructional design. This ensures that every organization’s exact training needs are met and that programs are created and delivered in line with best practices in the field of adult learning and competency-focused design. This chapter outlines TUOCPT’s work. It demonstrates how the instructional design process has been fully embedded into the provision of corporate training, linking overarching business objectives with student learning outcomes. The chapter draws on a variety of exemplars from TUOCPT’s diverse bespoke corporate training programs, including a half-day course on assertive communication skills for professional women, a three-week hybrid course on digital media advertising, and a 12-week Vocational Certificate program for incarcerated individuals. Case studies are presented as parts of a larger argument for the vital importance of integrating business goals with a rigorous instructional design process, founded on principles of adult learning and competency-based education.

Introduction: Education in the Context of the U.S. Workforce

The U.S. economy is undergoing a major transformation. It has seen a rise in the “gig economy” and the number of self-employed individuals: a Forbes article from 2018 cited statistics showing that more than one in three U.S. workers are freelancers, and estimated that this figure will rise to one in two by 2020 (Muhammed, 2018). Today’s workforce is multi-generational and includes the Silent Generation, Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Millennials (Fry, 2018; Ng & Parry, 2016), and according to the Pew Research Center, more than one in three U.S. labor force participants are Millennials (Fry, 2018). Millennial workers value on-the-job opportunities for growth and development above most other factors including compensation, and this search for learning and development opportunities plays a part in the stereotype of Millennials as constantly changing jobs: “The reason Millennials are coined job-hoppers is because they see every opportunity as a stepping-stone and opportunity for growth. When they feel they have maxed out that growth, or that growth isn’t attainable, they move on” (Smith, 2019, p. 51). Additionally, with the ever-increasing pace of technological change, there is a great demand for high-quality skills-based training directly tailored to the needs of specific workplaces and their business objectives. In sum, the demand for innovative, tailored training solutions that fit around heavy employee workloads and deliver relevant content efficiently is rising, with no signs of slowing down.

To respond to these changes, higher education institutions, no longer solely concerned with traditional models of undergraduate and graduate degrees, are in many cases broadening their offerings and seeking new educational formats and audiences through non-credit and non-degree credentials. Non-degree credentials are valued by students and employers alike: in 2016, 27% of adults surveyed by the National Center for Education Statistics reported having a non-degree credential (Cronen, McQuiggan, & Isenberg, 2018, p. 3). Non-degree credentials provide opportunities for employees to demonstrate their skills to their employers to access additional opportunities and earning potential. “A majority of adults reported that their most important work credential was very useful for getting a job (82 percent), keeping a job (80 percent), remaining marketable to employers or clients (81 percent), and improving work skills (66 percent)” (Cronen et al., 2018, p. 4). There is a broad range of non-degree credentials, from credit and non-credit certificates to apprenticeships, licenses, and other industry certifications, many of which are provided under the umbrella of continuing education departments in higher education institutions, and which may additionally be included in statewide educational attainment goals (Leventoff, 2018, p. 2).

Temple University’s Office of Off-Campus Programs and Training (TUOCPT) works at the nexus of these issues, as one of the units within Temple University’s University College tasked with meeting the demand for vocational training and competency-based education while maintaining the institution’s commitment to high academic standards and community engagement and development. To this end, TUOCPT has integrated a rigorous instructional design process into its provision of corporate training programs, to tailor each program to the business objectives and competency-based learning needs of the training participants. Using three case studies of TUOCPT programs, focused on a three-hour, one-session program for an industry networking event, a three-week hybrid course, and an 18-week vocational certificate program, this chapter illustrates the importance of adult learning principles, instructional design, and approaches to ensure that learning goals support business goals and objectives. The chapter begins by outlining the mission of TUOCPT and its position within the university’s broader structure and vision. It describes the instructional design model used by TUOCPT and the key principles of adult learning that are fundamental to program creation. The chapter then provides three brief case studies of specific programs designed and implemented by TUOCPT, demonstrating how corporate clients’ business objectives and individuals’ professional development needs are supported and enhanced by on-site training delivered via rigorously designed and tailored curricula.

TUOCPT: Department and Institution Overview

Temple University is a large, public, state-affiliated university with 17 schools and colleges spread across four campuses in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, regional campuses in Ambler and Harrisburg, and international campuses in Rome, Italy, and Tokyo, Japan. Temple University enrolls over 40,000 students across undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs (Office of Institutional Research and Assessment, 2018, pp. 5–6). An additional 25,000 students participate in a variety of non-credit and lifelong learning programs. In addition to its commitment to student success and cutting-edge research, Temple University is also highly committed to community engagement and workforce development. The Lenfest North Philadelphia Workforce Initiative was established in 2018 to develop career pathways for the citizens of North Philadelphia and the broader Philadelphia region.

University College is one of the 17 schools and colleges at Temple University and consists of the regional campuses (Center City, Ambler, and Harrisburg); online education; and non-credit and continuing education. For more than 60 years, Temple University’s Non-Credit and Continuing Education (TUNCCE) programs have provided lifelong learning through credit and non-credit programs, serving students from ages 8 to 100+ with a wide range of year-round professional development and personal enrichment programs. TUNCCE’s mission is to provide high-quality credit and non-credit education and training opportunities to meet the individual, community, and professional needs of all learners, and to participate in valuable community educational partnerships that advance the regional economy.

Within TUNCCE, Temple University’s Office of Off-Campus Programs and Training is focused on the delivery of high-quality, bespoke training programs and credit courses to corporate clients, non-profit organizations, and city and county government agencies. Rather than delivering “out-of-the-box” training solutions (i.e., predesigned curricula), TUOCPT creates programs tailored to the specific needs of the organization and its staff, based on a needs assessment and an understanding of the organization’s business objectives. To this end, TUOCPT employs a full-time Instructional Designer/Trainer, who is responsible for curriculum design and implementation.

While TUOCPT’s most popular training programs center around business skills including communication, project management, and leadership, TUOCPT is uniquely positioned to draw on instructors, faculty, and administrative staff from across the university to offer trainings on any topic required by its clients. The majority of TUOCPT’s training programs are half-day or full-day programs designed to provide participants with concrete skills that are immediately applicable in their workplaces. Sessions are designed in accordance with best principles of adult learning, as will be discussed later in this chapter. Although many corporate clients use TUOCPT for multiple training sessions, these trainings often cover different topics, rather than teaching one topic over multiple sessions. For TUOCPT’s corporate clients, efficiency and clear learning outcomes are a priority for training, so that participants are taken away from their work as briefly as possible and are able to apply their learning in the workplace as quickly as possible. To meet these priorities while maintaining best practices, and a strong brand of efficient and enjoyable program delivery, TUOCPT designs programs founded on the following guiding principles of adult learning.

Guiding Principles of Adult Learning

Unlike the traditional 18- to 24-year-old undergraduate student, TUOCPT’s corporate training program students are typically post-college professionals with 5–15 years of work experience who are mid-level managers or supervisors. These professionals are eager for learning that is immediately applicable, and they prioritize skills-based outcomes that are relevant to current work situations. At the same time, the demands of their jobs and personal lives require that time be used efficiently, and that there is a clear demonstration of how to apply learning in a work context. It is vital that these students are provided with learning environments most suited to their learning styles and needs.

TUOCPT’s approach to each training engagement is centered on the use and application of adult learning principles. These principles of adult learning, or andragogy, are based on those first popularized in the United States by Malcolm Knowles, namely: (1) self-direction and the learner’s self-concept; (2) experience as a learning resource; (3) readiness to learn; and (4) problem-centered rather than subject-centered learning (Knowles, 1980, pp. 44–45; see also Merriam & Bierema, 2014, p. 47). This section of the chapter provides context for TUOCPT’s model of instructional design by presenting brief descriptions and specific examples of TUOCPT’s application of each of these four fundamental adult learning principles.

Self-Concept and Self-Direction

Adult learners are used to making decisions about their professional and personal lives on a daily basis. Any learning experience they undertake should, therefore, enable them to continue to make decisions about their learning, rather than removing their autonomy. In Merriam and Bierema’s formulation, this means not only that the physical learning environment should be adult-oriented—for example, a flexible, active learning space rather than a classroom with fixed furniture reminiscent of grade school classes—but also that “there should be a psychological climate of mutual respect and trust and an atmosphere of collaboration” (Merriam & Bierema, 2014, p. 49). In this atmosphere, adult learners can contribute to the outline and planning of the course, suggesting topics and content that are of particular relevance to them.

TUOCPT promotes student autonomy and empowerment through its mission of taking training programs to corporate training clients. For TUOCPT, it is important to meet training participants on their own “territory,” enabling them to feel a sense of ownership and comfort in their surroundings, as well as allowing them to maintain their sense of professional persona within the training context. Programs typically take place in a variety of spaces in office environments, commonly conference rooms or training spaces, and rather than requiring participants to sit in a traditional classroom format, the set-up is always more of a round-table discussion, placing participants on an equal footing with the instructor.

In addition, all of TUOCPT’s programs allow space for participants to contribute their learning goals at the beginning of the session, and for blocks of content to be moved around and re-prioritized depending on the outcomes of these early conversations about learning goals. This modular construction enables instructors to immediately tailor the program to the stated individual learning goals of the participants, as well as more broadly to the overall business objectives.

Experiential Learning

The vital role of experience in learning was discussed at length in David Kolb’s seminal text Experiential learning (Kolb, 1984), in which he drew on principles developed by Dewey and Piaget, among others. For Kolb, reflective observation of lived experiences leads to abstract learning derived directly from the experience, which in turn can lead to further experimentation that is transformed into new experiences. For adult learners, the learning environment should enable them to draw directly on their experiences from their professional and personal lives, and to use these experiences to contextualize and transform the content being presented to them. Although this cycle applies to learners at every age, adult learners each bring a unique set of accumulated life experiences to their learning. Merriam and Bierema quote Knowles et al, “To children, experience is something that happens to them; to adults, their experience is who they are. The implication of this fact for adult education is that in any situation in which the participants’ experiences are ignored or devalued, adults will perceive this as rejecting not only their experience, but rejecting themselves as persons.” (Knowles, Holton, & Swanson, 2015, p. 65) By extension, learning from experiences of others in their peer group can also be a valuable part of the process for adult learners.

In its curriculum design, TUOCPT ensures that there are explicit links between the content and the participants’ lived experiences. Students are asked to provide examples from their professional lives or are asked to complete activities that draw on past experiences or apply new content to likely future experiences. Group discussion and sharing is another vital component: student feedback indicates that participants value hearing from their peers about their experiences. Active learning strategies including role-play activities, case studies, and problem-centered small-group discussions are all key elements of TUOCPT’s training designs, as ways to encourage students to draw on and share their experiences, and to create meaningful and memorable learning experiences.

Instructor experience is another vital component of this principle of adult learning. TUOCPT endeavors to hire instructors who have extensive professional backgrounds in the topics on which they are teaching. This enables instructors to speak to their own lived experiences and share them with their students, and also to have a better understanding of some of the specific challenges and opportunities that their students may be facing. TUOCPT has an extensive roster of non-credit instructors from a variety of industries, who work with TUOCPT’s instructional designer to create curricula that enable them to incorporate their professional experiences—but not to dwell on them to the detriment of allowing their students to share theirs in turn.

As part of training delivery, it is critical to encourage connections to existing learning while acknowledging that prior experience can, as Knowles and colleagues emphasized, create biases that inhibit learning (Knowles et al., 2015, p. 190). For example, in some cases, participants’ prior experiences of corporate training and professional development can lead to conceptions of these programs as not engaging or relevant. In other cases, participants’ previous experiences with the subject matter can lead to unexpected reactions to the learning experience. TUOCPT’s model of experiential learning aims to challenge these conceptions, by designing programs that require the instructor to move away from traditional lecture-format models and that provide opportunities for reflexivity on the part of the students before, during, and after the training.

Readiness to Learn

“Adults generally become ready to learn when their life situation creates a need to know” (Knowles et al., 2015, p. 179). Participants in corporate training programs vary widely in their readiness to learn. Some participants may be keen to volunteer to participate in training programs, whereas others may have been sent at the request of their manager or HR staff, and may be less open to the learning process. This is linked to the principle of “motivation to learn,” which Knowles separates in his formulation (Knowles et al., 2015, p. 183), and can also be seen as an exemplar of reactive versus proactive learning goals. In some training programs, learning goals may be reactive (i.e., employees are trained on a new task or routine that they will immediately implement upon their return to the workplace). In other programs, learning goals are proactive, training employees for future role changes or to advance in the organization. Merriam and Bierema explain:

“A young adult may be preparing for work or experimenting with various career options, whereas a middle-aged adult may be managing or supervising other workers or looking to change careers; and the older adult may be trying to figure out how to stay up to date to keep a job, or to plan for retirement.” (Merriam & Bierema, 2014, pp. 51–52)

The differences between these types of learning goals may well affect participants’ personal readiness to learn, and it is important to understand how a training program fits within an organization’s overall trajectory and mission, as well as the background and “buy-in” of the individual participants. TUOCPT’s needs-assessment calls (discussed later in this chapter) include a discussion of the level within the organization of the proposed participants and aim to understand whether participants are excited to undertake training, or whether it is a management-directed mandated training program.

Figure 1:Diagram of Pratt’s four-quadrant model, adapted from Knowles et al., 2015, 196).

Elaborating on the “readiness to learn” principle, Knowles cites Pratt’s four-quadrant model, with one axis depicting students’ need for direction (in other words, the extent to which students are able to learn independently or require direction on how to synthesize content and application), and the other axis depicting the need for support or affective encouragement (Knowles et al., 2015, pp. 195–196). To individualize curricula along these axes as far as possible, TUOCPT’s training programs are limited to small- to medium sized-groups (a maximum of 20 participants is recommended, but for many programs the maximum may be even smaller). A small group size allows the instructor to meet participants at their individual stages of learning readiness, and to more easily facilitate group discussion and self-direction.

Problem-Centered Versus Subject-Centered Learning

Knowles suggests that for most adults, learning that is focused on solving a specific problem is of more immediate concern than general subject-centered learning (Knowles et al., 2015, p. 181). There is also a desire to be able to immediately apply skills and knowledge, rather than postponing their application. This would seem to be linked to efficiency: adult learners, particularly those learning in their workplaces, need to obtain relevant skills-based content as efficiently as possible and be able to apply it immediately.

In this facilitation of problem-centered learning, the combination of goal-oriented content with transparent design is of particular importance to TUOCPT’s methodology. Participants need to know from the outset that they will leave the training session with concrete behavioral outcomes. This is achieved in multiple ways. Participants are engaged in identifying what they hope to get out of a session through personal learning objectives, not only activating their readiness to learn but also fostering a goal-oriented approach. Additionally, TUOCPT designs training programs to produce action plans that apply both existing knowledge and new knowledge gained through the training. Action plans allow participants to identify a challenge they are facing and to develop strategies and potential timelines for solving it. Transparency is also emphasized as an important part of the learning experience: learning objectives are outlined at the beginning of every session, their fulfillment is reviewed at the end, and participants are invited to contribute their own learning objectives. To continue this goal of a transparent learning experience, participants are provided with clear curriculum outlines, often also receiving a workbook that contains additional resources and citations to enable them to undertake further reading on a topic and to guide them through the session’s content.

Given the constellation of adult learning principles that are synthesized in TUOCPT’s training programs, a rigorous instructional design process is followed, that combines business objectives, learning goals, and principles of adult learning to create effective training delivery. The next section of this chapter describes the department’s instructional design workflow and how training programs are individualized to the specific needs of the client and the students.

Instructional Design Workflow

TUOCPT’s approach to instructional design is based upon the ADDIE model (analysis, design, development, implementation, and evaluation; Gagné, 2005, p. 21), as described below.

Analysis

The design process begins upon receipt of an inquiry from a new or existing corporate training client. The initial inquiries vary; some are from organizations that have already determined a specific training need and learning objective, while others have a general sense that training is needed, or have a training budget to spend, but are seeking guidance on what types of training can be offered and what types of skills or learning objectives can be met. Sometimes inquiries arise from TUOCPT’s monthly corporate training newsletter, which focuses on a different topic each month, discussing the latest news, trends, and articles in the sphere of learning and development.

For every inquiry that is received, TUOCPT’s instructional designer conducts preliminary research and a needs assessment phone conversation with the point of contact at the organization. Preliminary research is done to understand any potential changes, challenges, or issues that might be occurring in the industry or the organization. The needs assessment phone call is used to ascertain the client’s overall business objectives, followed by the specific skills-based needs and desired behavioral outcomes identified by the client for its employees. The drivers and reasons for requesting training are a crucial component of the needs assessment process. Understanding business objectives is also vital to the process, to ensure that the training curriculum is aligned with specific goals and projects and that participants will receive training centered around the specific goals and challenges that they are facing in their workplace. On occasions where TUOCPT’s training recommendation is not in line with the organization’s initial vision, in-person site visits often help to clarify expectations on both sides, and further levels of needs assessments may be implemented, including employee skills and attitude surveys.

A discussion of the organization’s size and structure, and of the roles/positions of the participants, provides an understanding of the audience for the training. Availability of training time is assessed so that the scope of the curriculum can be set: it may be that a half-day or full-day session is all that the client can afford in terms of its employees’ time and workload, while in some cases a more long-term training program is an option.

Sample needs assessment questions include:

  • What are the current short/medium/long-term goals for your organization/department?
  • What are some of the business challenges you currently face?
  • What are your employees good at? What are their strengths?
  • What changes to your department’s day-to-day workflow would you like to see? What would the benefits of these changes be?
  • How would you describe your organizational culture? How would your employees describe it? What changes would you like to see in your organizational/departmental culture?
  • How does this proposed session fit into your organization’s broader professional development programming?
  • How much time do you have for this training program? How will it fit into your employees’ work schedule?

Design

Upon completion of the needs assessment, the instructional designer creates a training proposal for the client. The training proposal outlines specific objectives and behavioral outcomes based on the needs assessment. TUOCPT has developed a range of resources relating to common business objectives and behavioral outcomes, and these may be used as the basis for the curriculum design. However, each curriculum is tailored to the client’s needs. If a subject-matter expert is required who is not part of TUOCPT’s regular instructional team, the instructional designer will use the university’s network of faculty and staff to find an instructor to discuss learning objectives and broad curriculum design.

Often, the instructional designer will create two or three proposals for the client to review. These will vary in terms of the amount of instruction time and content coverage, demonstrating to the client the relationship between the amount of available training time and the learning outcomes. Another conversation normally takes place at this stage to review and refine the proposals and identify the best option for the client. The refinement of the curriculum often involves the client requesting specific content from several of the proposals, combining them into a single program that best addresses their needs while still serving as a cohesive curriculum. The refinement process helps ensure that the specific business goals and objectives are achieved and that the curriculum resonates with the organization.

Development

After the training format and scope of the proposal have been accepted by the client, the instructional designer builds out the curriculum. If an outside instructor is being hired, the instructional designer collaborates with them to create a syllabus and to build any additional resources that are required. Because the majority of TUOCPT’s training sessions are held in person, the focus is less on online resource design and more on creating an in-person session that draws on techniques of active learning and skills-based instruction. Often, workbooks are developed to guide participants through a structured note-taking and engagement process, ensuring that they complete the program with a resource to which they can refer on an ongoing basis. This also supports participants’ readiness to learn and action planning.

The instructional designer’s responsibilities also include ensuring that the four core adult learning principles discussed earlier in this chapter are met by each curriculum. If working with an outside instructor, the instructional designer makes suggestions to ensure that each learning principle is thoroughly incorporated into the course. (TUOCPT plans to create a formalized rubric for course design in the 2019/20 academic year, to ensure that these measures of quality are quantifiable.)

Implementation

Most training sessions take place in person at the client’s worksite. If an external instructor has been hired, a member of the TUOCPT team will accompany them to meet and greet the client and to facilitate training set-up and delivery, ensuring the continued individualization and personal service prioritized by TUOCPT.

Evaluation

Evaluation is conducted repeatedly throughout the process and is an essential element of the training completion. All training participants complete program evaluation forms, the data from which is provided to the client as a form of measuring the success of the training. These evaluations not only include participants’ level of satisfaction with their learning experience but also qualitatively measure learning outcomes (i.e., the first two levels of the Kirkpatrick evaluation method; Kirkpatrick, 2006). As part of the client follow-up and development process, a schedule of communication is implemented whereby the instructional designer follows up with the client two to three months after the training session to see if they are monitoring ongoing behavioral outcomes from the training.

The following case studies provide three examples of the TUOCPT instructional design process in action, illustrating the ways in which instructional design and adult learning principles inform training delivery. Each case study uses the ADDIE model and highlights elements of analysis, design and development, implementation, and evaluation. Case Study 1 focuses on the development of a one-off workshop for an industry-centered networking event. Case Study 2 demonstrates how the instructional design process can be implemented when using an outside instructor and delivering content in a hybrid format to an experienced team of sales professionals. Case Study 3 demonstrates how the instructional design process can be used to improve an existing curriculum and deliver content to participants who may have barriers to readiness for learning.

Case Study 1: A Three-Hour Seminar for a Professional Network

Analysis

The client, a representative of a women’s network from within a historically male dominated industry, contacted TUOCPT by email to request a training session for an upcoming network meeting. The national professional organization includes regional chapters in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. The Philadelphia regional chapter was looking for “situational training” focused on communication skills to support their broader professional development agenda.

TUOCPT’s instructional designer conducted a needs assessment phone call with the organization’s representative and identified the following business objectives and goals:

  • The organization aims to expand opportunities for women in their industry through professional development and mentoring;
  • The organization prioritizes collaboration, communication, and mutual support;
  • The organization provides professional development opportunities for women that are diverse and broad, including comprehensive career-focused guidance;
  • The organization views networking events as a central pillar of its mission.

The client had identified communication skills as a topic of particular interest to its members. Given the organization’s specific focus on empowering women to navigate a male-dominated industry, they framed this topic as focusing on assertive communication skills for women, handling difficult conversations, and “erasing communication habits women tend to have, such as the word ‘just’ or other permission words” (personal communication, April 10, 2018).

The client also required that the session should be interactive and include role play, and that it would take place with a large group of 30 early- to mid-career professionals during a three-hour breakfast meeting session. The training program would be followed by a networking session facilitated by the client.

Design and Development

The following learning outcomes were identified:

  • Identify and evaluate gendered communication challenges in the workplace;
  • Practice and apply skills relating to assertive communication and conflict management through demonstrations, simulations, and other hands-on activities;
  • Develop a personal communication strategy based on participants’ strengths, needs, and organizational cultures, for implementation in the workplace.

Given the organization’s focus on networking, the session was designed to highlight conversations around shared experiences, and tackle problem-centered learning experiences through role play and imagining responses to scenarios drawn from participants’ lived experiences.

Two specific challenges impacted the design and development process: the short time available for the training and the large group size. To accommodate the client’s request for practicing specific skills, the program was designed around work in pairs and small groups. To facilitate a high level of interaction, two instructors led the session to ease the facilitation and management of small-group work. The instructors were TUOCPT’s Instructional Designer/Trainer and the Associate Vice Provost of University College, who has extensive experience in project management and communication in the tech industry.

Communication and conflict management theory provided the structure for the bespoke content, which centered around assertive communication skills and critical conversations. Key texts were identified to use as the basis for this content and were provided in a bibliography to participants to enable them to continue self-directed learning following the session. The session opened with an activity that asked participants to identify their workplace’s communication strengths and weaknesses, before presenting an overview of models of gendered workplace behavior and communication and asking participants to review their previous answers in light of these models. The session then moved through activities relating to getting the floor (creating opportunities to voice opinions), keeping the floor (persuasive communication strategies and assertive statements), and opening up the floor (brainstorming formats for workplace communication that enable marginalized voices to be heard).

Activities included small-group discussions, think–pair–share activities, and opportunities for individuals to practice techniques in front of a small group. Given the client’s business objective of networking and mentoring, a lot of small-group activities and discussion prompts were created, as well as large-group “lightning round” activities to encourage participants to make initial contact with a large number of people during the session, which could be followed up on in the networking session that would take place after the training. The content relating to conflict management models and critical conversations was also covered in a more lecture-driven format, presenting information and strategies that could be implemented in the workplace.

The session concluded with time devoted to goal-setting and reflection. This included the development of specific, measurable goals and a detailed action plan on how the new knowledge could be implemented in the workplace.

Implementation

The session took place at a neutral location: given the organization is not housed in a single space, but brings together women from across Philadelphia, the client had already identified their preferred location. The large room had several tables that each seated 10 people, facilitating movement around the room and small-group discussions.

Upon arrival at the location, the instructors were informed that 45 participants had registered for the session and that many of them were senior-level executives rather than entry- to mid-level professionals. While there was minimal time to fully adapt the program to senior-level executives, additional emphasis was placed on the networking and experience-sharing opportunities provided by the small-group activities. The curriculum was implemented as designed, but the instructors facilitated and encouraged experience sharing from the senior-level executives. The broad range of industries and the depth of experience provided an opportunity to enhance experiential learning and achieve the lofty goals set for the education program.

Evaluation

As this was a session for a professional organization, participants were not formally evaluated on their skills-based outcomes. However, TUOCPT’s standard course evaluation form was used, which asks participants about their key takeaways from the session. The evaluation forms highlighted the benefits of peer-to-peer sharing and collaboration that had been enabled by the session’s focus on active learning and exposed the challenges of a large group size when teaching specific skills. Many participants felt that the group size had been too large to make for successful large-group discussions and that the noise level during small-group discussions had in some cases inhibited their learning. As a result of this training, TUOCPT established a firm upper limit of 25 participants per training session. This serves as an important example of helping a client understand what is and is not possible, as well as the importance of both adult learning principles and experiential learning.

Case Study 2: Three-Week Hybrid Certificate Program in Digital Media Advertising

Analysis

TUOCPT was put in contact with a senior VP of a local high-profile media network via one of Temple University’s other schools, the Klein College of Media and Communication. The senior VP had joined the media network six months earlier and had implemented major changes to the structure of the network’s sales team. He had contacted the Klein College of Media and Communication to investigate the possibility of providing training for his sales team on digital media advertising, analytics, and metrics.

TUOCPT’s needs assessment ascertained the following business objectives:

  • The organization is positioning itself as the leading media property in the Philadelphia region;
  • The organization provides innovative marketing solutions, utilizing a wide range of traditional and digital media strategies to deliver results for their clients;
  • The sales team’s recent restructuring pairs customer service specialists, who provide individualized customer support and assistance to clients, with media analysts, who create and implement bespoke campaigns.

The senior VP was in the process of upskilling his entire sales team in digital media, and several members of his team were pursuing certifications in Google Analytics. Many were familiar with traditional advertising methods, and the senior VP identified them as committed individuals who were keen to expand their knowledge and skill set in the digital realm. The senior VP requested a training program led by an industry expert that would simultaneously provide an overview of digital media opportunities for members of his team more familiar with traditional advertising methods, and provide opportunities for more skilled employees to take a deeper dive into analytics, metrics, and creative digital solutions. Most importantly, the senior VP described the sales team as individuals vital to his vision for the development and expansion of the team, who were motivated to pursue additional learning opportunities. This demonstrates a clear link between the team, the organization, and the outcomes of training.

Design and Development

The following learning outcomes were identified:

  • Demonstrate knowledge of digital media vocabulary;
  • Explain the value proposition of digital media including search (search engine optimization and search engine marketing, search remarketing), social (differences and advantages of different platforms), display (from behavioral to contextual to content targeting differences between third-party and first-party layering), and mobile (the variety and value of different mobile advertising units);
  • Describe metrics and results from digital media campaigns to a level that inspires confidence and demonstrates a firm understanding of the media;
  • Interpret and analyze real-world digital media campaigns and make recommendations;
  • Explore additional self-learning outside of the course for certification (e.g., Google Analytics);
  • Conduct a sale, from a cold call and prospecting to uncovering a client’s needs based on interviews.

TUOCPT and the client together selected an instructor from Temple University’s Office of Non-Credit and Continuing Education who teaches courses in digital analytics and digital media sales and who is an experienced digital media sales professional, well known in the local industry. TUOCPT’s instructional designer collaborated with the instructor to develop these learning outcomes based on the client’s business objectives.

Given the organizational investment, the senior VP’s leadership commitment, and the students’ willingness to devote considerable time to their learning, a three-week hybrid course was designed to cover the level of detail necessary to provide useful and applicable outcomes for the participants. This program included two in-person four-hour training sessions, the first of which was designed to provide an overview of the landscape of digital media, while the second showcased students’ final sales pitch presentations. Online asynchronous learning took place via pre-recorded instructor videos (in this case, content that already existed for a Certificate in Digital Media Sales offered by Temple University’s Office of Non-Credit and Continuing Education), readings, quizzes, and discussion board participation. Discussion board topics were proposed by the instructor, with questions relating to specific articles or applications of the content to the client’s particular business. The asynchronous learning was designed to take participants approximately 2–3 hours to complete each week. Two synchronous online sessions were scheduled, one at the end of the first week and the other after the second week. These sessions were each one hour long and took place at the end of the workday (5:00–6:00 p.m.), and were designed to provide further face-to-face interaction with the instructor while fitting around the participants’ busy workday schedules. These sessions included discussion of elements of the readings and some presentation of new content.

To ensure that participants were able to relate the course content to their personal and team sales objectives, a final project was designed that required participants to present a client sales pitch to the entire class. This final project included conducting a research phone call, analyzing findings, and putting together a campaign proposal to present to the client. Participants submitted deliverables from each stage of the sales pitch, in writing or by video. Each submission was reviewed, and the instructor provided substantive feedback throughout the process.

The final in-person session was the culmination of the course, in which participants would present their final sales pitches. Participants would observe one another’s sales pitches and provide feedback, assessing the pitches in terms of both sales effectiveness and the proposed digital media campaign, matching the needs assessment to the proposed campaign.

Implementation

To deliver the hybrid course, Temple’s learning management system (LMS) was utilized, and all participants in the program were given access. The instructional designer and the instructor worked together to create and manage the online deliverables, and the instructor created outlines and slide decks for the in-person and synchronous online sessions.

Given the high level of feedback to be provided by the instructor, on both the sales pitches and the discussion board posts, participation in the program was capped at 20 students. To further ensure that the course met the learning objectives of all participants, a pre-program evaluation was designed, with a short online quiz featuring questions relating to the various subtopics of the proposed syllabus. Participants completed this quiz one month in advance of the program’s start date, providing the instructional designer and instructor with further data to use in refining the content coverage. The pre-program evaluation provided additional details that allowed the program to be tailored to meeting the experiential learning needs of the students.

In line with the number of hours of instruction and student engagement, participants who completed the program were awarded a non-credit program certificate and a digital badge. Digital badges are becoming a valued measure of skills-based training for employers across industries, and are also important tools for instructional design, as the embedded meta-information requires the instructional designer to document the skills, knowledge, competencies, and evaluative assessments that demonstrate these criteria. Skills-based learning outcomes for professional development training are not captured via traditional transcripts; digital badges enable students to display their learning outcomes and share them both with employers and more broadly with their peer networks via social media (for further reading on digital badges, see Bowen & Thomas, 2014; Grant & Shawgo, 2013). Given both the measurable hours of online learning and assessment for this program and the program’s emphasis on digital media and information sharing, a digital badge was deemed an appropriate credential, and all 20 participants completed the program and were awarded the digital badge.

Evaluation

Participant evaluation was carried out in several formats. The instructor and instructional designer moderated discussion board comments and online quiz results, ensuring completion at an appropriate level. In addition, participants were evaluated on their final sales pitches by the instructor, instructional designer, and senior VP in terms of the type of digital media sales campaign they had proposed, and how they had incorporated the theoretical knowledge covered in the course into a concrete deliverable. Additional training opportunities for the clients’ employees were identified as a direct result of the program assessment and the participant evaluation surveys: for example, public speaking skills, and presentation and PowerPoint skills.

Upon completion of the program, participants were asked to evaluate the course in terms of content, instruction, and method of delivery, addressing all aspects of the hybrid learning style. The evaluations showed that participants felt most engaged by the in-person lectures, and particularly appreciated the opportunity to watch one another’s sales pitches. The design of the final session created a unique learning experience that participants had never experienced in their workplace—a chance to see peers in action and to learn from more experienced members of the sales team. The feedback demonstrated that many students, while appreciating the flexibility that online learning provides in terms of managing their workload and schedules, were less familiar with online learning, particularly with guiding themselves through asynchronous content. TUOCPT identified this as a potential area for development and is currently working on creating a stand-alone online learning module that all participants in online or hybrid courses can take to provide them with study tips and learning strategies when taking online programs. This illustrates the importance of providing adult learners not just the opportunity to participate in self-directed learning, but also the tools necessary to adopt this learning style successfully.

Case Study 3: Vocational Certificate in Urban Greening and Sustainable Land Care

The final case study illustrates three instructional design challenges: (1) the process of combining two distinct programs that differed in educational approach and structure; (2) the wide range in existing knowledge and prior education of participants; and (3) learners’ prior experiences that meant traditional classroom education was not perceived positively.

Needs Analysis

The Vocational Certificate in Urban Greening and Sustainable Land Care is offered to incarcerated individuals in the Philadelphia Department of Prisons. The program evolved out of the Vocational Certificate in Organic Agriculture, offered by TUOCPT since 2015. Both versions of the program combined theoretical and experiential learning using the prison’s 200-tree orchard, hoop houses, and compost facility to provide hands-on instruction in organic agriculture and horticulture. The evolution of the full Vocational Certificate in Urban Greening and Sustainable Land Care program added job readiness training, including sessions on writing resumes and interview preparation. TUOCPT’s initial intervention was to provide an education program focused on a specific industry (“green” industries) that provides students with specific skills necessary for working in that industry, more general workforce readiness skills such as interview techniques and resume writing, and broader life skills relating to budgeting and relationship management.

To situate the understanding of the needs analysis, it is important to understand Philadelphia’s returning citizen population. The Philadelphia Reentry Coalition’s March 2018 report showed that around 25,000 people were released from incarceration to their Philadelphia communities annually between 2012 and 2015, and in 2015, 33.9% of those released to Philadelphia from state or county prisons were re-arrested within one year. The report noted that 18- to 24-year-olds were the most likely age group to be re-arrested within a year (The Philadelphia Reentry Coalition, 2018). The Philadelphia Department of Prisons (PDP) offers a variety of programs to incarcerated men and women. The overarching objective of the education programs is to provide educational and work experiences that allow returning citizens to successfully reintegrate into society and obtain permanent full-time employment, lowering the recidivism rate.

In 2017, the PDP asked TUOCPT to collaborate with a similar program that was running on site, the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society’s (PHS) Roots to Reentry Program, as there was considerable content overlap between the two programs. In combining the programs, the PDP’s objective was to create a single program to unify the horticultural and business skills curricula, providing a more extensive training program with a variety of work sites and instructors. While the programs shared some content on ecosystems, horticulture, and hands-on experience with planting, the focus of each was unique, with the TUOCPT program focused on organic agriculture and the PHS program focused on landscaping. The programs also varied in length, and one program included an early release work opportunity.

The needs analysis process and experience in delivering earlier versions of the program identified two challenges. First, existing knowledge and prior education of participants varied widely. Second, traditional classroom education was not perceived positively based on learners’ prior experiences. While some had completed high school diplomas or equivalencies and some coursework toward associates’ and bachelors’ degrees, others had low literacy and numeracy levels. Basic reading, writing, and mathematics skills are essential for most workplaces and critical in landcare and green industries. Student work experience also varied widely, ranging from decades of work to no prior traditional work experience. Furthermore, some students had strong feelings of antipathy toward traditional education programs since prior experiences with primary and secondary education had not been effective for their learning. Students brought expectations to the classroom based on their past educational experiences, their broader life experiences, their relationships with the prison system and perceived authority figures, and the precarity of their overall life situations, and these factors affected their readiness to learn in varying ways. Each factor had to be considered during the analysis to design a program that would enable all students, no matter their educational background or work history, to move further along their paths back to living wage employment.

TUOCPT and PHS identified the following student objectives:

  • Learn about sustainable living through horticulture and agriculture through real-world experience and problem-solving;
  • Secure employment through job/internship placements, enabling students to begin to financially support themselves;
  • Develop a sense of competence/self-improvement/purpose and connect with the land and sustainable practices through gardening and farming;
  • Live a healthier life (nutrition, exercise, emotional life);
  • Maintain ongoing relationships with program staff and case managers to take advantage of support and additional educational opportunities post-release.

In addition, the overarching objective for the program is to provide employment pathways to living wage jobs and self-support through a foundation of basic skills to sustain continued employment and reduce recidivism.

Design and Development: Iteration 1

The Vocational Certificate design was iterative, allowing for changes to be made to both the classroom education and experiential learning components. The program was designed with two programmatic elements: pre-release education and post-release internship. First, the pre-release education was 11 weeks long and included theoretical learning in the classroom and applied or experiential learning through work experience at various sites on the PDP grounds, including an orchard, hoop houses, landscaping sites, and a composting facility. Second, the post-release internship provided students with job experience. The internship allowed students to re-enter the workforce in a structured, supported way while continuing to make concrete links between the skills learned during the pre-release portion of the program and their real-world application.

Implementation and Evaluation: Iteration 1

In spring 2018, the first cohort of 16 students participated in the combined program. During the pre-release portion of the program, students spent instruction time on site at the orchard, greenhouses, and compost facility, under the supervision of experienced instructors with backgrounds in horticulture and organic agriculture who could synthesize theoretical instruction with practical application. By emphasizing the practical application of the work, students began building work experience, providing them with a demonstrable skill set and also enabling them to see the long-term impact of their work. During these experiential portions, participants were divided into small groups, with no more than eight students in each group. This was designed to facilitate team cohesion and to enable instructors to work with students on an individual basis, taking care to provide the varying levels of support and direction needed by each student.

Alongside the experiential components of the course, classroom instruction took place and covered a range of topics. Approximately four hours per week was spent on understanding the theories and scientific principles behind organic agriculture, horticulture, and plant care. Further classroom time was dedicated to business skills, nutrition, and relationship management. In the first iteration of the program, these curricula were delivered by a separate instructional team over three “intensive” classroom weeks, at the beginning, middle, and end of the program. The instructional team consisted of the Associate Vice Provost of University College and TUOCPT’s Instructional Designer/Trainer, both of whom teach business and communication skills to adult learners. The business skills curriculum ranged from how to search for a job, fill in an application form, and write a cover letter to interview best practices, budgeting, and workplace expectations. Instructors worked individually with students to create and edit resumes, which students were then able to use for job searching during their internships. A considerable amount of attention was devoted to ensuring that the content was taught as interactively as possible to heighten student engagement and to facilitate problem-centered learning, with students participating in mock interviews, small-group exercises, and large-group discussion. Students also worked on individual goal-setting activities, considering both their goals for the duration of the program and longer term career and life goals.

In the remaining two hours per week, curricula on nutrition and relationship management were covered. To deliver these curricula, TUOCPT partnered with other organizations and city government agencies. The Mayor’s Office of Reintegration Services (RISE) offers a 20-hour curriculum on fatherhood, relationship building, and anger management to returning citizens, and was able to deliver this curriculum as part of the program. Another city agency, Get Healthy Philly!, partnered with TUOCPT to provide six hours’ of curriculum on nutrition, healthy eating, food shopping, and food budgeting, including a well-received exercise on feeding a family of four on $10 per day. This element further cemented the links between the fruits and vegetables that students were planting and harvesting at their work sites and the products that they would be able to purchase in supermarkets.

Of the 16 students who began the program, seven were eligible for early parole and were placed into paid internships through either PHS or Temple University. Of the other nine students, some were released earlier than the program completion date; others left the program to gain work experience in other areas, and some completed the education program but were not granted early parole. The students in this final category were offered the opportunity to contact Temple University upon their parole to discuss alternative internship opportunities.

In the first iteration of the program, the internships were 10 weeks long and took place for four days each week. The remaining weekday was allocated for students to take care of their “life business”: doctors’ appointments, visits with parole officers, obtaining documentation, etc. To support the post-release transition, students were provided with bus passes and uniforms or work-appropriate clothing. Paid internships were paid at an hourly rate above minimum wage, enabling participants to begin establishing some financial autonomy.

Throughout the internships, students applied their new horticulture and business skills in a variety of contexts and scenarios, working with the same instructors who led them in the pre-release education program. The continuity of instructors allowed for a smoother transition for students into the workplace, as they had already established working relationships with each other and with the instructors. Upon completion of the internships, a graduation ceremony was held at Temple University, with representatives from all instructional partners and the PDP, as well as students’ families and friends, in attendance.

Student assessment took place through a variety of methods. First, a workbook was created, drawing together all elements of the curriculum into a single book. The workbook was designed to enable visual learners and students with varying degrees of literacy to complete the curriculum. It also contained a work journal in which students maintained a record of their weekly work, to serve as a record of achievement and to reflect on the progress they made throughout the program. Workbooks were reviewed by program staff, and individual students were provided with assistance and guidance to ensure that they would finish the program with not only a record of their learning but also a portfolio that could be used in potential job interviews.

Further assessment was carried out continuously by the instructors. Given the size of the cohort, instructors were able to get to know students on an individual basis and to establish their personal employment and life goals. Instructors were then able to mentor students toward meeting those goals, whether by assisting them with industry-specific job searches, supporting them in navigating bureaucracy to obtain essential documents, or working with them on their teamwork skills.

Of the seven students who entered the internship portion of the program, six students completed the internships and received their certificates. Students face an enormous number of challenges that result in attrition, and they may leave the program to deal with life issues, including caregiving, physical and mental health, and occasionally substance abuse. As far as possible, flexibility in internship completion dates and work hours were provided to enable as many students as possible to complete the internships.

Design and Development: Iteration 2

The prison environment presents unique challenges and constraints, particularly security, logistics, and transportation of students. As a result, the original design of students working at different worksites throughout the program and the decision to focus theoretical classroom time as intensives required re-evaluation and modification. Not only were the logistics challenging in terms of communicating the schedule for these weeks to both students and PDP staff, but the change for students from working in a hands-on environment for four weeks to suddenly returning to the classroom for a solid week was not the “learning break” that had been envisaged, but rather was viewed as an unwelcome disruption to the routine.

The length of the internships was also evaluated. Initially, 10-week internships were planned to enable students to build a substantial block of work experience for their resumes, and to assist with a longer-term reentry process. However, student feedback on the internship length indicated dissatisfaction with a lengthy internship for students with existing jobs or likely job prospects. In addition, lengthier internships provided challenges in terms of finding year-round internships relating to urban greening and land care, particularly in the winter months.

For the second iteration of the program, the structure was redesigned to address these issues and improve some of the instruction delivery. The compost work site was removed from the program to provide more sustained work experiences at the other two work sites, each of which now forms a six-week placement. The “intensive” classroom weeks were removed, and instead, one day per week is now devoted to the business and relationship management skills training, to integrate this content more smoothly into the program and to avoid requiring participants to move from hands-on experiential work for a period of weeks into a suddenly rigorous classroom schedule. Additionally, the internships were reduced to six weeks to assist students in focusing their attention on searching for full-time employment and to facilitate the ability of the program to offer land-care internships at varying times of the year.

To assist with overall program management, and to provide additional resources and support for students during their post-release internships, TUOCPT partnered with an employment and job readiness agency to provide case managers for the students. Case managers maintain ongoing relationships with students and assist with evaluating the program’s long-term recidivism rate, which will form a key measure of the program’s effectiveness. The second iteration of the program began in February 2019 and is ongoing at the time of writing this chapter.

Conclusion

TUOCPT’s integration of the ADDIE model of instructional design with best practices in adult learning enables the office to provide tailored skills-based training for its clients that is uniquely aligned with the client’s business objectives. Rather than adopting a “one size fits all” approach to corporate training, offering the same curriculum to multiple clients, TUOCPT approaches each training or course creation as an opportunity to design a curriculum that will provide each participant with the precise skills and knowledge they need to further their careers. The small size and flexible nature of the department is an opportunity to provide personalized curriculum design for a broad range of clients, and to create the best possible learning experiences for a diverse student base.

Prioritizing professional development and workforce readiness programs enables higher education institutions both to continue working with their local communities and to meet employees’ and employers’ demands for high-quality skills-based training and education solutions. TUOCPT’s experience suggests that a flexible instructional design model that combines structure and rigor with creativity and a business- and skills-centered approach enables the design and implementation of programs that address the widely varying needs of the modern workforce.

 

Key Terms and Definitions

ADDIE model – A model of instructional design comprising five steps: analysis, design, development, implementation, and evaluation.

Andragogy – Principles and best practices in adult education.

Experiential learning – A type of curriculum design that allows adult learners to draw directly on their experiences from their professional and personal lives to contextualize and transform the content being presented to them. One of the four core principles of adult learning used by TUOCPT.

Problem-Centered learning – Learning that is focused on solving a specific problem of immediate concern, or learning skills that can immediately be applied. One of the four core principles of adult learning used by TUOCPT.

Readiness to Learn – The level of readiness with which students come to the classroom. Readiness to learn can be affected by whether students have opted into the learning experience or have been mandated to attend, by their previous learning experiences, and by their broader goals. One of the four core principles of adult learning used by TUOCPT.

Self-Direction – The need for adult learners to make decisions about their learning, as they do about the rest of their professional and personal lives. One of the four core principles of adult learning used by TUOCPT. 

TUNCCE – Temple University Non-Credit and Continuing Education. A department within Temple University’s University College that has provided lifelong learning through credit and non-credit programs for more than 60 years. It currently serves students from age 8 to 100+ with a wide range of year-round professional development and personal enrichment programs.

TUOCPT – Temple University Office of Off-Campus Programs and Training. A department within TUNCCE tasked with providing high-quality, bespoke training programs and credit courses to corporate clients, non-profit organizations, and city and county government agencies.

 

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