A growing workforce skill gap and high demand for qualified, trained workers leads to an increased need for not only hands-on training of current and future employees, but also an online component to save time and add value.
Metropolitan Community College (MCC) has online course options for traditional degree students, and it became clear an additional online learning component was needed to fit non-traditional training for regional business partners. In 2018, we created a Corporate Online arm of MCC’s Workforce Innovation Division, which provides innovative, technologically advanced, customized training solutions to directly serve business needs. Through this new arm, we design, develop and deploy online learning courses and workshops that enable participants to quickly learn high-demand skills and receive certifications.
"One way we are working to integrate online learning is by utilizing a hybrid model of online and blended learning"
To formulate strategic direction, team members collected data using electronic forms within pilot courses and utilized the MS Forms app for distance input. Pivotal information resulted from two listening sessions in which representatives from multiple industries used several digital whiteboards for brain writing and the Multi Taction wall—an interactive display system for visual collaboration—to capture their goals, workplace needs and ideas.
Professional communication skills emerged as the top priority. We spent time with participants to explore the definition of professional communication and ideas regarding associated courses. Their definitions included: clear intent, audience consideration, clarity of message, ability to articulate ideas and a respectful approach. They went on to suggest potential courses, such as coaching and feedback, phone etiquette and meeting management.
Critical thinking and time management rounded out the top three requested skills and abilities. Participants mentioned they’d like their employees to synthesize information, solve problems, make the best decisions, manage multiple priorities, use time management tools and deliver timely results.
From these emerging priorities, we have begun to put a plan into action and will use the information and ongoing discussion with strategic partners to guide course development.
One way we are working to integrate online learning is by utilizing a hybrid model of online and blended learning. To that end, we use the features of our Canvas Learning Management System (LMS) in dynamic and robust ways. Participants collaborate in online groups, participate in peer-reviewed assignments, create video responses to questions and complete real-world quizzes that require application of knowledge. Even the activities within the LMS encourage participants to seek out and utilize technology to complete assignments and generate original content, as well as learning artifacts.
In a recent online and blended learning initiative with an area school district, we provided professional development to a group of high school teachers. This 80-hour program had both face-to-face and integrated online learning segments. This project was a natural sequel of a similar professional development project provided to another school district in 2017. Both projects emphasized best practices for using technology to enhance teaching and learning, specifically in an online LMS environment.
To manage current projects and place new projects in the development cue, the team also leverages technology that includes MS Teams for tasks, strategies and communication; Adobe Creative Cloud for learning element creation; and Zoom for webinar/remote action planning meetings.
We are eagerly planning a six-course certification series in digital marketing, a blended learning course, as well as online training certification courses in team collaboration, team communication, meeting management and writing effective emails.