Veronica Diaz, CAE
Veronica Diaz, Ph.D., CAE, is the senior director of professional learning and development, at EDUCAUSE in Boulder, Colorado.
Creating professional-development programs that are versatile and meet learner needs at all stages of their career is key to providing sustainable education and revenue. EDUCAUSE discusses the lessons it learned from creating its Professional Pathways education program.
The days of the “learning buffet,” with dozens of disparate learning options, are over. Today, associations need a cohesive learning portfolio that engages their members with content they can assemble into actionable plans that will get them from point A to point B.
In this spirit, EDUCAUSE created Professional Pathways. Here’s a look at the benefits that can be gained by learners and associations when a cohesive learning plan is in place.
While members have limited professional development funding, there is significant interest and willingness to pay for learning that yields a tangible return. In that vein, EDUCAUSE redesigned its portfolio of leadership and management offerings to be online, modular, competency-based, applied, and highly engaging. EDUCAUSE quickly developed and scaled offerings that ranged from three to 11 weeks in duration and captured market demand caused by the significant turnover in higher education.
These offerings, combined with services such as mentoring and microcredentialing, carry significant return on investment to both the participant and EDUCAUSE. Many have a profit margin of more than 60 percent, recover their development cost after the first offering, and support the organization’s goal of diversifying nondues revenue. This is sustainable growth in an uncertain future.
It’s not enough to design effective, standalone learning programs. Associations must create an effective ecosystem of learning. From 2018 to 2020, EDUCAUSE reimagined professional learning to create a scalable portfolio of products and services that includes both free and fee-based elements to support the member career journey—from novice to the retired professional. The ecosystem weaves volunteering, learning, mentoring, networking, and other components into plans that are personalized by field and professional level, boosting the value of each because they’re presented as a cohesive plan.
Since 2017, when programs for new managers were only available in person, EDUCAUSE has more than doubled the number of participants and revenue.
EDUCAUSE Professional Pathways support access, empowerment, and transparency, reducing barriers to advancement. Scaling the system to offer critical leadership and management programs online has reduced cost and enabled greater participation, especially for new and previously underserved professionals. Since 2017, when programs for new managers were only available in person, EDUCAUSE has more than doubled the number of participants and revenue. More than that, the organization has moved away from compacted, two-day, face-to-face programs to higher-quality, extended, application-based experiences, which give learners time to process and practice.
EDUCAUSE’s Professional Pathways are designed to allow a great deal of personalization for each user. The Pathways focus on four key higher-education audiences: information technology, information security, teaching and learning, and those supporting innovation across the institution. Each field contains five stages spanning a 30-year career.
Toolkits for each stage contain information on education, skills, self-assessments, experiences, jobs, and stories (videos) from professionals by field and level. The pathways answer the “what” and “how” question for professionals wanting to excel in their current and future roles. An added bonus is support for the “what if” question for those interested in exploring any of the other pathways, thereby enabling crossover and creativity in career planning.
Higher-education leaders can use pathways to build a curated, personalized plan—whether they’re reinforcing, rebuilding, or redesigning their teams and units. These tools are also used to enrich performance reviews, adding specificity and professional-development support. To strengthen our mentoring program, the pathways were also designed as a coaching tool. Mentors can help mentees self-assess, develop a gap analysis, and explore goals and competencies to chart a path for future roles or an expansion of the current one.
The events of 2020 enabled “radical experimentation,” and much of what EDUCAUSE tried and learned in the past two years yielded positive results. Significant growth and expansion of the portfolio necessitated a mechanism to track performance and demand for new products and services.
In collaboration with the business intelligence team, EDUCAUSE developed dashboards that provide real-time information on satisfaction, registration, revenue, and product and service requests, as well as individual and institutional participation. Operating predominantly in an online learning environment and using real-time data enables the organization to react quickly to demand with minimal risk—the opposite of what was possible with a mostly face-to-face learning portfolio.
However, EDUCAUSE is leveraging the in-person environment with its new Executive Leaders Academy, a hybrid event that launches this fall and is coupled with the annual conference. This pairing boosts the value of two flagship offerings, while making financial sense for both members and the organization.