Agility, Relevance & Learning Design

Agility, Relevance & Learning Design

Curriculum development must use speed-to-market as a key success measure. The new university cannot spend two years thinking about a program and another year developing it for delivery. In the new university, the addition of new programs is an administrative, business-oriented decision. Market analysis of emerging careers and needs must become an ongoing focus, either through investment in a highly-developed office of institutional research or by a strong relationship with an external research partner. This research will be used strategically and quickly to determine which programs should be introduced based on market demand before bringing together a structured group of faculty members to engage in their development and launch.

We have seen great success achieved in the areas of program development and curriculum design when an institution can begin with a coalition of the willing—those faculty and staff who understand the landscape of adult learning and are philosophically convinced of the need. No faculty member should be forced to engage in this kind of innovative and agile work, but neither should those who stand in opposition be allowed to block progress in this important space. It is possible to find those faculty and staff members, in every institution, who are ready and willing to take a step in this direction—begin with them. If there is not a willingness in any sector of the institution to begin, then new voices may need to be hired. As with so many changes, culture is key. Structures around rewarding innovation in this area, along with proven successes both in student learning and increased institutional revenue, can go a long way toward creating buy-in across the institution for this work.

Case Study: Maryville University's Active Learning Ecosystem

Maryville University’s Active Learning Ecosystem (A.L.E.) offers an example of intentional learning design. With the A.L.E.’s focus on individualized learning, necessary emphasis has been placed on innovative and experiential teaching that capitalizes on the information available to instructors about their students. In addition to Maryville’s online programs providing a healthy revenue stream with which to reinvest in the core institutional mission, you’ll find as much passion for quality and the success of students here as you do in the traditional undergraduate experience.

Maryville owes much of its success in this area to strong academic leadership that took an institutional vision and poured it into and across the academic unit. The recently-retired academic leader at Maryville was a long-standing cabinet member with an extraordinary passion for excellence in teaching and learning. Former Vice President of Academic Affairs Dr. Mary Ellen Finch served as Maryville’s academic leader for ten years and as dean of the school of education and in various other roles for another thirty-four years. Her stability brought trust and wisdom to the vision. We make special note of Dr. Finch because the masterful skill of advocating for faculty and mobilizing change is essential to every college or university wanting to make a pivot, and Dr. Finch possessed this skill in spades. Without academic leaders who embrace agility and innovation, turning institutional ships toward the future of learning will be impossible.

In the Finch Center for Teaching and Learning at Maryville, every faculty member has access to curriculum-design specialists who serve as partners to faculty as they bring their learning content to the table. The learning team of faculty member and design specialist works in tandem to integrate experiences, technology, and group projects that will engage students and improve learning outcomes. The partnership is available for online and classroom learning and has begun to permeate the entire culture of teaching and learning at the university. There is a synergy that emerges when a faculty member sees that the value of content can be increased dramatically with learning design. Content centered in experiential critical aspects of the learning designer’s role are:

  • Working with subject matter experts, course developers, and adult and online education staff to design and develop online and blended courses.
  • Providing technical and pedagogical assistance to faculty in the design, development, and implementation of online and blended courses.
  • Writing, editing, designing, and creating online learning modules.
  • Providing input to faculty on technical and instructional design aspects of developing blended and online learning applications.
  • Researching and recommending appropriate media and methods for learning and designing learning programs using appropriate methods.
  • Participating in the course evaluation/assessment process to determine course effectiveness.

Could your institution benefit from a resource like this? What resources do you already have in play to bridge the divide between students, technology, and instruction? 


The Explosion of Adult Education: Meeting Society’s Needs 
  1. Does your institution have the ability to move with speed to design curriculum that the adult market is demanding?

  2. Would the faculty at your institution understand and embrace the learning-designer model?

  3. Have you explored whether alumni at your institution would be open to continuous career education as a part of their ongoing relationship with you?


Creating academic efficiencies is challenging, but doable with the right partner. Credo has academic experts on hand to provide guidance, assist with program prioritization, and help improve your academic advising modules. See what we have to offer and then contact Credo to start the conversation.

Contact Credo


Are you enjoying this blog series? If so, you can get the complete text by ordering "PIVOT: A Vision for the New University." Go beyond excerpts and get the full story by ordering your copy today.

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© Credo and www.credohighered.com, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Short excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Credo, Credo Press, and www.credohighered.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Please email info@credohighered.com for information on how to obtain a full copy of Pivot: A Vision for the New University or for permission to use excerpts from the book and/or blog series.  

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