Dean Phil Regier and leadership team serve up insights at EdPlus Town Hall

In May 2018, Phil Regier, university dean for educational initiatives and CEO of EdPlus, invited the entire EdPlus staff to join him and the leadership team, for a no-holds-barred Town Hall. He encouraged staff to “ask me anything, make a comment, tell a story. This is your time to dialogue with me and the leadership team.” What follows is a paraphrased version of questions and answers exchanged between staff, Phil and the leadership team. Watch the full video of the spring 2018 town hall here. 

Q: What is the impact of ASU+GSV summit long term on EdPlus and what stood out this year?

Phil: By hosting this convening of 4,000 EdTech innovators and investors, we are able to spread the message about ASU. The summit is important for our “most innovative university” ranking. Every company, from McDonalds to Intel and Walmart, is worried about how they educate-up their workforce. This was a huge narrative I noticed this year.

Sean Hobson: President Crow uses ASU+GSV as an opportunity to talk about latest things he is thinking about. He gave an “update from frontlines” highlighting how ASU is on the forefront of education today. He mentioned Education for Humanity, open scale courseware, Action Lab and the role that design has in creating solutions for a better future.  After the summit, I asked him what his big take-away idea was. He said we need more ways for the university to handle more inputs. That’s a reality check for us to optimize all opportunities that come to ASU.

Leah Lommel: President Crow touched on this new concept of the universal learner. You no longer go from K-12 to higher ed to a job to professional development. People are now seeking learning opportunities at various stages throughout their lives.  Something unique about EdPlus, as a department, is that any learner who comes to us and says, for example, “I just graduated high school and I’m not quite ready for college.” We say, great!  We have this thing called an earned admission pathway and we are ready for you. Or, a learner says, “I have my bachelor’s degree, but I’m not sure I want a master’s degree.” We say great! We have continuing professional development courses that might help you branch into that. The concept is that we are not learning at any one time. We are constantly learning throughout our lives.

Phil: On the notion of the universal learner, we provide education on demand in a consumable amount, when you need it, in an appropriate way. For EdPlus, we have to think more about how we can offer more non-degree trainings and certifications. Employers want their employees to have the knowledge and the learning. 

Jeff Angle: The secret sauce for us concerning the universal learner is combining more real-world relevance to the degrees, trainings and certificates we offer.

Q: From an internal culture point of view, what are we doing to put time and effort into making sure staff members are progressing in their careers? 

Phil: I have always been a huge proponent of figuring out how to advance employees from within. On my first day as Undergraduate Dean at the W.P. Carey School of Business, I noticed that everyone was an advisor. That was not much of a career. We worked to create progressions so advisors could move up into higher positions. We would like to do the same thing inside EdPlus. We have promoted many, many people and would like to continue to promote many, many people. To be frank, there is not a clear career progression in every job classification. A lot of what we do is new. We have grown 45 percent in the last two years and continue to grow very rapidly. We do things to provide staff an understanding of recent events that touch our world through Lunch & Learns on topics like Blockchain and stress reduction and meditation. I won’t pretend to say that we have figured out all the job progressions in your particular area. To the extent we can support continuing and professional education, every one of the directors would support their staff participating. 

Patty Feldman: We support an active, iterative process to change how we work and think. That helps each of us advance in our personal goals while advancing the mission of ASU. We move fast and make adjustments as we go forward. We take bold risks and work to continually build an internal environment that supports a holistic person.

Q: We talk about our growth and culture, what are biggest changes in our culture and how important is our culture to future success?

Phil: Culture trumps strategy. You can have a fantastic strategy, but if you don’t have an underlying culture that supports it, it will fail. When I started EdPlus, I said we would be an organization that has a particular culture and that we will value that culture. We hire people because we think they personify the values that are important to contributing to our work. Our culture has not changed a lot, but the way in which it exhibits itself has changed.

Leah Lommel: It’s not about how EdPlus culture used to be, but how we appreciate individual strengths that each of us brings to EdPlus now. Our culture is getting broader and that’s exactly what we need because we need to represent the student population we serve.

Q: What is the biggest challenge facing EdPlus and, specifically for instructional design?

Phil: As fast as we are changing at EdPlus, the world is changing faster and we must adapt, absorb more inputs and provide more options as quickly as we can. The biggest challenge we face in instructional design is being able to serve ASU Online students and faculty the way they need to be served and still move ahead with open scale and continuing and professional education without an expanding set of instructional designers.

Q: What are our highest priority initiatives over the next year?  

Phil: We can never take our eye off the ball of serving 30,000+ ASU Online students who entrust us with a large portion of their salary and time. They are betting a substantial portion of their lives that we can help make them more successful people in the future. Figuring out ways to make the students more successful through advances in the Student Success Center or continued advances in instructional design and new media, working with admissions and financial aid and extending our reach to students through expansion of our education to business initiatives‒that’s got to be a top priority for us. At the same time, we must continue to innovate and experiment. We have put a huge investment in open scale. Earned Admission is now being called Learn and Earn Admission Path (L.E.A.P.). There is huge interest in our master of computer science program through Coursera.  We want to see if we can build a single program on an open scale platform that succeeds financially as well as educates lots of people. There are a whole host of other EdPlus programs that do not generate the revenue or degree production that we need, but we cannot prioritize them at the bottom of the list.

Q: How does the Dean’s office ensure these priorities get the proper resources?

EdPlus has an annual budget that we work with our board to have approved. That budget forms the basis for the resources we provide for the next year. We are working through that process right now.

Q: How do you explain to people outside of the university what what EdPlus does?

Phil: I say EdPlus is a central innovation service unit within ASU that advances and accelerates everything the university does in digital teaching and learning. 

Q: How do we decide what initiatives sit here vs. the colleges, like Engineering?

Phil: If it has to do with degree production, continuing education or it’s online, it comes to us.