EdPlus asks, Phil and Leah answer

The EdPlus staff came late last month at the EdPlus quarterly All-Staff meeting for a no-holds-barred question/answer session with EdPlus CEO and Dean for Educational Initiatives Phil Regier and EdPlus COO, Leah Lommel. The content below has been paraphrased and topics reorganized.

If there could be one substantive difference at EdPlus in the next two years, what would it be? 

Phil: I would like us to build a really robust content management system. Right now we are building course by course by course. If I want to pull some content from one course and stick it into the Continuing and Professional Education (CPE) platform, I effectively have to build a new course. It would allow us to repurpose our digital assets so much more quickly than we can now. That would be on my wish list. 

Leah: I have a clear plan in my head to 2025. I’d like to see double the staff with large workforces overseas at some point. The more transient we become, the more able we are to serve the people we need to serve. 

What are priorities, goals moving forward for EdPlus? 

Phil: At the end of the day, we build courses. That’s the product we deliver.  We deliver them on Canvas and Blackboard. We deliver them on open scale. We deliver them through continuing and professional education. We do each one of those for different types of students. We have to get better at delivering across a set of platforms to an increasingly diverse set of students. Our priority is to serve more students. 
Leah- we need to focus on not dropping the ball on ASU Online. Don’t forget the mother ship. There is a lot of untapped potential with what we can tap with the open scale environments. We are also focused on CPE. And, we need the CMS to break out the content for academic teams and marketing teams.  

What about the resource allocation for the core of what we do--instructional design as well as managed programs? 

Phil: EdPlus resources have increased 10 fold since I started back in 2010. Here’s how it works. This year, we have 33,000 students. They all pay money for courses and all of those tuition dollars go into a big central pot along with tuition from campus immersion students. We don’t get a predetermined slice of it. I’ve argued for years that we should get a slice of that, but that’s not how the university budgets. We have a budget that is given to us at the beginning of the fiscal year--July 1, and that’s what we are supposed to live within. Sometime during the year, some huge thing happens and we need more money. We go to the board of directors of EdPlus, chaired by Michael Crow. We explain our need for more resources and there is a back and forth. And then we get the resources, more often than not. No unit at the university gets everything they think they need to run as smoothly as they need to. We are very fortunate to have the resources we have. We have some large tranches to pay for some additional projects this year that we are taking on. So yes, there are additional resources the University has allocated to EdPlus this year. Just look at the people we have added in the last six months. It’s clear that the university is continuing to double down in providing us the resources we need. 

Starbucks seems like a new paradigm in funding education and access. Will we get other comparable partners and will this be the future of ASU?

Phil: There are things in progress and I cannot reveal everything I know at this point. Starbucks is an unbelievable example. I love Starbucks because it is a fantastic company. We all ought to love Starbucks because 7,000 of the 33,000 ASU Online students are Starbucks partners. That’s 7,000 students from a single company and we don’t have to find those students. There is (ordinarily) a cost to finding students and bringing them in. So, will we do more corporate partnerships? Yes. We have a business development group that works under Jeff Angle and they do a fantastic job of signing up new companies. None of them to the extent of Starbucks. There are actions underway that will allow us to do more Starbucks-like partnerships in the future. You’ll learn about that before the spring staff meeting. We have 21 mini partnerships right now. 

As we become an even more global organization, how can we build a storehouse of knowledge that we can refer to about the culture of education around the world? 

Leah: We have built out so many pockets of global expertise. We need to get all those people who have been working together at a Lunch and Learn to say this is what we have been working on in the global space. One of the lessons we have learned is that a lot of the context we use in our courses is a lot of Americanized language. While most of the world is familiar with American films, some people could be totally offended. We are trying to strike that balance concerning how we neutralize ourselves. If you are interested in summarizing what is happening inside of EdPlus as it relates to global outreach, email Leah and let’s learn together.

Phil: Inside the ID unit, there is already sensitivity to American phraseology and use of sports terms like “sticky wicket.” When IDs are working with faculty and hear such terms, they need to work with the professors to use more broadly understood descriptors. Moreover, when we are putting together courses that take as much as 40 hours of contact time, wouldn’t it be great if we could develop a mini course that anyone could take at a greatly reduced price? And, wouldn’t it be great if we put that on a platform that people in India could access as easily as people in Indiana? As we think about global, we need to do it very purposively. When you talk about international, that’s meaningless. You need to talk about Arab countries, India, China. That’s different from Malaysia, Indonesia. It’s not this homogeneous group of countries. We need to develop a more universal design around what we do with instructional technology so it will morph easier into a global climate.  

We have 25,000 graduates from ASU Online. Do we have an alumni support structure?

Leah: We are working actively with the ASU Alumni Association and there is a larger University initiative to connect alumni to current students. There has been a lot of movement with alumni over the last year. There is a concerted effort to engage alumni both at local events and at a distance setting them up for success. Through Career Services, a mentorship platform was recently released. 

What are we doing for Homecoming November 3?

In the past, we have had an opportunity to volunteer at community events. When you do that, you get to see parts of ASU that you have not been exposed to before. You are representing what you stand for. People will see that there are humans behind ASU Online, EdPlus and digital services. We are those humans and one of the best things we can do is help people understand that our technologies are there to drive students and when they need a human, they get a human.