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Join our Innovator Network!

What is the Innovator Network? It’s what we like to call our email newsletter.

How do I sign up for the Innovator Network?   Sign up here

How often will the Lab send out emails? Usually every other week.

What will you share?

» Publications + Resources | Be the first to read new Lab Publications and Resources from our partners.

» Updates | Receive helpful insights from our work in the field and get to know the impressive Innovators we meet along the way.

» Lab on the Go | Photos of our Labbies traveling to conferences and events.

Who are some of the people already part of the Innovator Network? A collective of thought leaders in higher education, employers and individuals committed to learner-centered academic transformation.

We’ve heard over and over from various players in academic transformation that they either lack a place to connect and learn from fellow innovators, or they lack the proven tools and insights needed to accomplish the transformation they’re striving for. The Innovator Network is our attempt at creating a community that can fill that space.

Follow the Lab on social media!

LinkedIn |  Twitter |  Instagram | YouTube | TikTok | Threads

Check out the latest emails we’ve shared with our #InnovatorNetwork:

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Why I’m driven to design accessible, accelerated + affordable pathways with more learners

By Dr. Jessica Lauritsen, Designers in Residence program lead at Education Design Lab

What if every student had the opportunity to earn an associate degree one year after they graduate from high school?

I’m thrilled to be facilitating a group of what I know will be thoughtful, action-oriented higher education leaders to dive deep into this question.

I have worked in higher education student affairs positions at two-year, four-year, public, and private higher education institutions over the past 20 years. I was called to student affairs work because of my own experience. I grew up in a small, rural city in Minnesota in a low-income family. Born to a teenage mom and raised in a trailer park, not much was expected of or available to me.

I knew I wanted to go to college, mostly because my friends were all going. But I was the first in my family to attend so the process was very lonely, confusing, and sometimes defeating. Somehow, despite all odds, I finished a bachelor’s degree, a master’s, and a doctorate.

When I finished undergrad, I worked for a nonprofit working to build a youth center with the youth voice at the center. During this experience, many families and young people were put off by the cost of college and the confusing processes to enroll. I knew I wanted to find a career to help young people access college. I felt (and still feel) deeply compelled to pay it forward and help people like me have the resources and support they need to earn a college degree.

After years of working to close equity gaps in college student retention across institutions, I can tell you what you probably already know — the work is hard. Predictable disparities (race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status) are not changing at the rate they should be. Dual enrollment programs are proven to create college access and have a positive impact on student success outcomes. However, not all students have access to these opportunities. And recent data shows our K-12 and postsecondary systems fail to support upwards of 60 percent of Black, Latino, and/or students from families with low incomes to enroll and persist into their second year of college.

Building accessible, accelerated, and affordable pathways for more learners to access a college degree pathway is not a small task. I also know that if it were easy, this would be done better already. But, equitable access to higher education is possible. Learners, educators, parents, and policymakers see the benefits of dual enrollment opportunities — let’s work together to make them more accessible to more young people. I’m honored to be working on the Designers in Residence 2.0: Accelerating Pathways project, where we will co-design with senior postsecondary leaders to build their capacity to align K-12, postsecondary, and workforce ecosystems to do just that.

The project will focus on the design question: How might we strengthen our leadership role to better drive regional ecosystem alignment for Black, Latino, and students from low-income backgrounds to earn an associate degree one year from high school graduation?

We are seeking equity-minded changemakers who want to join us on this journey.

To learn more about this opportunity, and to apply or nominate a higher ed leader, visit this link.

Applications are due by March 17, 2023, and we will kick off the cohort activities in Washington, D.C., in June.

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How to watch (or listen to) the Lab’s new video podcast

Our first 20-minute video podcast is an excellent ‘prep’ talk: How to be a great podcast guest
By Ayanna Conway, Social Media + Community Specialist

Hello, and welcome to the first video podcast from the Education Design Lab!

My name is Ayanna Conway. I’m the Lab’s Social Media + Community Specialist and now, the official producer and host of our new podcast. Born and raised in Phoenix, Ariz., I have always had a passion for all things digital and love to use creative elements to develop strong brand awareness on platforms such as Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, and even LinkedIn!

So when the Lab’s Communications team decided to launch a video podcast, I rose to the challenge. Although I have never launched a podcast before, let alone a video podcast, I am very excited to see its impact. Personally, I have seen how “starting a podcast” has become a trending way for organizations to promote individual voices that previously may have not had their chance to shine. With that, I hope to learn effective ways to create engaging content on a wide range of topics that our Labbies and Innovator Network have to discuss.

Episode 1: How to be a great podcast guest with Dr. Leslie Daugherty

Our debut episode features Dr. Leslie Daugherty, our Head of Design Programs, who has been a guest on multiple podcasts. In this episode, Leslie shares a few valuable tips, starting with: Listen to the podcast you are going to be on so you know what it’s about and what to expect from the host. Be sure to tune into this 20-minute video podcast for more tips before you make your next podcast guest appearance.

What can you expect next from our video podcast?

Overall, the purpose of launching our video podcast is to provide an engaging and effective way for the Lab to connect with our Innovator Network, showcase their work, and amplify our partners. We want to make your innovations more visible!

How can you watch or listen to our podcast?
How did we launch our video podcast?

We’ve been busy testing the equipment by interviewing ourselves first using an online video recording tool known as Riverside. Riverside is a video platform designed specifically for remote video creation, making it easy for nonprofits like the Lab to connect with innovators no matter where they might be in the world.

What would you like to see on the Lab’s video podcast?

We want to discuss questions, challenges, and success stories innovators like YOU will find inspiring and useful. Reach out to me at aconway@eddesignlab.org with your ideas or add your comments to this quick form.

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Slideshow: Education Design Lab’s travel photos from 2022

After two years of the pandemic, the Lab was ready to reconnect with colleagues and  partners – in person – at conferences and convenings around the country in 2022.

We captured some of our most joyful moments long the way and shared them on social media with #LabOnTheGo

Here is our #LabOnTheGo journey in photos … 

 

Thanks to our funders, partners + innovators for making all of this possible. We’ll see you in 2023!

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Education Design Lab partners with OneTen to drive economic prosperity for Black talent in the United States

Education Design Lab forms strategic partnership with nation’s leading coalition committed to hiring and advancing Black Americans without four-year degrees

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Dec. 5, 2022) — Education Design Lab (the Lab), a national nonprofit helping colleges and employers design equity-based education solutions, today announced it has joined forces with OneTen, a coalition designed to close the opportunity gap for Black talent in the United States by working with America’s leading executives, companies and talent developers to hire and advance one million Black Americans without four-year degrees into family-sustaining roles within ten years. The Lab typically engages community colleges first and identifies the right mix of employers to engage. With OneTen, the Lab is starting the process by identifying employers first and matching them with appropriate community college partners.

As an endorsed OneTen talent developer, the Lab joins a growing portfolio of leading educators, upskillers and career training providers committed to providing in-demand skills for sought-after jobs at the country’s top employers. The Lab’s long-term goal is to create a replicable process that enables OneTen employers around the nation to build sustainable talent pipelines for Black (l)earners — learners and earners — with the community colleges in their region. Specifically, the partnership will use micro-pathways, an approach launched by the Lab’s Community College Growth Engine Fund (CCGEF).

Co-designed with (l)earners and employers, micro-pathways are defined as two or more stackable credentials (including at least one 21st century skill micro-credential) that can be completed in one year or less, resulting in a job at or above the local median wage, and start (l)earners on the path to an associate degree. By having employers committed to the co-design process at the start, colleges can respond more quickly to in-demand jobs. The three-year project will begin with CCGEF colleges located in four key markets:

  • Indianapolis, IN (Ivy Tech Community College )
  • New York, NY (City University of New York)
  • Philadelphia, PA (Community College of Philadelphia)
  • Washington, DC (Prince George’s Community College)

Micro-pathways offered in those regions are designed to lead to family-sustaining careers in information technology, healthcare, and manufacturing. Explore micro-pathways by industry sector here.

“The Lab is excited to partner with OneTen as part of our ongoing efforts to design education toward the future of work,” said Lisa Larson, Head of the Community College Growth Engine Fund. “This partnership will highlight the Lab’s leadership in skills-based education and hiring and support OneTen in reaching their goal of closing the opportunity gap for Black talent. Community colleges are best positioned to support OneTen and the Lab in this crucial mission.”

This partnership is more important than ever as the racial wealth gap in America remains vast, largely due to the lack of access to quality, well-paying jobs that do not require college degrees: 79% of jobs paying more than $50,000 require a four-year college degree, which automatically excludes the 76% of Black talent over age 25 with relevant experience who don’t have baccalaureate degrees. In an economy where Black people only own 1.5% of America’s wealth, harnessing multi-stakeholder partnerships is vital to spearheading diversity and fostering pathways to earned success.

“In today’s dynamic hiring environment, we recognize that it is absolutely essential to meet Black talent where they are in order to create equitable pathways to success,” said Maurice Jones, CEO of OneTen. “We’re thrilled to partner with the Lab to continue their work building strong talent pipelines from community colleges into some of the country’s top employers.”

The Lab and OneTen plan to empower and support the need for a diverse workforce through placement of Black talent into jobs that companies sorely need. By addressing unmet business needs, helping candidates find fulfilling employment and allowing more individuals to transition into careers with family-sustaining wages, inclusive work culture is within reach.

About Education Design Lab
The Education Design Lab (the Lab for short) is a national, nonprofit innovation engine that co-designs, validates, and scales education-to-workforce models through a human-centered design process focused on understanding learner experiences, addressing equity gaps in higher education, and accelerating economic mobility for new majority learners. Learn more about the Community College Growth Engine Fund here, and download: Design Insights Brief: Community College Growth Engine Fund Micro-pathways: A Gateway to Community College Transformation. Join the Lab’s #InnovatorNetwork: LinkedIn + email newsletter

About OneTen
OneTen is a coalition of leading chief executives and their companies who are coming together to upskill, hire and promote one million Black individuals who do not yet have a four-year degree into family-sustaining jobs with opportunities for advancement over the next 10 years. OneTen connects employers with talent developers including leading nonprofits and other skill-credentialing organizations who support development of diverse talent. By creating more equitable and inclusive workforces, we believe we can reach our full potential as a nation of united citizens. OneTen recognizes the unique potential in everyone – every individual, every business, every community – to change the arc of America’s story with Black talent. Join us at OneTen.org, where one can be the difference.

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How micro-pathways are transforming Pima Community College

Quote by Pima Community College Chancellor Lee Lambert

This is the first story in the Lab’s Transformation Profile series spotlighting innovative partners in our Community College Growth Engine Fund. 

Background

Pima Community College (PCC) is located in Tucson, Ariz., and serves Pima County with a population of just over 1 million, the second most populous county in Arizona. The college enrolls over 15,000 learners and is a Minority-serving institution (MSI), with nearly 50% of their learners identified as LatinX. The Education Design Lab’s Community College Growth Engine Fund (CCGEF) is part of the college’s recovery and reskilling efforts to assist adult learners gain the skills they need to get back to work and to help those disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Pima designed eight micro-pathways through the CCGEF in 2020-21, prompting PCC Chancellor Lee Lambert and Lab Founder + Board Chair Kathleen deLaski to co-author this November 2021 op-ed in AACC’s Community College Daily: Have we found the gateway to transform community colleges?

 

What is a micro-pathway?

Co-designed with learners and employers, micro-pathways are two or more stackable credentials, including a 21st century skill micro-credential, that are flexibly delivered to be achieved within less than a year and result in a job at or above the local median wage.

Explore all eight of Pima Community College’s micro-pathways in a gallery at the bottom of this post.

 

The foundation of PCC’s transformation is what Chancellor Lambert calls the “two curves of community colleges.” The premise is that community colleges are transitioning from an industrial curve to a digital curve. The industrial curve is the current status quo defined by structured certificate and degree programs, fall/spring/summer semesters, and where the Carnegie Unit (credit hour) is the driver of learner readiness and educational attainment. All of the processes are built around the credit hour, including faculty time, student financial aid, and accreditation. There has been some transformation at community colleges, but it has been limited by the current system. For example, six- week sessions. This system shows favoritism toward those who can drop everything and go to college and does not address the needs of new majority learners.

The digital economy is the second curve. It is not stable, it is unpredictable, and it offers a lot of opportunity, but it also comes with risks. It is learner-centric. The complex lives of new majority learners don’t revolve around the time-bound structures of the credit hour. As a society, we are in the “transition” stage. Our economy is moving toward the digital economy and skills-based hiring, but we are not there yet.

“We’ve had a decade or more of declining enrollments. Our relevancy is in question. We need to get to know that our first curve model is not going to get it done.”

Chancellor Lee Lambert, Pima Community College

 

Community colleges will need to adapt to continue to be relevant since the first curve is not going to meet the needs of new majority learners.

Transformation highlights

+ Over 4,000 learners are interested in Pima’s micro-pathways. PCC’s micro-pathways target adult learners and are called PimaFastTrack. The college invested marketing dollars to launch a stand-alone landing page for PimaFastTrack as well as program-focused landing pages in both Spanish and English. The messaging centers on priorities relevant to adult learners: Financial assistance, support, speed, all-inclusive pricing, and simplicity. In addition, PCC outsourced speciality expertise to build an online presence around the value proposition for the eight micro-pathways. This has led over 4,000 learners to complete online interest forms, which exceeds, by far, anything the college has ever seen.

+ Designed for “universal access” to be more inclusive to adult learners. Adult learners may experience barriers with starting their education journey on the credit side of a college. Pima has combated these barriers by offering the micro-pathways as noncredit options. Once learners complete their micro-pathway, they can choose to enroll in a certificate or degree program at that point or at any point in the future. In line with Universal Access, learners also have entry points to the college through dual enrollment (enrollment in high school and the community college simultaneously) or direct enrollment (after graduating high school).

+ Instituted a “universal design” approach to their PimaFastTrack program. The Center for Excellence in Universal Design defines universal design as “the design and composition of an environment so that it can be accessed, understood, and used to the greatest extent possible by all people.” For PCC in the context of PimaFastTrack, designing universally means designing with an intentional focus on the needs of adult learners so they can succeed in their goals. PCC delivers micro-pathways through online, in-person, and hybrid formats simultaneously, making them available to learners in the format that works best for the learner.

 

+ PCC uses Standards of Practice for program development where academic and workforce are aligned using CCGEF’s design criteria. PCC is using the Lab’s micro-pathways design criteria as the foundation for their Standards of Practice for scaling PimaFastTrack across the college. For each of the eight design criteria, they’ve included “design in action” detailing how to address the design criteria, including the steps, tools, and examples from the work they did with the CCGEF. They also lay out the structure and roles for deans, department heads, the workforce team, and contributing team members. The workforce function at the college drives the idea, but the instructional departments carry out the design and development process. The Standards of Practice provide a holistic approach and structure to scale micro-pathways. The inclusion of learner and industry feedback ensures PCC is getting multiple perspectives before finalizing any design. They even include a Design Checklist similar to what the CCGEF design teams used to validate the design criteria prior to launching their micro-pathways.

+ Leadership changes reflect the focus on learners, micro-pathways, and innovation. As shared by Dr. Ian Roark, Vice Chancellor of Workforce Development + Innovation, “We intentionally did a robust pilot vs. a small one for the Community College Growth Engine Fund. It had enough boldness to give us the traction we wanted. We paired that with the vision and expectation starting from the top, which enabled us to deliver and to begin transformation across the college. We framed the decision with our faculty and deans that we have confidence in you – we know you can get this done – and that our learners need this. We have set a tone that we treat learners with dignity and respect, and that we serve all of them in the same way.” This demonstrates the colleges’ commitment to their learners, micro-pathways, and innovation.

Obstacles to overcome

The transformation demonstrated by PCC in only two year’s time is truly remarkable. However, as they will share, there is still work to be done. Two of the biggest obstacles to overcome are around integrating 21st century skills, including badging these micro-credentials, and developing Comprehensive Learner Record (CLR) capabilities. They are still at least six months to one year before these two capabilities will be in place.

“We’ve done things like improve PLA, invest in a registration system for noncredit, which was great, but CCGEF has been a way to bring all of that together and give it a name: Micro-pathways, which we are calling Pima FastTrack. It gave us a cause and a purpose. Working with the Lab provided us with a way to become part of something bigger than Pima – a greater sense of purpose.

Amanda Abens, MC, Dean of Workforce Development and Continuing Education

 

This article by Valerie Taylor is part of the Lab’s work helping community colleges innovate and transform through the micro-pathways design process. Learn more about the Community College Growth Engine Fund here, download our January 2022 Design Insights Brief, subscribe to our email newsletter for updates, and follow along on Twitter: #Micropathways.

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Education Design Lab’s micro-pathways honored in Fast Company’s 2022 Innovation by Design Awards

Celebrating more than a decade of Innovation by Design, the 2022 honorees include nearly 600 projects, products, and services from Nike, Verizon, Microsoft, and others.

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Sept. 15, 2022) — The Education Design Lab’s micro-pathways initiative – through the Community College Growth Engine Fund – has won an honorable mention in the Learning category of Fast Company’s Innovation by Design Awards for 2022. 

The Innovation by Design Awards, which can be found in the October 2022 issue of Fast Company, honor the designers and businesses solving the most crucial problems of today and anticipating the pressing issues of tomorrow. The competition, now in its 11th year, features a range of blue-chip companies, emerging startups, and hungry young talents. It is one of the most sought-after design awards in the industry.

The Lab’s Community College Growth Engine Fund (CCGEF, or the Fund for short) helps community colleges accelerate the economic mobility of new majority learners through micro-pathways.

Co-designed with (l)earners and employers, micro-pathways are defined as two or more stackable credentials (including at least one 21st century skill micro-credential) that can be completed in one year or less, resulting in a job at or above the local median wage, and start (l)earners on the path to an associate degree.

“We are honored that the Fund’s micro-pathways design work with community colleges is an honorable mention in Fast Company’s 2022 Innovation by Design Awards,” said Lisa Larson, Head of the Community College Growth Engine Fund. “The Fund’s community college partners are experiencing extraordinary impact in designing education for the future of work while meeting new majority learner needs in obtaining critical credentials leading to great jobs.”

“A common theme among this year’s Innovation by Design honorees, which range from healthcare interfaces to autonomous driving technology, is permanence,” said Brendan Vaughan, editor-in-chief of Fast Company. “The products that leaped out to our editors and judges went against our quick-fix consumer culture, while also manifesting a more inclusive vision of design.”

Honorees for the 2022 awards were selected in the following categories: Accessible Design; Apps and Games; Automotive; Branding; Circular Design; Data Design; Design Company of the Year; Enterprise; Experience Design; Experimental; Fashion and Beauty; Finance; General Excellence; Graphic Design; Health; Home; Hospitality; Impact; Learning; Marketing; Materials; Packaging; Pandemic Response; Products; Rapid Response; Retail; Social Justice; Spaces and Places; Sports and Recreation; Students; Sustainability; Transportation; Urban Design; User Experience; Wellness; Workplace; Best Design Asia-Pacific; Best Design Europe, Middle East, and Africa; Best Design Latin America; Best Design North America; Years in Business (On the Rise: 0–4 Years, Established Excellence: 5–19 Years, Enduring Impact: 20+ Years); and Size of Business (Small Business: Fewer Than 100 Employees, Midsize Business: 100–999 Employees, Large Business: 1,000+ Employees).

The judges include renowned designers from a variety of disciplines, business leaders from some of the most innovative companies in the world, and Fast Company’s own writers and editors. Entries are judged on the key ingredients of innovation: functionality, originality, beauty, sustainability, user insight, cultural impact, and business impact.

Winners, finalists, and honorable mentions are featured online and in the October issue of Fast Company magazine, on newsstands Sept. 27, 2022.

To see the complete list, go to
https://www.fastcompany.com/innovation-by-design/list

About Education Design Lab
The Education Design Lab (the Lab) is a national nonprofit helping colleges and employers design more equitable career pathways. Learn more about the Community College Growth Engine Fund here, and download: Design Insights Brief: Community College Growth Engine Fund Micro-pathways: A Gateway to Community College Transformation.

About Fast Company
Fast Company is the only media brand fully dedicated to the vital intersection of business, innovation, and design, engaging the most influential leaders, companies, and thinkers on the future of business. Headquartered in New York City, Fast Company is published by Mansueto Ventures LLC, along with our sister publication Inc., and can be found online at www.fastcompany.com.

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How to better serve adult learners: 5 ways community colleges align noncredit + credit programs through micro-pathways

The six colleges and systems in the first cohort of the Lab’s Community College Growth Engine — CCGE or the Engine, for short — are piloting their 30+ micro-pathways.

Micro-pathways are two or more stackable credentials (21st century skills included) validated by employers that lead unemployed, displaced, and low-wage workers to median-wage occupations and on a path to a degree.

Cohort 1 colleges have focused on adult learners as their primary target audience. Data shows these are the majority of learners that enroll in noncredit courses. They are more likely to be older: The average age of students in noncredit programs is 34 compared to 22 for students in credit programs; more likely to have a GED rather than a high school diploma; and more likely to be students of color*. With that in mind, Cohort 1 intentionally designed their micro-pathways to begin with noncredit programs. This provides adult learners an entry point into postsecondary education and a bridge to higher credentials and degree programs on the credit side. However, this has meant bridging the noncredit-credit divide typical at community colleges.

As stated by Dr. Ian Roark, Vice Chancellor of Workforce Development & Innovation at Pima Community College: “Equity is really at the center of all of this work. Everything we do in higher ed that hierarch-alizes the learner, and even otherizes them, especially when you put “non”-in front of a learner and call them a ‘noncredit’ learner, we have other-ized them. That’s why we have embraced this vision of the new majority learners that EDL has taught us to embrace and bring about in the context of equity.”

Pima and the other Cohort 1 colleges have embraced micro-pathways as a gateway to community college transformation.

Below are five of their accomplishments in aligning noncredit and credit.

1. Noncredit micro-pathways courses + credentials articulate to credit programs.

For CCGE, Cohort 1 colleges put the onus on themselves to align competencies and assessments to ensure credentials and courses completed in noncredit programs are credit-worthy, rather than learners having to prove themselves through additional assessments or other Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) activities. This was accomplished through articulation of mirror or mirrored courses (which are the same courses offered in credit and noncredit), industry certification crosswalks and equivalency agreements.

2. Learners can enter and exit micro-pathways at their own pace.

Cohort 1 noncredit micro-pathways provide an on-ramp to a credit career pathway and the opportunity to earn higher credentials. Learners can move along the career pathway at their own pace, and enter and exit at different points along the pathway as their career goals dictate. For example, many learners can move into employment after completing the micro-pathway, but can choose to return to earn a higher- level credit certificate and/or degree as their personal and professional career goals dictate. These pathways and entry and exit options were communicated to learners in advising, on institution websites, and through infographics.

3. Colleges are developing a culture of ‘a learner is a learner,’ regardless of where the journey begins.

Cohort 1 design teams have worked to overcome the typical division in support services offered to noncredit learners. Two of the colleges have established formal advising programs for learners who start on the noncredit side and others are doing this on a more informal basis through faculty members who oversee both noncredit and credit pathways. One college has set up a co-enrollment process with their local workforce system to ensure learners have access to tuition assistance and wrap-around services — services that would normally only have been offered on the credit side. Colleges are also providing noncredit learners access to work-based learning opportunities and scholarships, with new funds established specifically for CCGE learners.

4. CCGEF colleges launched a Data Collaborative to better understand learners.

Cohort 1 launched the Data Collaborative with partners Brighthive, the National Student Clearinghouse, Urban Institute, and Credential Engine. Cohort 1 wants to learn more about their noncredit learners, including whether they matriculate into credit-bearing programs or disconnect from the college after completing noncredit courses. The Data Collaborative’s goals are to yield valuable information about learners, credential completion, employment and wage data, among other items.

5. Colleges are scaling their noncredit and credit alignment through micro-pathways design.

For each of the Cohort 1 design teams, micro-pathways have served as a way to innovate around noncredit and credit alignment. Most of the teams have been learning and iterating on a handful of programs but have plans to scale across the college. For example, Prince George’s Community College designed and launched three micro-pathways and added a fourth early in 2022. Pima Community College launched eight micro-pathways and added another, with plans to scale even further during 2022.

What’s next?

The progress Cohort 1 has made is tremendous, yet if you ask any of the design teams, they will say there is still more work to be done. They would like to see more resources to support noncredit advising models and a greater focus on marketing to noncredit learners. The Lab is grateful to have partnered with our six colleges and systems and their dedication to serving new majority learners.

To learn more about Cohort 1 and the Community College Growth Engine, download: Design Insights Brief: Community College Growth Engine Fund Micro-pathways: A Gateway to Community College Transformation.

This article by Valerie Taylor is part of the Lab’s work helping community colleges innovate and transform through the micro-pathways design process. Learn more about the Community College Growth Engine Fund here, subscribe to our email newsletter for updates, and follow along on Twitter: #Micropathways.

* Citation: Xu, D., & Ran, X. (2015). Noncredit education in community college: Student, course enrollments, and academic outcomes. Community College Research Center, 2015. Available: https://ccrc.tc.columbia.edu/media/k2/attachments/noncredit-education-in-community-college.pdf 
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Video: BRIDGES Rural Summer Convening at Finger Lakes Community College

Our BRIDGES Rural team has had a busy 2022, visiting our partner community colleges across the country.

That tour culminated in a final Summer Convening on July 19-20, when members of our college design teams gathered in Geneva, New York, to talk about their pilot projects and next steps forward (including the Rural Education Community of Practice, which is open to all).

We are so grateful to all of our college partners; our funder, Ascendium; and especially our friends at Finger Lakes Community College (FLCC), who hosted the Convening.

While we were in the Finger Lakes region, we shopped at Wegmans (best grocery store ever?)  … and sipped rosé and riesling made by student winemakers at FLCC’s Viticulture and Wine Center.

We also captured a few highlights from our scenic visit … which featured a boat ride on Seneca Lake!

Watch the video:

 

To learn more about our multi-year BRIDGES Rural project, start with our project page.

Details about the college pilot projects are explained in BRIDGES Rural Design Insights Part 2: Designing + Piloting a New Approach to Economic Agility in Rural Communities.

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COVID didn’t stop these working moms from earning stackable credentials through Goodwill San Antonio and Alamo Colleges 

Many of us think of Goodwill as a great service for donating clothes or household goods we no longer need or want. But behind the stores and drop-off locations, Goodwill is a 120-year-old, international nonprofit social enterprise comprised of 155 community-based, autonomous organizations in 12 countries and 3,200 stores in North America that combined do a lot more than accept and sell donated goods.

In a recent Harvard Business Review Imagining the Future of Work podcast, Goodwill International Industries President and CEO Steve Preston said, “Most people do know us for our stores, but our mission in life is to help people reach their full potential through learning and, ultimately, through employment. We work to tool people with the right kind of supports and services so that, ultimately, they can take care of themselves and move down a successful career path.”  

The mission of providing meaningful career education and advancement assistance is not lost at Goodwill San Antonio, a 77-year-old organization with 1,500+ employees (called “team members”) who serve Texans within a surrounding 24-county territory. Goodwill San Antonio offers many no-cost-to-enroll programs, three of which include: Good Careers Academy provides comprehensive and accredited vocational training. The Good Careers Centers assist job seekers with job readiness and immediate access to employment. Youth Services, through the NXT Level Program and in partnership with the City of San Antonio and Community In Schools of San Antonio, assists young adults, ages 16 to 24, with their career goals. And Digital Literacy provides computer and internet training. 

UpSkill SA! is the most recent addition to their free, career-enhancement programs, developed through an innovative partnership with Alamo Colleges District’s AlamoONLINE at Palo Alto College and Education Design Lab (the Lab). UpSkill SA! offers Goodwill team members tuition-paid enrollment in a series of noncredit online badges, called “SkillsBoosters,” and a 21-credit Level 1 Certificate in Logistics Management provided by AlamoONLINE. Both got off to a strong start in late 2019 and early 2020. During that time, 54 team members in two cohorts earned a total of 72 badges. In addition, 23 learners enrolled in the first two flex semesters of the certificate program, which officially launched during the Fall 2019 and Winter 2020 semesters. 

Then came the pandemic, which brought a temporary cancellation of the program in early 2020. Of the 23 learners enrolled in the certificate program, three currently employed team members continued and earned the certificate in 2021. 

The program has since re-constituted itself and is back on track with more team-member cohorts increasingly coming on board for both the SkillsBoosters badges and the certificate program. As an added benefit, the Goodwill San Antonio Digital Literacy program, which helps potential enrollees learn the foundational digital skills needed for studying online, was developed and implemented through lessons learned during the piloting and launching of UpSkill SA.  

See related story: How Alamo Colleges are scaling digital skills badges in Texas

UpSkill SA! success stories

The three team members who completed the certificate – Angela Ashworth, Maryjo Barrera, and Carmen Frias – are all working mothers who are a testament to the effectiveness of the program.  

Ashworth, 36, is an engaged mother of four children, ages 9 through 15. She’s an eight-year Goodwill employee who currently works full-time at the Randolph Air Force Base location. “The world was in a pandemic, and I was able to hold down a full-time job, four kids, and school,” she said, adding that the certificate program was a fast and convenient “adventure” but also very challenging for someone who had never attended college-level classes, let alone fully online. “I had to make time to study and do all the school work,” Ashworth explains. “I feel I have grown a lot. In the future, I will continue to expand my education because this experience showed me that I can do more things than I gave myself credit for.”

Barrera, 33, is a married mother of eight (four of whom are step children), ages 11 through 25. She, too, works full-time at Randolph Air Force Base and was a newbie to college. “It was difficult for me being out of school for so long. I was reaching out to my professors almost every single day,” she said, adding that the support staff at Palo Alto College “helped me every step of the way.”  Since the certificate is stackable, Barrera has enrolled in the Logistics and Supply Chain Management A.A.S. program and is currently taking general education required courses. She says she got her inspiration to pursue a higher education from her children. “I needed to show them if their mom can go back to school and finish, they have the choice to do it, too.” Her teenage son, for instance, is enrolled in a high school early-college program. “He tells me all the time, ‘Mom, you’re doing it. I’m going to do it.’” 

Frias, 46, is a married mother of five adult-aged children. She’s been working for Goodwill San Antonio for 17 years and is currently the full-time manager of its Gateway store in Live Oak. She attended a four-year college about 20 years ago but had to drop out after having her fifth child while working part-time. “It was just overwhelming,” she said. “I was not able to really commit to it.” With her children now grown into adulthood, she decided to enroll. “When I went to the orientation and found out I could do this at my own pace from home [fully online], I thought it was doable for me, so I signed up,” she added. Frias was inspired to earn the certificate by her daughter, who at the time was in the process of earning her bachelor’s degree. “She was my motivator. She kept telling me I could do this.” Now Frias is encouraging her coworkers to enroll. “I’m just thankful Goodwill provided this program. It has really been an inspiration in my life to be able to do this.”

“It was an uplifting experience to teach Goodwill team members through Palo Alto College’s partnership with UpSkill SA! Seeing individuals coming in and gaining their certificate in logistics to advance their careers is very encouraging, especially now that training in these areas is so vital due to growing demand,” said Ronnie Brannon, lead instructor for the Logistics and Supply Chain Management program at Palo Alto College. “They emerged industry-ready and ready to make a difference in their organization or future organization.”

A program whose time has come

“Goodwill San Antonio deeply believes in growing their team members,” said Don Fraser, the Lab’s Chief Program Officer, who spent time on the ground with some of the San Antonio stores and its central office. “You can see pictures of team members everywhere. They are able to transform peoples’ lives, and they celebrate that all the time,” he explained, adding that many of the support services provided by Goodwill — such as life-skills coaching, career navigation, and giving enrollees paid study time during their full-time shifts — “is a key difference.” The end result is that team members feel like they belong there and are valued. Last year, Goodwill San Antonio held a celebratory breakfast for the three graduates.  

“We are doing amazing things here in San Antonio for our team members, providing them with an opportunity to upskill themselves – at no cost – so their lives get better, their family lives get better,” said Jessica Greenway, Goodwill San Antonio’s Director of Training and Development. “They are achieving amazing results both personally and for the business of Goodwill.”   

 

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