Guiding Principles

In 2019, Ball State University launched a new strategic plan, Destination 2040: Our Flight Path. The plan is organized under five distinct goals and 35 strategic imperatives. Inherent in that mission is to address immediate social, cultural, community, environmental, and economic needs.

In that spirit, Goal Two of the strategic plan states:

Our University expands its reach and impact along the continuum of human development and is nationally recognized for serving graduate students and other adults throughout their lifetime educational journey and for our agility in anticipating and responding to workforce needs.

One key way we will accomplish this goal is through a new initiative that seeks to serve and support learners along a continuum of lifetime learning. To do this, we will develop new innovative and robust educational offerings and delivery methods, including micro-credentials, skills badges, short-term learning modules, professional licensure workshops, and enrichment opportunities to accelerate career fulfillment and enhance personal development and wellbeing.

This initiative launched in Fall 2020 with a series of collaborative brainstorming sessions across our academic colleges and other divisions - to identify new non-credit learning opportunities that align our institutional strengths with market demand. The immediate goal is to develop a pilot that initially includes a small suite of non-credit offerings to be launched in Fall 2021. The pilot initiative will allow us to test new delivery modes, explore business models and pricing structures, marketing and promotional strategies, and policies and governance practices.

We engage in this work with the following guiding principles in mind:

  • This initiative will enable learners throughout the region to access diverse, high-quality educational opportunities that align with high-demand skills desired by employers and that provide personal enrichment.
  • We will develop a portfolio of high-quality offerings designed to enhance the careers and enrich the lives of learners and career professionals who seek new skills and credentials, while we partner with employers eager to leverage our expertise and experience.
  • Early-stage development of our pilot initiative will be driven by a spirit of innovation, recognizing that experimentation, evolution, and learning from our mistakes are all valuable parts of the process.
  • New offerings will be developed with an eye toward a positive return on investment that will benefit academic colleges and result in positive net revenue for the University.

Faculty and other subject matter experts will receive stipends for developing new offerings. Stipends will be determined based on the scope of work and will be awarded in Summer 2021 for programs approved for inclusion in the pilot initiative. Additionally, faculty who teach non-credit offerings will also receive stipends commensurate with scope of work. Instructional stipends will be paid at the completion of a course.

Yes. We are in the process of hiring new instructional designers that will be assigned to the Goal Two initiative. Instructional designers, faculty developers, and other subject matter experts will be trained to develop offerings in BrightSpace, the University’s new non-credit learning management system. BrightSpace includes a number of easy-to-use templates for interactive exercises, multimedia content, and other guidance that will help developers create high-quality, polished online learning modules.

We are also collaborating with University Media Services and Digital Corps to provide multimedia development support. The partnership will provide faculty with the support they need to create expertly produced lecture videos, animations, and custom interactive exercises.

During the start-up phase, the University will provide seed funding for high-quality pilot offerings, including investments in faculty compensation, instructional design, marketing and promotion, and new learning platforms to support adult learners. Eventually, offerings should be self-sustaining. However, we acknowledge that it may take time for this to be the case.

It is also important to note that some offerings may not generate considerable revenue. We recognize additional value in learning experiences that serve a community need or that support significant personal enrichment opportunities for our region. However, consideration should be given to the offering’s ability to reach a high level of sustainability.

The University has purchased BrightSpace learning platform, an innovative, cloud-based learning management system for creating, hosting, and editing online learning resources. It contains a flexible suite of tools for creating custom content and will provide adult learners with a frictionless experience. Course merchant will serve as a new payment gateway for this initiative, and we are in the process of choosing a new badging system that will also be integrated with BrightSpace. Together, these powerful platforms will create an Amazon-like experience through which learners can easily find, register, pay for, and participate in non-credit learning experiences.

All non-credit alternative credentials will be developed in the new BrightSpace platform, and no non-credit offerings will be permitted on other platforms. Please contact Dr. Jennifer Palilonis for guidance on how to convert existing or new non-credit offerings to the BrightSpace environment.

BrightSpace is not replacing Canvas, which will continue to serve as the learning management system for all degree programs and for-credit courses. Best practices in learning management have guided our decision to keep the non-credit and for-credit learner experiences separate.

To date, we have identified six different types of non-credit alternative credentials, which are outlined below. Courses/programs may be offered either face-to-face, online, or hybrid. New structures may emerge as the Goal Two initiatives evolve.

  • Level 1 – Micro-credential
    Comprised of four to six skills-based/competency-based badges or short-term learning modules
  • Level 2 – Micro-credential
    Comprised of six to 10 skills-based/competency-based badges or short-term learning modules
  • Bootcamp
    A short, intensive course of training that is one to two weeks in length
  • Workshop
    A two- to five-day group meeting that includes intensive discussion and activities focused on a single, tightly focused subject area
  • Badge
    Topically focused, skills-based stackable learning modules
  • Short-term Learning Module
    A tightly-focused topical lesson that takes 30 minutes to two hours to complete

As part of the Goal Two pilot initiative, we are working to develop metrics that will help us determine the quality, efficacy, and success of the offerings we launch. Eventually, the expectation will be for offerings to be self-sustaining. Success metrics will include enrollment, revenue-generation, student satisfaction, overall return on investment, among others.

Faculty and staff who would like to propose new non-credit offerings should first discuss their ideas with relevant department chairs and deans. With the endorsement of the college dean or unit head, individuals may complete a non-credit course/program proposal. Click here to download the proposal template.

Direct all additional inquiries to Dr. Jennifer Palilonis.

The Goal Two lifetime learning initiative will cater to both individual learners and Indiana employers and their workforce.

Technology, including online education, is increasing expectations of learners who believe educational opportunities should be less expensive, more flexible, and tailored to their specific interests and needs. Competition from non-University training providers is intensifying as more employers seek people with industry-specific competencies that they believe are not provided by traditional educational institutions. But undue focus on technical competencies may impede a person’s ability to develop the “soft” skills that prepare people for fulfilling careers and meaningful lives. And the accelerating pace of change in our economy, including increased automation, is requiring workers today to become lifetime learners who are willing to acquire new skills and competencies throughout their careers.

To address this changing environment, the Goal Two initiative will provide individual learners with more educational offerings than we currently provide (i.e., degree programs). These include baccalaureate and post-baccalaureate micro-credentials, short-term learning modules, badges, professional licensure, workshops, bootcamps, and other enrichment opportunities.

At the same time, executive education and other types of workforce training can provide companies with the business solutions they need. Opportunities exist to partner with Indiana employers to provide customized training for their workers. We know that every organization is unique. So, partnering with employers allows us to co-create unique, high-quality offerings that meeting each organization’s specific challenges, needs, gaps, or goals.

A link to our non-credit learning portal will be featured prominently on the Ball State homepage, as well as on department and college pages. Additionally, the Division of Marketing and Communications will develop a comprehensive promotional plan that includes targeted advertisements across multiple media platforms and communities where there is high demand for our offerings.

Most non-credit offerings will include a pathway to credit for learners who later wish to translate a non-credit learning experience, professional growth points, or continuing education units into credit toward a related Ball State degree. Prior learning assessments will be developed for each non-credit offering, and learners may be asked to demonstrate subject-matter expertise and/or relevant skills by completing additional project work, portfolio review, testing or other relevant evaluation. These pathways will be designed to provide learners with alternative entry points into degree programs if – after completing a non-credit offering – they decide to pursue an advanced degree.

Individuals who would like to propose new non-credit offerings should first discuss ideas with relevant department chairs and deans. With the endorsement of the college dean or unit head, individuals may complete a non-credit course/program proposal. Click here to download the proposal template. Proposals must include cursory market research and evidence of market demand.

Proposals approved by the college dean will be submitted to a committee for review. Proposal developers will also be asked to meet with the committee for a brief discussion and question and answer session. The review committee may ask for revisions and/or make a recommendation to the provost, who will make final decisions about new non-credit offerings.

After a new non-credit alternative offering and timeline is approved, an instructional designer will be assigned to assist the development team.

Several offices and individuals on campus are collaborating to cultivate Indiana employer corporate relations and partnerships to provide customized professional development and training opportunities for their employees. This approach will allow us to create alternative credentials to help upskill the current and future workforce in ways that directly respond to employer needs. Establishing business and employer relationships will be key to building a high-quality workforce in East Central Indiana and to supporting and growing local economies.

We are working to establish a business model for this initiative that includes pricing structures for non-credit offerings, new course/offering development budgets, and revenue sharing models. These decisions will be finalized and communicated to the campus community in Summer 2021.

We intend to launch a small suite of non-credit offerings in mid- to late-Fall 2021. Course/program development will begin in May 2021, and offerings will roll out as they are completed. In parallel with course/program development, the Division of Marketing and Communications is creating a comprehensive promotional plan that includes targeted advertisements across multiple media platforms and communities where there is high demand for our offerings.

New course/program proposals, proposal review, and course/program development will be ongoing, and colleges are encouraged to submit new proposals beginning in Summer 2021.

At the early stages, the University will provide incentive funds to the faculty in colleges for the development and delivery of learning opportunities. Once the pilot offerings are up and running, a revenue share agreement between the University and the colleges will be established. A portion of revenue from each offering will remain with the college and a portion will be used to cover overhead and administrative costs, including learner success coaches, instructional design support, the non-credit online learning platform, and marketing and promotion. The allocation model will be determined in Summer 2021.

The Division of Marketing and Communications is developing a promotional plan for the pilot initiative and will collaborate with course/program developers to ensure target audiences for each new non-credit offering are identified. Additionally, they are engaged in a comprehensive research phase for the larger Goal Two initiative that includes a Simpson Scarborough survey, alumni research, audience analysis, and messaging and creative concept development. We expect to have a new name and all branding established by mid-June 2021.

Collaborative proposals are encouraged. We will work with each development team and college to facilitate a fair and equitable division of revenue among units that partner to develop and deliver non-credit offerings. We encourage individuals who have great ideas for collaborative courses/programs to work with department chairs and deans to facilitate partnerships with other units on campus.

Individuals and academic units are encouraged to consider how our satellite centers might be integrated with the delivery plan for new non-credit alternative offerings. For example, courses/programs offered in person or in a hybrid format may be delivered at one more of our satellite centers, as well as on-campus, to expand audiences and to take advantage of excellent facilities in multiple locations. In addition, learner success and career coaches will have a physical presence at the centers to advise and support lifetime learners.