Course Redesign for an Online Inclusive Polytechnic Education

Sep Eskandari, Associate Provost, and Kimberly Allain, AVP for Employee & Organizational Development & Advancement
Sep Eskandari, Associate Provost, and Kimberly Allain, AVP for Employee & Organizational Development & Advancement

Cal Poly Pomona is committed to fostering academic and organizational excellence by investing in the professional growth and development of all employees. Virtual instruction and remote work, brought about by the coronavirus pandemic, have created unique opportunities to focus on tools and skills needed to achieve excellence in this new environment.

With support from University President Soraya M. Coley and Provost Sylvia Alva, and under the leadership of the Office of Academic Programs and the Center for the Advancement of Faculty Excellence (CAFE), Cal Poly Pomona launched a summer institute on Course Redesign for an Online Inclusive Polytechnic Education. The institute provides professional development training for faculty to design and deliver effective, engaging, inclusive, and student-centered virtual learning experiences for students. In addition to standard course design and assessment topics, the institute focuses on topics of importance to Cal Poly Pomona, including inclusive student engagement, equity-minded pedagogy, accessibility, student-centered pedagogy, faculty early alerts and progress reports, and effective management of large classes. More than 1,300 faculty members are participating in this professional development during summer 2020, accounting for nearly 80 percent of faculty who will teach in the upcoming academic year. We are proud of the work our faculty do to elevate Cal Poly Pomona’s polytechnic advantage, and in support of educational, professional, and personal growth of our students.

Providing learning and development options for our staff is a critical part of our organizational strategy. When learning and organizational development are aligned with the university’s strategic goals, their impact can be substantial as we elevate the collective capability of our workforce. Gallup finds that organizations that have made a strategic investment in employee development report 11 percent more growth and are twice as likely to retain their employees. The Learning and Organizational Development team rapidly pivoted to create a 100 percent digital platform for staff learning. They also created and delivered new content as the disruption of the pandemic created a new workplace environment and called for new skills. At first, there was an expectation that participation would significantly decline — but that wasn’t the case, and in most instances, participation soared. Cal Poly Pomona will continue to invest in the personal and professional development of its staff even through the pandemic because  it is more important than ever to hone our skills and abilities as we move toward a rapidly changing future.

As Learning and Organizational Development defines the employee development strategy and framework, an examination of the impact of the pandemic on CPP’s development needs will determine what supplementary changes should be made to the current training offerings. This year Learning and Organizational Development created the Staff Enrichment series for Staff Appreciation Week. There were multiple sessions on various topics, such as parenting, music, cooking, and Learning with a Leader, which was the most popular. They also collaborated with the Office of the President to partner in the Campus Conversation discussions. Whenever there is an opportunity to connect staff, learning can occur.

Staff learning will be expanded to equip our workforce with “next generation” skills to meet the demands of the future. Eighty-five percent of jobs that will exist in 2030 have not been invented yet, so a culture of continuous learning and “upskilling” is essential for anyone who intends to stay professionally relevant and add value. Employees will need digital and cognitive capabilities, but often unaccounted for in organization’s training catalogs are social and emotional skills, and developing adaptability and resilience. It’s not until we can integrate these non-traditional essential skills that we can best navigate the next major change. Deriving meaning from the current disruption provides us with insights to successfully navigate our next normal. Just as we have a commitment to learning and nurturing our own talent, we must make a commitment to “unlearn.” Often, we can learn the wrong thing from crises: fear, risk avoidance and a survival mindset. That’s why it’s so important that leaders use these experiences to develop people to adopt a problem-solving, opportunity-focused mindset and skillset (RatanJee, 2020).

As we grow our knowledge, skills, and abilities, we have to remember that is just the baseline. Next-generation skills are heavily focused on building social, emotional, character-focused, and cognitive abilities. Much of our future work will include collaboration and working in teams, and it’s very difficult to work effectively in teams if trust or good communication skills are not established with teammates. Other future-ready attributes include:

    1. Agility. Employees’ capacity to gather and disseminate information about changes in the environment and respond to that information quickly and expediently.
    2. Build relationships. Establish connections with others to build trust, share ideas and demonstrate care during challenging times.
    3. Develop people. Help others become more effective through development of their strengths, clear expectations, encouragement and coaching.
    4. Lead change. Recognize that change is essential and disruption is expected. Set goals for change and lead purposeful efforts to adapt work to align with the stated vision.
    5. Inspire others. Even in the most trying times, encourage others through positivity, vision, confidence, challenge and recognition.
    6. Think critically. Seek information, critically evaluate and help sort through the available information, apply the knowledge gained, and solve problems.
    7. Communicate clearly. Listen, share information concisely and with purpose, and be open to hearing opinions.
    8. Create accountability. Identify the consequences of actions and hold yourself and others responsible for performance.

Faculty and staff development is a significant part of our strategic initiative to advance the university forward. Personal and professional development options will continue to expand as we grow into the next normal and prepare ourselves to tackle demands of the future.

Sep Eskandari, Associate Provost

Kimberly Allain, AVP for Employee & Organizational Development & Advancement