Designing from the Ground Up: How Our University Partnerships Benefit Organizations

Executive learners attend courses with clear goals—to expand their skillsets and to move their careers forward. Balancing a demanding career with study, after all, demands focus and clarity. 

So why do so many programs fail to deliver the purpose-built content they need and instead fall back on outdated pedagogy? 

At Emeritus, we take a different approach.

Our courses aren’t digitized versions of classroom offerings. Instead, they are built from the ground up through our partnerships with leading universities, with the digital learner at the center.

Lisa Brem, Director of Design at Emeritus, explains that this bespoke approach sets Emeritus apart. “Our number one goal is to develop top-quality courses by partnering with the faculty to bring their vision of the course to life. Faculty have spent their entire careers getting to the very top of their field, and the instructional designer makes sure that we facilitate their work,” she explained. “We help them unpack their vast suitcase of knowledge and identify what will be valuable and resonant to the learner.”

Bringing that expertise to life in an online format starts with a grounding conversation between the faculty and an Emeritus instructional designer. Together, they identify the course’s goals—what should a learner be able to do by the end of the program? How will they practice those skills? How will they demonstrate their abilities, and how can we measure their success?

“We’re very focused on what learners need to be able to do when they leave the courses,” explains Director of Design Karen Mahon. “By starting with the end goal in mind and working backward, we ensure that all of the pieces of the course are well aligned, which gives learners the best chance to achieve their desired performance outcomes and impact their careers.”

Once the course outcomes are defined, the Emeritus team works with faculty to build a curriculum that scaffolds learning across program modules and provides learners with ample opportunities to practice the relevant skill sets with real-world problems. 

But that’s only the start. “The faculty spend several hours working with the instructional designer on each course module,” Mahon explains. “But the entire process—filming, technical production, usability testing—takes hundreds of hours.” 

While the content of each course is entirely customized, Emeritus adheres closely to industry best practices.

“Unlike other executive education providers, we align to an external set of quality standards for online education established by an organization called Quality Matters,” notes Mahon. “These standards are research-based, and we design our courses to align to them to improve the effectiveness and usability of the program. Learners can see not only what they’re doing but why they’re doing it and how it’s relevant to the skills they’re trying to acquire.” 

That means that the user experience, comprising everything from navigation to iconography, is designed to make progress through each module intuitive and straightforward. Faculty are consulted frequently, maintaining control over course content and often weighing in on delivery.

“We keep going back and forth with the faculty until we get it right,” Brem says. “By the time the learner reaches the end of the course, they should not only have a clear understanding of the material but also understand why it matters, and be able to apply the skills they’ve learned to their careers.”Interested in learning more about what sets Emeritus apart? Read about our university partnerships and programs.

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