Olivet Online’s Your Way program brings college to professional adults looking to finish their degree.
In spring 2021, Olivet Nazarene University’s School of Graduate and Continuing Studies launched the Your Way program, an innovative use of Salesforce technology that offers free, online general education courses to adult learners.
For more than 30 years, Olivet’s programs have provided opportunities for professional adults to finish their undergraduate degrees and pursue graduate levels of study. Hoping to stay relevant in an era of increasingly digital learning, the University began searching for options that would increase online course offerings without sacrificing quality.
“We started doing a lot of technology innovation pieces and modernizing approaches for the future,” vice president of ONU Global, Ryan Spittal ’99/’04 MBA, DBA reflected. “We were able to identify a particular demographic of adults who had some college, but no degree and we began to look at the barriers to their education: cost, time, fear of failure, personal life balance. We worked backwards from there to bend the cost curve, make going to school accessible, and offer a program that made people feel like they’re winning again.”
Dean of the SGCS, Jeremy Van Kley, ’97/’10 M.Div acknowledged that developing a program that met those goals took a lot of work. “There was a lot of discussion back and forth about how to make the concept a reality. We wanted to make these courses legitimate, online courses that lead to a degree and still felt authentically ‘Olivet.’”
The result was partnering with Salesforce to use automated technology to deliver content written and monitored by ONU Global faculty. The program is completely self-paced and students don’t have to fit their coursework into a traditional academic calendar, but can eventually complete a fully accredited bachelor’s degree of 120 credit hours. Courses are designed in modules and within modules there are units of content, activities and assessments for students to complete along the way.
“With Your Way, we were aiming to allow students to not have to abandon their education journey when what they’re needing is flexibility,” said Ryan. “We wanted to provide an on-ramp back for student to feel successful again.”
In sticking with Olivet’s mission of providing a liberal arts education with a Christian purpose, the program integrates a strong faith component into each class. The goal is to go beyond generic content distribution to provide a community for students to engage in by replicating the campus atmosphere into an online campus.
Ryan explained the significance of the program. “A lot of individuals abandon their education for factors out of their control. One of our current students is in her 60s and wants to lead the way for her kids and grandkids. Another student has been working on her degree for 18 years. It is exciting to help people accomplish a goal they’ve been working on for two decades.”
Jeremy agreed. “I’m really looking forward to cheering the first student who completes their degree utilizing Your Way across the graduation platform!”
Your Way provides a free and relatively easy option for adult learners who want to jump back into a college program without needing to sacrifice their current work and family responsibilities.
“The long-term goal is to have students finish their degree at Olivet – to feel like Olivet is their alma mater with an affinity for and a connection with the University,” said Ryan. “But we’re ultimately in the learning business, not just the degree business and we’re excited for lots of people to take advantage of the program, whether you’re on a journey to complete an abandoned bachelor’s degree or you’re an alumnus looking to freshen up on concepts and skills to enhance your resumé.”
In the first six months of its launch, Your Way has gained great traction. New student enrollment is up more than 1,000% from last year and several hundred students have started working on at least one course.
This summer, Your Way was one of three programs nominated for the Dave Perry Excellence in Innovation award at the 2021 Salesforce Education Summit – an award that put Olivet up for consideration against the University of Arizona and MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology). While Olivet did not claim the prize, Ryan presented about Olivet’s innovative venture at the digital conference this summer.
For more information about Your Way and ONU Global’s School of Graduate and Continuing Studies, visit online.olivet.edu.