Students from each of the federal government’s 257 agencies are enrolled in Champlain College Online’s programs, and the private sector has also joined forces with Champlain as a workforce development strategy.
The Vermont-based institution first delved into online learning in 1993 and has been expanding since. In 2007, Champlain’s Continuing Professional Studies division became focused solely on adults looking for the next step in their professional lives.
“We completely changed the way in which we teach,” said Dr. Mika Nash, academic dean of the Division of Continuing Professional Studies at Champlain College Online. “We moved toward a heavily applied and hands-on model where students are encouraged and expected to take theory and apply it to their personal and professional lives, analyzing what they find, synthesizing ideas, and creating meaning and value for themselves and, incidentally, for their employers.”
As part of Champlain’s focus on working adults, only about 20 percent of Champlain’s courses require textbooks. The curriculum focuses instead on deeper forms of learning, including lab environments for skills testing, and discussion areas with professors and other students, Nash said. Classes are kept small, rarely exceeding 20 students. There are programs for some of the most in-demand skill sets today — cybersecurity, computer and information systems, software development and accounting, to name just a few.
Partnering with Government
In 2011, Champlain established the truED Alliance program to focus further on professional education by partnering with organizations to help them “support and grow their workforce from within,” Nash said.
Champlain has more than 70 partnerships with government agencies, nonprofits and private sector companies. The online college serves about 4,480 students, 3,000 of whom come from truED Alliance organizations that have partnered with Champlain.
“Employers were satisfied with the immediacy of the results in that students — employees — were able to quickly help achieve the stated goals,” Nash said.
The degree and certificate programs are offered completely online, allowing both partnering companies and other professionals to “fulfill skills-gap needs affordably,” Nash said.
Alliance organizations have access to Champlain’s 60 certificate, bachelor’s and master’s degree programs for a “significant discount off standard tuition,” officials said. Students across all 257 federal agencies are enrolled in Champlain’s courses through truED.
“Our students range from line-level employees aiming to earn an associate or bachelor’s degree, to senior corporate and government leaders aiming to boost their executive acumen and knowledge through a master’s program or graduate certificate,” Nash said.
Nash said Champlain educators understand organizations are under pressure to recruit and retain top talent to achieve their annual goals and remain competitive. Employees also understand the competition.
“In this environment, truED is a highly effective engagement program,” Nash said.
Champlain’s goal is to help students prepare to be “skilled practitioners and effective professionals,” Nash said.