Organization development webinars helping to stoke online enrollment

Jim Carlson
September 04, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Keeping the skills of employees of various organizations current is as vital of a task as developing the skills of current students, in the Department of Learning and Performance Systems (LPS) within Penn State’s College of Education.

One way of enabling that is through webinars conducted by professors in workforce education and development as well as organization development (OD); LPS also encompasses career and technical education.

“I am hearing from students and other faculty that evidence exists that the webinars we have done have helped our online enrollments at a time when enrollments matter,” said William Rothwell, professor of education, workforce education and development. “One way we've been doing that is through monthly webinars about organization development.

“Organization development is a way to facilitate change in organizations. Organization development is a flavor of change theory. OD methods of change are bottom-up, meaning that we facilitate change among people in organizations rather than impose change. That's what makes it a bit different.”

Organization development is about tapping the creative thinking of all workers and managers and use innovative thinking to cope with, manage and even anticipate organizational change, Rothwell noted. “Change affects everyone, and we are trying to make the world a better place by improving how change is managed,” he said.

Rothwell and colleagues Wesley Donahue, Hyung Joon Yoon and William Brendel have provided their expertise. Donahue, professor of education (workforce education and development), has spoken about leadership competencies, and Yoon, assistant professor of education (workforce education and development), has shared about research-based core values that OD practitioners follow. 

Rothwell has spoken about talent management and about organizational trust. Brendel, assistant professor of education (workforce education and development), has spoken about transforming organizational culture.

“We want to do that to get the word out to the University and the world about who we are and what we do, because we're different than other parts of the college in the sense that we go beyond kindergarten to 12th-grade education to include a focus on lifelong learning,” Rothwell said. 

“We’ll use webinars to build enrollment, build our visibility and develop our fixed term and adjunct faculty to keep them up to date. We also believe it is important to give adults the tools to continuously challenge their own assumptions, reflect on their values, and strive to create organizations that not only profit but see prosperity as a function of employee well-being, inclusion, meaningful work and personal growth.”

Rothwell said it’s important to hone the skills of fixed term and adjunct instructors, those who might not be involved in research or funded projects. “One approach is to involve them in webinars where we bring in people from many different parts of our field, have them present, and then insist that our fixed term and adjunct people participate in those webinars, so it's a way of faculty development for an important group that we depend on for our success in our World Campus program,” he explained.

Regardless of why the student is interested in additional learning through webinars, they must hold the student’s attention.

“In workforce education and development, our focus is basically on people who are not in school settings,” Rothwell said. “And we have to relate lifelong learning to the problems that adults face. If you're out of work, you're going to be highly motivated to learn if you think learning will help you qualify for a job or keep a job. That appeals to the adult need to have learning that is tied to life needs. 

“So rather than sit in a classroom and hear academic research and theory, you as an adult would much rather have learning that is focused on the real problems you will face on the job. That's what we mean by fun, we mean that we let the learning be fun, because you're more likely to remember it and use it if it is based on practical experience that's real world in its focus.”

Rothwell also gets alumni involved, people who have doctoral or master's degrees, and helps them keep learning and helps them advance in their careers.

“We have a lot of ways to work with graduate students and alumni,” he said. “We’re even going to ask them to do some of the webinars; some have volunteered already and we said OK. It’s so they get the visibility; it will be a good opportunity for them to strut their stuff and show people who they are and what they can do.”

LPS Department Head Roy Clariana said the webinars are reaching an important group of people and enhancing their professional knowledge and skills. “This is in line with Penn State’s 21st-century, land-grant mission, bringing the scholarship of teaching, research and public service to the state of Pennsylvania and to the nation,” Clariana said.

"To date, our interactive webinars have attracted over 1,500 participants from around the world," added Clariana, "who serve our society in a wide variety of settings including international organizations (United Nations, World Bank, NATO, UNICEF and the U.K. Parliament), corporations (Boeing, Microsoft, Deloitte, Ernst & Young and Accenture), the federal government (Departments of Education, Energy, Veteran Affairs and Defense) and over 20 universities."

Brendel noted that the webinars have attracted participants from many colleges throughout Penn State, including the Colleges of Medicine, Nursing, Education, Business, Earth and Mineral Sciences, Arts and Architecture and Agricultural Sciences. 

“Because of their broad appeal, we expect the number of webinar views to grow substantially as they are shared through professional networks via social media," Brendel said.

  • RothwellW

    William Rothwell

    IMAGE: Penn State
  • ClarianaR

    Roy Clariana

    IMAGE: Penn State
  • BrendelB

    William Brendel

    IMAGE: Penn State
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Last Updated September 04, 2020