[Webinar Recap] Lessons from the Experts: Best Practices in Program Design

[Webinar Recap] Lessons from the Experts: Best Practices in Program Design

Tyler L McClain

Assistant Director, Office of Research & Strategic Initiatives, Campus Labs

Throughout the Program Design Series our presenters have provided numerous resources and best practices about the intentionality, precision, and follow-through that is required to ensure that programs are designed successfully. As we conclude this Learn Forward initiative, we have gathered a panel of thought leaders to share their insight through an interactive discussion with audience members.

Over the past three months we have learned about the program design process from the pre-planning phase to the assessment phase. We have learned about the importance of collaboration, large-scale program logistics, social media, and print/digital marketing. This webinar featured three guest panelists who joined live via webcam to help conclude the Program Design Series. Our panelists brought their experience from various higher education backgrounds and institutional sizes as they shared their reflection and insight on Program Design.

Dr. Corey Seemiller received her Bachelor’s degree in Communication, Master’s degree in Educational Leadership, and Ph.D. in Higher Education. She has worked as a leadership educator for higher education, K-12, non-profits, military, and in the community for the past 20 years. Prior to her role as Assistant Professor in Organizational Leadership at Wright State University, Dr. Seemiller served as the Director of Leadership Programs and adjunct faculty/coordinator for the Minor in Leadership Studies and Practice at the University of Arizona and the Director of Leadership, Learning, and Assessment at OrgSync, Inc. She has taught courses on foundations of leadership, global leadership, social justice leadership, critical perspectives on leadership, organizational leadership, research methods, and leadership for social change. Dr. Seemiller is also a dedicated scholar publishing and presenting nationally and internationally on issues related to leadership. She is the author of The Student Leadership Competencies Guidebook and associated measurements and tools to help educators develop intentional curriculum that enhances leadership competency development and Generation Z Goes to College, which focuses on preparing college educators to best serve and develop Generation Z students. She has also published articles on civic engagement, competency development, assessing leadership learning, and leadership educator identity development. Dr. Seemiller has served as the Co-Chair for the National Leadership Symposium and Co-Chair of the Leadership Education Academy. She is an active member of the International Leadership Association and serves on the Board of Directors for Lead365 and the Sonoran Center for Leadership Development.

Benjamin Lamb is the assistant director for student organization and involvement at Williams College. He is responsible for providing opportunities for students to explore their leadership and identity development through advisement of student leaders, students associated with student organizations & student businesses, and through staff-sponsored leadership & identity workshops and programs. Ben has dual B.A. degrees in Biology and Environmental Studies from Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) and a M.S. in College Student Services from The College of Saint Rose (New York). Before moving into his role at Williams, Ben dabbled around, having been a polymer resin adhesive scientist, salmon population researcher in Alaska, wilderness firefighter in Virginia, ecotourism guide in Belize, guidance counselor in North Adams, and a career counselor in Albany, NY. Ben owns a crepe café and is a member of the City Council in North Adams, where he is currently serving his first two-year term.

Lindsay Ritenbaugh oversees 350 student organizations at DePaul University in Chicago, IL. She supervises two undergraduate student involvement ambassadors and one graduate student, while directly advising DePaul’s Dance Marathon, Best Buddies, and Delta Phi Lambda Sorority, Inc. Lindsay’s free time is spent watching college football (Go Gators!), spending time with Kappa Delta alumnae where she serves as chapter president, playing trivia, and making the most of Broadway in Chicago offerings. She is training to run the Disney Princess Half Marathon next February, but for now, is a professional Netflix marathoner.

Dr. Seemiller, Ben, and Lindsay shared their reflections and insight on five prompts that they were provided prior to the webinar.

What have been pitfalls in program design for you?

Ben shared how we all try not think of these things but they do exist. Major things that he tends to run into on his campus are shifts in student leadership. Lindsay shared how every campus is different and it is important to find what works for your campus. Corey explained how in the movie the field of dreams, the phrase if you build it they will come, is not always true. Sometimes you need to learn how to best engage different populations of students by understanding how they want to be engaged, ask them what they are looking for.

What are your highlights (things that worked well) in program design?

Lindsay talked about how strategic planning is important to help guide student organizations. Ben continued by talking about how constitutions are important for student organizations, it helps guide them through the program design process. He offered some tips to help identify the valuable components of a program. Corey agreed with these statement and shared that you should use your own best practices, by looking at things that you do well and identify what makes work so well.

What advice would you give new folks doing program design?

Corey started by sharing that you can learn how to design programs by going out and observing similar types of programs, learn from those around you. She shared two other ideas (1) pick a model and follow it to help you get your feet wet (2) ask other professionals on your campus to come and observe your programs. Lindsay shared how sometimes you might need to bring in outside experts who can help with specific programs, they often bring clout and students often engage with them in a greater way. Ben echoed the outsider's perspective and how valuable it can be. If you know that your institution has great alumni connections or community resources, you should leverage those relationships to enhance your programs.

Are there program design frameworks that you use?

Lindsay and Ben shared various leadership based frameworks that are utilized on their campus. Lindsay explained how specific programs at Depaul are based on these models, while at Williams College Ben shared how they utilized blended frameworks in their programs. Corey followed by explaining that may program design frameworks have four basic parts and these can serve as a great guide. She also shared a specific model called Finks Backwards Design, which focuses on planning the assessment before you plan the curriculum. In addition to these models, Corey discussed how she always layers Kolb’s model of experiential learning on top of everything to ensure that students are going actively make meaning of their experience through some type of reflective process.

If you are interested in learning more about Fink’s model and how it connects to program design, read our eBook 5 Steps to Designing Programs with Purpose.

How do you assess if you designed a program well?

Ben started by sharing how he first saw assessment as an after the fact part of program design but now he knows it is an integral part of the process. In his program design assessment he utilizes a three phase assessment plan, pre, post, and at three or six months after the program. This long term assessment helps him identify if there are any long term influences and clarify the difference between any immediate impacts and long term influences after attending a program. Corey followed by sharing the importance of observation as an assessment tool and how you can take notes throughout your program to reflect on at a later time. Lindsay wrapped up by sharing how you can connect program design assessment back to the mission of your institution.

Watch recorded Webinars and read recent eBooks

Watch Webinar: Lessons from the Experts: Best Practices in Program Design

Tyler L McClain

Assistant Director, Office of Research & Strategic Initiatives, Campus Labs

Dallas, TX