Increasing Access to Nonprofit Management and Leadership Education
- Vic Murray, University of Victoria
- Cyril Oberlander, SUNY College at Geneseo
University at Albany
The Certificate of Nonprofit Management and Leadership (CNML) jointly sponsored by Rockefeller College’s Department of Public Administration and Policy and the School of Social Welfare, is dedicated to increasing access to education that meets the needs of leaders and managers in the nonprofit sector. Designed for students and working professionals who wish to develop nonprofit leadership competency to develop or become more effective in their leadership roles, the CMNL offers five courses jointly delivered between the two schools.
While the courses and program have received positive evaluations, enrolment is down and numerous requests have come from the local nonprofit community to increase access to University at Albany, SUNY nonprofit management and leadership education, research and professional learning opportunities. We believe that open and blended learning is one way to increase enrolment and meet sector demand for high quality nonprofit management and leadership education.
The $10,000.00 in IITG Tier 1 grant funding will be used to:
• Transform RPAD 607 Nonprofit Governance into a Massive Open Online Course and evaluate the impact of the newly restructured course from teaching and learning perspectives.
o Integrate the Nonprofit Governance SUNY Open Textbook, developed with IITG funding into the Nonprofit Governance MOOC
o Incorporate students, local governing boards in the design of the course as well as Rockefeller College’s Professional Development Program to develop high quality instructional videos (e.g. lectures and nonprofit governance simulations).
• Adopt Coursera’s Online Learning Platform to deliver RPAD 607 Nonprofit Governance as a MOOC and blended learning onsite course.
o Develop expertise in the field of nonprofit governance and leadership at the University at Albany, SUNY through PhD graduate assistance.
• Bring CNML faculty, students, and nonprofit sector leaders together to discuss the impact of the restructured course, online learning, and how to benefit from it with respect to increasing access to CNML courses using synchronous, asynchronous, and blended learning.
This proposal begins with a description of demand from the nonprofit sector for more accessible education, followed by the strategic opportunity the IITG online learning grant affords the University at Albany, SUNY. Next is the statement of work and how it will advance IITG program objectives. The proposal concludes with the funding request and budget narrative.
Demand for Nonprofit Sector Education
The proposal meets a demonstrated and growing demand from nonprofit leaders, managers, and the nonprofit workforce for nonprofit education. In recent years, interest in nonprofit studies has grown at the University at Albany, SUNY. In 2009-2011, nonprofit management ranked second in student enrolment among all MPA concentrations (along with three other concentrations). Each year the number of students in the nonprofit concentration within the MPA has increased, indicating a growing market to be tapped. While demand has increased, enrolment in nonprofit concentration courses has been limited by the availability of courses. Existing students have expressed interest in more accessible courses and some are even taking independent studies with nonprofit faculty to access them. At the same time, there has been an increase in the number of requests from nonprofit leaders and managers wanting formal training to meet the challenges of their jobs and to advance in their careers.
Strategic Opportunity for University at Albany, SUNY Through IITG Program
The global economic recession has forced nonprofit organizations throughout the world to respond more rapidly to changing conditions in the economic, social, technological, and political environments in which they operate. In the United States, the impact has been an increase in the roles and responsibilities of nonprofits and their leaders to effectively protect and serve the interests of multiple and diverse publics with resources that are more difficult to generate and sustain.
In New York, “Nonprofits remain a key economic engine for New York. Nonprofits employed 1,246,916 paid workers in 2010, representing 18 percent of the state’s total private workforce...New York’s nonprofits also generate more revenue than their counterparts in other states” (p.6). Interestingly, the NYS Department of Labor, Division of Research and Statistics made a similar observation in 2002 and noted a gap in nonprofit education and training. The sector is a “major force in the state’s economy…. Regrettably… the sector is often overlooked in economic development and education and training efforts that could prove extremely beneficial to the state economy in the long term" (p.1).
Now, in 2014, the Governor of New York State has signed into law nonprofit legislation that will change and challenge the leadership of nonprofit organizations to be more effective and accountable. The University at Albany’s Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy and the Schools of Social Welfare and Public Health are acting in partnership to help nonprofits understand the new legislation and develop the institutional capacity to enable a dynamic, multi-dimensional response to the management and leadership challenges that nonprofits currently confront. Although local colleges, such as St. Rose and Union, have developed some nonprofit-related certificates and curricula, they are less substantial in scope and do not have the faculty expertise to meet the existing demand for nonprofit education and research.
• RPAD 607 Nonprofit Governance MOOC
RPAD 607 Nonprofit Governance covers the nonprofit governance environment where boards and the leadership volunteers that serve on them operate. The course focuses on what boards and volunteers do and how they do it to maximize nonprofit governance and organizational effectiveness. The aspect of the course that covers the “what” is the formal roles and responsibilities of boards whereas the “how” refers to the formal and non-formal approaches taken to carry out their roles vis a vis the organization management. In addition to the what and how of nonprofit governance, the course covers the who of nonprofit leadership and why with particular emphasis on the impact of highly effective boards, leadership volunteers, board chairs, and board-centered chief executive officers.
RPAD 607 will be the first Massive Online Open Courses (MOOC) in Rockefeller College and the first in the SUNY System to integrate a University at Albany, SUNY Open Textbook and online sponsored research project (10-255) into an academic course as an online service learning experience.
The MOOC will be offered as a University at Albany, SUNY credit bearing MPA and Certificate of Nonprofit Management and Leadership course with a traditional face-to-face meeting format to provide a blended learning format. The MOOC will target non-traditional learners—those who interact with and serve on nonprofit boards of directors. Students earning credit for the course will take online tests based on the course content and submit papers that reflect on the governance effectiveness of a board of directors with which they interact. The learning activity will be linked to the 10-255 Nonprofit Governance Research Project, thus providing participating students and boards with access to a specialty text and tools they cannot obtain in the market.
The course content will be flipped with the help of a PhD student graduate assistant and Rockefeller College’s Professional Development Program (PDP) who will be contracted to produce audio and digital files that will be uploaded to the online learning platform. The course will be translated into different languages through Coursera’s Global Translation Partners Program.
• Adoption of Coursera Online Learning Platform
With the emergence of MOOCs, a growing number of US institutions of higher education are partnering with third party technology providers (e.g. for profit Coursera, Udacity; nonprofit EdX) to offer academic courses online to students and the public for free. While the business model specifying how revenue will be earned from free courses is still being worked out, MOOCs have the potential to bridge the divide between those who can access higher education and those who cannot. In theory making courses available to those for whom education can truly make a difference makes sense; however, concerns have been raised about the quality of MOOCs, particularly the low level of discourse and student push back over course costs (e.g. purchasing course materials and time to do course work). Some have also questioned the utility of MOOCs when the completion rates are low (Kolowich, 2013, p. A6). One response to addressing these concerns has been to step up the quality of online instruction and the amount of end-user technology support. As Steven Kolowich (2013) recently reported in the Chronicle of Higher Education, this strategy will increase academic quality and decrease the cost of MOOCs and online learning platforms as competition within the technology education marketplace increases. To address this concern, RPAD 607 will employ the Coursera online learning platform.
The mission of Coursera is to empower people with education that will improve their lives, the lives of their families, and the communities they live in. From designing and building course content to interactive discussion forums and hangouts to community TAs, Coursera provides state of the art tools to Universities to offer their courses to targeted audiences around the world for a fee ($3,000.00).
Coursera will be utilized for their reach. They estimate the size of the global education market is four million students from 195 nations.
Coursera has designed their online learning platform based on the mastery approach developed by education psychologist Benjamin Bloom whereby students are given immediate feedback on concepts they do not understand. In this regard, students who fail to master subject matter are given randomized versions of assignments to retake coursework. Since MOOCs are comprised of students from different educational backgrounds, this personalized approach to learning helps students of different levels take an advanced course together.
Dziuban, Moskal & Dziuban (2000), who have extensively studied online learning in higher education, claim that online learning programs have created a new context for learning. Within this context, teaching and learning roles have shifted. For students, the role is that of responsible “life-long learners” who are in charge of what they learn and how they interact with the new media. For the teacher and content deliverer, the role is of “facilitator of incremental and interactive cyber pedagogy” (p. 174). While the learning context has changed, they present research that shows most learners prefer a “mixed” learning environment that combines online and traditional pedagogy often referred to as hybrid or blending learning (see Dziuban, Hartman & Moskal (2004)). Coursera’s online platform will be used to provide on-campus CNML students a mixed or the blended model of learning, which research has linked to increases in student engagement, attendance, and performance if there is “high quality faculty development, course development assistance, learner support, and ongoing formative and summative assessment” (Dziuban et. Al, 2004, p. 3).
The proposed MOOC will build on the Metaliteracy MOOC offered by the University at Albany, SUNY and Empire State College. Through the Metaliteracy MOOC, undergraduate and graduate students in these New York institutions and members of the public will explore and engage in “emerging technologies…to effectively participate in social media and online learning communities” (for more information on Metaliteracy and the MOOC see online: ).
While the Metaliteracy MOOC will be of interest to members of the nonprofit sector, it is insufficient to meet the needs of the nonprofit sector with respect to nonprofit management and leadership education.
• Meeting of CNML Faculty
Bring CNML faculty, students, and nonprofit sector leaders together to discuss the impact of the restructured course, online learning and how to benefit from it with respect to increasing access to CNML courses using synchronous, asynchronous, and blended learning.
Advancement of Strategic Goals through IITG Grant
This grant affords the University at Albany, SUNY a strategic opportunity to further the goal to share knowledge and resources with the nonprofit community in need of them. By supporting this grant, the wheels will be set in motion to experiment with one course and consider how online learning could be used to further develop the Certificate in Nonprofit Management and Leadership into a state of the art University at Albany, SUNY nonprofit program. This grant will advance IITG Objectives in three ways:
1. To reduce barriers to nonprofit education and research by increasing access to those who need it through online education, publishing (Open Textbook), and research initiatives.
2. To increase enrolment in University at Albany, SUNY CNML courses by targeting a new supply of students looking for accessible professional learning opportunities (i.e. managers and boards within the professional nonprofit community).
3. To conduct research on the impact of online teaching and learning effectiveness in the CNML program through the Nonprofit Governance course (e.g. Coursera MOOC, blended learning environment, flipped classroom, integration of Nonprofit Governance Open Textbook and Sponsored Research).
This grant will allow the University at Albany and SUNY to expand its nonprofit education program, increase access to nonprofit research and publications, increase the University’s profile in professional and continuing education, and engage in meaningful nonprofit sector activities which will lead to improvements in the human condition, at the local, and state, national, and global levels.
Dziuban, C., P. Moskal & E. Dziuban (2000), “Reactive Behavior Patterns Go Online” (2000), 17 Journal of Staff, Program, & Organizational Development at 171-82.
Harrison, Y. D. (spring 2014).
Kolowich, S. (2013, August 16th). The MOOC Disruption Proves Less Than Revolutionary Afterall, The Chronicle of Higher Education, A6.
Original Coursera course has been modularized to a specialization with capstone experience.