An incubator of ideas, projects, and collaborations
Sarah Fornero is dedicated to creating meaningful, engaging, and accessible online and blended learning environments. As the Director of Design and Delivery in the Department of Online Education at Adler University, this leader is redefining education.
Sarah Fornero oversees many aspects of the creation, maintenance, and effective implementation of online courses at Adler University. She is currently working on the launch of the Global Campus for Adler.
Wearing Many Hats
Sarah oversees the design, delivery, development, implementation, and many of the logistics of online courses and degree programs. Her department includes Instructional designers multimedia developers, and LMS administrators. “Those are the key designated roles, but those individuals wear a few more hats… My Department provides the learning management system or LMS for the entire university. Even courses that aren’t entirely online are blended… My multimedia team also does any content that is recorded for posterity, I’d say, for the university.”
Adler University is also in the process of launching a global or online campus. With that venture, they are going to have six entirely online degree programs offered at scale online nationally and internationally. “We already have the degrees, now we are partnering to increase our marketing, and go from three starts a year to six starts a year, with new cohorts starting every eight weeks. We’ll get to the point where every one of our courses will be running at all times.”
“We can redefine the student experience across the board.”
Sarah is striving to target the online student population and address their needs specifically. “One of the challenges we’ve encountered, right now I’m part of the Chicago campus, we have to operate under the rules, policies, and procedures of a traditional university. When our online students are typically what you might call a non-traditional or post-traditional student. We run into difficulties when those things don’t match. One really great example is our term was defined as 15 weeks. That was the Chicago definition of a term, We had two 8 week courses in our online programs, because a term was 15 weeks we had to have an overlap week… It was constrained by those legacy and historical policies that existed. As we launch this new campus we redefine what a term is. We can redefine the student experience across the board.”
The faculty is essential to the success of the program, and Sarah has found that instructors have different levels of buy-in and understanding of how to approach it. She uses a variety of examples with them about why and how to do different things. Sarah shows that it’s not about adjusting the quality, but about meeting the students’ needs in many ways. “If you look at the evolution of like, University of Phoenix… overall their model is really revolutionary. They came about because there was a lot of unmet need. You had a lot of people who wanted to get a degree, wanted to go to school, but their schedule didn’t allow it…. The predecessor of what is now Phoenix came in and said we’ll just open up some classrooms in San Francisco, and those of you who want to get a degree, we’ll be here when you need us. That was sort of the birth of this new trend, that you’re meeting the student where they are. You are trying to take away the barriers that don’t need to be there.”
Pedagogy over Panache
Sarah believes that the underlying pedagogy of teaching online is pretty much the same as teaching face to face. The things you should or shouldn’t do generally don’t change, but the approach is just a little different. “I think what we’re finding is the way we’re chunking things and structuring things online may very well be the way you should be chunking and structuring things in a face to face classroom as well… How is the student going to get feedback quicker?… We leverage course Q&A forums where students can ask their questions in the same place… It’s not really all about the media, it’s back about the method. How are you scaffolding that course so they know what they need to do next?”
Learning: It’s All Over the Place
“Formally, I am enrolled in a doctoral program… I attend a lot of conferences, I get involved in local organizations. I’m heavily involved in an organization called SLATE- Supporting Learning And Technology in Education. There’s actually a number of schools that are in Michigan as well, but we are centered out of Chicago. That’s a group that meets monthly, and we just talk about our challenges, what are other people doing, how can we work together? I try to make sure I’m presenting at least one conference per year, I find I actually learn more when I present, because after I share what I’m doing 10 or 12 people come tell me what their doing, and we’ll start to network in that way. Also blogs are a great way, listservs… Just staying connected as much as possible to information streams.”“As a teacher you have a lot of skills that apply in a lot of places.”To learn more about Sarah and innovative ways to incorporate video check out this video.