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Guiding Principles

Individuals considering a graduate program of study should thoughtfully consider the following:

Focus of Study

The learning goals of each of Organizational Performance and Workplace Learning (OPWL) graduate program all point to equipping organization’s learning and development professionals with improving workplace performance.

To better understand the focus of study for each program to which you are applying, please review:

OPWL Course Design Principles

As students progress through the OPWL program, we want them to:

To achieve these goals, we have based the design and delivery of our OPWL courses on four broad principles.

Principle #1 – Practical utility combined with conceptual depth
Practical utility refers to helping students learn to (1) select and use OPWL “tools” (concepts, principles, models, and strategies) to improve learning and performance and (2) combine multiple tools to create a coherent solution to a unique problem. Conceptual depth refers to helping students learn to connect OPWL tools to (1) one another and the overall HPT process and (2) the theoretical and historical foundations for those tools and (3) the concept of “evidence-based practice” as a guide to professional practice.

Principle #2 – The safety of the classroom combined with the reality of the workplace
The safety of the classroom refers to providing students with opportunities to experiment with different OPWL tools as a way of expanding their skills, to “fail” safely during those experiments, and to learn from their mistakes as well as their successes. The reality of the workplace refers to helping students make explicit connections between course content and any work they might be doing on the job. This should be a two-way connection in which students are encouraged to:

  • Think about how they might use course content in the work they are doing.
  • Incorporate situations and issues that they experience at work as part of a course project, class discussion, etc.

Principle #3 – High tech connectivity combined with high touch coaching
High tech connectivity refers to the technology-mediated environment in which instruction takes place. This can include threaded discussions on electronic bulletin boards, synchronous communication tools, webinars, and so on. High touch coaching refers to guidance, coaching, scaffolding, and feedback that is responsive, individualized, and aimed at helping each individual succeed in the course and in the OPWL program. This guidance should be both:

  • Reactive – looking back to help the individual learn from work s/he has completed
  • Proactive – looking ahead to help the individual plan work to be completed and anticipate potential trouble spots.

Principle #4 – Individual learning combined with a community of practice
Individual learning refers to helping each student increase his/her OPWL related knowledge and skills. Within a community of practice refers to providing multiple opportunities for students to learn from one another, as well as from the instructor. This is based on the idea that (1) students in OPWL classes have diverse set of experience, skills, and interests and (2) this diversity is an asset for learning. This can be done through the use of class discussions, group projects, peer feedback, and other kinds of student-to-student interaction.

Graduate Study Readiness

In assessing your fitness for graduate study, please consider if you are prepared to:

  • dedicate 12 – 16 hours of study per week per course
  • devote additional time if necessary to fulfill the reading and comprehension requirements for a given course
  • regularly and frequently engage, discuss, participate and contribute to a community of learners
  • be a member of a virtual team working on projects for real clients
  • question your current methodology, biases and assumptions
  • manage your study time effectively so you can complete assignments on time
  • set goals and have a high degree of initiative

Online Study Preparedness

The Organizational Performance and Workplace Learning (OPWL) graduate programs are offered entirely online. You will have to independently establish a routine to complete the required readings, participate in the weekly class discussions, collaborate on group assignments, and work on final projects/papers from wherever you and your computer are located.

For many individuals, this is a radical change from their prior academic experiences. Committing to learning in an online environment, although convenient, does present its own unique challenges. It requires a learner that is self-motivated, self-regulating, and self-directed. Therefore, in assessing your readiness for online study, please consider if you are prepared to:

  • be self-motivated, self-regulated, and self-directed
  • clearly communicate in writing
  • read versus listen to most course communications
  • work in isolation
  • work as a member of a virtual team