Distance Learning Becomes Fashion-able

IN BUSY MIDTOWN MANHATTAN, CONTINUING EDUCATION POSES PROBLEMS.

Since 1939, LIM — The College for the Business of Fashion — has set itself apart from other fashion colleges by focusing on the business of fashion. Now it’s setting itself apart in the learning of fashion.

While other institutions educate aspiring designers for artistically creative careers, LIM prepares its graduates to assume leadership roles in fashion and visual merchandising, marketing and management.

As the demands of the industry have changed, so have LIM’s course offerings. What started as a certificate program has grown to include associate and bachelor’s degrees, as well as a Master of Business Administration degree program with concentrations in management and entrepreneurship. This is all in addition to liberal arts, math and humanities courses.

To better accommodate its student body of approximately 1,300, the college has expanded its physical facilities several times, including centralizing and improving its student housing — no small feat in the heart of midtown Manhattan.

Making the Case

As undergraduate and advanced degrees have become more common prerequisites for advancement in fashion and retail, LIM graduates who received associate degrees began contacting the college to request post-degree training and education, as well as bachelor’s degrees. However, even if such programs were made available, there were two challenges preventing students from attending classes:

1) They were already juggling busy work schedules in locations all over the country.

2) Middle- and senior-level executives’ reputations could be damaged if colleagues learned that they had not already earned the degrees usually associated with their positions.

Dr. Jo-Ann Rolle, who is senior vice president for Academic and Student Affairs, wanted to continue serving the educational needs of past graduates. But, she says, “This was a unique opportunity to reach out to adult learners in a new way.”

Addressing Needs

Although other distance learning systems were considered and reviewed, the choice of Blackboard Learn was a “foregone conclusion,” according to Adam Rosen, LIM’s director of academic administration. “We don’t have a lot of in-house expertise or technical infrastructure, so we chose to rely on Blackboard Managed Hosting Services to provide and maintain all the software, hardware, support — the whole package.”

Other factors that influenced LIM’s decision were the number of successful such implementations at a broad range of academic institutions and a 90-day trial period that allowed faculty to experiment with the system.

Immediate Results

Once the decision to implement the Blackboard solution was made, it took only 30 days to develop the LIM Prior Learning Assessment and Portfolio Development course, which assesses students’ work experience and awards rigorously evaluated academic credit through distance learning. Shortly thereafter, several hybrid courses were also developed.

“We had students online within weeks of launching the solution,” says Rosen. Even though the college had problems with its own internal servers, Blackboard Managed Hosting allowed the learning system to remain unaffected.

Even though LIM is still within what it considers its “pilot year,” the new online and hybrid offerings have created numerous benefits:

>> expanded reach without additional “bricks and mortar”;

>> provided immediate access to a new revenue stream (continuing adult education) with minimal expense;

>> provided learning opportunities to students unable to attend traditional classes onsite; and

>> reinforced relationships with alumni as potential donors.

The availability of online classes has also improved student satisfaction by freeing them from being onsite during the “prime time” 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. timeframe. This is a critical factor in metropolitan New York City, where students may commute several hours to and from school, making early morning, late afternoon and evening classes difficult to attend. An additional benefit is that the online classes have increased room capacity for other students who prefer to attend classes in a traditional face-to-face setting.

In response to the successful launch and benefits, Dr. Rolle says, “Blackboard Learn has helped us drive additional revenue streams and define strategies that would not have been possible otherwise.”

—To learn more about Blackboard’s Professional Education Solutions, visit www.BlackboardProEd.com or call (888) 719-6123.

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