Behind the Scenes – Course Development Process


Working with an awesome student named Yujin on digital audio recordings.

Human Resources encompasses a large variety of training topics related to new and current employees. This includes new employee orientations, benefits overviews, mandatory topics such as nondiscrimination and child abuse reporting, supervisor essentials, and even soft skills such as communications and effective teamwork. We’re now proud to be developing our very first online course!


Sheryl and Zack give their absolute best performances while acting out scenes.

Routinely, HR provides face-to-face training and workshops to meet the needs of the campus as a whole. That is a challenging task because the needs of the campus routinely change and the needs of the individual often mean that time slots, locations, or frequency never quite fit one’s personal schedule.  We’re hoping to change that in the future to meet our audience exactly where they are at.


Claire is joined by an awesome student named Jim, who helped voice one of our characters. 

That is where online delivery, reinforced by face-to-face engagement, comes into play. By placing parts of our training and workshops online, we increase the availability and access for every single individual, regardless of where they are physically located. For student employees that means not having to skip a class in order to attend a mandatory workshop. For part-time faculty, that means not having to drive to campus in order to obtain important information. For college employees as a whole that means obtaining necessary material from the convenience of your own desk or device.


Course development is a team effort and it helped to have such great support behind our first online course.

It should be stressed that replacing face-to-face interaction is not the end goal. Improving access and increasing learner success, while refocusing our face-to-face engagement to meet learners where they are at is essentially the best of both worlds…aka blended and flipped learning modalities.

Getting back to the purpose of this article, we’ve been working on a brand new course to be delivered online. It’s understandable that no one would be excited by this news…akin to being invited to watch someone’s wedding video (not exactly the most exciting two-hour experience of your life even thought the event itself may have been fantabulous). With this in mind we’re reinventing our training material, engagement strategy, and user experience (not to mention making the course more academically sound by adding assessments). In short, we hope the course to be meaningful, memorable, and motivational…as best as possible that is given the content.


This is just a teaser for what’s coming soon and will be included in our first online course. Stay tuned!

In the coming weeks you will continue to hear more about our development and launch of this new course. We’ve worked hard to ensure that it doesn’t feel like a two-hour wedding video and hope that folks appreciate the work that went into creating it. Stay tuned for more details!


Learn. Earn. Display. – The Potential of Digital Badging

Culture of Learning

Imagine being able to gain a new skill, knowledge, and ability whenever the need (or interest) arose. Such access would support a culture of learning across an organization that is not necessarily defined by seats, spaces, or even schedules. Any individual could embrace formal or informal learning opportunities based on personal interest or motivation. Wouldn’t that be something worth exploring?


Just a sampling of potential digital badges at Green River College.

The Best of Both Worlds

Learning today can take place at any time, at any location, and on a variety of devices. It is not limited to formal training sessions or designated professional development days. It is not confined to four walls of a classroom, but supported through both virtual and face-to-face learning environments. It is the combination of these two environments where the most potential resides.

Online learning environments take advantage of technology readily available to deliver materials and experiences to every end user on their time. Face-to-face environments support critical thinking, communication, and peer collaboration that helps foster a community of learners.


Completing a competency-based course results in the awarding of a digital badge.

What would it look like if an organization developed content for online delivery and focused on creating a rich face-to-face experience for learners? That organization would clearly define and recognize competencies and allow individuals to explore their own learning pathways.

Digital Badging Potential

Digital badges, just like printed certificates, recognize accomplishments of a particular individual. Whereas printed certificates are usually based on face-to-face interaction (a time-based model), digital badges are based solely on specific competencies achieved. Because of this difference, digital badges can easily be utilized to recognize service, volunteer hours, cultural diversity, leadership and supervision, and other non-academic achievements. Furthermore, badges could support both stacked (Basic, Intermediate, and Advanced levels) and latticed (variety of topics) credentials.


Example of a stacked approached to digital badging at Green River.

Digital badges provide and support an important motivational element that is necessary for many learners. Why would anyone sit through an optional course or professional development workshop if there was no recognition of achievement? The badges themselves provide an incentive to achieve (intrinsic motivation) and can be shared with peers via social media (extrinsic motivation).

Furthermore, digital badges establish digital credentials, which are quickly becoming a necessary part of any individual’s online presence. Did you know that LinkedIn recognizes certifications and displays links to badge ecosystems (earned competencies, issuing authority, and earner credentials)? Have you displayed your certificates earned yet?


Certifications on LinkedIn are now a part of your online identity.

Green River College Business Goals

Exploration of competency-based courses and digital badging is currently just a proposed vision to support a culture of learning at Green River College. Just a few of these courses (and badges) have been fully developed thus far. The potential however exists for a much wider implementation upon successful “proof of concept” completion.

To be truly successful through a system-wide deployment, competency-based courses and digital badging must meet specific business goals. Key business goals include:

  1. Deliver innovative eLearning experiences through clearly stated objectives, rich media integration, and assessments that encourage individuals to continue learning.
  2. Improve access to professional development opportunities that align with college’s core values through open courses.
  3. Collaborate across departments to design, develop, implement, and evaluate training initiatives that appeal to the widest audience possible.
  4. Share completed courses and established best practices with other institutions across our state.

Potential Course Topics

At Green River College there are many training initiatives that could benefit from the combination of competency-based courses and digital badging. These initiatives span new and existing employees, faculty, classified staff, exempt personnel, and even students. Potential course categories could include Human Resources, Personal Safety, Student Success, Student Leadership, Cultural Diversity, and more (see image below).

Example of a latticed approached to digital badging at Green River.

Example of a latticed approached to digital badging at Green River.

Challenges We Face

This proposal is not a quick fix for all training needs. It is also not a means to replace the need for face-to-face workshops, which would still be required for different instructional purposes. It is simply an approach to build interest and motivate individuals to complete an ever-increasing list of professional development topics. Some of the key challenges we face include:

  • Ensuring consistency in course design
  • Targeted total course run times (less than one hour)
  • Course design and development hours
  • Rich-media content creation

Thank You. Gracias.

Thank you for taking the time to read through this proposal. I look forward to officially launching some of the courses that are currently in development in collaboration with subject matter experts across campus. Lastly, I look forward to learning, earning, and displaying badges received at Green River College!

Further Exploration

How to Attack a Dinosaur and Survive: A Competency-Based Model

Once Upon a Cave

Since the very first “How to Attack a Dinosaur and Survive” workshop was held in a cave “B” at exactly as high noon, humankind had been trained to believe that learning was restricted to the class(or cave)room. That model however, only worked for the lucky few cave dwellers who signed up for the workshop, had the availability in their schedule, and who actually fit into the confined space.

Caveman Dinosaur

Proper training can literally be the difference between life and death.

Even way back then though, that system didn’t work for all cavemen and cavewomen. What about the learner who couldn’t make it to the cave because they camped a mile away? What about the learner who had a conflict in their hunting/gathering schedule. The point of this (made-up) story is that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to an education. There clearly exists a need for mastery of content and concepts that are not structured around seat time and credit hour.

Technology and the Cave Dweller

Technology has played an instrumental role in the shifting of educational models that now include face-to-face, enhanced, flipped, and online learning. That’s just the beginning though. Today, learners access instruction both in and out of formal academic settings. If one doesn’t understand the material or the delivery of that material by their instructor, they simply Google or YouTube a crash course on the subject and master it over the weekend. Mastery can be achieved at any hour of the day, at any location, via multiple learning paths, and at the pace of any individual caveman or cavewoman. Additionally, anyone can sign up for self-paced open course from entities such as the Khan Academy, Coursera, or Udemy (just to name a few).

Moving Towards a Competency-Based Cave

At Green River College we provide an endless amount of trainings and workshops for faculty, staff, and students across the institution. Some of that training is mandatory and some of it is entirely based on learner interest. Traditionally, we provide these workshops in face-to-face settings…and in doing so, limit the amount of people who can attend them. What if we looked at training in different ways? What if we designed training options that delivered meaningful content, ensured defined competencies were met, and included the flexibility for learners to choose their own time and space for mastery? That’s what competency-based learning is all about.

Welcome Page

The landing page of the Personal Safety course.

We’ve only just begun to explore this learning model at Green River. In development currently are competency-based courses on subjects such as Personal Safety Against Violence, Participatory Governance, New Employee Onboarding, Workplace Ethics, and Non-Discrimination. Once launched, these course and others like them will drastically reduce the need to reschedule or duplicate workshops every single quarter.


Each module contains required and supplemental learning materials.

Each course will begin with clearly stated learning objectives, varied instructional materials, and assessments that ensure competency is mastered. Each module within the course requires successful completion of the previous module in order to advance. If a learner wants to complete a course in a single sitting or over the span of multiple weeks, it would be entirely up to them.


Upon completion of this course a digital badge is awarded to learners.

Again, we’ve only just begin to explore competency-based learning at Green River, but look forward to the many opportunities ahead. Beginning fall quarter, you should be hearing and seeing much more of these types of courses in action. Stay tuned!

Further Exploration

Free Online Writing Class!

Posted on behalf of Jean Sheadel. Thanks for sharing Jean! 

Wordsmithing, various style guides, grammar police, punctuation problems, not to mention spelling mistakes – there’s so much involved in writing, and writing correctly! Some of us have a hard time not proofing periodicals and books while we’re reading.

AP Style Highlights

Some of the many tools in my AP arsenal.

One of the best training sessions I ever attended was a writing class I took while working for the Kent School District. The class reviewed the most common writing mistakes – including grammar, punctuation and commonly misused words. The content was similar to the book, Eats, Shoots & Leaves, by Lynne Truss.

AP Style Thinking

Who wrote this stuff anyways..? Oh, that would be me.

Knowing this, I don’t think it would surprise you to know that I occasionally search the internet for training to improve my writing skills. I recently found a gem: Poynter. News University’s FREE, online class, “Cleaning Your Copy: Grammar, Style and More.” Based on the AP Style Guide, the style guide used by Green River’s marketing department, I’m finding this course to be not only a refresher, but a useful learning tool. I’m certain that this class will help me in my day-to-day writing for the website, and for proofing college-related material.

Course Website Screenshot

This $29.95 course is free of charge thanks to the support of Knight Foundation.

If someone finds another (free) training course, I’d love to know about it!

Training Consultations…Made Easy…er

My business card officially states Training Manager as my job title. When I get asked what I do on campus though, folks usually associate me as…”the HR newsletter guy.” While I am proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish within HR in regards to communication, engagement, and all-around AWESOMENESS…my roles and responsibilities span training initiatives and needs across the entire institution. That…is a daunting task.

Training Manager

Everything you ever needed to know about Steve Sosa.

I very quickly came the realization that there are way too many training and development needs across the institution to tackle in one quarter (much less one academic year). Although I can’t address every single need immediately, I am able to add them to a queue, so to speak. Currently I am serving guest 437. Please stay in line. Your call is important to me.

Participatory Governance

Jean and I mastering the selfie and finishing a consultation on Participatory Governance at Green River.

In the midst of making significant progress on just a few training initiatives (mandatory and compliance related needs are the first priority on campus), I am also working to simplify the consultation process as a whole. If you happen to be a fan of teaching and learning, eLearning, or instructional design, you’ll appreciate anything that makes design and development easier. Consultations shouldn’t feel like getting a tooth pulled, right?

Online Course Templates

The first of many consultation and course design templates to come your way.

And so, I’m proud to announce the first in a series of many templates coming our way. Dear world, I present Online Course Outline Template and Unit of Instruction Template. These were born out of the instructional design need to clearly analyze and design training solutions (in geekspeak, part of the ADDIE process). In teaching and learning terms that would be mapping the curriculum. During the consultation, these templates help clearly articulate:

  • Learning objectives (both course and module)
  • Content identification (text, presentation, screencasts, video)
  • Course progression (fully available versus competency-based)
  • Engagement methods
  • Assessment methods

So, why is all of this important to Green River College? Well, first…we only have one Training Manager who can’t address all needs immediately. If we wait, on a project to project completion basis, we’d be waiting until 2029. The reality though is that everyone has different schedules, priorities, flexibility, and physical locations. Solutions to training initiatives must include an online component. It’s about leveraging the power of technology to include, engage, and motivate employees in their own spaces, at their own times, and on their own devices. It’s also about keeping my own sanity in the process.

Stay tuned for the next training consultation template!

Canvas Module Example

Keep an eye out for Green River’s newest course on the Meaning of Life!