The New Jersey School Boards Association has entered into an exciting new partnership with Rutgers University Division of Continuing Studies (DoCS), to develop NJSBA’s Online University for Continuing Education. The new extension of NJSBA’s Board Member Academy will make training available around-the clock, seven days a week.

Rutgers DoCS is helping in the development of 14 online courses over the next two years, including revised versions of all four mandated training programs. The new, highly interactive training programs are being designed to increase engagement and collaboration. Other programs will include training on key areas for members, including labor relations, and training on current issues and developments which are critically important in helping schools and districts to succeed.

“Establishing an online university is aligned with NJSBA’s Strategic Plan goal to build a ‘future ready’ association,” said Dr. Lawrence Feinsod, NJSBA executive director. “It is also closely related to the plan’s objectives in two other areas: direct services and professional development. In addition, the concept of an NJSBA Online University was recommended by a staff task force that I appointed to study and identify entrepreneurial and future business practices.”

Rutgers DoCS will work collaboratively with NJSBA to build online courses, course supplements and enhanced online content using the Canvas Learning Management System. Teaching and Learning with Technology (TLT), the instructional design team at DoCS, will work with NJSBA staff to achieve this lifelong learning platform of excellence. TLT will also help with the creation of video and multimedia content to be used in the courses.

The goals for this partnership are twofold. First, to expand the number of course offerings for board members. The second phase of the partnership will be the creation of a lifelong learning portal that will serve multiple audiences, such as a wide range of education providers across the lifespan and others.
“The New Jersey School Boards Association and the Rutgers Division of Continuing Studies have come together to collaborate on building online and hybrid courses, and the development of a lifelong learning portal,” said Dr. Richard J. Novak, vice president for continuing studies and distance education. “The Rutgers Division of Continuing Studies is pleased to leverage its role and capabilities to benefit NJ school board members and local residents with this educational initiative. We share a common vision for lifelong learning with NJSBA, and want to help them deliver their professional development content in the most convenient and efficient way possible for learners of all ages.”

Board Member Willingness to Participate in Online TrainingMeeting a Need NJSBA understands the pressing time commitments that its members operate under as they juggle work, family responsibilities and school board service. Online training allows people to learn from home, during lunch, or wherever and whenever it is convenient for them. Online courses will also allow participants to go at their own speed, helping to create a user-friendly experience.

In May 2019, NJSBA conducted a survey to better assess members’ training needs and preferred delivery methods, and to better understand what topics members want covered in training courses. According to the survey results, close to 90 percent of respondents expressed a willingness to participate in online training. Members also conveyed interest in both self-paced online courses and blended learning (programs mixing in-person and online content training). Nearly half of the members who have been unable to attend in-person training cited work and weekend commitments as barriers to accessing training.

Lauren Cuervo is NJSBA’s marketing and website manager.