Strategic Initiative · Expanding Online and Developing New Academic Programs

Northern has a proven track record of successfully taking risks to develop innovative academic programs, such as the recent programs in medicinal plant chemistry, indoor agriculture, CDL truck driving and digital media – to name just a few. The pandemic has emphasized the opportunities to use new technologies to delivery courses and course materials. The review of every academic program through the Strategic Resource Allocation process has energized new discussions about how to revise current programs and create new ones that will make Northern graduates the in-demand candidates for the 21st century workforce, as well for local and global leadership positions.

In addition to innovative on-campus programs, a key priority of this initiative would be expanding distinctive online programs through Northern’s Global Campus. Key to this is helping academic departments develop adult-friendly curricular formats (stackable credentials, accelerated courses, flexible degree completion programs, etc.). This initiative will work through the new SISU Innovation Institute, using a system for rapid ideation, viability assessment, development and launch of new experimental online programs. The goal will be to increase academic opportunities for specific student populations, in particular: NMU returning students, degree completers in partnership with community colleges, high school dual enrollment, U.P. and Wisconsin, regional with specific programs, national and international with niche programs.

For both new online and on-campus academic programs, Northern will use design thinking and innovation to build on the 60-year curriculum model. The SISU Institute will help drive design thinking and innovation in academic program development, particularly through the lens of the strategic focus areas and outcomes.

Featured Components

For both new online and on-campus academic programs, there will be an investment in new learning technology and faculty training to use it. An example would be an expansion of Studio 102, the faculty’s technology sandbox. The initiative will also significantly expand Northern’s alternative/micro-credential system, articulations between credit and non-credit credentials, and an enhanced credit for prior learning/prior learning assessment system that serve the post-traditional learners well.

How this will add to NMU’s prestige and distinction:

Higher education will be facing new challenges in the post-pandemic world that will paralyze many institutions. By being willing to take calculated risks with bold new academic program ideas and innovative ways of delivering curricula and the student experience, Northern will create the opportunity to stand out in the crowded field competing for students. Niche programs and those that address local, regional, state and rural issues and opportunities will be given the highest investment priority.

Thinking even bigger:

If each NMU academic department proposes a new online or other innovative academic program, from those nearly 30 ideas there is the potential for several to be first in nation, first in state or first in region. Northern should set a target to have at least 3 of the 30 at this level. These ideas will also be expected to push the envelope on Northern’s best effort to date in each of the strategic focus areas and the strategic outcomes.