Welcome to ISPI’s Organizational Spotlight! This column focuses on our members–some you may know, some you may not. Each month, we will explore what brought them to ISPI, how they use the principles of human performance technology (HPT), and their insights into the value of membership. This month our interview is with Dawn Synder, CPT, PhD, chair of the MS in Instructional Design & Performance Technology Program at Franklin University.

As a private, nonprofit, Franklin University was founded in 1902 in Columbus, Ohio, to serve the needs of adult students who have the ambition to continue their education in combination with other responsibilities. Today, Franklin has grown to be Central Ohio’s foremost educator of working adults and the third-largest private university in the state. Annually, it serves more than 11,000 students from across the country and around the world. For information on Franklin University’s Instructional Design & Performance Technology Program, click here.

Why did Franklin University become an organizational member of ISPI?
Franklin University chose to become an organizational sponsor for ISPI to underscore the new MS in Instructional Design & Performance Improvement’s alignment with ISPI’s Standards of Performance Improvement and the Code of Ethics.

Franklin is a not-for-profit university with 30 undergraduate and five graduate programs. The university offers programs online or face-to-face at its domestic locations, and the MBA is offered internationally through agreements with institutions in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia.

One of the things that drew me to Franklin University is its centralized curriculum, which ensures that all courses are created using a rigorous instructional design process that focuses on learning outcomes.

What are some characteristics of the IDPT program that performance improvement professionals would be interested in?
Accessibility. The program’s online format allows busy professionals the opportunity to balance current obligations with career advancement. The portfolio-based curriculum moves students from theory to practice in a natural and easily translatable format. Our target audience is working adults, so the classes are designed to help manage work-life-school balance. Franklin’s 11 doctorally qualified full-time faculty and number of highly qualified adjunct faculty (many with CPTs) teach these courses, providing a higher level of expertise and relevance for our students.

What role do universities play in performance improvement?
I think that universities play an increasingly important role in the development of emerging talent in our field. It’s a privilege to shape the knowledge and skills of students seeking a formal education credential. As the field grows and changes, it is the job of higher education professionals to ensure that our students get an up-to-date educational experience so that they can truly make an impact on the organizations they serve. This impact is best served through routine revision and refreshment of our curriculum so our program best reflects what’s happening now.

How did Franklin decide to focus on performance improvement?
Our provost, Dr. Christopher Washington, became familiar with performance improvement during his own graduate studies. When we decided to offer a degree in instructional design (as one of the university’s core competencies), he recommended that we make sure the program was cutting edge and held a position of differentiation from other university programs by including the human performance technology aspect of the performance improvement field.

How did you personally get into performance improvement?
I joined ISPI in 1981 as I began my graduate study. At that point, my focus was instructional design. I grew into performance improvement as I recognized that differentiating training from non-training needs and providing different solutions was increasingly important to being an effective practitioner. I was lucky that ISPI was there to help me learn and grow with the field. After 30 years of being a consultant, I was fortunate to be able to transition into the world of higher education.

What do you think sets ISPI apart from other organizations?
ISPI has always been driven by research and evidence-based best practices–not snake oil or the flavor of the month. The members are always willing to share what they learn, and so we explore new ways of improving performance together. ISPI has always been a leader in defining our field with the Performance Improvement Standards, the Code of Ethics, the Certified Performance Technologist designation, and now the Certified School Improvement Specialist. I’m looking forward to seeing how the accreditation of programs further encourages practitioners to apply the best of what we know to what we do. I’m proud to be a member of an organization that shapes the profession!