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 longtime ISPI partners Boise State University’s Instructional and Performance Technology Program.

Why did the IPT Program become an organizational member of ISPI?

2012 is the silver anniversary of the IPT Program at Boise State University, and we’ve had an important relationship with ISPI for most of those 25 years. This began with an interest in developing an ongoing partnership with a prominent professional organization. ISPI was the best fit because of our mutual interest in the growing field of performance improvement. As a result, we have been a sustaining member, and now an organizational member, of ISPI since 1998.

How did the IPT Program decide to focus on performance improvement?

We began in 1987 as an Instructional Technology program with a focus on workplace training and development. However, we quickly realized this focus was too narrow. This was driven partly by the work our students were doing. Many were working in businesses and government agencies and were responsible for figuring out what was contributing to problems with employee performance. As a result, in 1990, we broadened our program to include “performance technology” and have continued to strengthen our emphasis on performance improvement ever since.

What role do universities play in performance improvement?

University programs contribute to the development of performance improvement in two important ways. One is by preparing individuals for professional practice in the field. This means providing them with structured learning experiences that help them build on their existing knowledge and skills, experiment with new principles and techniques in a “safe” learning environment, and increase the depth of their understanding of performance improvement. A second is by partnering with a variety of organizations, including professional societies like ISPI, to conduct research, create models, and promote the development of “evidence-based practice” in ways that help the field move forward.

What are some characteristics of the IPT Program that performance improvement professionals would be interested in?

IPT courses are online and asynchronous, so an obvious answer is their availability. Students can access IPT course materials 24/7. However, two other characteristics are worth mentioning because they’re part of the learning community we try to create in the IPT program. One is the “experiential diversity” of our students. Students in IPT classes are likely to live in varied geographical locations, have varied amounts of experience, and work in varied industries (healthcare, banking, manufacturing, telecommunications, military, government agencies, etc.) with varied job titles. We think this is a valuable resource and use it by creating opportunities for students to learn from one another through a variety of group projects and class discussions.

A second characteristic is the connection between the classroom and the workplace that is built into every IPT course. We work at making this a two-way street. We hope students will learn something every week they can immediately apply on the job. At the same time, we want students to bring into their classes what they’re doing on the job. This provides opportunities for class projects and helps fuel some very interesting class discussions.

How does the IPT Program use social media in its work?

We’ve created a LinkedIn professional group that now has almost 600 members–IPT students, alumni, faculty, and staff. Participants use the group to stay in touch, post job announcements, ask questions about work projects, offer advice about IPT courses, and discuss a variety of interesting topics. For example, participants recently discussed the potential misuses and unintended consequences of job aids. The group is a way to build on the sense of community that develops in IPT classes.

What do you think sets ISPI apart from other organizations?

One thing is a true understanding of a systems approach to performance. ISPI has long been a strong advocate for this systems view, represented by the 10 Standards of Performance Improvement. A second thing is access to leaders in the field. ISPI members, including many of the most prominent people in the performance improvement field, are willing to share their knowledge and experience with others, including our students and alumni.

IPT faculty and staff group photo, Engineering