Butler+ aims to make advanced education accessible

Photo courtesy of @butleru on X

LILY O’CONNOR | STAFF REPORTER | lkoconnor@butler.edu 

Butler+ — a centralized online forefront for online, graduate, certificate and non-credit programs — was launched by the university on Feb. 20. Butler+ programs aim to make it easy for people to achieve their educational goals, with the aim of making advanced education more accessible. 

Butler+ provides resources for the students and organizations that are enrolled in any Division of Professional Studies (DPS) or graduate program — marketing Butler as a university that provides quality education beyond residential undergraduate programs. 

Stephanie Hinshaw, the associate vice president for transformation, said that Butler+ has been in the works since 2019 when DPS was founded. The department almost immediately identified the need for a “brand” and website to publicize Butler’s extended offerings and to aim to make the student experience easier. 

“Butler+ is not a new Butler,” Hinshaw said. “ … What it does is allows for one entry point for people so they are not going to 10 different websites and looking at all the different colleges to see what is offered through the extended access or non-traditional residential model.” 

 Butler+ combines the original on-campus graduate programs, industry partnerships and online programs, with the new online programs, creating a streamlined website experience that allows for more programs to be added. New programs have been added and are continuing to be added since the founding of DPS, which is headed by Julie Straub, senior executive director of DPS. 

“We have an entire pipeline of things that we’ll be launching starting as early as this spring,” Straub said. “However, we wanted to build the front door first and highlight some of the things that are already happening to generate some buzz and momentum around it.” 

Elizabeth Jackson, the associate director for industry partnerships of DPS, believes it is important to have a marketing strategy like Butler+ so that non-traditional education is accessible. Butler has been providing extended education for at least a decade, but it has never been publicized before. 

“Often when I’m talking with people not as familiar with Butler’s offerings, they have no idea that we are even in [the professional education] space,” Jackson said. “With that visibility comes that accessibility piece. The more employees out in the Indiana workforce that find out what Butler has to offer, the more likely they are to be able to enroll in it.” 

One of the new programs launched with Butler+ is the Bachelor of Science in Organizational Leadership, which is an undergraduate degree specifically created for working adults looking to finish a bachelor’s degree. This degree will be available starting in fall 2024, and adults with an associate degree or 60 college credits are able to apply. It costs $550 per credit to be in the program, according to Straub, which is one of the more affordable programs through Butler+. The rest of the programs’ costs will be “adjusted to the job market.” A degree in organizational leadership can be used in a business setting for people looking to be managers. 

Carrie Chambers, the director of digital strategy and student engagement of DPS, said she sees that fewer people today are taking the traditional education path and there is a lack of options for adult learners. She believes that the need for an opportunity to complete an unfinished degree is a growing demand. 

“There’s 40 million adult learners who have no or some college that might want to upscale, rescale or complete a degree, and they are demanding high-quality credentials,” Chambers said. “We’re really focused on providing that, whether it is a graduate degree, online completion, undergraduate degree or professional education, and providing pathways to stack those things.” 

On the non-degree route, many of the non-credit programs have few or no prerequisites, making them accessible to someone who wants to advance their career while not having to go fully back to school. Many of the certificate programs, like the nurse educator certification and the licensed mental health certification, also have few prerequisites, so people can begin their education at any age. These programs vary in cost depending on the salary of the job you can get with the program and the costs to run the program, according to Straub. 

DPS is exploring ways to make its programs “stackable.” For example, if someone takes a non-credit data literacy boot camp through Butler+ and then decides they want to get their Master of Science in Data Analytics, the goal is for the boot camp to later count towards that degree. 

DPS and Butler+ also want to work hand-in-hand with all of the Butler education opportunities. If someone gets an associate degree through the new two-year college, which was announced in the fall of 2023, the goal is that they can come back and complete a bachelor’s degree through Butler+ while also being in the workforce. 

“We are having to think about creating lifelong relationships with people so that they think of Butler whether they need a skill, need to advance their career, need a credential or need a degree,” Straub said. “How do we make those things stackable? … How do we make sure that we partner with people so that whatever it is they need to do, Butler has an option for them?” 

Besides personal education and career advancement, Butler+ includes professional development and organizational advancement programs. DPS has partnered with organizations like a hospital group, a regional bank and a medical device company to deliver education opportunities to their employees or clients. 

“We’ve done work with a lot of high-profile organizations,” Straub said. “For example, we worked with [a confidential international company] and created a global marketing academy with them that is delivered in 26 countries, and we have over a thousand people that go through that every year.” 

The university and DPS hope that the launch of Butler+ allows them to continue to add extended education programs to Butler’s offerings, according to Hinshaw. They want to serve as many types of students as possible and want Butler to be seen as an option for every level and type of education. 

“Learning doesn’t end when you’re 22 and you graduate for the first time,” Hinshaw said. “You are going to get in the field and think, ‘Oh, maybe I want to do something different,’ or, ‘I want to advance my skills.’ So, in higher education overall, it’s so important that we think about the whole lifespan of people and how to meet them where they are at, not just at one point in their life.”


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