After more than 20 years working in business, Jay Beiersdorf knew it was time to return to school for his Master of Business Administration degree.
The Green Bay man, in keeping with family tradition, had entered the Marine Corps after graduating from high school and eventually earned his bachelor's degree from Lakeland University.
He was now ready to take that next step, but was surprised to find a lack of available graduate programs that worked around his schedule and timeline – until he checked his alma mater.
"When I compared Lakeland to the others, I really thought the tools, the timing and the people had that personal connection and it drew me right back in," Beiersdorf said. "I have found the Lakeland experience to be the most flexible, even as an undergraduate."
It's that flexibility that has students like Beiersdorf excited. Lakeland is taking its innovative BlendEd program to another level this spring with several new ways to take a class.
Lakeland launched BlendEd in 2005 with classes that allowed students to seamlessly transition from week to week between the traditional classroom and online. Now, the institution has developed three more ways for students to take classes.
"We have yet to find a program that provides students with this much flexibility within a single class," said Zach Voelz, Lakeland's vice president for enrollment management. "Many colleges and universities around the country offer students different pieces of our program."
Learn more about the additional class options with the new BlendEd.
Voelz said the push for more options has come from students like Beiersdorf who are shopping the higher education market for programs that don't require major lifestyle changes.
"Working adults want quality academic programs offered in flexible formats," Voelz said. "It is forcing higher education to be creative in the ways we make classes available to students."
Lakeland piloted the expanded BlendEd in the spring of 2013, and Voelz said feedback from students has been overwhelmingly positive.
"Many students really love the opportunity to attend a live class without having to leave home," Voelz said. "We heard from students who had time to have dinner with their family, then login to class without having to travel."
Voelz said he often shares two student stories when discussing BlendEd with prospective students:
- A Lakeland graduate student who travels regularly for his job (he is a pilot for a major manufacturer) loves the ability to log in to a live course from his hotel room.
- Another graduate student was admitted to the hospital unexpectedly during the middle of a term. He didn't want to miss class, however, so he logged in to a live class from his hospital bed.
Voelz said students also like getting live, online access to classes that, in the past, might have been only offered at a center in another part of the state. "Our new features are stripping away the geographic barrier for students," Voelz said. "Students have said the savings in time and money was much appreciated."
Count Beiersdorf as being appreciative. He sometimes travels for business, but he participates in class remotely from his hotel room and doesn't miss a beat. And he hasn't had to make any lifestyle changes.
"BlendEd is just such a great tool," Beiersdorf said. "As an adult with a wife and kids, I can still be a family man."
Lakeland's programming for working adults began in 1978 with the creation of its Lifelong Learning Program, the state's first evening degree-completion program for working adults. Lakeland created one of the nation's first complete online degree programs in 1998.
This fall, approximately 2,850 students were enrolled. Lakeland has centers in Chippewa Falls, Green Bay, Madison, Milwaukee, Neenah, Sheboygan and Wisconsin Rapids.