Boise State’s graduate program in Organizational Performance and Workplace Learning (OPWL) was implemented in 1989. Debuting a year before the internet was fully operational, the OPWL master’s degree was the first of its kind. It was created after a request from the National Guard, which proposed a new program for instructional technology.
“We were Boise State’s first online program,” said Jo Ann Fenner, manager of marketing and outreach service for OPWL. “We’ve been kind of a model for how you do online learning, because there wasn’t a web yet,” Fenner said.
Now, almost thirty years later, the program is still being used by military students, who use the skills they’ve acquired to better the U.S. military. According to Fenner, the OPWL program helps Coast Guard students research problem areas and come up with solutions that will ultimately improve the Coast Guard.
“The work they do (in the military) is so aligned because it’s so performance-based–and what we offer is performance-based,” Fenner said.
According to Lieutenant Commander Lisa Rodman, a graduate in OPWL, the skills gained in the master’s program have an impact on military positions.
“I am now in my second position where I use OPWL on a daily basis,” Rodman said. “In my last job as a Training Analyst, I reviewed contracted curriculums and training development plans for major acquisitions for the U.S. Coast Guard—including new ships, IT systems, aircraft, etc. In my current position, performance consulting, analysis and intervention selection are all frequently employed.”
Lieutenant Ben Lyons, another student in the program, noted the benefits the master’s program can offer those in the military.
“Working in the Analysis, Acquisitions and Evaluations branch, I conduct Front End, Job Task, Occupational and Strategic Needs Analyses,” Lyons said. “We work with all of the Coast Guard’s missions with the goal of developing performance recommendations that will improve the work of and performance supports available to Coast Guard members.”
Skills obtained through OPWL can be applied outside of the workforce as well, according to Lyons.
“The OPWL program most importantly provided me with a unique perspective of evaluating and identifying the true performance issues in every aspect of my career—I was using some mental models even when training my dog,” Lyons said.