Top universities’ new platform helps with retention, post-grad careers

New tech builds relationships, ePortfolios, and could help boost campus performance

LRM-students-institutionIt’s called an LRM (Learning Relationship Management) platform, and as its founder told me, does for learning what CRM did for sales: It boosts collaborative relationships, yields return-on-investment, and ultimately bolsters performance for all involved.

The LRM, called Fidelis, is the brainchild of Gunnar Counselman, a Harvard Business School student of Clay Christensen’s and original collaborator on his book, “Disrupting Class.” He’s also a frequent speaker on the topic of transforming training and education and a TEDx presenter. After spending years developing the LRM, reputable and innovative universities are eager to sample what the platform can really do.

After working with Christensen on the book, and during consulting for Bain as well as independently, “I evolved my thinking that the absence of appropriate learning relationships is the root of most educational problems. I saw first-hand how important the coaching relationship was while a VP at Inside Track, but through that students need more than just one coach to succeed,” explained Counselman. “I then developed the first version of the LRM in 2012 for our own use to build a scalable solution to the military to civilian career transition.”

And for Counselman, building a resource platform to help those interested in not just education, but career; not just in attending a postsecondary institution, but knowing why you were there, was the main idea behind the platform.

Now, colleges and universities are saying one of the most helpful, and innovative, aspects of the LRM is the ability for admin to track student progress of goals throughout their education and receive actionable data on student interactions with communities, businesses, and micro-credentialing opportunities…an incredible tool not just for all institutions, but especially for liberal arts.

“Fewer than 50 percent of students who start college graduate; fewer than one-third of those who graduate have jobs within 6 months of graduation,” said Counselman. “It turns out that all students need personal learning plans, mentors, advising, community, and industry connection, not just military students.”

(Next page: How it works)

In its basic design, the LRM is almost like any other online profile: There’s a photo, list of friends, and interests. However, this online profile is customized to focus a student’s reason for learning, help campus admin coach the student towards their goals, provide employers with ePortfolios, and help develop relationships with communities and industry.

When a student logs in to the platform, they are asked to set a goal, something like “To one day work for Google and become a leader in web design,” or “To use my degree toward concept innovation at a Fortune 500 company.”

Once the goal is set, with the help of a coach (either assigned by the institution or using the LRM’s Likelihood Of Mutual Benefit [LOMB] algorithm), the student can then have an advisory board, made up of people like parents, community leaders, older students, or others, who also have access to that student’s LRM profile.

Students are also encouraged to join communities (choir, mathematics, fraternities or sororities, etc.), as well as work toward building their ePortfolio of micro-credentials, badges, and other online learning apps and courses.

Businesses and organizations that are typically partnered with the college or university can also then have access to the LRM, creating their own company profiles and creating a list of credentialing and skills pathways for the jobs they’re looking for—allowing students to know what skills are needed to get hired, as well as looking for qualified student candidates for positions.

Watch a demo here:

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The way the LRM works is by allowing coaches and university admin to check on each student’s progress.

Not only does the LRM’s backend have a stream of information letting coaches know when a student has worked on their profile (think of it as LRM Twitter), but also alerts coaches and admin to when the student may be failing in their goals—this can be customized by the institution or be the LRM’s own alerts, but they typically include failing critical exams, not pursuing the right micro-credential, or not spending enough time managing their LRM profile.

“One very unique aspect of the platform is that it’s not just reactive, but proactive,” explained Counselman. “Under the ‘proactive’ tab for admin, they’ll be able to suggest apps or badges to students, write comments in the data stream, help edit their profiles in real-time, and be able to suggest advisory members or communities as they develop.”

In other words, the LRM is the ultimate facilitator, but it’s not the builder.

“It’s a simple way to facilitate the natural partnerships that exist between schools, students, and communities,” he continued.

(Next page: Why it’s critical for liberal arts)

According to Counselman, the LRM can enhance liberal arts strengths and maybe help alleviate its weakness: Providing career relevance.

“Liberal arts schools tend to really get the importance of relationships,” he noted. “They have really strong learning communities, and students engage in tight mentorship with faculty. They tend to have strong alumni engagement and I think the LRM can enhance all of that by making it explicit and by allowing schools to ensure that every single student benefits from these strengths 100 percent of the time.”

“That being said,” he continued, “liberal arts schools are struggling with their yield from acceptance to start because of a perception that so-called practical studies are better given the current economy. LRM can allow the school to do what they do so well and fill in the gaps of practical training with learning apps, badges, et cetera.”

Counselman said Fidelis, which is currently in partnership with Arizona State University, Lipscomb University, Bryan University and other innovative institutions, plans to release white papers this fall (2014), followed by peer-review papers.

“I can’t give out too much data at this time, but let’s just say our statistics on the effectiveness of the platform is great,” said Counselman. “We have demonstrated powerful effect on yield and retention and student satisfaction and will be releasing the results of a controlled study involving 3,000 students in the fall.”

With peer-reviewed papers, Counselman hopes to get additional feedback on the platform, as well as take the opportunity to develop even more features, such as providing a vetting or rating system to make it easy for students, alumni, and their schools to find well-curated courses.

For more information on Fidelis, as well as how the LRM can work for each specific type of institution, click here.

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