As nonprofits scale their impact, they want to stay true to the core values that serve their learners. Online programs allow organizations to help many more people than they could physically accommodate on-site. Yet preserving the effectiveness and camaraderie of in-person offerings while increasing reach can seem like a contradiction.
As Extension Engine’s work with Advancing Pretrial Policy and Research (APPR) shows, you can bring your program to even wider audiences online — without sacrificing practices established in the field.
APPR supports justice system professionals to achieve fair, just, and effective pretrial practices in the American justice system. The organization wanted to offer their comprehensive research, support, and training support to even more jurisdictions. Scaling online was the obvious choice. But this decision required more than just transferring materials to a new website. It required digital transformation.
Digital transformation goes beyond technology. In fact, Extension Engine is technologically agnostic: We can design innovative solutions within an organization’s current technology, help them implement new options based on their needs, or create one-of-a-kind custom platforms.
Unlike just “moving online,” digital transformation encompasses user experience design, learning content delivery, community building, and change management, as well as technology. It’s a thoughtful and collaborative journey aimed at facilitating the ideal constituent opportunity while paving the way for equitable access and sustainable growth. It also means having a clear understanding of outcomes and how you’ll measure achievement and success. This means addressing big questions, like What motivates our audience? How do we build capacity to accomplish this transformation? What do we look like in the digital space? and What — or who — is going to help us accomplish this?
With APPR, a lot of honest and insightful conversations with leadership and other stakeholders helped us understand their practices and objectives. These discussions also underscored that APPR’s community learns by doing and seeks knowledge to apply directly in their professional roles. More important, this phase enabled us to internalize their values so that we could place them at the heart of the project. Dialogue enables us to build trust with a range of stakeholders.
Mission drives digital strategy
Nonprofits, universities, and learning businesses approach Extension Engine with a mix of objectives and challenges. That’s why Extension Engine developed its Digital Learning Framework.
This robust yet flexible methodology ensures we understand each partner’s current capacity and what they want to achieve while focusing each element toward high engagement at scale.
For APPR, it was crucial for program and learning design to generate practical learning outcomes. APPR would be working with an even larger and more diverse group of justice system professionals across the country. Yet they all share a dedication to improving pretrial outcomes and complex professional roles. This passionate, results-driven, and busy community wanted practices and insights they could immediately implement in their own work.
APPR's digital learning needs
Extension Engine implemented a strategy centered on creating an engaging digital space for justice system professionals to gain practical skills while safely and easily sharing questions, practices, and experiences. The space also had to be something that APPR could continue to cultivate. Rather than a static resource, APPR wanted to provide a relevant and thought-provoking community for its practitioners. In addition to this overarching strategy, our team also aligned plans around community building and learning engagement.
APPR’s innovative coaching-based pedagogy focuses on individual instructors guiding and supporting project leads working with teams of learners. This model reduces the time commitment for program participants while providing a level of support according to each individual’s goals and needs. In addition to driving engagement, this approach lowers the costs of using in-person consultants.
Extension Engine’s work on platform/technology design entailed creating analytics and performance indicators to assess learner satisfaction and community activity. These measurements will allow APPR to continue innovating their program in future iterations and further scale their impact.
APPR’s digital community now provides the opportunity for justice system professionals from districts nationwide to learn from one another while exploring APPR’s growing resource bank and knowledge base. This has allowed APPR to guide and support even more jurisdictions sustainably and efficiently.
Read the APPR case study to learn more about their digital learning experience and online community.