University of Missouri - Extension
Centralizing higher education event technology to create program impact.
registrations managed annually
annual events managed
hours saved on manual processes
The University of Missouri’s conference office (MUCO) was established in 1963 with a mission to deliver non-credit learning and other continuing education and cooperative extension programs to adult audiences. Beyond traditional MU departments, “we also support state and federal agencies, public and private organizations and youth programs,” says MUCO Director Jewel Coffman. “We run the gamut of helping any group that would like to support an educational opportunity.”
Of course, the methods for reaching potential students and participants have changed markedly over the years, in response to changing expectations and technologies.
Struggling with Ad Hoc Solutions
As the conference office adapted to the age of data-rich, digital experiences, they had slowly adopted disparate, ad hoc solutions for managing events. The end result? When they stepped back and audited their overall event production strategy, they realized they had a patchwork quilt of antiquated, individual solutions.
Kyle Flinn, Director of Enterprise Program Management, explains that the problem with this approach is that it “results in differing customer experiences and, frankly, can be extremely confusing because none of the systems talk to each other.” Instead, he says, the goal of an educational technology platform should be “to bring everything together so learners have a single place to start their journey and find all the programming, events, courses, or whatever it is they’re looking for—and to make it convenient.”
For MU Extension, shifting from ad hoc tech solutions to one, centralized platform was transformative—and hugely cost effective. “To move from individual and siloed data to a centralized database can take some difficult internal conversations,” offers Kyle. “People get comfortable with their ways of doing things. But at the same time, it’s easy to justify economically because the siloed individuals and units are still paying staff or paying for solutions to handle data—only less efficiently.”
Prioritizing the Attendee Experience
Not long ago, continuing ed and extension programs relied solely on face-to-face events. With the evolution of online learning, changing needs, and the demographics of learners, MU Extension knew they could significantly expand the reach and impact of their programs and courses with technology. A core tenet of their centralized event technology strategy was the integration of online and hybrid programs and courses.
“We will always have face-to-face learning somewhere in our state or on a campus,” says Kyle.
But MU Extension’s technology solutions now give their audience extensive, flexible, and convenient online learning opportunities. “We also have blended capability, where we can offer an online course that also has a face-to-face component,” he says. “This blending brings together two things we talk about a great deal: high tech and high touch. There’s a lot of value in that to learners. Having the right strategy and the right tools really lets you serve everyone and helps everyone—MU and our various audiences—get the most out of our learning events.”
“Today,” says Kyle, “a centralized event technology platform that integrates face-to-face, online, and hybrid learning opportunities is essential to providing individuals educational opportunities at a time and place that best meets their needs.” MU Extension has also utilized mobile event apps to help attendees navigate events and create better, more holistic experiences. A large, campus-wide open house that attracted over 3,000 participants, for example, was made easier to manage with the help of an event-unique mobile app. “The younger the group, the more they expect to do everything on a hand-held screen,” says Kyle. “Mobile capability really caters to that group. It also saved us tens of thousands of dollars in print costs.”