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3 Things to Know About How SPS Designs Academic Programming

Learn more about the people, processes, and research that support how Wake SPS designs and delivers programming.

Modern day truth: there are thousands of learning experiences, going live almost daily

From classes, workshops, and programs delivered in-person or online, or via a hybrid combination of both, there is no shortage of opportunities to learn something new and earn a certificate or degree to uplevel your life either personally or professionally. 

With so many options available to us today, how do we choose where or with whom to study? 

Oftentimes, you’re seeking compelling courses that spark your interest, a trusted source or institution, instructors who are experts in their respective fields, and a high-quality program design that meets you where you are today and where you want to go career-wise.  

With Wake Forest University’s long-standing tradition of excellence and success, we’ve got you covered when it comes to compelling courses and expert faculty. But, let’s take a step back and look at how Wake SPS approaches academic programming.

We recently spoke to Dr. Lori Bequette, SPS’s Assistant Dean of Faculty and Accreditation, to share three things every prospective student should know about SPS’s approach to academic program design and delivery. 

  1. A Good Understanding of & Respect for Today’s Adult Learner 

When it comes to designing and delivering academic programs and courses, SPS keeps an incredibly important element front and center – today’s self-motivated adult learner. 

Part of that focus is understanding what it’s like to be that learner today – someone balancing life, work, and family, established in their career, interested in and comfortable learning 100% online. As well, the SPS learner is someone who knows that the post-pandemic work environment is continuing to shift – and they want to be ahead of it. 

Learning as an adult is an entirely different experience from learning as a child or teenager; an adult learner wants to be seen, heard, and respected for where he, she, or they is in life – a driven, career-focused lifelong learner. 

“Adult learners want to learn not just because it’s the next step in their educational trajectory,” said Dr. Bequette. “But because these new skills are relevant and applicable to their own experience and what they want to do and make more possible for their future.” 

  1. Adjunct Faculty Who Know This Work Because They’ve Done It

    “SPS is looking to create something for adult learners that’s not just out of a textbook, but also what’s happening today in the real world,” says Dr. Bequette. Tapping into what’s happening today in the real world can only come from one trusted place – the connected and trusted experts who know this work. 

That approach has a tremendous impact on how SPS recruits and retains faculty talent. SPS looks for experts who can instantly tap into the needs of the adult learners because they have worked in the field, or, are often, currently working in the field. As an example: Is there a better way to learn digital marketing than from a seasoned professional who just led a campaign for a Fortune 500 company and can speak to what worked well or what challenges arose? 

When it comes to adjunct faculty, it’s not only about experience in the field. SPS seeks faculty members who can also relate to the reality of today’s adult learners. Many adjunct faculty members are busy, working professionals balancing life, work, and family themselves. And all are student-centered, with experience teaching online and a sincere passion for growing their respective field through teaching the next generation – you. 

As well, learning WITH each other is incredibly important to SPS program design and delivery. Not only do adult learners benefit from industry experts teaching their classes, but also from the network of professionals who are all learning from one another, some of whom may work in some capacity in your profession. 

  1. Program Design Supported by Strong Market Research 

Program design is one of academia’s most thoughtful and mindful processes because it factors in many different components: from the student experience, the learning environment(s), and the trending, relevant research as to what adult learners need and want today and what will prepare them for the future. 

“The program development process is inclusive and comprehensive, which involves seeking input from SPS staff, Wake Forest faculty, and program development teams that include industry experts,” says Dr. Bequette. “That perspective and insight is paired with information from third-party, expert market research partners who have a pulse on the academic markets today.” 

Some market research topics that are important to our process and how we shape programming, include (but are not limited to): the job market demand for these skills and programs, will a student be able to get a promotion and/or a new job because of a degree or certificate in this program, and/or what’s the industry growth 5-10 years from now. 

While we look at similar programs to make sure we’re consistent, we’re more focused on how we can use the research to refine our key differentiators – what is the value that the SPS program adds that is different from other programs, what is our approach, how do our values come through in this program, how does the Wake Forest faculty talent and academic expertise enhance and enrich this program?  

If there’s one thing to know about how SPS designs academic programming, it’s this: the adult learner experience is at the forefront of all decision making. 

That commitment includes everything we know to be true about learning – it’s a unique combination of people and process, timeless wisdom and modern relevance, research and instinct.  

Even more so, it emphasizes something we love about learning – it’s an experience designed to elevate, uplift, and inspire us for a lifetime.   


To browse our current programs, please visit the Programs page on our website. 

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