The Brandeis GPS blog

Insights on online learning, tips for finding balance, and news and updates from Brandeis GPS

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The importance of UDL

By Lance Eaton

Lance Eaton HeadshotAccessibility has been an important issue within education for decades and increasingly, one that is causing many institutions to revisit some of their daily practices and educational tools.  As more institutions leverage digital technology in their learning environments, some are coming up short in making sure all students can equally access such learning experiences. Since making learning experiences accessible to all students is legally required, institutions are more actively pursuing the practice known as Universal Design for Learning (UDL).

UDL is a conscientious effort to create learning experiences (everything from individual readings and assignments to entire courses and programs) accessible to a larger range of people, regardless of challenges they might face with regards to their physical, social, mental, and emotional abilities.  Implicit with UDL is the idea that there are many artificial barriers we often create that make it improbable or impossible for students to successfully learn and complete a course.

Universally Designed Picnic Bench

A universally designed picnic bench

To help people think about the challenges and opportunities of leveraging UDL to make courses more accessible, we have recorded this webinar along with a website with resources to help others more effectively develop learning experiences from which all people can benefit.  

View webinar  |  Learn more about Accessibility and UDL

Lance Eaton is an instructional designer and faculty development specialist at Brandeis University Graduate Professional Studies. His previous work includes working at North Community College and Regis College as instructional designer. He is currently working on his PhD in Higher Education from University of Massachusetts, Boston.

Faces of GPS is an occasional series that profiles Brandeis University Graduate Professional Studies students, faculty and staff. Find more Faces of GPS stories here.

Image Source: Virginia State Parks

Project Management in the Gig Economy

By Leanne Bateman

Leanne Bateman HeadshotIn last month’s blog post, I mentioned that in today’s market, a professional project manager has the option to work as a full-time project manager for a company or work as a project management contractor or consultant. This month, we will focus in on the contract project manager.

Prior to 2008, it was not uncommon to see project manager positions as regular full-time roles (particularly in IT departments) in many U.S. companies. When companies could not find an available full-time project manager to meet their needs, or if they didn’t have the funding for a permanent position, they had the option of hiring a contract project manager for a limited amount of time. This worked out great for the company, who could obtain an on-site PM to either augment their staff to manage several projects or hire the project manager to manage a single project without commitment for future work. It also worked out well for project managers who appreciated the typically higher pay while enjoying the flexibility of working across different departments, companies or industries.

The Rise of the Gig Economy
The rise of contract work in the 2000s came to be known as the “gig economy,” borrowing the term used by musicians to describe their paid show in a club or bar. The gig economy really took off after the significant economic downturn of 2008-2009, as companies went through layoffs and unemployed workers started taking temporary work to sustain their incomes. While the trend formed through dire circumstances and financial instability, growth continued long after the economy stabilized. That rate of growth will continue to increase. Why?

“Gigging”—whether through a set contract or ongoing consulting—tends to offer higher pay per hour to compensate for the lack of benefits. The flexibility is attractive to those who want more control over their work schedules or who seek breaks between contracts. There is also increasing opportunity to work in different companies and different industries, or to start as a contractor and convert to a permanent, full-time position once the compatibility between employee and employer is established.

Today, the gig economy is even stronger than could have been predicted for all levels of employees. The opportunities have stayed on par with the demand, including the rapid expansion of services such as Uber and Lyft as gig jobs offering riders a lower-cost transportation option. In the same way, accommodation services like Airbnb and HomeAway offer alternatives to pricier hotels. For both types of services, individuals are using their personal assets (their cars or homes) to make money through a temporary arrangement.

The Gig Economy and Project Management
So back to project management. The gig economy has been an extremely beneficial environment for both new and experienced project managers. Not only are there numerous opportunities across just about every professional segment and experience level, there is a consistently healthy rate of demand with low to moderate competition. And this demand is expected to increase significantly, eventually overtaking traditional employment by 2027:

The Future of the Gig Economy

Image courtesy of Jessup University

So, if you are one of the traditionally employed project managers interested in taking advantage of the benefits of working as a contract project manager, please be sure to take note of the typical differences before you take the leap.

Benefits Traditional Employment Contract Employment
Paid time off
Healthcare benefits
Employer contribution to Retirement Plan Depends on contract agency
Feeling of inclusion
Higher hourly pay
Flexibility in work schedule
Flexibility to work across different areas
Less involvement in company issues/politics

While contracting as a project manager has great benefits, it isn’t for everyone. But the same could be said for traditional employment arrangements. Whichever you choose, there is a robust demand for project managers, and it’s great to have options!

Leanne Bateman, MA, PMP, CSM, Six Sigma Green Belt, CIP is the program chair of the Project and Program Management program at Brandeis University Graduate Professional Studies, and the Principal Consultant with Beacon Strategy Group, a Boston-based management firm specializing in project management services. Leanne has 20+ years of project management experience across the areas of health care, biotech/pharmaceuticals, information technology, high-tech manufacturing, human resources, construction, housing/real estate, government, and higher education. 

Faces of GPS is an occasional series that profiles Brandeis University Graduate Professional Studies students, faculty and staff. Find more Faces of GPS stories here.

The value of a master’s degree in 2019

In today’s competitive job market, the demand for candidates with advanced degrees is continuously rising. Particularly in high-tech fields, employers are increasingly looking for highly skilled workers. Professional master’s degrees in applied fields give employees an opportunity to demonstrate desirable skillsets  and a commitment to advancing within a certain career path or industry.

Some of the many benefits to a master’s degree include:

1. Greater confidence & mastery in your field

A master’s degree from a top-tier university allows you to delve deeper into your specialized field and take courses that directly correlate to your career. By taking courses in both hard and soft skills, you’ll be able to grow as a professional and ensure you’re staying up-to-date with the best practices your current industry requires.

2. Increased job opportunities

A master’s degree provides you with additional training and qualifications to pursue your professional goals, leading to job opportunities that would otherwise not be there. Having an advanced degree can open doors, oftentimes including those with higher salary prospects.

3. Ability to shift careers 

If you are looking to change careers, getting a master’s degree can provide you with the knowledge, skills and tools needed to switch your career path and enter into another field.

4. An expanded professional network

By entering a master’s degree program, students are exposed to a greater community of faculty, students and other top leaders in their fields. At Brandeis GPS, where courses average around 12 students per class, that community extends even beyond the classrooms; offering students opportunities to expand their professional circles through on-campus and virtual networking events, webinars, shared job postings, LinkedIn, and by building meaningful connections with faculty, program chairs, and advisory board members.

To learn more about GPS courses or graduate programs, contact gps@brandeis.edu, call 781-736-8787 or visit www.brandeis.edu/gps.

Communication for Effective Leadership

It may go without saying, but communication is a prevalent and critical component of today’s workforce. The skillset is especially essential for professionals seeking to excel in a leadership role. Regardless of industry, professional communications is imperative for leading effective meetings, mitigating crises, and navigating negotiations and conflict resolution.

“Communications is a critical part of doing business, especially in today’s environment. News travels fast. A bad customer experience can become a social media sensation before the CEO is even informed of the problem,” said Mary Caraccioli, Chief Communications Officer for The Central Park Conservancy. “On the flip side, you can use the power of social media to engage directly (and more deeply) with customers, employees and other stakeholders. You can use the power of the communications revolution to work for you by making communications part of your business strategy.”

Mary Caraccioli HeadshotCaraccioli is teaching a master’s-level course in Communication for Effective Leadership, a fully online, 10-week class that will help students build on their critical thinking skills and apply oral and written communication strategies to solve organizational problems and drive organizational change. Throughout the course, students will focus on topics such as negotiation and facilitation, crisis communications and public relations, virtual and global communications, and stakeholder management.

By the end of Communication for Effective Leadership, students should be able to:

  • Develop, execute and measure communication plans to manage stakeholders, solve organizational problems and drive organizational change.
  • Adapt communication strategies and use digital technologies to align with organizational, cultural, virtual, and global needs.
  • Build a portfolio of communication campaigns including crisis response, company positioning, and media statements.

This course is available for professional development or as part of several GPS graduate programs, including Technology Management, Information Security Leadership, Digital Marketing and Design, Strategic Analytics, and Project and Program Management.

At GPS, you can take up to two online courses without officially enrolling in one of our 12 online master’s degrees. This is a great opportunity to get to know our programs and approach to online learning. If you’re interested in exploring one of our graduate programs, or would like to learn more about effective communication for professional development, submit your information or contact the  GPS office for more information or to request a syllabus: 781-736-8787 or gps@brandeis.edu.

Faces of GPS: Meet Shannon McCarthy – Associate Director of Admissions and Student Services

Shannon McCarthy HeadshotIf you’re thinking about applying to a program at Brandeis GPS, you should have a conversation with Shannon McCarthy.

In her role as Associate Director of Admissions and Student Services, Shannon McCarthy works with applicants to our graduate programs, guiding them through the admissions process. Once they decide to enroll, Shannon helps them transition to working with a student advisor.

Born and raised in Taunton, MA, Shannon has stayed close to her New England roots. She received a degree in Sociology from Providence College before going immediately on to get her master’s in Higher Education Administration from Boston University.

As an undergrad, it was her internship in student affairs at Rhode Island School of Design that solidified her interest in higher education. After getting her master’s, Shannon worked first in admissions and then in academic counseling. She started at Brandeis GPS just over a month ago and enjoys her role because it is a combination of both.

Shannon wants students to know that she and the rest of the GPS team are available for any questions that they have. It can be challenging to come back to school after being in the workforce, all while juggling having a family and other personal and professional commitments. But the Brandeis GPS team is ready to work with you and help you succeed no matter what you have going on outside of school.

Shannon McCarthy HikingShannon is looking forward to working with students as they are applying and following up with them once they’ve started. She likes getting to see their next steps after they are accepted and continue to watch them be successful. She is also excited for her first graduation ceremony to see all the students get recognized for what they have achieved.

Outside of the office, Shannon loves spending time with her daughter, who’s almost a year old. She also enjoys taking dance and yoga classes and going hiking.

Faces of GPS is an occasional series that profiles Brandeis University Graduate Professional Studies students, faculty and staff. Find more Faces of GPS stories here.

Avoiding black hat marketing

From healthcare to insurance to local boutiques, most companies today use digital marketing to drive business. As organizations find new ways to target users online and face increased access to customer data, digital marketers often find themselves at an ethical crossroads.

Black hat marketing techniques

“Black hat marketing” most often refers to certain SEO techniques. According to Omnicore, search engines drive 93% of all website traffic. To get ahead, companies will sometimes use black hat marketing to trick search engines into awarding their website a higher ranking, and getting it on the front page of search results. Other types of black hat marketing really fall into more of a grey area, and today’s digital marketers should have a plan for mitigating the risk of inadvertently executing unethical marketing strategies.

Ethics in Digital Marketing and Design

Brandeis GPS will be offering Ethics in Digital Design and Marketing as a part-time, fully online course during our Spring 2 session beginning in April. During the 10-week course, students will be presented with ethical dilemmas in digital marketing and work through the implications of various actions, including tricking search engines, posing as customers in social media, making false or exaggerated claims and using questionable or sneaky channels. Throughout the course, students will develop a set of principles and values through dialogue examining multiple perspectives.

At Brandeis GPS, you can take up to two courses before enrolling in one of our 12 online master’s degrees. If you’re interested in exploring the MS in Digital Marketing and Design, or would like to learn more about ethics in digital marketing for professional development, contact the  GPS office for more information or to request a syllabus: 781-736-8787, gps@brandeis.edu, or submit your information.

Project Management Certification or a Master’s Degree: Which Should You Get?

By Leanne Bateman

Leanne Bateman HeadshotAs the program chair of the Project & Program Management program at Brandeis GPS, one of the most frequent questions I have gotten over my 11 years at Brandeis University is this: Which is more important and valuable, Project Management Certification (Project Management Professional, or PMP) or a Master’s Degree in Project Management?

Honestly, the answer depends on what you want to accomplish in your career. The options are: work as a full-time Project Manager for a company, work as a project management consultant or just gain project management knowledge and experience in your non-project management related role.

If you’re primarily interested in working as a project management consultant—which involves either working through an agency on assignment at a company, or contracting directly with a company—then the Project Management Institute’s PMP certification is the first credential agencies and companies will expect. Coupling the PMP with Master’s Degree in Project Management will add tremendous value and distinguish you from other consultants/contractors. If your interest is to work as a full-time Project Manager for a company, then both credentials will help you get the job, but the Master’s degree is far more valuable and says much more about your commitment to your project management career. Similarly, if you’re currently a manager or employee interested in learning more about project management and integrating that discipline into your daily work, then once again, the Master’s degree is the way to go. And, your company may be able to contribute to your tuition.

The difference between the two credentials is this: PMP certification is a short-term study of the hard skills and knowledge needed to be a professional project manager, and this knowledge is validated through a 200-question exam that takes about four hours to complete. While there are requirements that must be fulfilled prior to taking the exam, they can be interpreted differently and unless the exam candidate is audited by PMI, the requirements may or may not be equal from candidate to candidate. Also, according to PMI, the number of PMPs has increased by 40,000-80,000 each year since 2009; this increase further dilutes the value of PMP certification.

With a Master’s Degree in Project Management, the value is greater on several levels:

  • First, because of the longer-term period of study over 10 graduate-level college courses, the breadth and depth of academic and experiential knowledge is more extensive. This knowledge covers not only the hard skills of project management but more importantly, the soft skills so critical for a successful project manager: leadership, communication, conflict resolution, influence, negotiation and team building.
  • Also, a Master’s degree in Project Management is more discerning to potential employers since few project managers have this credential.
  • Finally—and importantly—a graduate program whose faculty possess real-world experience as professional project managers is invaluable as they demonstrate the applicability of the hard and soft skills in actual projects and programs.

If one thing is certain in project management, it is that despite any earned credentials, practical experience is the most valuable credential of all. So, a Master’s Degree in Project Management taught by experienced faculty and demonstrated through practical coursework exercises is the next best thing to actually working as a professional project manager.

Leanne Bateman, MA, PMP, CSM, Six Sigma Green Belt, CIP is the program chair of the Project and Program Management program at Brandeis University Graduate Professional Studies, and the Principal Consultant with Beacon Strategy Group, a Boston-based management firm specializing in project management services. Leanne has 20+ years of project management experience across the areas of health care, biotech/pharmaceuticals, information technology, high-tech manufacturing, human resources, construction, housing/real estate, government, and higher education. 

Faces of GPS is an occasional series that profiles Brandeis University Graduate Professional Studies students, faculty and staff. Find more Faces of GPS stories here.

The most promising jobs of 2019

Employment-oriented social networking site LinkedIn has recently released its list of the most promising jobs of 2019. It’s no surprise that jobs relating to Strategic Analytics, Software Engineering, and User-Centered Design dominated the top 15:

  1. Data Scientist
  2. Site Reliability Engineer
  3. Enterprise Account Executive
  4. Product Designer
  5. Product Owner
  6. Customer Success Manager
  7. Engagement Manager
  8. Solutions Architect
  9. Information Technology Lead
  10. Scrum Master
  11. Cloud Architect
  12. Product Marketing Manager
  13. Solutions Consultant
  14. Product Manager
  15. Machine Learning Engineer

LinkedIn based their rankings on salary, career advancement, number of job openings in the U.S., year-over-year growth in job openings, and widespread regional availability. LinkedIn also released lists of the top in-demand hard and soft skills for the year, which included Cloud Computing, Artificial Intelligence, and UX Design. Many of the part-time, online master’s degrees offered at Brandeis GPS directly correlate with the fields and industries LinkedIn identified as playing a critical role in the 2019 job market.

Students interested in pursuing a master’s degree with Brandeis GPS can take up to two courses for professional development before applying. To learn more, contact gps@brandeis.edu, call 781-736-8787 or visit www.brandeis.edu/gps.

How to attract and retain talent

In the current competitive job market, workplace benefits and perks go a long way to attract and retain top talent. To remain competitive, top employers find themselves investing in health/wellness and culture packages that include  gym memberships, catered lunches and happy hours on top of more traditional benefits like medical insurance, PTO and retirement savings plans.

Education — and tuition reimbursement for professional development in particular — is one employee benefit area where companies can truly distinguish themselves from their competitors. According to the Society for Human Resource Management’s 2018 Employee Benefits Survey, the majority of employees (86%) indicated that professional and career development benefits are important to overall job satisfaction. If employees are satisfied with their jobs, they are more likely to stay with a company for longer. And particularly in today’s tech-heavy industries, companies that provide employees with opportunities for professional development will also ensure that their talent will stay on the cutting edge of new technologies and best practices in their fields.

Brandeis GPS  offers employers a corporate partnership program that enables companies to provide their employees with discounted tuition on top-tier master’s degrees and professional development courses. We partner with national brands ranging from startups to Fortune 500 companies, including PTCNorth Shore Medical, and Harvard Pilgrim.

The benefits of a corporate partnership with Brandeis GPS are two-fold: employees are financially empowered to position themselves for career advancement, and companies can groom the next level of leadership from within.

GPS offers 12 fully online graduate programs. Our curricula captures the latest applied technologies and industry best practices while incorporating the rigorous standards of excellence that make Brandeis University one of the top universities in the country. GPS courses are taught by instructors who are leaders in their fields and bring an array of experiences and industry connections to their classrooms. Each of our master’s degrees and courses are shaped by input from program-specific advisory boards, ensuring that they remain current and relevant for students who are active practitioners in their fields.

Learn more about our corporate partnership options on our website or contact Kathryn Wight, Director of Partnership Engagement, at kwight@brandeis.edu or 781-736-8725.

Don’t wait to create social impact – just do it!

By Subhadra Mahanti

The end of the year is a perfect time to reflect upon how one has done in the past year. Personally, I go back a few years looking for a trajectory that evolves towards growth and meaningful impact-personal, professional or social. I feel a life well-spent is one that has created a ripple effect of positive change in the lives around.

During my undergraduate summer internships with Tata Steel and Tata Motors in India, I was introduced to Tata’s legacy of blending business with philanthropy. Though I was already involved in various community activities, that was the first time I witnessed how a business can positively impact communities by bringing together its products, processes and people. Both these internships opened my eyes to corporate citizenry. Tata’s mission of integrating social responsibility with corporate strategy resonated deeply within me.

Not long after, I joined MathWorks. Since then, I have come to truly appreciate MathWorks’ commitment to establish itself as a global corporate citizen through its Social Mission program. I first participated in this program in 2007. I was fundraising for AID (Association for India’s Development) while training for the upcoming Chicago marathon . With the help of individual contributions and company match, I was able to raise about $7000 in spite of being a new employee then. I have found myself increasingly involved ever since, be it through a-thon fundraisers, STEM initiatives, end-of-year donations or disaster relief. I continue to be impressed with the growing outreach of the company’s social impact initiatives. My most recent experience was during the Tamil Nadu flood relief efforts where in a matter of two weeks, we collected a total of $40,000 in company match and staff donations worldwide. This is an excellent testament to the organizational culture and behavior.

And when an entire organization gets involved in the betterment of its society, that in my mind is corporate social responsibility at its best. What better way to explore and expand one’s impact than by engaging through such immersive experiences! I feel privileged to have had such an opportunity. At the same time, I recognize that there is still much to learn and so many avenues to discover.

For those of you contemplating to start out on this journey, there is a plethora of resources out there. Some of my favorite reads are: Creating a world without Poverty by Muhammad Yunus (a link to Yunus’ interview on Knowledge@Wharton) and The fortune at the bottom of the pyramid by C. K. Prahlad.

Also, McKinsey Quarterly published the following articles on the topic that caught my attention: Valuing Corporate Social Responsibility and Making the most of corporate social responsibility. Another site that I follow is Social Edge: it has posts and comprehensive discussions about personal experiences with for-profit, non-profit and the hybrid models-the challenges and the advantages.

Foundations like Scwab and Skoll probably pioneered the concept of social enterprise but the world has caught up fast. Organizations like Ashoka and conferences like Net Impact bring together social entrepreneurs round the globe and promote access to social financing and social venture capital firms. Now even top business schools have dedicated programs and tracks on social impact and entrepreneurship. After all, social responsibility is not a choice anymore: It is a necessity to sustain in today’s competitive landscape.

Read the article as originally published here.

Subhadra Mahanti is  a member of the Brandeis GPS Software Engineering advisory board.

Faces of GPS is an occasional series that profiles Brandeis University Graduate Professional Studies students, faculty and staff. Find more Faces of GPS stories here.

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