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May 27, 2022

Twelve Missouri colleges and universities tackle adult learner experience in first ever Student Journey Mapping Workshop

Teams of representatives from 12 Missouri colleges and universities have spent the last two days in Jefferson City to learn process mapping and put those skills to the test in order to improve student outcomes. The Missouri Department of Higher Education & Workforce Development hosted the first of its kind Student Journey Mapping Workshop on May 25-26 to help identify and reduce barriers to adult education. The Student Journey Mapping Workshop focused on the access points where an adult learner comes into contact with higher education. Participants were provided with the tools to map an adult learner's journey through the access point selected by the institution.

The MDHEWD Office of Postsecondary Policy invited content experts and operational excellence coordinators from across state government to help assist teams as they worked through their identified process. The first day of the event focused on establishing a common language around process mapping to create a more collaborative and intentional conversation. Teams physically mapped out their processes using sticky notes and large pieces of paper, showing a visual representation of the steps students and institutions take to admit students, to help students receive financial aid, steps that need completed for actual enrollment, and even the steps to graduation. Day two was focused on identifying pain points, gaps in communication, and barriers found throughout the process. Institutions began to map out possible solutions or quick wins they can implement to help the student’s journey be less taxing. Schools will take back the information they learned with the hope of getting more groups together on campus in order to tackle other processes to serve students better.

“Sometimes the things and the processes we create come across as confusing for students,” said Scott Jenkins, Strategy Director for State Policy at the Lumina Foundation. In his remarks to the group, Jenkins compared the student postsecondary process to a meme saying, “No time to explain, get in the llama.” While the illustration was meant to be humorous, it set the tone to help institutions take a step back and really think about their processes, to evaluate what makes sense, and what doesn’t.

Guest speakers for the event included Commissioner Zora Mulligan, Director of Workforce Development Dr. Mardy Leathers, Scott Jenkins from the Lumina Foundation, and Coordinating Board member Judge Anne-Marie Clarke. Access organizations, including the Missouri Scholarship & Loan Foundation, and the Missouri College and Career Attainment Network, were also on hand to share information about resources already available to help adults succeed in higher education.

Institutions participating in this week’s event included: East Central College, Missouri Western State University, Missouri Southern State University, University of Missouri-Columbia, State Fair Community College, Harris-Stowe State University, Three Rivers College, Washington University, Truman State University, Drury University, Jefferson College, and University of Central Missouri.

MDHEWD’s strategic plan, approved in December 2021, identified adult students as a key population to achieving the outlined educational attainment and workforce participation goals for the state. A 2022 initiative to work toward meeting department goals included the recently launched Adult Learner Network. The Network is bringing together key stakeholders to strategically serve adult students better. The Student Journey Mapping Workshop is a result of conversations from the Network and a start to helping institutions share ideas and best practices specific to the adult population.

Learn more about the Adult Learner Network at https://dhewd.mo.gov/initiatives/AdultLearnerNetwork.php.