Academy of Art University Streamlines Online Courses

Customer Experience
Customer Experience
The art and design school revamped its online platform allowing for a better learning experience for students.

In a very competitive world, education is essential for success. With several choices, students are able to select the program and institution that best fits their needs.

Further, online courses have made learning easier and more accessible since they don't require students to be in a particular geographical location. However, learnings institutions need to make sure that their courses are presented well, making them conducive to learning.

The San Francisco-based Academy of Art University is one institution offering both onsite and online education to 18,000 students. The private art and design school needs to deliver highly visual material, which is challenging to create and maintain online. Although the university created its own learning management system (LMS,) this wasn't sufficient, explains Chris Lefferts, the school's executive vice president.

The Academy of Art University wanted to be a leader in online teaching, offering students the best experience. Lefferts notes that the aim was to deliver an experience that is equivalent to in-class learning where a lecturer is speaking to students directly. It was also important to make sure that students were following the same course schedule and not skipping parts or moving ahead before finishing sections of the course.

The school's leaders recognized the need for a robust web content management system that would allow agile creation of courses and provide control over the learning experience. Last year the Academy of Art University implemented the Adobe Experience Manager to help address the design issues. Lefferts says the first step was to train designers to use the system.


When the web designers had got a grasp of Adobe Experience Manager, they were able to build 95 courses with more than 250 web pages within a few months, Lefferts says. Not only were designers able to build the courses at a much quicker pace, but the new system was able to provide better quality control. "Previously, having 30 designers do things the same way was hard," Lefferts explains. The new system provides a template so that similar courses have the same look and feel, which is also more cost-effective for the university since designers don't have to do jobs twice.

When it started using Adobe Experience Manager, the Academy of Art University decided to overhaul all its online courses. Courses, Lefferts notes, are rebuilt every three years to cater for advances in technology and new programs. The new system has made updating course materials easier.

Lefferts adds that students are also benefitting from a more classroom-like experience. For example, they cannot just skip a presentation because of the checks and balances that the new system put in place in order to make sure students are getting the most out of their education. At the same time, the new system allows educators to restrict access to coursework before the designated week. This is helping students progress at a similar pace, leading to more participation in discussions.

Further, the academy is able to create courses that are optimized for mobile, allowing students to access their learning materials even when on the go.

Lessons learned

Focus on online: Today's customers expect a great online experience and will quickly stop doing business with a brand that doesn't deliver.

Facilitate employees' work: Technology can help employees do their jobs better and quicker, allowing them to focus on other important issues that can impact the customer experience.

Think about mobile: Online properties need to be optimized for mobile in order to deliver a great experience to on-the-go customers.