Leveraging for Success: Engagement in an Asynchronous Non-Credit Mandated Course

  • Sharon E Powell University of Minnesota Extension
  • Ellie McCann University of Minnesota Extension
  • Kate Welshons University of Minnesota Extension
Keywords: mandated education, divorce education, equifinality, Online learning


This presentation will investigate the challenges in converting an “in person” course to an online format. Our situation presents several challenges. The course, Parents Forever, is mandated by the state of Minnesota for divorcing parents who are highly conflictual and who have children under the age of 18. We, the course designers, are also mandated to provide the same information to participants whether they take the course in person or online. Because many of the participants are mandated to take the course, they are frequently reluctant to attend and engage. therefore engagement with this group can be a challenge. To address this in the “in person” course, we created many interactive exercises to motivate learners to take advantage of their time in class as well as develop wraparound resources for learners to utilize outside of class. In developing the asynchronous online course, we have been asked to cover the same content areas and we hope for similar levels of engagement from the learners, but we are limited from several directions. The online course has sets of parameters from three important areas: limitations of the online platform utilized by our institution; limited capacity of Parents Forever staff to monitor participation; our position as mandated reporters. These parameters required us to use different learning activities in the online course to achieve similar results to the “in person”course. This presentation will explore the process of equifinality—taking multiple paths to arrive at a similar outcome— when converting a course from “in person” to online.

Related URL: https://www.extension.umn.edu/family/parents-forever/

Author Biography

Sharon E Powell, University of Minnesota Extension

Sharon Powell is an educator with the University of Minnesota Extension Center for Family Development. She serves the entire state of Minnesota from her home office in Minneapolis. Sharon divides her time between programs for individuals and families that build financial skills and that build parenting and relational skills. Her work addresses needs at the individual, community, and policy levels through research, education, and outreach. Before joining Extension, Sharon was a lecturer in the Department of Family Social Science at the University of Minnesota. Sharon earned a master's degree in Human Development Counseling from Vanderbilt University and a Ph.D. in Family Social Science from the University of Minnesota.