Thursday, October 2, 2008

New innovation courses underway to inspire

Downsizing and need some creative solutions? Want to be the next Bill Gates? Committed to lean thinking but need a new approach?

Guess what? Innovative thinking can be learned just like any other skill.

That’s the idea behind new courses currently being developed by Rio Salado College.

The courses on innovation were announced last week at a special meeting for business, government, industry and community-based organizations throughout the metro area. The event “Powered by Innovation: Strategies for Ingenuity & Transformation” kicked off the college’s commitment to creative thinking.

“It’s often said that at Rio Salado innovation is our middle name,” Rio Salado College President Linda Thor said. “We were established in a spirit of innovation as a college without physical boundaries to educate primarily working adults.”

“We are passionate believers that a college degree should be convenient, accessible and affordable to all.”

Committed to innovation, Rio Salado will be offering the national innovation curriculum online.

The national curriculum was developed by a team of 22 Continuous Quality Improvement Network (CQIN) colleges and a $15 million Department of Labor investment.

Top innovators in the country including experts from a variety of backgrounds and disciplines including education, health care, hospitality, entertainment, marketing, retail, financial services, manufacturing, business science, technology and fine arts produced lessons for teaching innovative thinking.

Innovation is a fundamental part of the human condition, developers of the curriculum said.

“Everyone has the capacity to be innovative – and the skills to produce innovation can be identified and taught to virtually anyone,” said developers.

The Rio Salado courses are currently undergoing the Maricopa Community College District approval process and are expected to be ready sometime in the spring of 2009.

The courses include 23 basic competencies developed with the idea of helping adults focus on learning and increasing their skills set for innovation. These competencies including curiosity, discovery, integration, vision, syntheses, collaboration, ideation, leadership, communication, courage, introspection, persistence, flexibility and ethics.

Instead of textbooks and lectures, learners are exposed to videos, animated stories and game-like activities to prod creative thinking.

“In today’s economy many in business and industry will be forced to come up with innovative solutions to problems. The courses will teach students the skills they didn’t know existed,” said Laura Helminski who is one of the people spearheading the project at Rio Salado College.

The curriculum is designed for anyone interested in learning how to be innovative including technicians, administrators, engineers and CEO’s.

Plans are in place to offer the courses in credit and non-credit formats for individuals, business, industry and governmental partners.

The course work, two years in development, was beta tested by 112 Rio Salado faculty and community members including those from business and industry. Feedback was positive and many commented there was a need to teach people how to be innovative as soon as it is ready, Helminski said.

Rio Salado College is one of the 10 Maricopa Community Colleges. Serving more than 60,000 students, the college offers more than 450 online classes and start dates every Monday. Information about the innovation courses are available at