University of Phoenix Shares Innovative Online Learning Strategies at SXSW EDU

University of Phoenix Chief Operating Officer Raghu Krishnaiah presented on “The Unique Needs of Nontraditional Students” at the recent South by Southwest (SXSW) EDU Conference and Festival held March 7-11 in Austin, TX. The SXSW EDU conference is dedicated to embracing innovation in the education industry through engaging talks, learning experiences, films, startup competitions, an expo and more.

Krishnaiah has had a long history in both corporate and higher education leadership roles including as former COO of Western Governors University. For the talk, he focused on the COVID-19 pandemic’s disproportionate impact on minorities, who make up a large proportion of the student body at University of Phoenix. According to the 2020 Academic Annual Report, 56.3 percent of the University’s students are ethnic minorities, and over 80 percent are working adults.

For the discussion, he shared strategies that University of Phoenix used to meet the needs of these learners by employing a number of digital tools and strategies such as non-credit professional development and certificate programs and the use of digital badges, for some degree programs. “University of Phoenix has been serving a diverse body of nontraditional students and working adult learners since its formation over 45 years ago,” Krishnaiah said. “We understand their unique needs and how important it is to meet them where they are in their life and in their career path.”

Innovative Educational Tools Evolving the Digital Classroom Experience

While many of these improved online resources came about during a time of great uncertainty led by University of Phoenix and others who were well-versed in innovative online learning techniques, Krishnaiah noted that these strategies are likely to persist well beyond the pandemic and expand not only into other educational institutions but into the workforce as well.

University of Phoenix offered its first online course in 1989. Now, the University provides an almost entirely online college experience and has built a curriculum and digital classroom experience that prioritizes career preparation and an engaging, interactive learning platform.

Some of the tools used at University of Phoenix have been developed with Blackboard, a leading education and technology company. Innovative tools include Blackboard Ally, which expands the accessibility of digital course content, and Blackboard Collaborate, which gives students and teachers a real classroom feel with interactive whiteboards, chats, polls, breakout groups and real-time feedback.

“University of Phoenix is committed to providing an advanced and robust differentiated learning environment for its students,” said former University of Phoenix President Peter Cohen. “That environment requires integrated technologies that Blackboard is providing to support a unique connected student experience through our learning management platform.”

Blackboard is a registered trademark of Blackboard Inc.

Certificate Courses and Digital Badges

During the pandemic, University of Phoenix also expanded opportunities for people looking to find new work roles or to pursue new opportunities in their companies and organizations with online certificate courses and programs that could quickly prepare them. A number of these courses are in information technology, aligning with the growing demand for skilled tech workers. Professional development options, which are non-credit, in IT include Scrum for Product Owners, Scrum Master Advanced, Scrum Master Fundamentals, and Scrum Product Owner and Scrum Master Tracks. There are also online, self-directed certificate courses in financial planning, accounting, marketing, educational leadership and health administration.

Another addition to digital toolkits is the introduction of digital badges. As certain courses are completed, students can take assessments and earn digital badges that can be displayed on their resumes, LinkedIn accounts and other social media. University of Phoenix digital badges, which are issued by the organization Credly, can be earned for a number of MBA courses including for digital transformation, economic theories and business risk management. There are also badges for nursing courses like emergency preparedness and for general education courses for skills like intentional problem solver and reflective communicator. “In today’s competitive job market, skills matter as much as your degree,” notes the introduction to the digital badges.

About University of Phoenix

University of Phoenix is committed to advancing the degree goals of adult and nontraditional learners and to helping students navigate the career options that best suit their interests. The University’s degree programs are aligned with numerous in-demand career paths including in computer software, nursing and business, and they provide flexible start dates, online classes, and numerous scholarship opportunities to make it possible for anyone to get the degree they need to get ahead. 

In addition, University of Phoenix’s Career Services for Life® commitment to active students and graduates provides the resources needed to be competitive in the workforce for no additional charge. These services include resume and interview support, career guidance, education and networking opportunities. Numerous Recognized Student Organizations (RSOs) provide University of Phoenix students and alumni with lifelong connections that can help them network and advance in their careers. For more information, visit