Charting the Course at NonprofitReady.org
NonprofitReady.org (NPR) is an open online learning initiative designed to close the gap most nonprofits face in training and retaining their own talent. Thanks to the generous support of experts from across the nonprofit sector, NonprofitReady includes over 200 online learning resources covering the most essential job functions in the nonprofit sector.
Today we caught up with Rebecca Petersen who took over as the Director of NonprofitReady.org in September. Here are some highlights from our discussion.
Tell us a little more about your background:
I am from Nebraska and began my career as a middle school social studies teacher in Lincoln. I then moved to the Boston area where I worked briefly as a museum educator before starting a master’s degree program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
I have been working in higher education since grad school, specifically for universities looking to expand their professional education programs to an online format. This has included leading teams focused on LMS operations, program and instructional design, and strategy and product development. In 2012 MOOCs (massive open online courses) made a big splash in the media and in the .edu sector. I was offered an opportunity to join edX.org, the nonprofit MOOC platform founded by Harvard and MIT, as one of its very first employees. As the director of research and educational initiatives, I led new programs and proof of concept projects funded by the Gates and Hewlett Foundations. As part of that work, I returned to Harvard for a year to be part of a research team investigating open online learning trends and utilization.
What sparked your professional interest in online learning?
I really enjoy building new programs while experimenting with new delivery models that can ultimately help people meet their goals. When I started my master’s degree, I was focusing on program design, thinking I would return to work in the nonprofit sector for an arts and cultural organization. At that time, the internet was still a fairly new thing––we are talking the dial-up, AOL, and Netscape Navigator days––and online learning was barely a thing. I took an elective course called “Designing Educational Experiences for the World Wide Web.” That course truly changed the trajectory of my career. I immediately sensed that this medium had tremendous potential for learning across all age groups.
What drew you to this opportunity with the Foundation and NonprofitReady?
The mission of the Foundation and the reputation of CSOD were compelling. This, in combination with continuing to build out NonprofitReady, clicked with my work at edX and my desire to return to the nonprofit space.
You’re only 1 month into the job, but where do you see NonprofitReady going?
We have tremendous opportunities with NPR and I am working on the strategic plan now. We want NPR to be a destination sitefor the Nonprofit sector.
What has been the most enjoyable part of your job to date?
The foundation team is truly awesome! The group is really talented and so fun to work with. This, coupled with the foundation mission and the potential of NonprofitReady, makes coming to work a joy.
What’s the one thing you want everyone to know about NonprofitReady?
Our communities are dependent on the good work of nonprofits, whether it is for the delivery of human services or for arts and cultural engagement. To do that, these organizations really stretch every dollar and every resource they have to deliver on their missions. NPR is there to support them in achieving their potential. Our content and resources are essential to these organizations––so spread the word to nonprofits you know and work with! We would love to help them.