Michigan State University was awarded NASFAA’s Gold Star Award last month, for the course, “Utilizing Learning Management Systems for Financial Aid Training,” at the 2016 national conference in Washington D.C.
Financial aid training can be overwhelming and tedious work, and Chandra Owen, training coordinator for Michigan State University's financial aid office, decided to move the office's training program to an online format with a more hands-on, interactive approach.
The online program "allows for various types of instruction, from videos to clicking through slides for more information," Owen said. The online format also allows individuals to proceed through the instruction at their own pace.
"Financial aid training can easily lead to information overload, so this is a good way to introduce the material, but encourage them to revisit it when a real life situation comes up, and at that time, they may have a better chance of retaining the information," she said.
Each year, NASFAA gives its newest award, the Gold Star Award, to individuals or groups that develop innovative ideas in the financial aid world. Past winners and honorable mentions have shown ideas in a range of forms, including online courses, Twitter chats, mentoring networks and other resources to reach out to students, families, and financial aid professionals.
"I was so grateful (to win the Gold Star Award)," Owen said. "I have so much respect for the NASFAA membership. I have learned so much from so many wonderful people in this field, and to be recognized was a great honor."
Since the program launched in February 2015, the office has received positive feedback on the new and improved training method.
Moving forward, Owen said she hopes to continue developing and expanding the program to best meet the needs of her staff and others on campus, including non-financial aid professionals who take an in-person course that she also hopes to move online.
"This is definitely a work in progress," she said. "This is a good foundation, but when I evaluate it myself, it is still more text heavy, and not as interactive as I want it to be."