Continuing education increases student service, wins national award

 A desire to increase service and security has led to national recognition for the FPU Office of Continuing Education.

The online registration system the university created for its distance learning program has been selected by University Business magazine as one of six winners of its Models of Efficiency Award. FPU is featured in the July/August issue of the publication (, whose audience is presidents and senior officers of colleges and universities in the United States. A delegation also attended an awards dinner at the National Association of College and University Business Officers conference July 8-12 in Tampa, Florida.

More than 10,000 educators and other professionals across the nation and around the world receive professional development through the Office of Continuing Education each year. There are also workshops for businesspeople and online classes for high school students. “Continuing education is all of the programs on campus that don’t lead to a degree,” said Matt Gehrett, executive director of the Office of Continuing Education.

Before FPU started its system in April 2008 an outside vendor handled registration, but this arrangement cost more, was less secure and didn’t serve students as well. Making changes to the old system was costly and not done in a timely manner. Communications to students and instructors was not entirely secure and could take up to a week. Double data entry was required and credit card transactions had to be processed manually.

In this case a do-it-yourself solution was the best one possible. “The fact we were able to pull resources together and do it internally has allowed us to build a customized system that fits our particular needs,” Gehrett said.

The project was developed by staff in continuing education, university communication and information technology: Howard Goto, marketing specialist (continuing ed); Nick Gundry, associate director, interactive media (communications); Peggi Kriegbaum, director of operations and educational outreach (continuing ed); and Josh Metry, enterprise applications developer (IT); under Gehrett’s overall supervision.

From the beginning, there was a spirit of cooperation. “Each team member brought their unique experience and perspective to the project without letting ego or personal agenda get in the way,” Kriegbaum said.

The benefits have been immediate. Students get a secure account when they register for a class, credit card transactions are automatic, financial issues are resolved 50 percent faster and customer service issues can be addressed within 24 hours. “Knowing how well the online system was built allows us to interact with customers with utmost confidence,” Kriegbaum said.

Not only does the system improve registration, it is also easy to expand, increasing services and convenience for students and instructors. The additions include online grading, account statements, student course ratings and lists of similar courses so students can see what else is available in their area of interest. “It really has become kind of a master database and central hub for both our students and instructors,” Gehrett said.

The Model of Efficiency Awards are sponsored by Higher One, Inc. (, a company offering college business offices a variety of services to manage operations and enhance service to students. Any school of 3,500 students would celebrate being honored alongside Cal Poly, Georgetown University and The College of William & Mary, but Gehrett noted FPU is one of the few Christian schools on the list. “We’re very proud of that,” he said.