ISBDC Region II office helps NxLevel with online training classes
The Idaho Small Business Development Center’s Region II office at Lewis-Clark State College is helping NxLevel develop online training classes that be used both nationally and internationally.
Jill Thomas-Jorgenson, Director of the Region II ISBDC office, has been working on the online project since November of 2006 and recently received an earmark grant for $151,046 to continue work on the project. Although Thomas-Jorgenson is currently going through the process of applying for the grant to receive the money.
NXLevel is a training program that provides helps business owners and entrepreneurs advance their skills in starting, growing, and managing their businesses. The classes provide business skills training, which including preparing a business plan, and provides hands-on practical guidance in bookkeeping, marketing, financial projections, and negotiating with lenders. It also provides a standardized curriculum that is cost-effective and flexible that focuses on the community level.
Thomas-Jorgenson has been teaching NxLevel courses since 1995. NxLevel courses are currently offered in 43 states and six countries. Each state has an administrator to oversee the program.
Thomas-Jorgenson has taught online classes for seven years and knew that NxLevel courses offered at night were tough for people from rural communities to attend because they would get back home so late. So, along with Idaho State Direct James Hogge, Thomas-Jorgenson approached NxLevel CEO Mike Finnerty in Salt Lake City about putting the class online in Idaho. NxLevel officials were already talking about putting the course online and asked Thomas-Jorgenson to make it a national online course rather than just an Idaho course. Thomas-Jorgenson agreed to develop the class and has spent her free time working on it with help from her counterpart, Region IV Idaho SBDC Director Bryan Matsuoka. The online course contains a strategic plan, webinars, training sessions, guest speakers who have used the course to further their businesses, and blogs for those taking the class to interact with each other.
As part of the regular class, participants receive a 600-page guide, which has converted to be used online with the help of Deb Emerich, Instructional Designer/Trainer for Distance Learning at LCSC. With support from LCSC President Dene Thomas, LCSC Dean of Academic Programs Christine Pharr, LCSC Dean of Community Programs Kathy Martin, and LCSC Business Division Chair Randy Martin, Jorgenson finished the online course and currently is teaching to a beta class of about 55, working out any kinks.
By offering the class online, it allows for larger classes and a consistent course fee. If taught in a classroom, most NxLevel courses are limited to 25 people and the costs of the class vary, depending both on the class and the state where it is offered.
The online class is a 12-session class that has the goal of each participant being able to write their business plan. The class is set up so participants write part of the business plan during each class. Each online session has three components: a particular topic, a guest speaker segment, and a discussion board for participants.
Thomas-Jorgenson and Hogge will display the online class in September at America’s Small Business Development Center’s annual conference, which attracts some 1,500 attendees. Thomas-Jorgenson also will be in the NxLevel booth at the conference to answer questions about the class.
Once the online course is ready, the Region II ISBDC office will receive a percentage of each enrollment fee.
Instructors for the class will be certified by NxLevel and also be required to take training courses in Blackboard, the software program that will be used to teach the online course.
For more information on the online course, the Region II ISDBC office, or NxLevel, contact Thomas-Jorgenson at either email@example.com or (208) 792-2440.