Wendy Kauffman joined Smart Horizons Career Online Education (SHCOE) as the company’s first Chief Operating Officer in May of 2010. She brought with her a wealth of administrative and technological expertise in the field of secondary online education. “I have worked for several years in secondary online education and what attracted me to SHCOE is the career emphasis that is incorporated within their educational programs,” Kauffman said.

“I have worked at companies that provide traditional online education to students and I just really liked the opportunity to serve a different group of students within an innovative, career education model.”

Kauffman’s role as Chief Operating Officer is to oversee all operations for SHCOE-the world’s first AdvancED/SACS accredited online school district. SHCOE allows adult learners to earn their high school diploma while also completing course work for a career certificate.

Kauffman was instrumental in two key initiatives upon joining the SHCOE team.

“I worked closely with Dr. Rob Miller, our Chief Knowledge Officer, to assemble all the processes needed for our AdvancED/SACS accreditation visit,” Kauffman said.

However, at the same time, I realized that, as we were starting to enroll students, we needed to create more specified processes, so another initiative emerged, which was to design our student engagement process. I knew with our target population-students who had previously left the education process-that our approach would need to be very “hands-on”. I had to think through what we were going to do to keep them engaged.”
Kauffman described four categories in SHCOE’s student engagement process:

  1. Making sure the students are off to a good start
  2. Monitoring their activity to make sure the students are active in the program
  3. Supporting our students by providing them with academic support through academic support instructors, online seminars focused on 21st Century Skills and online career webinars.
  4. Motivating students by focusing in on their careers and reminding them that there is a purpose to what they are doing, which is to graduate and obtain employment or advance into a post-secondary educational program

“When we presented our student engagement processes to the AdvancED/SACS accreditation team, based on their feedback, our team we realized how powerful it was,” Kauffman said. “They were really excited and enthused about it.”

“After we received AdvancED/SACS accreditation as the world’s first online school district, the next step was forming strategic alliances with other organizations,” Kauffman said. “We have already established a number of partnerships and affiliations with organizations ranging from large-scale companies like Ed2go (www.ed2go.com) that provide online adult education to over 2,000 community colleges to community-based companies like Day Care Consultant Services, Inc. (www.daycareconsultantsrvcs.com) that provide dynamic on-site training and consultation in the child care industry.”

“This is great, but we also need to keep them engaged so they continue sending us students,” Kauffman said. “We are now in the process of working through and building an affiliate and partnership engagement model. The goal here is to provide them with all the marketing materials, resources and support they need, and we are doing this by emphasizing some of the same points we are using in the student engagement model.”

Much of Kauffman’s energies are also focused on spearheading SHCOE’s ongoing continuous improvement and development as an online school district.

“Part of this focus is associated with our AdvancED/SACS accreditation,” Kauffman said. “I am responsible for making sure we are continuously engaged in the continuous improvement process as a school. But the bigger picture is about making sure we are successful in all areas, and that we have the necessary resources and tools needed to support all of our efforts as an online school district.”