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Using Online Education to Meet Learners Where They’re At: A Conversation with Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc.

Online learning is a value add for organizations that want to meet membership and stakeholders where they’re at. It puts the agency into the hands of the learner by allowing them to review content as many times as they want, and within their own busy schedule. Whether out of necessity or desire, implementing online education creates flexibility for the learner, and ensures important information is effectively delivered by the  organization.

Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. is an international fraternity and one organization of nine that are a part of the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC) which is a collaborative umbrella organization composed of historically African-American (Black) Greek-letter organizations.  Phi Beta Sigma, Inc., through its mission, aims to provide meaningful education and training for its members that align with its motto “Culture For Service and Service For Humanity”. Phi Beta Sigma, Inc., partnered with Plaid to create five courses for their Collegiate Advisor University (CAU) program, an online program centered around training for advisors to learn about Phi Beta Sigma, Inc.’s policies, and the skills necessary to support collegiate chapters and members. In this project, Plaid helped in tailoring  four existing courses part of Plaid’s signature Chapter Advisor Training Program and developing one additional custom interactive course to create a custom training experience that meets the needs of Phi Beta Sigma.

In this interview, Rafael Matos, Director of Membership and Training for Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. shares about Phi Beta Sigma’s CAU program and how Plaid has helped develop the five courses in this initiative. 

Plaid: What motivated Phi Beta Sigma, Inc. to consider online education?

Rafael: Phi Beta Sigma, Inc.’s members live in the United States, Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, and Europe. Part of our value proposition as a Fraternity is to provide quality education and with a membership living across the world, we recognized the need to offer training and educational opportunities that meet our members where they are in a manner that works with their geography and schedule. This shift aligned with trends in higher education showing an increase in distance learning, with some institutions offering fully online degrees. The challenges caused by the Coronavirus pandemic further strengthened the decision to offer online education to our members. The limit of mass in-person gatherings prevented our members from completing the trainings required to serve in some volunteer roles, such as collegiate advisors.  The timing was right for us to introduce our learning management system (LMS) and convert our Collegiate Advisors University (CAU) to an e-course. Our collegiate advisors are essential to the success of our undergraduate members and managing risk at the local level. Online education represents a tangible outcome of our value proposition for our key stakeholders. 

Plaid: In what ways does pursuing online learning and education help Phi Beta Sigma, Inc. achieve its mission and organizational goals? 

Rafael: As A Brotherhood of Conscious Men Actively Serving Our Communities, Phi Beta Sigma, Inc. understands its position as a global catalyst for social change. Our mission of Culture for Service and Service for Humanity is carried out by our Brothers in their respective communities. For this reason, the organization has to actively provide our members the tools they need to put our values into action. Online education helps Phi Beta Sigma, Inc. provide our members practical knowledge to enhance their skills and prepare them for lives as conscious leaders dedicated to serving the people around them. Online education offers us a platform we can update regularly and provide our members immediate access to our most current content, even after completion. These factors keep our members engaged with our mission and prepared to carry our programs in their communities. 

Plaid: What immediate benefits of online learning and education do you see for Phi Beta Sigma, Inc. and its users?

Rafael: Two challenges Phi Beta Sigma, Inc. faced with our training and development are providing consistent training experiences across our regions and members’ accessibility to the necessary trainings and certifications.  We noticed inconsistencies in content delivery across our regions. Moving our training into an LMS meant we could monitor the content of our courses and the progress and completion rate of our members participating in our modules. Our members can login to the LMS and complete the courses during times that work best with their schedules. With our CAU now offered as an e-course through our LMS, we know everyone taking the certification will receive the same information regardless of location and will no longer have to travel to another state for one day to complete the certification. They can login from a convenience location and go finish the program.  

Plaid: How does Phi Beta Sigma, Inc. plan to use online education now, and in the future with the organization’s membership?

Rafael: Currently, we are converting our key training and development programs to online courses. CAU and our new member education program are two of the first standard fraternity programs to move to a virtual format. In the future, we want to offer our members certifications they can use as part of their career advancement. This is part of our value proposition and our commitment to enhancing our most value resource, our members.

Plaid has enjoyed working with Rafael and the team at Phi Beta Sigma, Inc. in developing their online education for chapter advisors over the last six months. Plaid’s partnership with Phi Beta Sigma, Inc. has encouraged thoughtful design and collaboration on how advisors can best interact with online education at their pace to gain the skills and knowledge they need to effectively support collegiate chapters.  Plaid’s team of instructional designers brings a set of skills integral to the online education experience, from curriculum design to learning theories. To learn more about how Plaid can support your organization’s online learning efforts and needs, please email

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