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Dr. John Woods

University of Phoenix Leadership Joins the Reagan Institute Summit on Education to Share Insights on Postsecondary Access and Adaptation to Better Support Students

By Sharla Hooper

Provost Dr. John Woods discusses how University of Phoenix evolved student access and support during the pandemic, as well as new innovations in skills-tagged curriculum and badging

University of Phoenix is participating this week in the 2022 Reagan Institute Summit on Education (RISE), “Networked: The Quest for Connectivity,” where John Woods, Ph.D., provost and chief academic officer, will share insights on ways the University adapted and evolved to serve students during and in the wake of the pandemic, as well as new innovations in skills-tagged curriculum and badging. The summit theme and agenda strive to examine connectivity, both broadband and infrastructure, as well as through the individual and systemic connections students need to thrive, and features conversations and moderated panels with heads of state, educational leaders, and uniquely, a conversation with two U.S. Supreme Court Justices.

When COVID-19 began to spread across the United States in March 2020, University of Phoenix acted rapidly, turning attention immediately and purposefully toward students, notifying almost 6,000 campus-based students and faculty about the move to online classes in the span of a weekend — an aggressive pace, even for a university well versed in distance learning. The University also moved quickly to find flexible solutions for counseling, education and nursing students who needed to fulfill clinicals, field hours, residencies and other program requirements generally conducted in person in order to progress through their programs.

“The result was a marked success,” states Woods. “Our attendance and retention improved during this time. This owes to both the resilience of our students and our deep experience in distance learning. I look forward to joining the RISE summit and sharing more details about our success and innovations that we were able to implement.”

Dr. Woods will also share insights regarding the university’s efforts with skills-tagged curriculum and the issuing of more than 12,000 digital badges in the last 10 months, for skills obtained in undergraduate, graduate, and professional development courses. Currently, more than 85% of University of Phoenix programs open for new enrollment are now skills mapped.

The workforce market has been shifting for some time toward recognizing skills, or opportunity, gaps for workers, accelerated by the pandemic, and illustrated in the results of the University of Phoenix’s Career Optimism Index® study. It seems employers of all types are beginning to value how skills can be obtained without a degree, as evidenced further by a new campaign from several large employers championing skills-based hiring and exposing inequities of the “paper ceiling” barrier, or bachelor's degree requirements for jobs.

“Our skill-mapping progress is on the forefront of efforts to close the skills gap and highlight how learners are acquiring skills as part of their progress, which creates opportunity,” states John Woods, Ph.D., provost and chief academic officer. “We are working to align degrees and individual courses to skills employers want, and to empower learners and job seekers in what we anticipate being a new era of skills-based hiring.”

The university has launched badges for undergraduate courses required in most degree programs. Called the Phoenix Success Series, these courses provide undergraduate students within the first six (6) classes the opportunity to earn seven (7) digital skills badges: Intentional Communicator, Reflective Communicator, Reflective Decision Maker, Decision Maker – Personal Finance, Reflective Problem Solver, Strategic Problem Solver, and Intentional Problem Solver.

Woods will join the panel, “Postsecondary Access and Adaptation,” at the RISE 2022 event as one of a group of leaders from diverse postsecondary institutions sharing ways they have adapted and evolved to better support their student population in the wake of the pandemic.

In 2021, University of Phoenix established its Career Institute®, a center created to address broad, persistent and systemic barriers to career advancement through research-based solutions and impactful partnerships that break down barriers Americans face in their careers. The Institute launched the Career Optimism Index® study that same year to discover more about American workers’ attitudes toward work and career advancement, both in context of the pandemic, and continuing forward on an annual basis.

“The Career Optimism Index® helps us see and better understand the skills and opportunity gaps that challenge American workers,” states Woods. “We are working with partners such as Jobs for the Future, whose leadership also joins this Summit, to offer employers the insights and action-oriented strategies which can be adopted within workforce systems to address those gaps and create the necessary conditions for equitable career and economic advancement.”

The panel including Woods takes place at the RISE summit, Thursday, July 28, at 8:50am ET.

About University of Phoenix

University of Phoenix is continually innovating to help working adults enhance their careers in a rapidly changing world. Flexible schedules, relevant courses, interactive learning, and Career Services for Life® help students more effectively pursue career and personal aspirations while balancing their busy lives. For more information, visit