The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) constantly encourages design and building teams to adopt an integrative process that brings stakeholders together early on to improve outcomes down the line.
So when the organization wanted to revamp its educational programming several years ago, it followed its own advice. Rather than simply picking a path and plowing forward, USGBC sought input from more than 250 users of the organization’s educational offerings, along with other firms that it thought could benefit from the programs, and people and groups involved with green building education in other capacities.
“We talked to all types of folks who were already touching the education that we did, or those that weren’t touching it, and we thought should be,” says Melanie Share, project manager for education platforms. “We stumbled upon the pretty clear trend that people didn’t necessarily expect USGBC to be the one creating all of the education related to green building and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), but people did view USGBC as the convener in this area. That idea was really transformational for us, because it kind of clicked—the idea that our role should be to bring like-minded individuals together and provide that space for interaction.”
Thus began Education @USGBC, an online “one-stop shop,” in Share’s words, that gathers hundreds of courses developed by USGBC education partners, and even member companies. After a soft launch in late 2013, the platform kicked off in earnest in January of 2014, and since that time, more than 30,000 users have taken online courses, helping them to maintain their LEED credentials and to keep growing their green building knowledge.
Previously, USGBC had offered a subscription webinar service, along with many in-person trainings. “We would coordinate pretty much every aspect of the event,” Share says. “We felt like we were trying to be all things to all people, and it wasn’t necessarily scalable.” In the new model, USGBC brought together organizations that were previously seen as competitors and fostered a spirit of collaboration.
Along with curating educational content from a number of different groups, one of the big ideas to emerge from the brainstorming around the revamp was the implementation of a peer rating system. “We were thinking of it like an Amazon marketplace of green building education,” Share says. “The attitude we had was, how can we collectively leverage the work that is being done for the greater good of the movement? And we knew that an important component of that was having a peer feedback–driven experience.”
The result, Share says, is a combination of quantity and quality. The large volume of partner-provided content gives users a wide range of choices, and the peer feedback system ensures that they see the highest-quality courses first.
The most obvious benefit of Education @USGBC is that it provides green building professionals with flexibility and control in obtaining the educational content they need to maintain their LEED credentials. But Share hopes that credential maintenance is only one of the things users are walking away with.
“There are people out there taking way more than their 30 hours of required maintenance [every two years],” Share says. “We know those individuals aren’t looking to just check a box, but to learn more. One of the ways we seek to support them is by having such a large pool of courses to pick from. They can choose the courses that are right for them, and expand their knowledge of green building.”
Many USGBC member companies are embracing Education @USGBC in innovative ways. Whether they are contributing new courses or leveraging existing offerings for the benefit of thousands of employees worldwide, organizations are connecting with the education content to deliver better buildings. Here are four examples of companies making the most of the platform.