Since its inception in 1919, the American Institute of Baking (AIB) International has been a world leader in baking and food education. Through the years, educational processes have changed and evolved, not only in terms of content, but in the fundamental ways that students learn. AIB has addressed these changes through the years and has recently undertaken a large-scale renovation of its educational offerings, incorporating more hands-on and distance-learning components into courses and seminars.

In the fall of 2011, AIB contracted with Cypress Research Associates, Kansas City, Mo., to assess the services and educational pedagogy of its acclaimed School of Baking, the goal being to continue to learn how to better serve the educational needs of the baking industry. As a result of AIB’s ongoing commitment to education, and assisted by this extensive research, AIB continually redesigns course content, as well as methods of delivery, to meet the changing demands of the industry and evolving student learning methods.

AIB contracted the research assessment in response to changes in the baking industry, feedback from its board, input from the industry and the changing needs and expectations of baking students.

Cypress’ research was conducted in phases and employed multiple methods of evaluation to ensure a thorough, in-depth assessment of clients’ needs. Research included interviews with AIB staff, focus groups and interviews with AIB clients. Based on customers’ and potential customers’ educational and service needs, AIB is crafting new educational content and delivery, while maintaining the solid, fundamental structure of courses that have long been held in high esteem both within and outside of the baking industry.

A key finding in Cypress’ research was that today’s students have an increasing need for a more hands-on, less lecture-based method of learning. AIB has committed numerous resources to restructuring both course content and delivery to address the rapidly changing needs of learners in the field of baking. Employing formal instructional design focused on learning outcomes, both curriculum development and content delivery are being assessed, restructured and redesigned to meet the needs of clients, all while retaining the top-notch core curriculum content. 

In addition to the numerous seminar offerings and the keystone, 16-week, onsite Baking and Science Technology course held at AIB headquarters in Manhattan, Kan., courses are being designed in formats intended to be easily accessible to off-location learners.  Existing course content is being reformatted and newly created content is being designed for webinars, short courses and distance learning products.

The spring 2012 Baking Science and Technology class was the first to be offered after undergoing the initial phase of a redesign based on Cypress’ findings.  In response to students’ and industry’s changing needs, the course was restructured to emphasize hands-on learning in the pilot lab. Lecture components were maintained, but re-crafted to place emphasis on activities that provide students with the opportunity to take what is learned in the classroom and apply it directly to the physical baking process.

This partnership-centered approach to delivering educational products also allows AIB to craft client-specific educational opportunities for customers’ specialized needs. Rather than making a 16-week commitment of staff time to the Baking Science and Technology course, companies are increasingly asking for shorter, onsite and online courses and seminars that address specific aspects of both industry and technology. In response to this demand, AIB’s instructional design and curriculum professionals are designing courses in varying lengths and using new delivery technologies to meet specific client needs.

The information gleaned from the market research serves as a valuable tool in guiding AIB’s ongoing, responsive, educational mission into the future. Not only are the study’s findings useful for the School of Baking, many are directly applicable to food safety education as well.

This comprehensive understanding of client needs and student expectations has allowed AIB instructors, designers and curriculum experts to take a fresh perspective on course content and delivery, resulting in new and revised educational products that meet today’s changing needs and learning styles.  SF&WB