Uncertainty: It can fuel our deepest fears as well as our most towering achievements. As a senior course strategist at 2U, Adam Hill regularly finds himself on both sides of this curious phenomenon.
“One of the reasons I love my job is that the greatest challenge often leads to the greatest reward,” Adam says. “For me, the biggest hurdle is working through the uncertainty that I face when I embark on helping to create any new course or program.”
In his role, Adam partners with university faculty to design digital learning experiences in their courses. He also works with the leadership of select programs in the strategic online design of their curriculum.
“A course strategist is often the very first person from 2U that a professor meets as they embark on the 10-month course development process. Faculty enter with different attitudes ranging from excitement and inspiration to skepticism and indifference. They also enter with a range of experiences teaching online, from years of experience to none at all, although COVID has definitely changed this. Navigating this uncertainty is challenging and requires curiosity, empathy, and dedication.”
However, Adam knows that the greatest reward lies on the other side of this experience. Drawing from 2U’s Learning Experience Framework (LXF) and best practices in learning design, he works with faculty in an intensive, highly collaborative process to transform their courses into the 2U digital environment.
“After completing the strategy process with a professor,” Adam says, “I will often get a note from them saying, ‘I wasn’t sure what to expect going into this process, but now that I’m done, it has certainly made me a better teacher, both online and in-person.’ To see how a professor has not only transformed their course but also transformed as an educator is without a doubt the greatest reward of my job.”
Read on to learn more about Adam’s career trajectory and successes so far, how his work took him from 2U’s DC-area headquarters to New York City, and why the No Back Row Award he won earlier this year—connected to “Have Fun,” one of 2U’s nine Guiding Principles—means a lot more to him than just being the life of the party.
Adam (center) and other 2Utes coming together for 2U Days of Service in 2018
Where were you before 2U, and what got you interested in your current career?
While in college at UC Berkeley (go Bears!), I was interested in both education and digital media. I volunteered at a couple of local public schools and also interned at the NPR affiliate in the Bay Area, KQED. When I graduated, I decided to pursue education and took a job with a children’s literacy nonprofit called Reading Partners through an AmeriCorps program. In this position, I ran a volunteer tutoring program at a charter school in Washington, DC.
After two years in this role, I had the opportunity to merge my interests in education and digital media and became a founding member of Ingenuity Prep, a DC charter school where I helped build a digital video library of best practices in teaching. While working there, I had the incredible opportunity to participate in a year-long fellowship in which I traveled the country looking at innovative schools leveraging technology in the classroom. It’s then I knew I wanted edtech to be my next career move, which is how I eventually found 2U.
Why did you join 2U? What is it about the company that sparked your interest?
When I was looking for my next role prior to 2U, I knew that I wanted to be involved in mission-driven work, having previously worked in non-profits. As someone who identifies as queer, I also wanted to be involved in a culture that allowed me to be my authentic self from day one. Lastly, I wanted to be involved in an organization that was involved in education innovation, having previously worked in education reform. As I interviewed and learned more about the company, I discovered that 2U clearly provided all of these qualities and more.
I started at 2U in the summer of 2015 in the old Maryland office (shout out to the Metroplex!) and also worked part-time out of the Arlington studio as a course producer. I worked on the production team for a year and a half before transitioning to the Content Strategy team, which moved me to the New York office. Shortly after I joined the team, we evolved into the Course Strategy team, and it’s here that I truly found my home and my passion. I have been with the Course Strategy team ever since. I love the big-picture creative thinking that I get to do every day and the innovative solutions we provide for our partners.
Ain't no mountain high enough for Adam, whether at 2U or in Utah's Zion National Park
Out of everything you’ve done at 2U so far, what gives you the most pride?
This is a hard question. There are many accomplishments I have achieved here at 2U and I’m so grateful to the many leaders and mentors I have had who have taken a chance and believed in me to get to where I am today. I would have to say that what I am most proud of is having a prominent role in creating and shaping a team that was not even in existence when I started at the company nearly six years ago. My team now consists of 30 amazing people, and they have been instrumental in leading innovations in learning design at 2U. To have had a role in shaping the early stages of this team and our work is definitely what brings me the most pride.
Each of 2U’s 2020 No Back Row Award winners were recognized for their commitment to one of the company’s nine Guiding Principles. What does this honor mean to you?
This is an incredible honor to be recognized by my peers. In every interaction I have with colleagues or university partners, I strive to foster connection, inspire joy, and make people feel like they belong and they are seen. For me, being recognized with the “Have Fun” award affirms this value, and I hope I can pass it on to others in the future.
The "Have Fun" expert: Adam powering across the Brooklyn Bridge on a bike
In your own words, how would you describe the guiding principle you epitomize: Have Fun?
For me, “Have Fun” doesn’t mean spreading a dogma that “everything must be fun” or even that we must be happy all of the time. If 2020 taught me anything, it’s that sometimes life is really tough, that there is injustice in the world, that it’s okay to not be okay, and that it is valid to sit with unpleasant emotions. “Have Fun” also doesn’t mean that we must bust a dance move every time there’s music playing (although as many know I do love to dance).
To me, “Have Fun” means embracing the present moment for whatever it is, taking time to build connection with others, and sharing joy in the work we do together. Everyone might have a different idea of what fun is to them, and we should embrace this broad spectrum of what brings each other joy at this company. Yes, life is hard sometimes, but we have too much to be grateful for than to spend it dwelling on the negative and what we don’t have. “Have Fun” means to embrace the NOW—because it’s all we will ever have.
Learn more about us.
At 2U, we’re on a mission—to eliminate the back row in higher education and help universities thrive in the digital age. To learn more about who we are and what we do, follow the links below.