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Friday, May 1, 2020

dcp education overview & course review

a much-needed resource about the current state of walt disney world's educational offerings for CPs

As most of you know, the Disney College Program is a living, learning, and earning experience for college students and recent college grads.  Walt Disney World Resort and Disneyland Resort both have learning components attached to them.  As of 2020, at DLR, these components are mandatory and built into your Program schedule.  Unfortunately, I don't know a lot about the DLR College Program or how the education offerings work over there-- a google search, and a search on YouTube, yielded very little relevant results, so I can't help any of my west coast pals out there.  All I know is that you have about 8-ish hours of class time a week built into your schedule for the education offerings they provide.

At Walt Disney World Resort, where I completed both of my CPs, the learning component experiences are optional, but highly encouraged, as they are paid for by our Program fees!

Disney DORMS Course Offering Overview

The Disney College Program educational offerings are facilitated through DORMS, Disney Onsite Resident Management System.  When you pay your Program fees and pick your dates, you will create your DORMS account, which will become a resource that you will use throughout your entire Program.  The DORMS website is where you will register for housing before your Program and where you'll register for events throughout the Program.  DORMS is also where you will find the course list and the link to the external website where you will register for classes.

All of the classes, like all of the Program events, are facilitated entirely through Disney Programs, not Disney itself!  It is a common misconception among participants that any classes you take will be taken at Disney University.  This is false!  Disney University is simply a training site for Disney Cast Members, so you will only go there for Traditions, Welcome to Operations, and maybe one or two days of role-specific training.  Your classes will take place at one of the Disney College Program complexes, which all have classrooms.  Please do not show up to Disney University for your classes.

Even if you don't live on property, you are allowed to register for Disney courses.  You will be given an off-property housing ID on your check-in date that allows you to enter the complexes for your classes.  Walt Disney World offers two different types of offerings: classes and seminars.  Registering for classes and seminars are "free."  They are included with your Program fees, so they come at no additional charge.

Registering for ANY class or seminar more than 5 weeks in advance will guarantee time off at your location so that you can attend said class.  This includes backstage tour classes, which I'll talk about in a moment!

What is the Difference Between a Class and a Seminar?

Disney's classes meet once.  They are normally between 2-4 hours depending on the class, and cover a wide variety of topics.  I mean, these classes cover almost everything you could ever hope to learn about.  Most class topics include:
  • Guest speakers
  • Inside looks at specific company branches (guest relations, event operations, costuming operations, etc.)
  • Special backstage tours -- these are so competitive but so worth it!  During my Program, the team offered special backstage tours of DINOSAUR, Haunted Mansion, Expedition Everest, and more.  They also offered tours of Magic Kingdom and Epcot-- these tours are offered to us at absolutely zero additional cost, even though they would normally cost $100+ for guests!
As of Spring 2020, Disney has also started offering the occasional life skills class-- classes that talk about how to de-stress, how to combat homesickness, how to properly grocery shop.  I think these are wonderful for anyone who isn't used to living far away from home for a prolonged period of time!  I didn't have time to check them out on my Program, but I highly encourage attending any type of class that Disney puts out for free.  You'll never know who you might meet or what you might learn!

Like I said, many of these classes are competitive, so it can be hard to get into one on your first try.  Keep checking the DORMS course offerings page!  Classes are constantly getting added to DORMS, so don't be discouraged if the class you really want to take part in fills up in the first session.

Disney's seminars meet four times, over the course of four weeks.  Your seminar will meet once a week, typically for two hours at a time.  Unlike Disney's classes, these offerings are more limited.  During my Program, I'm pretty sure there was a Leadership one and an Event Operations one that were both offered multiple times throughout the Spring.  If you go to all four class sessions, you will get a cute little certificate called a "Mouseter's Degree."

You can think of seminars as miniature collegiate courses without homework.  If there's a topic within the Disney company you'd like to explore more, you'll get a lot more insight out of a seminar as opposed to just a class.  While these can't be transferred for College Credit, they look great if you're using the DCP as an internship for your school!

How to Register for Disney's Educational Offerings

Shortly before your Program begins (about a week or two before the first arrival date), you will get an email talking about registration for these educational offerings.  As of Spring 2020, these educational offerings are all done via open registration.  In earlier seasons, you had to enter a lottery for the seminars, but they are now open registration.  This may change for Fall 2020, which I will talk about in a second.  

That email will tell you when exactly registration will start to open, a link to a page that tells you which courses will be opening and when, and the link to the external website where you will register for courses.  You'll find on the course offerings roster that some classes will open for registration.  These classes are staggered in registration periods so that the system doesn't get overwhelmed with thousands of applicants trying to get into 50 different classes.  Once a class opens up, you will log into the registration website with your DORMS username and password, click on the course you want to register for, add it to your "cart," and then "check-out."  Super easy process.

Spoiler alert: the class registration system gets overwhelmed every time.  Every.  Single.  Time.  What happens is this-- everyone tries to register for courses at the same time at the beginning of the Program, and the website keeps crashing, so it takes hours to register for a class.  They typically fill up as soon as people can get into the website.  It is one of the most challenging registration process that Disney has.  Spring 2020 was kind of a mess with open registration for Seminars, since some college students who are taking the DCP as part of an internship requirement are asked to take these to get full credit for the internship.  The Seminars filled up extremely quickly once they were open for registration and there was a lot of frustration on our end.

Thankfully, Disney is aware of this.  While it caused a lot of frustration before the Program, there were education offering Cast Members at check-in who asked everyone if there was a class they tried to get into but couldn't register for, so they do their best to accommodate CPs, which is really nice.

Things you'll need for each session...

  • Your name tag.  Don't forget to wear your name tag to class each day!
  • A business casual outfit.  I recommend packing at least two business casual outfits for your Program in general, since you'll need to wear at least one to Traditions and one to Welcome to Ops.  If you take any Disney classes, you'll have to wear business casual there as well.  I recommend packing at least two business casual outfits with you.
  • A pen and a notebook.  You'll definitely want to take notes!

My Experience with Disney's Classes & Seminars

I didn't take advantage of any of Disney's educational offerings during my Fall 2016 Program.  Back then, Disney did offer some form of accredited courses that were a lot of work, and the class offerings weren't as expansive as they were today.  I really wanted to focus on my experience as a CM and playing in the Parks, so the educational offerings just weren't for me.

For Spring Adv. 2020, as a post-graduate who has already done a Program, I really wanted to do what I could to grow as a professional this time around.  Before I got down to Disney, I was registered for two education offerings: one class, and one seminar.

The class I took was called Disney Ambassadors Present How Dreams Come True.  This is a class I knew I had to take as soon as I saw it on the course offerings list!  I love our two current Walt Disney World Ambassadors, Marilyn and Steven.  Steven came to Patterson Court to talk to us about  how Walt never gave up, even though he faced so many challenges along the way to success, and gave us tips to achieve our own personal and professional goals.  He talked a little bit about his journey with Disney, then allowed us to talk about what our dreams for working with Disney looked like.  At the end of the class, he took questions and offered a few final pieces of advice.  I loved the two hours I spent in this class!  Steven offered a perspective on achieving our goals that I had never thought about before, and even through in a story about Walt that I had never heard.  I was also just happy to hear from him-- his positive energy is so contagious on social media and he is so energetic and well-spoken in real life!

The seminar I took was called Leadership 101.  My seminar met on Monday afternoons at 1 PM, starting from February 17.  For this seminar, we would have three class sessions together, and for our fourth session, we were instructed to register for a "Conversations With" class that had leaders from different branches of TWDC come and speak about their experience.  While I was registered for a "Conversations With" class with resort hotel leaders, I unfortunately did not make the class, as COVID-19 cancelled my Program about a week after our last in-person session.  They still emailed us our "Mouseters Degree" though, which I thought was very sweet!

Leadership 101 was all about how Disney trains their leaders and what qualifies a great leader.  Each class had a different element of engagement, whether we were asked to fill out a quiz to find our leadership style or asked to discuss a few different "what would you do" style scenarios.  Our class facilitator was Aaron, one of the amazing Disney Programs education offering instructors.  He was great.  He had leadership experience in almost every role, so he was more than qualified to teach the class, and he had a lot of really great, funny stories to share with us.  I loved Leadership 101 and I would recommend it to anyone!

My only concern with my seminar is that it was a more significant time commitment than I thought it was going to be.  Having a class every Monday from 1-3, especially in February when the Parks close early, essentially takes almost your entire day away when you factor in the time you have to spend getting ready for class, coming back to your apartment, changing, and waiting for a bus to take you to a park.  Instead of going to the Parks on my seminar days, I would normally sleep in, eat breakfast, draft a blog post.  After class, I would go grocery shopping.  It became an errands day for me, which worked well because I would always have a second day off that week for fun stuff-- but if you are in a role where you work 6 days a week, these seminars may take up some time you'd rather spend elsewhere.

Ultimately, I highly recommend taking advantage of Disney's educational offerings.  However-- Disney has been talking about updating these offerings and possibly installing new accredited classes, so all of this may change in the near future!  We don't know how COVID-19 is going to affect the Program going forward, so we don't know if these offerings are going to be the same when the next Program starts.  If they are the same, however-- I can confidently say that taking a Disney class or seminar is a great way to ensure your Program is a well-rounded experience.  You can take a class in almost anything you want to know about TWDC, and you're sure to walk away with some new information and great memories.


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