Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Reimagining Higher Education Based on Value (2) – New Perspectives Are Needed

Let’s start again where we left off in the last blog. Reimagining higher education requires taking a fresh look at what the future might be, post-recession. This will be a world in which most industries – healthcare, agriculture, financial services, real estate, manufacturing, energy, and even education - will be under tremendous pressure to be more productive. Most will have realigned their processes and practices to more competitive, cost-and-price-sensitive environments.

For K-20 education to thrive, it must realign its perspective in the following ways, which are reflected in the figure at the end of the blog:

Utilize Resources in New Ways. William Bowen characterized universities as “like a chamber music orchestra, a complex, interacting mechanism of many interconnecting parts,” which is one reason why it is difficult for them to save money. He also famously noted that “Universities raise all the money they can and spend all the money they raise.” For the past several decades, in the face of declining public support, university presidents have been pushing themselves to the point of exhaustion in raising external resources. While they must continue to assure adequate resources, an additional perspective is needed.

To thrive post-recession, leaders will need to focus on “optimizing value in an environment of resource scarcity.” Figuring out how to stretch existing resources through new approaches will be the new zeitgeist of the times.

• Evolve a Culture of Performance Measurement and Improvement. Most academic institutions are in the midst of evolving from a culture of reporting to a culture of evidence. Other professions, such as medicine, are already practicing “evidence-based medicine” and are evolving toward a culture of performance measurement and improvement, where the emphasis is on achieving successful outcomes through the most economical and effective means, carefully measured and demonstrated. This approach has yet to penetrate many practices, but it is regarded as the way of the future.

Higher education is heading down this path as well. But we lag behind medicine. Savvy leaders are positioning their institutions to focus on improving performance, changing practices to do so.

• Focus on Value. Most institutional leaders are committed to “quality,” but not to “performance.” For many institutions, success is measured in traditional ways: 1) benchmarking against a group of peer institutions, 2) copying successful programs and practices; 3) targeting comparative levels of resources, faculty salaries, and other traditional measures of quality and success. The driving force is quality, often equated with resource inputs and success on various ranking schemes.

On the other hand, value consists of a combination of: 1) the nature and quality of outcomes, 2) the essence of the experiences through which these outcomes are achieved, and 3) the cost/price associated with them. Quality is a monologue between peer reviewers and their perception of the institution. Value is a dialogue between each stakeholder and the institution. Our goal should be to optimize value delivered in continuing environments of resource scarcity.

• Differentiate Offerings. Traditionally, institutions create courses, certificates, and degrees and offer them to learners, who select what is on offer. This is mass education. Learners do have some capacity to tailor these offerings to meet individual needs, but not much. Over time, learners have achieved the capacity to receive credit for prior learning or courses from other institutions, to customize parts of their learning experiences, to select fresh certificate programs designed to meet emerging market needs, and other variations within the existing course/degree model.

The post-recession environment will likely require providers to furnish the capacity to customize their learning experiences. This will include the topics and contents covered, but also the learning experiences. Does your institution enable me to come to campus just one day a week? Can I test out of specific competences I’ve already achieved? Can I receive credit for high school concurrent enrollments and accelerate my progress to graduate with my baccalaureate in three years? Can I take courses online from another university if I cannot register for the offerings I need to maintain my progress? Can I lock in a schedule a year in advance if I pay earnest money for the privilege? This is mass customization and will differentiate institutions from one another.

Use Partnerships with Other Providers, Online Learning, and Open Educational Resources. Today, many institutions cover a full range of disciplines, including those in which they are not distinguished. This is not sustainable. Post-recession, the most successful institutions will figure out how to focus faculty and research positions in areas in which they are distinguished, and rely on other institutions for offerings in other areas. Many of these will be provided through technology and some may be at significantly lower price points.

For example, a university would achieve competitive advantage if it decided to focus on those disciplines in which it demonstrated real strength, and offered courses in other disciplines in partnership with institutions that were distinguished in that area. Or the institution might choose to provide on-line courses from a for-profit provider. Or it could enable students enrolled at the university to participate in an online community of practice-based learning experience from another institution. The availability on a national utility of online open resources would help in building such capabilities across a range of academic disciplines.

• Become Transparent and Accountable. A key part of a achieving a culture of measurement and performance is providing access to information that really demonstrates value. Most institutions are awash in data, but make it difficult for learners, their families, outside policy makers, and public stakeholders to compare value at different institutions.

In the post-recession environment, learners, their families, and other stakeholders will demand greater transparency. The early signs of this are demonstrated by the Transparency by Design initiative currently being supported by the Presidents Forum group. In future, learners will require a much more detailed comparison of the capacity of institutions to meet their disciplinary and mass customization needs.

• Fast, Fluid, Flexible, and Affordable. Most institutions are currently based on a “take what we offer on our terms” model. When Michael Dolence and I wrote Transforming Higher Education: A Vision for Learning in the 21st Century, we suggested that higher education needs to become “fast, fluid, and flexible.” This battle cry was taken up by educators who applied our principles to their institutions . These included many of the for-profit learning providers. Post-recession, institutions need to become “fast, fluid, flexible, and (a)ffordable” if they are to appeal to learners.

This is not beyond our reach. Many of the for-profit institutions have established more flexible learner services, tailored offerings, and convenience customized for the working learner. If we deploy these tools and techniques, we could dramatically enhance the service capacities of institutions. The next generation of Web 2.0-based technologies will make it even easier to mashup learner services in ways that have proven impossible for tightly integrated enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems.

Systematically Seek Systemic Solutions. Traditionally, institutions have taken a decentralized, siloed approach to solutions. Even successful innovations were seldom scaled to the entire institution. Colleges and universities dealt with the remediation problems that were passed to them by K-12, rather than systemically addressing the issues in the K-20 system.

In order to thrive in lifting out of recession, we are going to have to address both institutional solutions and systemic, cross-institutional solutions. We even will need to address cross-sectoral issues that span K-20 and deal with learning and workforce issues. Virtually every state in the United States has significant K-20 and workforce initiatives underway. These efforts need to be enhanced, redirected, and made part of every institution’s overarching strategy if we are to succeed in repositioning American higher education to thrive in the post-recession global economy.

The next blog will revisit the issue of Reimagining Higher Education Based on Value. We will focus on the different ways of transforming academic productivity and content to reduce costs and elevate value.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Reimagining Higher Education Based on Value

Necessity is the mother of invention. Today’s recession is stoking the fires of innovation across American higher education. It is also rekindling fires around ideas and models that have been on the table for years.

Institutions are rethinking how to create “no-frills,” or “value-designed” options that could appeal to some of their current student populations, to some students that currently choose other institutions, or to potential learners who at present cannot attend higher attention at all. Other leaders are attempting new “open campus” models that address value propositions that are not being addressed by any institutions, and faculty models that differ from the norm. Western Governors University has followed a competency-based, value-focused model to reinvent faculty and roles and relationships. Many community colleges and neighboring four-year public universities are closely collaborating to create more affordable, flexible options for their learners. Institutions like the University of Central Florida are parlaying multiple campus sites, online and hybrid learning, and creative scheduling into greater capacity for learners to reduce their need to come to campus.

These are just first steps. How long before institutions or groups of institutions can string together a variety of these value-enhancing solutions? Can institutions really reimagine a constellation of value propositions, differentiated for different publics, and priced differentially as well?

“No Frills” Offerings for Arizona State University. At the WACUBO Business Management Institute, I engaged in a conversation Dr. Mernoy Harrison, Vice President and Executive Vice Provost at Arizona State University. He reports that he is working on planning efforts to flesh out “The Colleges at ASU,” a so-called no-frills alternative.

The Arizona Board of Regents is hearing proposals from the three current state universities (Arizona State University, University of Arizona, and Northern Arizona University) to open low-cost college campuses across the state. These smaller, cheaper, “no frills” colleges will be yet another option for Arizona high school graduates.

Dr. Harrison says they are exploring the components of “The Colleges” and how to assemble them in a fashion that will appeal to potential learners and be financially viable. The facilities would need to be provided by the local communities, and the campuses would offer a limited range of undergraduate degrees taught by instructional faculty. The Colleges would be designed to provide the highest probability of success, charging tuition of around $5,800 a year, the most students can receive from the Federal Pell Grant Program. Around 15,000 Arizonans graduate from high school every year who are capable of going on to college, but do not do so for various reasons. The Colleges could appeal to these students.

As the conceptual and programmatic designs for The Colleges emerge, it will be interesting to compare them with other “no-frills,” “value-design,” and on-line programs. Will they appeal to the targeted learners? Will they compete with or complement community college offerings? How will the ASU model compare with approaches followed by the University of Arizona and Northern Arizona University?

Value-Designed Models of Higher Education - From the Drawing Board to Reality?. The Center for College Affordability and Productivity has been promoting the need for reinvention of higher education since its creation by Dr. Richard Vedder, a consistent critic of higher education’s costliness.

One of the Center’s white papers is noteworthy in this regard. Dr. Vance H. Fried wore “The $7,376 “Ivies”: Value-Designed Models of Undergraduate Education. Dr. Fried explores how to build a value-based college, which he calls the College of Entrepreneurial Leadership and Society (CELS), which would be designed for traditional undergraduate students and be moderately to highly selective in its academic standing.

CELS would offer a broad curriculum that would provide student with appropriate technical skills in entry-level jobs, potential to be general manager of a small organization early in their career, an understanding of “the big picture,” and foundational skills and knowledge for life outside of work. CELS would also include on-campus developmental experiences, but would be carefully constructed to offer its designed value proposition. Costing out this offering, for a campus/college of 3,200 students, Dr. Fried estimates an operating cost of $6,705 per student (not including room and board), including a laptop computer for every student. His model is dramatically less expensive than liberal arts colleges ($21,000-$46,600) and public regional colleges ($12,000). Dr. Fried provides detailed descriptions of the program and cost elements and assumptions behind his figures.

Dr. Fried makes it clear that other value-add models are possible. Some students may wish “no frills” options that exclude socialization and developmental experiences (which CELS includes) or focus on other disciplinary offerings.

Of course, these are hypothetical models, and the difficulties lie in the details. It would be unacceptable to many learners to have their choices limited to a particular programmatic focus. But there will likely be cohorts of students that would find variations on this model to be very attractive – and affordable.

Could existing or new institutions learn from and adapt this model? Could existing institutions create such a model as a separate college within its institutional structure without altering the current institutional “brand?” Would such an alternative be seen as lower quality? Could institutions faced with such brand dilution use direct certification of competence to trump such concerns? Could they then use such tools in their mainstream offerings?

Western Governors University: Competence-Based and Deconstructucting the Academic Model. Another example is Western Governors University, described in an earlier blog. WGU has deconstructed and reconstructed the higher education model. First and foremost, it is based on a competence model; learners must demonstrate competence through mastery of topics before advancing. And credit can be given for competences learned in other settings and demonstrated to WGU's satisfaction. Second, it creates a new model for faculty reoles and responsibilities. Every 80 students have a Ph.D. faculty mentor whose full-time job is to guide, direct, counsel, coach, encourage, motivate, and keep students on track. Engaging course materials, interaction with other learners, assessment of competences, and other features are handled by technology-based resources. Learners can also achieve credit for competences acquired through prior learning and demonstrable. WGU’s per semester tuition, which covers its total costs, is slightly less than $3,000.

Similar models are being utilized by Lamar University and by other for-profit providers, cited in previous blogs. Could existing institutions offer variations on the WGU approach to extend their offerings into a lower-price, on-line format? Could they license WGU content, competence-assessment tools, and other procedures to create online learning to offer to current students who cannot get the courses they need to graduate on time or who wish to accelerate their graduation? Would direct demonstration of competence trump issues of “quality?” Could institutions successfully introduce multi-tier pricing?

Oregon Open Campus: An Interesting Constellation of PArtners. In 2009 Oregon Open Campus was created as a partnership among Oregon State University (including its Extension Division), the Association of Oregon Counties, and many of Oregon’s community colleges, K-12 education systems, and local businesses. The Open Campus is looking to expand its circle of participation to include hospitals, libraries, community action programs and other entities that had something to offer this extended community. Each new community place will became another node for Oregonians to experience elements of the Oregon Open Campus and make their own contributions.

Oregon Open Campus’ founding principle and goal is to provide local access to learning and developmental experiences that meet the needs of individuals, families, businesses, and communities. Workforce training, professional certification, personal enrichment, and academic credit are only a few of the possibilities. Community problem solving, applied research and commercialization, and leveraging learning and knowledge sharing for economic development purposes are several of the other possibilities.

The operational details and programs of Open Campus are under development. But the planners are dedicated to discovering a model that is a dramatic departure from existing practices. Will this be possible? How will it affect the existing models at participating institutions? What new features will be needed to make it work in a financially sustainable way.

Partnerships Between Public Universities and Community Colleges. Another strategic approach to control costs is utilized by public universities like George Mason University, which collaborates closely with Northern Virginia Community College. In planning for Mason’s new Loudoun County campus, on which NVCC would be co-located, the assumption was that all lower division offerings would be provided by NVCC, because of its affordable cost/price structure. Moreover, planners assumed that the square footage of the facilities would probably be half of what was today considered normal for a particular level of enrollment, say 10,000 students, due to the use of online and hybrid learning options. In addition, Mason’s leadership are evaluating other ways in which offerings can be reinvented to deal with student affordability and convenience issues.

Several questions remain. As Mason and NVCC plan to serve the burgeoning needs of Northern Virginia, how can they leverage their different price points and service models to create attractive value propositions that will serve a tidal wave of new students? How can bridging and pathways programs into the K-12 schools be used to create even better value propositions? And ramped up to scale?

On-Campus, On-Line, and Hybrid: What Is Your Personal Learning Mixture? The University of Central Florida is an excellent example of an institution that offers its students a wide range of course-taking options. To start, UCF offers a range of learning locations: its original flagship campus, adjacent to its 1,200-acre research park, 11 regional campuses, many of which are located on the campuses of local community colleges, plus substantial online learning and hybrid/blended learning options. The upshot is that individual students can sculpt a learning schedule that combines modes and reduces/shapes the need to come to campus. Some students combine all of these options. What is the value of reduced gridlock to a busy working student who can come to campus just once a week? And what is the value to UCF of being able to leverage the use of its physical facilities on its traffic-challenged main campus, extending enrollments far beyond what could be served if students were coming to main campus three days a week – or more?

Metropolitan and suburban universities are the epicenter of inventiveness for new value propositions for several reasons: 1) they are "where the learners are," expecially in hypergrowth metropolitan areas; 2) public colleges and universities in these settings are being expected to absorb the tidal waves of new learners; 3) they represent a wide range of learner cohorts from highly traditional learners to millenial experimenters to working adults; and 4) the time and financial cost of commuting is such a factor that innovations such as those implemented by UCF, and GMU, and ASU can povide tremendous value that is seized upon by learners.

UCF has an impressive analytics and data mining operation to support its combination of learning modes. Its leaders know what works in different modes and how satisfied students are with different modes and combinations. How could this capability be turned to even more sophisticated assessments of its value propositions and “sculpting” of the value propositions to meet the diversity of learner needs?

Elevating Community College to Grant Four-Year Degrees. Yet another option is being followed in a number of states across the nation, where community colleges are being elevated to four-year status. This is also a clear indicator of how seriously state policy makers are concerned by the need to reimagine value propositions in higher education.

In Florida, for example, many community colleges are electing this option, dropping “Community” from their titles. So Miami Dade Community College has become Miami Dade College. With eight campuses and over 167,000 students from across the world, the College offers over 300 programs of study and several degree options, including vocational, associate, and baccalaureate degrees. MDC features numerous community education classes, credit classes through the Virtual College, the New World School of the Arts, and Dual Enrollment.

Whether the elevation of community colleges to baccalaureate-producing institutions will dramatically affect value propositions and cost options remains to be seen.

Remembering Transforming Higher Education. In 1995, Michael G. Dolence and I wrote Transforming Higher Education: A Vision for Learning in the 21st Century, in which we suggested that higher education would need to “realign, redesign, redefine, and reengineer” to meet the learning needs and differing value propositions of 21st century global society. We observed that the tidal wave of new students in the United States and globally could not be met by traditional means and methods, “…to meet the full potential demand by the year 2010, a campus would need to be opened every 8 days. Even if this demand were served by a mixture of higher education and other learning intermediaries, the cost under existing approaches to education finance would be exhorbitant.”

In large measure this prediction has come true. Our financial model for addressing learning needs is inadequate, and rather than having the luxury of time to solve this problem, we must address it in real time and with limited resources – the coffers of public and private finance are drained.

Transforming Institutions in a Differenting and Selective Manner. How can existing institutions – especially public universities – reimagine their delivery mechanisms and experiences to offer learners a variety of experiences, with different value expectations – and different price points? What incentive, support, guidance and prodding do they need from state higher education organizations and national government and associations?

Stay tuned for continuing discussion on this topic.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Disruptive and Dislodging Events in Higher Education – Today and Tomorrow (2)

The last blog discussed how disruptive and dislodging events could trigger change across clusters of institutions in higher education. This entry takes the conversation a step further by exploring how current disruptive forces in education, the economy, and the governmental response could dislodge the status quo and unleash transformative change.

Dislodging Event #1: A multi-faceted injection of federal assistance in the community colleges, contingent on innovation and changing practices. President Obama’s proposal to raise community college enrollments by 5 million is key to his overall plan to restore America to global leadership in college degree completion by 2020. Policy proposals that directly or indirectly support community colleges include increases in Pell Grant funding, a new proposed “American Opportunity Tax Credit,” the Community College Partnership Program, the DREAM Act, Workforce Education Legislation, and a proposed “Make College a Reality” initiative that will increase by 50% the number of high-school students taking college-level credit.

President Obama’s proposal to spend $9B in grants to community colleges will come with strings attached. Applicants would have to set goals tied to program completion, work force preparation, and job placement, much in the fashion of Achieving the Dream. The previously mentioned recommendation to invest $500 M in open educational resources (“Obama’s Course Giveaway”) would spur innovative applications in the community colleges and their bridging/pathways/concurrent enrollment programs with high school. These could result in improved retention, decreasing time to degree, and reduction in the total cost of education. They are critical to reducing remediation needs of entering community college students.

The community colleges are currently facing a tidal wave of new students due to the impact of the recession and students unable to afford four-year colleges or seeing the community college as a high-value alternative. Rufus Glasper, Chancellor of Maricopa Community College, says they are confronting enrollment leaps of 40% at the same time that tax revenue supporting their operation is in jeopardy. Many of the new federal resources will go to students or will be insufficient to counter increases in student enrollments and declines in public tax support. As a result, community college leadership will need to deploy new, even more flexible, technology-supported approaches that reduce or control costs and create even better value propositions. In an environment of dramatically increasing enrollment and public attention, community college faculty can be engaged to refine work rules and bargaining agreements and achieve financial sustainability.

Put simply, community colleges will become increasing important in lifting out of recession. They should be a focal point for disrupting and dislodging actions.

Dislodging Event #2: Federal K-12 transformation initiatives spark innovation and change practices, in ways that span K-20. In a similar view, investment of federal dollars in K-12, tied to innovation as a condition for funding, can dislodge current behaviors and barriers to change. Education Secretary Arne Duncan has announced a $4.3 B “Race to the Top” Fund that will apply rigorous standards for states applying for these grants, including a fine-grained evaluation process under which the states get points for reforms they have made and changes they promise to make – and conditional funding that will be revoked if they don’t achieve them. The system also requires states to craft systems that better evaluate teacher performance, taking student achievement into account. States must also assure that poor and minority students get their share of high-quality teachers.

An important part of this process is replacing the crazy quilt of state-owned performance standards by a coherent national standard, so whatever the state’s chosen practices are, they can be measured against a single, globally competitive standard. States that have committed to actions – such as joining the standards commission established by the National Governors Association - will be favored in the competition as will states that develop plans for internationally benchmarked K-12 standards that build toward college and career readiness.

Interventions like Race to the Top, fresh funding, and public pressure are likely to spur states to innovate in standards and methods and to redirect existing initiatives in fresh ways. Most states have K-16 or K-20 initiatives to improve transitions and increase performance of the entire K-20 spectrum and these can be redirected. Some states will lead and others will be followers, but the harsh light of scrutiny can be used to move America forward in reinventing K-12 and K-20, clusters of states at a time.

Dislodging Event #3: Declining affordability and disruptive shifts in college attendance patterns, plus continued weakness in state funding for higher education and growing awareness that the current model for public funding of four-year public universities is broken. The Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance released a report in 2008 that contained a troubling statistic: “Between 1992 and 2004, a major shift in enrollment away from public 4-year colleges occurred among college-qualified high school students from low- and moderate-income families…inability to start at a 4-year college decreases considerably the likelihood of earning a bachelor’s degree.” Bear in mind the troubling fact that this decline occurred BEFORE the recent economic events that have truly hammered family finances.

Another fact point: over the past 20 years, public universities have experienced a roller coaster of rising and falling state appropriations (per student). Good economic times enabled gains when state treasuries were full, but recessions and declining state resources brought mid-year rescissions and the need to make rapid cut-backs and adjustments. The recent recession is the latest and worst in a series of such adjustments. This is no way strategically to position public institutions for success. This model is broken.

In a speech entitled “Higher Expectations and Fewer Resources: What’s a SHEEO to Do?” at the recent Annual meeting of the State Higher Education Executive Officers, Dennis Jones of the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems laid out the collision of high expectations and the limited financial resources available to state higher education leaders. He suggested there was no way to deliver on President Obama’s aspirations to increase the number of college graduates without making significant changes in institutional processes and practices. The money is simply not there – and our levels of per capita expenditures far exceed comparable figures for other nations. Dr. Jones recommended investing stimulus funding to develop more cost effective ways of doing business and paying for the transition. His portfolio of short term actions: Reallocate faculty time to undergraduate courses, collaborate with other institutions and share, and make sure students are getting all aid for which they are eligible. In the longer term, he recommends investing in more efficient administration and plant operations and investing in reengineering curricula and delivery methods – restructure general education, invest in course redesign, and tackle developmental education on a statewide basis.

It’s time to engage university leaders in making these changes. In a speech at the Annual Meeting of the Society for College and University Planning, “Are We Wasting a Perfectly Good Crisis,” George Pernsteiner, Chancellor of the Oregon University System, called for institutional leaders to engage faculty, staff, students, community partners, and business leaders to reinvent themselves and how they do business in order to improve student learning, increase degree production, re-focus research and innovation, and reduce costs. In Oregon, per capita state funding has declined in real terms in 18 of the past 20 years. In this environment, Dr. Pernsteiner thinks faculty may be ready to engage and seriously consider the measures necessary to lift out of the recession. It’s time to engage seriously – and dislodge.

Dislodging Event #4: Open educational resources couple with Web 2.0 tools and practices to create alternatives to traditional higher education and job creation. In the blog “Who Needs Traditional Higher Education and Traditional Job Training?” we already discussed the potential disruptive impact of open resources and web 2.0 tools and practices. If institutions do not change their practices by incorporating these approaches in courses and traditional certificate degree programs, many learners will seek other options. These disruptive and dislodging conversations are already occurring.

The most transformative impact of Learning and Competence 2.0 will be to create “Community of Practice” alternatives to traditional learning. These will enable participants (teaching students, their faculty, and mentors in the schools) to seamlessly blend work and learning, perpetually. For example, one alternative CoP approach to teacher education would engage potential teachers (not just teacher college graduates) in the CoP while they are enrolled in their academic bachelor’s program. They would participate in the CoP during student teaching, continue with heavy mentoring during their first year of teaching, and receive learning on reflective practice during their first five years, resulting in the equivalent of a master’s degree in reflective practice. From then on, they would sustain and refresh the CoP by serving as mentors, reflective practitioners, and reviewers.

Currently, innovators are planning/deploying CoP approaches to continuing professional education in engineering, medicine, and other professions; industry-wide CoPs in areas such as global food safety; and regional open education experiences linking universities, community colleges, businesses, and other community participants. Such examples will further disrupt existing models.

Dislodging event #5: Stimulus money in weatherization catalyzes the evolution of a new, flexible network of green careers pathways and competence building opportunities, which generalizes to other career pathways. The Obama administration is spending billions of stimulus dollars on weatherization programs that are being delivered through community action organizations and their partner organizations - utilities, contractors, and training organizations. President Obama’s intent is for these entry-level jobs to be the beginnings of genuine green careers. But many of the people hired for these positions will be unemployed after the first round of weatherization jobs are done.

The green jobs career ladder is not well defined for these entry-level workers. Nor are high school vocational programs adequate to the task. Even the option of these entry-level workers going to community colleges to receive associate degrees in green career fields is not the best immediate answer for these workers now. These workers need to receive additional, incremental training, while employed, and gradually move up the green career ladder to installation auditor, manager, and supervisors roles. This could include at some point, certificate and associate degree programs from the community college. Then more rigorous technical training in fields like HVAC or wind/solar installation and maintenance, and eventually a bachelor of applied sciences degrees focusing on communication, leadership, team building, and management skills. Or even other combinations. And continuing learning, while working, in a seamless progression. This is a pattern that can be replicated outside its creation point in green careers.

Across the country, a variety of companies, community action agencies, and other enterprises are prototyping new, community-of-practice-based work and learning environments that will support the development of fresh approaches to green career ladders for entry-level workers, while they are employed. They will have the capacity to mash-up learning offerings from wide ranges of providers. These are the equivalent of apprenticeship programs, but apprenticeships that are appropriate to the Web 2.0 age. We will discuss these in future blogs.

Leveraging Disruptions and Dislocations. These disruptive events are all at play, today, and they are intertwined. Over the next few months, their impact will escalate as the impact of stimulus funds affects every one of these five disrupters. Institutional leaders need to “connect the dots”, redirecting existing initiatives, engaging their stakeholders, and getting serious about moving beyond quick fixes to aggressive portfolios of action to harvest efficiencies, innovations, and transformations in the way we do business, K-20 and in learning to work and back again…and again.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Disruptive and Dislodging Events in Higher Education (1)

Yesterday's blog discussed three linked issues:

• A step change in availability, awareness and use of free courses,

• Open Educational Resources become the new mainstream, and

• Major talent meltdown ahead, affecting job-creating sectors most.

The end result: building pressure for new approaches to higher education and job training, using open resources and Web 2.o practices, among other things.

These issues provide background to better appreciate recent observations by Dr. Robert Zemsky, who on August 7 posted a Commentary in The Chronicle of Higher Education, “Will Higher Education Ever Change as it Should?” This is taken from his new book, Making Reform Work: The Case for Transforming Higher Education.

Dr. Zemsky looks favorably on Europe's Bologna Process, which resulted in greater coordination and cooperation and commonality and interchangeability among Europe’s competing systems of higher education. This impressive endeavor succeeded for several reasons, in Zemsky’s view: 1) it was a multi-year undertaking, 2) which linked the insights and perspectives from the key actors (ministers of education, university administrators, student leaders, heads of international organizations, European Union bureaucrats, and policy wonks), and 3) focused on a limited set of goals and clear benchmarks.

Would such an approach work in the United States? Dr. Zemsky thinks the 50 states would have great difficulty working together to create a Bologna-like solution. And private education would argue that the higher education marketplace should be allowed to sort things out – even though the marketplace is distorted in many ways. Looking at past reform, he posits that previous reform efforts have taught us that:

• Strong rhetoric changes nothing;

• Demand for reform must be internal – faculty must at least see the reform as a means to a desired end;

• Like outside reformers, state agencies cannot prescribe change unless they are prepared for long exhausting battles, but must create the conditions that makes change possible; and

• It’s best to focus on systemic change – the nature of the academy makes it possible to suck the air out of piecemeal reforms.

Zemsky makes the point that for true reform we need events that will change institutions, simultaneously. What is needed is what he calls “dislodging events” – powerful disruptions that catalyze change because our institutions are linked together, even if they have the capacity to act independently (for example, to resist change if coerced, but to imitate others if they see a practice they like – and copy). He asked friends and colleague to envision several such dislodging events, and they suggested three:

Dislodging Event #1: Congress could dramatically change today’s federal student aid program, turning the experts loose to create a system that supports participation, invests in motivation, and rewards institutions that use money effectively. Such a system would link K-20 more effectively and get students and parents involved in college saving, earlier. Jonathon Grayer, former CEO of Kaplan Inc has suggested giving every sixth grader a $10,000 stake in a 529 plan, to provoke early and sustained interest in saving and preparing for a college education.

Dislodging Event #2: Congress could require college endowments to pay the same taxes on their endowments as other hedge funds – unless the proceeds are used for education and research. This would encourage wealthy institutions to spend far more on educational and research endeavors, which would certainly favor those institutions, but could indirectly disadvantage other parts of higher education.

Dislodging Event #3: What would happen if a Bologna-like process concluded that the standard undergraduate degree should be three years in the United States, as in Europe. This would require devoting the senior year, much of which is now a waste, to developing college-ready skills. The new three-year option would require all teaching and learning issues to be on the table and would engage all faculty in reconstructing practices to fit the new model. Performance measures would be needed to assure that the three-year degree was delivering the goods, and technology would be an instrument of change rather than an add-on cost.

An interesting list, this. Makes one anticipate Dr. Zemsky’s book, in full.

But rather than suggest these hypotheticals, what if we examine a portfolio of some of the actual disruptive forces of today, which may have the potential to dislodge current practices across clusters of institutions and learning providers?

In my next blog, I will describe five other dislodging events, relating to analytics and lifting out of recession that are disrupting education today and will potentially dislodge resistance to change, in the future. Many of these disruptors are interconnected and mutually reinforcing.

Dislodging Event #1: A multi-faceted injection of federal assistance in the community colleges, contingent on innovation and changing practices;

• Dislodging event #2: Federal K-12 investment and transformation initiatives spark innovation and change practices, in ways that span K-20;

• Dislodging Event #3: Declining affordability and disruptive shifts in college attendance patterns, plus continued weakness in state funding for higher education and growing awareness that the current model for public funding of four-year public universities is broken;

• Dislodging Event #4: Open educational resources couple with Web 2.0 tools and practices to create alternatives to traditional approaches to higher education and job creation;

• Dislodging event #5: Stimulus money in weatherization and energy projects catalyzes the evolution of a new, flexible network of green careers pathways and competence building opportunities.

Watch for descriptions of these disruptive dislodgers in the next blog.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Who Needs Traditional Higher Education or Traditional Job Training?

This week three meteors of illuminating insight flashed across my virtual sky. They suggest how transformative alternatives to traditional higher education and traditional job training are gathering pace, in ways that we can all build upon and certainly all need to recognize.

Meteor #1. A step change in availability, awareness and use of free courses

The Chronicle of Higher Education came out with an article on “Obama’s Great Course Give Away”. It described the possibility of the Obama administration directing $500 million of its community college initiative funding toward supporting a free library of online course materials, and resources, ready to deploy and available free to colleges nationwide. These materials would come from the trove of Open Educational Resources (OERs) that have been funded by the Hewlett Foundation and developed by others, such as MIT’s OpenCourseWare Initiative and Carnegie Mellon’s Open Learning Initiative.

Such materials could be used to address a variety of needs:

• Serving people of high school and college age who are not able to pay for college courses but would like to learn in their own time, and others who can experiment with learning and build competence independent of institutions;

• Upgrading the quality and value of offerings for international and emerging institutions through sharing and development;

• Providing lower cost and more flexible versions of existing course offerings in many institutions – especially community colleges, four-year public institutions, and some proprietary schools, and even in private schools wishing to control costs – an outcome especially attractive to skeptics like Richard Vedder, director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity, who sees this as a rare example of using technology in education to reduce costs rather than raise them; and

• Furnishing the protoplasm for the gestation and evolution of free-range, Web 2.0 approaches to learning, using social networks, wikis, and other 2.0 media to create sustainable learning environments. Such alternatives may compete with traditional institutions for learners at some point in the not-too-distant future.

This is not just about reinventing content. It’s also about reinventing patterns of engagement and interaction. And means of assessment. And means of demonstrating competence, directly. It’s that open processes lead to viable alternatives to existing academic patterns and practices, deconstructing the traditional roles of individual faculty as content expert, instructor, evaluator, and certifier, all in one. Moreover, it’s that technology can be used to reinvent educational practices in ways that can dramatically less expensive and more flexible and open than traditional education.

Meteor #2. Open Educational Resources become the new mainstream

Fast Company published a gem of an article by Anya Kamenentz, “Who NEEDS Harvard?” that outdid Meteor #1. Ms Kamenentz describes in even greater detail the Open Educational Resources (OER) movement and its capacity to begin the creation of alternative, Web 2.0 paths to education and competence building.

She refers to the innovators in the metaphorical garage workshops of open education as “edupunks” and describes how the pieces of alternative learning and competence building environments are coming together. She introduces us to innovators such as David Wiley at Brigham Young University, Neeru Paharia, CEO of Peer2Peer University, Jose Feireira, CEO and founder of education startup Knewton Education, and Thomas Mendenhall of Western Governors University. All are part of the new mainstream (the next big thing) in education: Web 2.0-based structures and practices that deconstruct and reconstruct the elements of content, social networking and engagement, and assessment and certification to suit the patterns and cadences of the 21st century economy and the need to use technology to improve the value and reduce the cost of learning and competence.

The point of this article is that over time, innovators will “hack together” and “mash up” combinations of open content, social networking platforms, open and community assessment, and other tools that will form the basis for tomorrow’s perpetual learning environments will come together to create viable alternative to traditional colleges and universities. These combinations will evolve in an expeditionary manner, creating flexible structures, processes, and practices. Three to five years from now, models will have evolved, mutated, and mutated again in ways that cannot be accurately described today.

“If universities can’t find the will to innovate and adapt to changes in the world around them, universities will be irrelevant by 2020,” says professor David Wiley of Brigham Young University. More than ten years ago, the late Peter Drucker anticipated the rise of corporate and online alternatives, when he made similar comments about the need for universities to rethink their face-to-face model and to stop building classrooms, which he felt were not appropriate for the 21st century.

Western Governors University is mentioned favorably in this article for its contributions in assessment and accreditation, in which it is today’s gold standard. WGU offers online learning to 12,000 students in 50 states running entirely on tuition of $2,890 for a six-month term. WGU uses technology to disaggregate the traditional faculty functions - convey information, mentor, evaluate. WGU faculty fulfill the mentor role; they are there to guide, direct, coach, counsel, encourage, motivate, and keep on track. Content and evaluation/assessment are handled automatically.

Robert Mendenhall, President of WGU, is impatient with those who argue that what he’s doing with technology is unworkable. “Technology has changed the productivity equation of every industry except education,” he says. “We’re simply trying to demonstrate that it can do it in education – if you change the way you do education as opposed to just adding technology on top.”

Keep an eye on the companies and edupunks cited in this article.

Meteor #3: Major talent meltdown ahead, affecting job-creating sectors most

In an article in The Futurist, “The Global Talent Crisis” Edward Gordon contends that even in the midst of the global recession, there is a global talent shortage, especially in the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) specialties. When growth resumes, this situation will worsen, exacerbated by the demographic declines in many nations.

Gordon contends, “Without drastic talent creation changes between 2010 and 2020, the United States will experience a major talent meltdown with 12 to 14 million vacant jobs stretching across the U.S. economy. Businesses will leave the U.S. searching for scarce talent wherever they can find it. The U.S. Economy will stagnate or shrink. For example in the late 1990s, Advanced Micro Devices wanted to build a new high-tech plant. They looked in Texas and California, but company officials felt the communities they investigated could not produce enough entry-level technicians for their needs. The company went to Germany.”

As that example shows, signs of talent shortages were apparent years ago but were largely ignored. There is still time to avoid the 2010-20 talent shortage, for example colleges can use the stimulus funding to begin to fill the gaps and if we all take account of key factors:

• Global demographics. The workforces in many developed countries will decline in coming years.

• The skills gap. American education has been under fire since publication of A Nation at Risk. As has been demonstrated in earlier blogs, America is suffering a skills gap in comparison with our competitors.

• A cultural bias. Gordon contends that the bias seems to be not against technology itself, but the training needed for science and technology jobs.

Gordon asserts that “Advancing technologies are transforming the nature of occupations, including the skilled trades. The number of new technologies introduced over the next decade will likely be equal to those invented over the past 50 years. Yet the current breakdown in the global talent-creation systems does not bode well for the future.” Across America, the education-to-employment system needs to be retooled. Gordon reports that community based organizations (CBOs) and non-government organizations (NGOs) have been working to expand business-education partnerships to address the talent gap and rebuild talent pipelines in their communities.

These three meteors come together for me. Rebuilding America’s talent pipelines will require flexible, organic networks that enable individuals to engage in active, learning experiences early in their learning careers. Traditional approaches to learning and training and workforce development too easily become misaligned with workforce and personal needs. For tomorrow’s talent pipeline, we need competence building communities that display the characteristics being invented by the edupunks.

Tomorrow’s blog will explore the impact of Dislodging and Disrupting Events in Higher Education.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Some Thoughts about Achieving Financial Sustainability

Guest Blogger: Marcia Bromberg, former CFO at Tulane University, the University of Wisconsin System, and Wesleyan University.

I begin with a simple premise: “The Glass is Half Full.” The recession offers an opportunity to identify base resources required to provide academic services at all levels of education. Moreover, the recession provides institutions the opportunity to assess what is needed and what isn’t in order to operate and to identify operational efficiencies and inefficiencies.

Identifying the Revenue Base. The lowest point of income from all revenue streams reached during the recession should be used as the base-line for financial planning. This low point should exclude all one-time resources such as stimulus funds, special gifts, and accounting bonuses.

Institutions should manage growth incrementally from that low point:

• For private institutions this means modifying use of endowment proceeds as endowments begin to grow again by reducing payout formulas and using longer smoothing formulas (perhaps five rather than 3 year averages). It also means modifying tuition increases by using gift proceeds and other revenue streams (more about that later) to replace tuition revenue.

• For public institutions it means negotiating with states for a new “base plus increment” model of funding where increments reflect both enrollment changes and inflationary forces but are not tied so tightly to either that the academic mission is compromised.

Efficiency of Operations or Using Analytics to Lift out of Recession. In the very short term, expenditure reductions to meet reduced revenue streams will be expedient and, often, short term in nature.

An in-depth analytical review of expenditures will help identify longer term operational efficiencies and the changes required to implement these efficiencies. This is only a first step as efficiencies must be assessed as to whether they are desirable and attainable. (Note: without institution-wide understanding and acceptance of the reason for changes and impacts of changes the best ideas can be undermined).

A part of any analytic review will be to measure institutional performance against industry benchmarks. This is where the opportunity lies to truly transform educational support services and take the next steps beyond the types of outsourcing begun at the end of the last century. Rather than try to just replicate the “best of breed” or adopt methods of the most efficient institutions, organizations and businesses, institutions can begin to contract with those entities to actually provide those services. Examples include: enrollment management; accounting services; endowment management; purchasing and distribution; construction services and many more. In some cases these services can be provided at a distance through use of technology. In other cases clusters of institutions can share expert personnel.

The change from a single institution providing all services to one where services are provided from a myriad of near and distant sources based upon efficiency, quality and cost will require ongoing review to ensure services continue to meet institutional needs and expectations. More and more the role of institutional staff will be to monitor and manage rather than provide services using the analytic framework developed early in the process.

New Revenue Opportunities. While moving away from a campus-based model for support services offers an opportunity for reducing costs, it also offers an opportunity for those institutions which already excel in certain service areas to become income generators by providing those services to other institutions. In some cases several institutions might pool resources to form a central service center which can expand its operations to sell those services more broadly.

As part of an analytic review of institutional strengths and weaknesses all resources should be assessed for revenue potential including physical space (campus grounds and well as buildings), academic and non-academic expertise, technology resources, and efficient services (as noted above).

The potential for exploiting revenue opportunities can expand beyond higher education to other levels of education, non-educational nonprofits and for profit businesses.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Leadership in Innovation and Reimagination

Reactions to an Interview with Leon Botstein, President of Bard College in May-June issue of Miller-McCune magazine.
In reimagining institutional futures, active leadership is key. In an article in Miller-McCune magazine, President Leon Botstein of Bard College reveals some of the approaches he has taken at Bard College over the years and the results achieved.

In President Botstein’s view. Leadership at leading universities has been too insular. They have been focusing on themselves and not their place in the world of education and the world at large. In Botstein’s view, there are major problems with the way American society deals with adolescence, learning, and mentoring young people on what it means to be an adult.

“The real problem in American education is how we deal with adolescence. For all the talk of early childhood and preschool, the real locus of crisis in America if from the onset of puberty to the early 20s. That is a kind of black hole for everyone except the very, very gifted and talented. Even with them we’re not doing as well as we could. We haven’t figured out how to inspire real ambition and a love of learning in the adolescent group, starting with middle school to really the end of college.”

Dr. Botstein’s prescription: Consider a variety of fundamental changes, and do something to change the status quo.. For example, he suggests we could eliminate middle school and start high school work in grade 7, enabling students to finish by age 16. As he puts it, “I think universities have a real responsibility to improve secondary education in the United States. The president needs to turn to the university community and say, “Do something about the high schools,” the same way that university hospitals took over public hospitals.” His advice - Do something.

Bard has done something. They have established Bard Early College High School, which consists of two high schools in New York, one in the Lower East Side and one in Queens. Each enrolls 500-600 students, and for the 160 entering slots, 3,000 applicants, assessed and selected by an interview process not standardized tests. By the end of high school, these students have a NY Regents degree and an Associate of Arts degree. These students are representative of the population of New York and go on to good colleges.

Other public and private colleges and universities are sponsoring early college high school programs, making a commitment to doing something. So have the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and other foundations. These efforts are all part of the mult-faceted narratives from communities across the nation about reimaging PK-20 and doing something serious about the parlous state of K-12 education and its impact on student success in PK-20.

Bard has also undertaken community-based learning programs in California and has opened the only liberal arts school in post-Communist Russia.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Efficiency and Innovation in Preparing for the Recovery

In an Executive Briefing reported June 22 in the MIT Sloan Management Review, Dr.Vijay Govindarajan, an expert on innovation at the Amos Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth University, described a “three box” metaphor for the strategy needed during coping with recessionary times. This metaphor applies to enterprises in all industries – including higher education and health – but with obvious nuances.

Box 1: Improving the Efficiency of Today’s Businesses.
Becoming leaner, smarter, and more efficient is critical in a recession. Indeed, many innovations are directed at improving the efficiency and effectiveness of processes, yielding dividends in both existing lines of endeavor and new areas. Dr. Govindarajan points out that recessions are followed by periods of expansion and by changes in the competitive landscape. The benefits of these conditions are captured by nimbler, leaner competitors.

During normal times, Dr. Govindarajan recommends enterprises spend 50% of their energies on harvesting efficiencies and economies. During recession, he recommends increasing this percentage to 70% because resources are diminished and the penalty for mistakes is greater.

Box 2: Forgetting the Past, Selectively, Identifying the Concepts and Folk Wisdoms That Must be Abandoned in order to Achieve a Prosperous Future. William Faulkner once remarked, “The past isn’t dead. It isn’t even past.” What was true for fictional Yoknapatawpha County in Faulkner’s world is also true for colleges and universities. But to assure vibrant futures, colleges and universities need to revisit concepts carried forward from the past, embracing those that are timeless, reframing or abandoning others.

Needed change will be uncomfortable for those faculty who say: “Just give us the resources we need to do our jobs and get out of the way. We know quality and can do the job.” In public colleges and universities, the mantra takes a fresh twist, “Just give us the resources promised in the formula funding that always falls below the normative level and then gets cut during recessionary times.”

The harsh truth is that the halcyon days of unreflective autonomy and generous public funding will not return. They are past. Public funding will continue to be insufficient and institutions will need to aggressively reinvent, tweek, and reimagine and be more transparent and accountable about it.

This is a conversation that is occurring across American higher education. Sage leaders are reframing the saga of their institutions, post-recession and engaging faculty and staff in engaging fresh views of the future.

Box 3: Creating New Lines of Business that Are the Enterprise’s Future. Dr. Govindarajan proposes than enterprises spend 30% of their energy developing and migrating new lines of business, 25% into adjacent businesses close to current practice and 5% in genuine break thorough endeavors. These new endeavors require forgetting things about the past and spinning new sagas about the university of the future.

What are some examples of institutions that are reframing their future saga:

• Oregon State University (including its Extension Division) has partnered with several community colleges, local businesses, community governments and organizations, hospitals and other agencies to create Oregon Open Campus, a new model for creating community-based learning, embedded in community organizations

• Michigan State University is utilizing MSU Global to create new, online learning and development communities to discover what it means to be a “World Grant University”.

• Bard College is reaching out through Bard Early College High School to discover new partnerships to reinvent high school and change relationships between K-12 and and postsecondary education (more about this in tomorrow’s blog).

• In planning for new campuses in Loudoun county Virginia, George Mason University, Northern Virginia Community College, and Loudoun County Public Schools jointly planned for distributed operations and joint programming and for serving the students with half the square footage needed today.

Dr. Govindarajan believes in visioning a future strategy, not formulating a hard-and-fast plan. As he says, “You cannot plan for the year 2025, but you can prepare for it.” Expeditionary innovation can be used to discover the future, one successful experiment at a time.

John Seely Brown calls such an approach “radical incrementalism,” necessary in proceeding down the path to the “Big Shift” escribed in earlier blogs.

The Challenge for Institutional Leadership.
Over the past decades, effective institutional innovators like Dr. George Johnston, President of George Mason University, relied on “driving wedges” into the prevailing academic culture and using special institutes and programs as “skunk works” to create and test innovations. This is still an effective strategy for launching innovations, but the stakes for innovation are higher and the pace of experimentation must be greater. Institutions must find ways to rethink their value propositions and release the latent value imprisoned in current practices. We don't have time for a leisurely approach to innovation and transformation.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Focusing on Value, Not Just Quality (2)

Leveraging the Elements of the Value Web. The following graphic from The Business Value Web portrays the elements of value.

Focusing on the value web encourages leadership to deconstruct sequential processes and enhance value at all stages of relationships and services. Value has limitless potential. Productivity enhancement, innovation, process reinvention, and creative combination of these can always be used to enhance or even radically alter the value proposition that universities and professional schools offer to students and other stakeholders.

The latent value embedded in a university’s assets can be a powerful driver of strategic differentiation and growth, if it can be mobilized. The challenge to leadership is to marshal new resources and unleash the latent power of existing assets, combining these actions in pursuit of a unifying statement of strategic intent. Thinking in terms of the value web can enable extraordinary leveraging of resources, relationships, and innovations.

Focusing on value emphasizes imagination rather than merely adding additional resources to existing programs and practices. Instead of relying on simple addition, value maximization during tough times involves identifying, leveraging, repurposing, reusing, and creating new value combinations. It also involves creating ambitious stretch goals to stretch the imagination of stakeholders and to warrant new investments of resources.

Avoiding the Value Gap. Many colleges and universities are teetering on the brink of a “value gap” vis-à-vis their publics, a gap created by five factors:

• Misalignment between institutional purposes and the purposes of individual stakeholders, workforce needs, and public expectations. Most publics believe a realignment is necessary for many institutions.

• Placing power in the hands of autonomous professionals who can effectively veto attempts to realign individual, departmental, colleges, and institutional activities. This may be the single greatest barrier to innovation and will be discussed in a blog later this week.

• Agile deployment of resources is a core capability of tomorrow's winning institutions. Today by contrast there are widespread difficulties in mobilizing, leveraging, and repurposing the value that resides in the resources of colleges and universities. Most institutional resources are unavailable for agile use because they are fully booked through existing ways of doing things. More on this in tomorrow’s blog.

• Reductions in institutional offerings and disappearing slack resources in the face of financial hardship. The reductions and cutbacks caused by the recent recession have devoured any slack resources that remained and further reduced services to stakeholders, especially in places like California.

• Increasing relative costs, escalating debt burdens, and decline in family/learner resources, post-recession. Recent dramatic rises in tuition cost and cutbacks in colleges and university offerings create the potential for an even greater perceived value gap in the future, which colleges and universities must act decisively to avoid. Closing the perception of a value gap will require continuous efforts to align with stakeholder needs, improve outcomes and experiences, and control/reduce costs.

The tension/balance between outcomes, experiences, and costs must be a continuing issue for colleges and universities that hope to enjoy the confidence of students, parents, and the American public. Focusing on value will enable institutional leadership to assure they deliver on that promise.

Maximizing Value Through Efficiency, Forgetting the Past, and Creating the Future. Tomorrow’s blog will explore the principles espoused by Dr.Vijay Govindarajan, expert on innovation at the Amos Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth University. Dr. Govindarajan spins a “three box” metaphor for the strategy needed during coping with recessionary times:

• Box 1: Improving the efficiency of today’s businesses;

• Box 2: Forgetting the past – selectively identifying what concepts and folk wisdoms do we need to move beyond in order to have a prosperous future; and

• Box 3: Creating new lines of business that are the enterprise’s future.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Focusing on Value, Not Just Quality (1)

Analytics helps stakeholders to focus attention on the things that matter to them, and compare results across institutions/enterprises. When dealing with learning and workforce development, the key issue today is value.

Several years ago, Mark Olson (currently with IBM) and I wrote a book called The Business Value Web for the National Association of Business Officers (NACUBO). It suggested that maximizing value could be an effective unifying principle for leveraging all of the resources available to colleges and universities.

Value Is Different from Quality. A focus on quality typically seeks more and more resources for enhancing reputation based on traditional measures. In such a setting, greater expenditure of resources is often seen as a surrogate for quality in itself. Insufficient energy is placed on the creative reduction of costs while maintaining levels of performance. Quality measures often emphasize inputs, rather than outcomes (i.e., taking standardization of inputs as a proxy measure for standardization of outcomes). They focus on what can be measured and compared easily and aggregated to an institutional total, rather than being guided by what is important to stakeholders. Such measures of quality are typically seen through the eyes of the providers or external assessors of reputation and distinction.

Value Is Seen Through the Eyes of Stakeholders. Value is a dialogue between each stakeholder and the institution/enterprise. Quality is a monologue spoken by the institution or assessors of reputation. Value balances three factors:

• Nature of outcomes and their congruence with learner needs and the providers promise,

• Essence of the experiences through which the outcomes are achieved, and

• Cost/price.

Like the potential energy in the coils of a spring, latent value resides in the knowledge resources, programs, processes, relationships, infrastructure, and competencies of faculty, staff, students, and other stakeholders. The manner in which these resources are combined and engaged determines the value experienced by each individual stakeholder.

Value Distinguishes Institutions from Each Other – in the Eyes of Partticular Stakeholders. Delivering greater value for learners and other stakeholders can create strategic differentiation for individual colleges and universities and/or other providers of education, training, and workforce development. This is complicated by the fact that some institutions – like R1 research universities – serve many stakeholders at many different levels and in many different ways, while other educational enterprises – like for-profit learning enterprises or a graduate school of business – serve a more targeted stakeholder group.

Two institutions with similar “quality” of programs can have substantially different value propositions for particular learners and other stakeholders. Enhancing the value proposition for particular stakeholders often requires greater levels of collaboration, innovation and creativity, at all levels – individual, departmental, institutional, and inter-institutional.

Given resource scarcity, discerning and piecing together distinctive clusters of hidden value is emerging as a newly appreciated form of innovation. Innovation and creativity can release and enhance the latent value residing in institutional assets and resources of all kinds, creating new experiences for learners and other stakeholders.

Superior Value Propositions Based on Excellent Outcomes, Convenience, and Good Experiences. Consider the example of the University of Phoenix, Walden University, Capella University, and the growing cluster of for-profit learning providers. By 20th century measures of reputational quality, the research offerings of these institutions are undistinguished. But these institutions have fully grasped the value proposition required today by their key audiences. They have created world-class, convenient support services; treatment geared to adults, not adolescents; and accelerated, job-relevant learning offerings in both classroom and online settings. Typically these offerings are 6-8 weeks in length rather than following the traditional semester and are taught by seasoned practitioners rather than content experts. These offerings provide consistent, outcomes that are learner-centric and are tailored to workforce needs.

In consequence, adult learners have found the outcomes and experiences of the for-profit to be very appealing, generating tremendous growth for these enterprises. Moreover, adult learners have been willing to pay a premium price for these offerings, compared to public and even private universities. Since the for-profits have also figured out how to reduce the cost of faculty, on-line learning resources, and support services (in comparison with public and private institutions) they have generated substantial net margins that have been deployed in new product development, marketing (substantially more than not-for-profit education), and profit.

Coming Next, Aggressive Price Competition from For-Profit Providers and New Competitors. We’ve already commented on the price competition from providers such as Lamar University, partnering with a for-profit provider to provide on-line learning at a market-busting price. As the financial affordability crisis worsens, we will see more of this behavior.

Tomorrow’s blog will explore more about focusing on quality – how to leverage elements of the value web.

Analytics in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (2)

Guest Blogger: Dr. Linda Baer, Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs, Minnesota State College and Universities

The dashboard used at the system level by the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities enables Systems-level administrators and members of the Board to follow the aggregated performance of the system on ten key variables.

These ten variables fall into four strategic directions for the MnScU system: 1) access and opportunity, 2) meeting state and regional economic needs, 3) quality programs and services, and 4) innovation and efficiency.

At the present time, six of these ten variables are being used actively: 1) percent change in enrollment, 2) net tuition and fees as a % of total income, 3) related employment of graduates, 4) licensure exams pass rates, 5) persistence and completion rates, and 6) facilities condition index. The other four measures, while important considerations that figure in the Board’s deliberations, have not yet been adequately defined in a “quantifiable” manner to be “lit up” on the dashboard.

The first page view of the dashboard is the aggregate for the entire MNSCU system. The familiar “speedometer” view. In addition, the user can “drill down” to examine the performance of individual campuses, as reflected in the second page view for Alexandria Technical College. In addition to the variables displayed on the second view, many other statistics can be portrayed and presented in graphical form.

The dashboard has proven to be an excellent mechanism for engaging the Executive Team and the Board in understanding summative performance against the high-level strategic directions of MnSCU and its 32 institutions. It is also the basis for judging the performance of the President and his team and these measures are part of the performance evaluation criteria .

But the use of measurement at MnSCU goes far beyond the high-level outcome elements of the dashboard. Individual MnSCU institutions have a rich set of measures which they use to get at the effectiveness of the processes and people that actually generate those outcomes. Many of these institutions utilize a rich palette of Baldrige and/or AQIP measures to understand, refine, and redesign the performance of their processes and people. This sort of continuous churning and improvement is critical to the effective use of analytics.