Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Learning from Analytics Best Practices in Other Sectors

Donald M. Norris

Higher education leaders are grappling with the challenges of using analytics in reimagining and reinventing their processes and practices, in response to changing conditions and “The New Normal.” In the process they are turning to many sources for insight and inspiration.

Some sources are obvious, such as institutions that are successful in using analytics to enhance student access, affordability and success and to focus on outcomes and value. Many for-profit institutions such as Capella University and American Public University System embed predictive analytics in most academic and administrative processes. They use them to manage and demonstrate individual performance and success in achieving targeted outcomes.

Other exemplary enterprises are similar in the nature of their challenges, such as health care organizations that are reinventing medicine around teams and working to improve and demonstrate the “value” of good health care, as reflected in effective results at reasonable costs. Kaiser Permanente, the Mayo Clinic, and the Cleveland Clinic are often cited and written about as delivering great outcomes, based on scrupulous analysis of most efficacious care and acute attention to managing costs. They deliver indisputable value.
And some best practices enterprises are dramatically different in context and organizational culture but still useful. These examples include commercial enterprises that use analytics to better and continuously understand their customer’s needs, measure satisfaction with their performance, and optimize enterprise performance, over time, in the face of changing conditions and withering competition. The best of these performers focus their attention on analytics relating to innovation that will enhance their long-term competitive standing.

Even if the circumstances are different, however, what these best practice applications from other sectors illustrate a stark fact: The prevailing analytics applications, practices, and culture in traditional higher education are positively primitive compared to best practices in for-profit education, leading health care entities, and top-performing commercial enterprises. The other sectors embed analytics in all processes and practices, use them more intensively, and are dedicated to enhancing performance.

Competing on Analytics

Despite the differences between higher education and business, many higher education leaders and practitioners have found Thomas Davenport and Jeanne Harris’s Competing on Analytics to be very useful in higher education, even though it was based primarily on examples from the business world. This book provides several very helpful typologies that address the full range of analytics starting with standard reports and ad hoc queries and ranging through predictive analytics and optimization, through which the enterprise identifies and strives to achieve an optimal strategy in the face of changing conditions and competition. Many institutional practitioners are using these tools to advance and leverage the use of analytics in their organizations.

The work of Thomas Davenport and Jeanne Harris is further showcased this month in their article in The Harvard Business Review on “Competing on Talent Analytics.” In this piece they reveal how top performing organizations are using analytics to get the most out of their people and empower them to become top performers. Building on the same typologies used in Competing on Analytics, Davenport and Harris describe how enterprises move beyond simple data on individual performance and demographics to applications that enable manager to optimize employee performance and satisfaction, manage the enterprise’s talent pool in a manner that maximizes retention and boost performance, and project how the workforce must change to deal with changes in the business environment. In the top-performing commercial enterprise of today, yesterday’s “human resource management” has evolved into “strategic talent management” that relies heavily on the continuous, embedded use of analytics to shape day-to-day and strategic decision making.

Insights from the New Intelligent Enterprise Survey

In an article in the September issue of the MIT Sloan Management Review, Michael S. Hopkins, Steve LaValle and Fred Balboni present the initial findings of a survey by “The New Intelligent Enterprise” Initiative. This survey addressed the question: How do you win with data? It surveyed global executives about turning the data deluge and analytics into competitive advantage. This report offers an early snapshot of how managers are answering the most important questions organizations face. Future reports and findings will be part of “The New Intelligent Enterprise” Initiative.

Through surveys of business leaders and experts the authors of this report by Sloan Management Review have come up with the top ten insights and questions facing organizations as they incorporate the use of analytics in order to make their businesses more efficient and competitive.

• Analytics and the ways they are used in an organization must be made new and innovative. Enterprises are focusing analytics on understanding and leveraging innovation that will position them for long-term success. Top performers place an even greater premium on focusing analytics on innovation than lower performing enterprises.

• There is a high correlation between the use of analytics and top performing enterprises. The survey showed that top performing organizations were three times as likely to be sophisticated users of analytics.

• For analytics to be of impact, business culture must also be modified. The use of sophisticated analytics requires changes both in practices and the culture of decision making behavior. The most successful practices involve centralized development of data and analytics infrastructures and decentralized decision making, innovation, and experimentation, measured and tuned through analytics.

• There is a gap in the opportunities presented by analytics and the number of talented, analytics-driven managers needed to implement them. There is a serious talent gap, created by the peculiar requirements of the ideal analytics-driven managers: a combination of expertise in statistics, experiment design and interpretation and analytics with fundamental business knowledge and acumen. These analysts need the ability to ask the right questions and pose the right hypotheses. They need to know how to get data to tell them the things that matter (and not the things that don’t).

• Where in an organization should analytics be used? While IT is important to the support of analytics, the real development of analytics applications starts at the front-line point of need. From there, needs float upward to stimulate business units and centralized analytics applications.

• How are leaders in analytics using them in their businesses? Leaders and top performers are highly motivated to learn even more and push the envelope of application.

• Leaders are striving to improve data visualization in analytics to make information real to their users. Data visualizations and simulations are being used extensively to make representations of data more real and engaging. This is critical if the use of analytics is to be embedded in all processes and activities involving front-line workers and managers,

• An experimental approach to analytics is more useful than setting a plan in stone. Analytics need to be expeditionary. Respondents to the survey used the terms “test and learn” and “sense and respond” to describe the sense of experimentation needed for analytics to succeed.

• Analytics can be beneficial to any and all industries, not just tech savvy, digitally driven businesses. The survey showed conclusively that enterprises in all industries were using analytics in a competitive manner.

• The best is yet to come. Even as many executives believe their organizations are doing fairly well at integrating analytics into their businesses, experts see great potential for improvement in the sophistication of how businesses utilize analytics.

Implications for Analytics in Higher Education

Erik Brynjolfsson, director of the MIT Center for Digital Business, has made the following observation:

“What we’re going to see in the coming decade are companies whose whole culture is based on continuous improvement and experimentation — not just of specific processes, but of the entire way the company runs. I think this revolution can be fairly compared to the scientific revolution that happened centuries ago. Great revolutions in science have almost always been preceded by great revolutions in measurement.”

If Brynjolfsson is correct the future belongs to analytics-savvy organizations that can create new levels of performance and value. Higher education enterprises that are not able to achieve to this level of performance will lose ground to those that do meet the rising expectations of consumers who will encounter the new standards of performance in their dealing with enterprises from other sectors and in analytics-savvy organizations in higher education. New providers that provide lower-cost, good-value learning options will likely thrive.

True, some medallion institutions may be shielded by their aura of “quality” and the networking-for-life value that they provide to their graduates. But that number is relatively small. Most institutions will find that the performance-outcomes-and-value mantra that is driving all other sectors of the economy will also become pervasive in higher education. Community colleges, comprehensive universities, and for-profit higher education will all feel this pressure. They can all learn a great deal from” The New Intelligent Enterprise” which will continue to provide fresh insight.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

It’s Time to Reimagine Higher Education (4a) - A Portfolio of Responses for 2010-2013 – Academic and Learning Environments

OK, so you have articulated the imperative to realign your institution to financial sustainability by 2020. You have focused attention on the need to change from “muddling through” to “strategic” in 2010-2013. And you have established the planning and budgeting principles, practices, and processes needed to proceed. What are a portfolio of possible responses that your institution can take on the path to discovering financial sustainability?

Each institution’s responses will be distinctive, but there are similarities in the issues that are on the table. Consider the following set of possibilities in four intersecting areas which can be launched in 2010-2013 and executed through to success by 2020.

• Academic and Learning Environments
• Administrative Environments
• Resources to Support Reinvention and Realignment
• Tools and Structures to Support Realignment

In this posting (Part 4a), we’ll deal with reimagining the Academic and Learning Environment.

Academic and Learning Environments

To switch from muddling through to strategic thinking, institutional leadership must deal with the academic and learning environment. Financial sustainability cannot be achieved without tackling the need to enhance productivity, raise student performance and success, reinvent approaches to online and blended learning, and discover fresh approaches that align with the world of ambient technologies, mobile learning, and new patterns of engagement. Your institution should follow authentic versions of the following that fit your distinctive circumstances.

Reimagine Academic Roles, Relationships, Partnerships, Workload, and Productivity. As discussed in earlier blogs, academic roles have been shifting for decades, with the numbers of adjunct and part-time faculty increasing, and tenure-track faculty declining as a percentage of total. As part of the reimagination process, institutions should explore and discover a sustainabile mix of different faculty roles and responsibilities, more productive practices, and reinvented course experiences.

Redefine the Roles of Different Academic Professionals and the Mix for an Institution. Roles should be rethought in the face of ubiquitous technology and mobile learning, reinvented online and blended learning practices, and a fresh look at the power of community-based learning and use of peer learning mentors. And what is the role of research and faculty scholarship, at different types of institution sin the New Normal?

Reimagine Academic Workload and Productivity. Institutions need to take a fresh look at productivity and workload. In the short-run, workloads may need to increase simply to deal wit resources cuts (institutions with a 2+2 course workload in fall and spring terms may need to raise that to 3+2 or even 3+3, plus raise summer assignment. In the long run, institutions may need to trim their course catalogs, change the mix of academic staff, and reinvent courses into team-based, broader learning experiences using communities of learning and practice.

Build on Existing Reinvention Initiatives, Demonstrate New Behaviors. Carol Twigg and the National Center for Academic Transformation have demonstrated how course reinvention can reduce costs and improve performance. But the real payoff is not reinventing individual courses, but in scaling reinvention across whole departments and colleges, and using insights from reinvention to change learning experiences. Institutions should build on existing innovations, but look at taking them to scale.

Enhance Student Success, Reduce Total-Cost-of-Learning. Many institutions have demonstrated that attention paid to retention and student success has a dramatic return on investment. Initiatives like those supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Lumina Foundation, the Education Trust, and the National Association of System Heads are showing “what works” in improving retention in different settings. The increasing diversity of the student population suggests that many institutions will need to implement these measures just to maintain existing success statistics.

Embed Analytics into Decision Making to Improve Student Success. Many institutions are using embedded analytics to monitor student engagement and performance in real time, and to intervene with students to keep them on course. Building organizational capacity to use and leverage analytics is a key element of realignment to the New Normal.

Dramatically Reduce Remediation, Boost Retention and Student Success. In the long run, the best way to reduce remediation and improve student performance is to improve the performance of high school learning environments. Bridging, concurrent enrollment, and early college high school programs can help. K-16/K-20 improvement initiatives are ongoing in every state and can be shaped in this direction. The techniques, resources, and practices from OER/OEP can be useful as well.

Reduce Time-to-Degree and Total Cost of Learning. Institutions need to aggressively address this issue. State institutions where students regularly take five years to complete a baccalaureate degree should use online learning and aggressive monitoring to enable students to complete degrees in four years. By reaching down in to high school, institutions can provide three-year and even two-year completion paths for able students. Some students will be interested in “no-frills options”.

Create New Pathways to the Workforce. Community colleges and high schools are exploring ways to accelerate the development of vocational learning options and means of preparing such learners for rapid preparation for and employment in, the workforce. Partnerships with unions and trade associations are leading to apprenticeship programs. Many vocational programs are finding learners want to take a course or two - enough to achieve employment - then complete their associate degree or certificate while employed.

Reinvent Online and Blended Learning and Resources. Most institutions have created models of online and blended learning that are actually more expensive than traditional, face-to-face learning. Nor have they used the online environment to create “community of practice”-based settings that can better address learning” to address knowledge gapsTo realign to the New Normal, institutions should move to more advanced stages of online and blended learning that can be used to reinvent practices in K-20, reduce costs, and better link .

Reinvent Online Learning so its Marginal Cost is Fully Covered by Tuition. Institutions like the Western Governors University, Lamar University, and Florida State College at Jacksonville have demonstrated that reinvented and unbundled online learning can be dramatically reduced in cost to the point where its marginal cost is less than tuition. This enables public institutions to meet demand, supported by tuition alone. Having this capability as a part of an institution’s “mix” will be critical to thriving in the New Normal when institutions are blending a portfolio of offerings, experiences, and price points.

Advance the Use of OER/OEP and Reach into High School. MIT has advanced its Open Courseware (OCW) and Open Educational Resources (OER) initiatives in a new venture called “Greenfields” which adds “Open Educational Practices” – the course notes, research-based pedagogical insights, and guides to faculty practice that show how to optimize learning for particular types of learners in different contexts in different disciplines. If OER/OEP were embedded in reinvented online and blended learning, these practices could be used in high school as part of the effort to improve performance, accelerate effective transitions to college, and reduce times to degree.

Use Blended Learning to Reduce the Need for Physical Facilities and Reduce Trips to Campus by Commuting Students. Commuter institutions and those serving adult learners are currently using online and blended learning to mitigate the need for physical facilities, reduce the times learners must come to campus, and reduce learner “opportunity costs.” These practices will be redoubled in the future and could dramatically reduce and change the nature of campus facility needs.

Capitalize on the Advances in Open Learning Environments, Free-Range Learning, and Demand for Certification of Prior Learning. Anya Kamenetz’s book, DIY U dramatized the spectrum of choices facing Millennial learners who are finding traditional offerings too expensive, too constraining, too slow to adapt to changing needs, and largely unable to deal effectively with credit for prior learning. As open learning options emerge over the next ten years, institutions will be under increasing pressure to incorporate these practices into existing learning pathways. They will also face opportunities to create new types of learning experiences.

Create Online Learning Communities Aligned with Professional Practice. In addition to the learning pathways that result in certificates and degrees, practicing professionals require perpetual refreshment of their skills and targeted learning to fill “knowledge gaps” that are caused by the rapid pace of change in the global economy. Filling these knowledge gaps requires stronger “feedback loops” than are provided by existing Advisory Committee Structures and more rapid response than can be provided by curriculum committees.

Successful colleges and universities in 2020 will have discovered how to partner with corporate enterprises, trade and professional societies, local governments and economic development agencies, and other partners in order to create and support the next generation of community-of-practice-based learning.

Use Knowledge Gap Learning to Embed Skills in Innovation and Entrepreneurship. As institutions develop the capacity to focus on specific knowledge gaps, they will use this capacity to enable learners in certificate and degree programs to enrich their learning acquisition with insights on innovation and entrepreneurship. This will be a critical requirement of the realigned college nad university of 2020.

Maximize International Educational Opportunities to Build Global Competencies. Tomorrow’s successful colleges and universities will prepare their graduates to be good global citizens and effective practitioners in global contacts. This will be facilitated by the new generation of online and blended learning capacities, community-of-practce-based conversations, and use of ambient technologies.

Align Learning Activities with the Realities of Technology-Rich Environments. Technology both extends the campus and creates nodes of intensive embedded technology on campus. In the evolving world of mobile learning, every place is a learning place.

As the cornucopia of personal devices evolve and the use of cloud computing matures, institutions will find that learners will demand that they be able to use their personal devices as part of the learning environment. Moreover, the use of virtual reality, augmented reality, 3-D techniques, and other advanced visualization tools embedded in physical locations on campus will create demand for fresh learning and application experiences.

Future blogs will complete this conversation on “A Portfolio of Responses for 2010-2013:

• Academic and Learning Environments (Done)
• Administrative Environments (To come)
• Resources to Support Reinvention and Realignment (To come)
• Tools and Structures to Support Realignment (To come)

These will be presented soon.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

It’s Time to Reimagine Higher Education (Part 3) – Principles and Practices for Reimagining, Reallocating and Repositioning, 2010-2013 and Beyond

So here we are in 2010, with the need to realign institutional vision, actions, and responses with the imperatives of the New Normal of 2020. The following set of Principles and Practices can be tailored to the needs of your particular institution. These principles have been developed in collaboration with Dr. Richard Byyny, Chancellor Emeritus of the University of Colorado.

Principle and Practices for Reimagining, Reallocating, and Repositioning

To develop a set of principles and practices, let’s apply the four verbs from Transforming Higher Education: realign, redefine, redesign, and reengineer.

Realign Your Institution’s Thinking to the New Normal of 2020.
On most campuses, today, leadership understands the need to realign to a New Normal, but rank-and-file faculty and still hope and expect that we will lift out of this slump like past recessions. So the first challenge to leadership is to challenge status quo thinking reorient existing planning and budgeting processes to understand the realignment imperative. We suggest variations on the following actions:

• Establish and articulate the need for a sustainable vision for 2020, using the arguments and evidence presented in our July 15 blog on “It’s Time to Reimagine Higher Education – Making the Case;” make the campus sustainability plan embrace all aspects of oiperation;

• Establish a description for the New Normal in 2020 in language tailored to your institution, then plan from the future backward, to illustrate implications for today’s planning;

• Translate the topical categories described in our blog “It’s Time to Reimagine Higher Education – Planning from the Future Backward into language appropriate to your campus, covering the following elements of the New Normal

- Establish financial sustainability in an environment of diminished resources,

- Optimize value in an environment of resources scarcity,

- Embrace a profoundly networking world of ubiquitous technologies,

- Rethink the physical needs of the campus.

- Reinvent sustainable career models for academic professionals,

- Focus on increasing access, affordability, and success for increasing diverse and challenging populations,

- Establish a culture of performance measurement and improvement with inceased transparency and accountability,

- Provide mass customized, personalized offerings, and

- Discover systemic solutions that span K-20 and link the learningforce and the workforce – and back again.

• Engage key stakeholders in understanding the 2020 imperative, utilizing existing organizational planning and budgeting processes, and if necessary forming additional planning and working groups;

• New planning groups to deal with the 2020 imperatives must consist of respected faculty and administrative leaders and have the capacity to convey the need for genuine reinvention;

• Realign strategic, tactical, and operational planning structures and processes to the realignment imperative and to the special challenges of 2010-2013;

• Recognize the importance of building organizational capacity to deal with the New Normal; look to build capacity through actual change initiatives to demonstrate the new behaviors needed to thrive in the New Normal;

• Actively engage in state-level and national conversations about financial sustainability academic and administrative productivity, cross-institutional collaborations, K-20 reinvention, and similar conversations; introduce the results of these cross-sector into the conversation on your campus;

• Continually think about establishing financial sustainability and revise and refresh the institution’s vision in the face of new evidence.

This realignment of vision is a tremendous challenge, given the inertia and wishful thinking of many campus constituencies. But it is essential to shifting from a “muddling through” to a strategic mode of behavior during 2010-2013.

Redefine Program, Budgeting, and Reallocation Principles for the New Normal. To switch from a muddling through to a strategic mode of behavior, we suggest the following set of program, budgeting, and reallocation principles:

• Clearly articulate the imperatives and opportunities for the New Normal – short-term and long-term – drawing on the campus conversations and materials

- Crisis creates the need for the realignment and reallocation of funds to support the institutions mission; implementation of new strategies; and maintenance of quality and value of degrees.

- State clear principles for dealing with affordability and learner and family financial capacity; creatively and responsibly manage financial aid ;

- Realignment will require development of new organizational capacities and “unlearning” of past verities.

- Communicate internally and externally: What, why, when, and how effects? Make communication and engagement a prime objective;

• For the 2010-2013 period: Plan for the worst budget cuts on the first go around and look beyond the short term (six months to one year).;

• Establish budget principles that you can honor over the long term; do not make commitments that you will be forced to abandon in two or three years;

• Doing business as usual won’t work; institutional and programmatic reorganization must be on the table;

• Consistently look for the longer-term implications of the New Normal; force partnerships and collaborations with other institutions to enable disciplinary collaborations and cost reduction;

• Communicate, communicate, and communicate some more; use multiple technologies to enhance communication;

• Be tough minded in knowing the truth about your institution and focus on centrality and value to know what programs to sustain;

- Understand centers of quality and excellence and protect them; at the same time, enhance value in all areas;

- Evaluate the quality and processes of programs requiring subsidization, to decide if the subsidy is justifiable or can you convert it to a cash-funded program or course, eliminate courses, or otherwise redesign the offering;

- Use and present data and analytics in the process of creating plans, budgets, and communications.

• Respond to impacts of state-level and federal initiatives to redefine and redesign programs, resources, and incentives; and

• Revisit and redefine capital budgeting and planning principles and fcus on a 2020 strate for facilities; clearly articulate how to utilize technology to leverage existing facilities

Redesign Programs, Roles, Responsibilities. Realigning to the New Normal will require redesigning programs, roles and responsibilities. This cannot be achieved overnight. But institutions can utilize the 2010-2013 period to initiate and accelerate the redesign process. The following actions are part of the redesign process.

• Constitute a visioning group to continuously review and articulate the impact of new learning practices on your institution: open learning – open educational resources (OER), open educational processes and practices (OEP -, free-range learning, community of practice-based learning, certification for prior learning; incorporate these insights into redesign of learning offerings;

• Engage university- and college-level advisory committees, professional groups, and other stakeholders in conversations about “What learners need to know” to thrive oin the post-recession economic environment;

• Utilize technology in teaching, elearning and administration and leverage that technology to discover financial sustainability for the New Normal;

• Build on and leverage existing initiatives in course redesign, enhancement of academic productivity, administrative process redesign, and other initiatives, building institutional capacity for redesign and reinvention;

• Pursue numerous means of reducing the total cost of completion for learners including credit for prior learning, bridging and concurrent learning with high school and similar programs that span K-20 education;

• Consider new sources of revenue including degree completion programs and professional master and certificates. Partner with other institutions: community colleges, other colleges or universities public or private and share costs and facilities; and

• Articulate sustainable career and professional development models for academic professions in the New Normal; this must be a essential element in the redesigned model;

- Describe academic workload and productivity expectations, and scholarly contributions for the New Normal – these will dramatically vary among different institutional types;

- Engage faculty in discussing the redesigns and reinventions necessary for the New Normal; and

- Sponsor scalable innovations using communities of practice and other mechanisms to improve productivity and success of learners and to demonstrate new patterns of behavior and engagement possible in technology-intensive 2020 environments. Focus on creating teachable moments for faculty.

Reengineer and Reinvent Policies, Processes, and Practices in a Transformative Context.
In order to thrive in the 2020 environment, institutions are going to need to reinvent virtually all of their policies, processes and practices. These efforts should focus on the following principles and practices:

• Develop operational and management efficiencies in addition to reinventions;

• Redouble efforts on improving student access, affordability, and success, for increasingly disadvantaged and underprepared populations; focus on the ROI for such efforts;

• Emphasize the dynamic of “innovating your way out of the Recession;” support innovations that havce the capacity to succeed and scale; when then success, scale the lessons learned across entire departments and instituions;

• Take the opportunity to transform courses and the methods of teaching and learning; use undergraduate tutors and team-based learning in courses, and investigate all manners and means of scalably reinventing courses and programs;

• Reinvent online learning experiences so that the marginal cost of learning (and devwlopment) can be fully covered by the cost of tuition; this enable institutions to grow using these sorts of offerings, on tuition alone;

• Take one non-academic and one academic division and look to reorganize, down size (right size), and outsource as a real example of what can be accomplished. Consider using broadly participatory processes to develop the capacity of the community for redesign and reinvention;

• Select particular academic disciplines for pilot studies of collaborating with other institutions in sharing faculty and course offerings;

• Partner with virtual universities and market-driven institutions to license advanced analytics practices and processes and embed them in academic and administrative processes;

• Participate inpublic policy dialogues aboiur reinventing processes and formulas for funding higher education;

The final blog in this four-part series will be “It’s Time to Reimage (Part IV) – A Portfolio of Actions and Responses for 2010-2013.

Friday, July 16, 2010

It’s Time to Reimagine Higher Education (Part 2) – Planning from the Future Backward

We begin with simple premises: higher education can be reimagined and to some degree reinvented, and that it is possible to attain a new plane of financial sustainability – a New Normal – by 2020. However, this can only be accomplished if aggressive action is taken, beginning in 2010-2013, to strategically realign higher education to the New Normal. Institutional leadership, and state and federal policy makers and leaders, must be persuaded of the imperative to realign strategy to the New Normal and to build institutional capacity to redefine, redesign, and reengineer academic and administrative processes.

Institutions should begin their visioning and strategic thinking processes by articulating the patterns and cadences of the world of 2020. Then they should plan from those conditions backward to the present, aligning their strategies to the conditions that will shape strategy setting in 2010-2013.

This is the basic approach that Michael Dolence and I utilized in 1995 when we wrote Transforming Higher Education: A Vision for Learning in the 21st Century, which envisioned cascading processes that would realign, redesign, redefine, and reengineer higher educaton.

At that time. we proposed realigning higher education to the needs of learners in the emerging Knowledge Age for fast, fluid, and flexible learning geared to the needs of the emerging global economy. This realignment would be necessary to meet clear, instrumental needs. But it was also needed due to the simple fact that American society could not afford mass/universal higher education using a bricks-and-mortar, factory model-based, bundled version of education. And with the coming boom in global mass higher education, the model would prove unsustainable, we claimed, for global education, as well.

Over the past 15 years, the truth of those prescriptions and predictions has been verified on three fronts.

First, the American model for mass higher education has become increasingly expensive and unaffordable, as reflected in the Delta Project’s latest report, Anya Kamenetz’s book, DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education, and the work of the Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance, to name a few. We have essentially demonstrated that spending an increasingly greater percentage of GDP on education, without using technology to innovate and transform processes and practices as other industries and enterprises have done, is unsustainable. Moreover, we have squandered the opportunity to undertake such changes over an extended period of time abd are confronted with the need for concerted action.

Second, innovative institutions have demonstrated that the higher education model can be unbundled and made available in a fast, fluid, flexible, and affordable manner. While this is not a solution for every learning need, the market-driven, for-profit sector in America currently serves roughly 1 million learners using variations on the unbundled approach. But other institutions such as Western Governors University, Lamar University, Florida State College at Jacksonville, and a host of others have deployed these techniques to drive down the cost and price of flexible learning. These practices will increase and are also being copied by new competitors around the world, some of whom have aspirations on the American market. Moreover, other permutations of the unbundling and reinvention ethic will be used to examine the other interwoven functions of the university.

Third, Web 2.0 and the social networking revolution has fueled the recent emergence of new forms of open, do-it-yourself, free-range learning. These innovations are making it possible for interested, motivated learners to learn on their own or in learning communities or even in bon fide communities of practice. Peer-to-Peer University, the University of the People, Project ROLE in Europe, the use of open educational resources (OER), and numerous examples cited by Kamenetz in DIY U describe the emerging ecology of free-range learning. In this environment, the capacity to effectively deal with certification of prior learning will become important differentiators for learning and certification providers aspiring to serve learners and attract their patronage. The “opening up” of the learning marketplace will be a critical condition by 2020.

Understanding the “New Normal” of 2020

So we offer the following set of parameters to describe the New Normal for 2020, which should serve as a guide for strategic realignment on institutional strategies, plans, and actions.

Establish Financial Sustainability in an Environment of Diminished Resources.
It is clear that by 2020, traditional resources for higher education will be constrained in two major ways, and many minor ones. First, state and federal governments will likely be on a strict budget reduction diet, rebounding from the hangover left over from our recession/deficit crisis. Moreover, compelling demands from other sectors will compete with higher education for attention. Second, the financial condition of individuals and families will have deteriorated, as will their capacity and willingness to pay increasing tuition rates. The pattern of using-tuition-to-fill-the-resources-gap will need to cease.

So tuition and government resources will be increasingly scarce, leaving institutions to establish financial sustainability by a combination of turning to new, non-tuition revenue sources, and achieving reductions in cost through efficiencies, innovations, and reinventions in processes and practices.

Another possibility is that the perilous state of educational finance may become so dire that the basic funding model will be redesigned at state and/or federal levels. Brit Kirwin, Chancellor of the University System of Maryland, has suggested that public higher education be funded based on degrees completed, rather than SCH/enrollments, as a means of incentivizing attention on student success. Others are suggesting tightening the focus of research funding to a smaller group of institutions, and other mechanisms to stretch available resources and make smarter allocations. Other concepts are being bandied about, as well.

One aspect of the world of 2020 is that the balance of academic power will be shifting, although the extent of this shift will be affected by investments in education that will be affected by the natre of the recovery. Chinese and Indian institutions will be more prominent, and financial cutbacks will affect the standing of many American public universities and British universities, to name a few. Countries like Saudi Arabia are investing heavily in higher education, using an American model, but even there concers exists as to which aspects will be sustainable,

Optimize Value in an Environment of Resource Scarcity.
In the recent past, the modus operandi for institutional leaders was “Raise all the money you can and spend all the money you raise.” Many popular measures of institutional quality are driven by the level of resources. In the 2020 environment of scarce resources, quality will be important, but value will even more essential. Shrewd and insightful leaders will be forced to figure out how to identify and sustain their real sources of value and quality. Institutions will have little choice but to redesign, outsource, and/or eliminate programs and functions that are non-critical or failing to achieve their value and quality potential.

In the past, individual universities have covered a full range of academic disciplines. By 2020, many universities and colleges may find it necessary to revise and focus their course offerings on centers of excellence, using partnerships and virtual collaborations with other universities to cover other disciplines.

Value can also be improved by improving performance and productivity and by reducing price. Between now and 2020, institutions will be under unremitting pressure to improve academic and administrative productivity. They will also be pressure to hold the line on tuition and to rediuce the “total cost of completing learning objectives.” By 2020, the pressures on both the productivity and price fronts will be substantial, and higher education’s publics will likely demand action.

Embrace a Profoundly Networked World of Ubiquitous Technologies.
In Transforming e-Knowledge: A Revolution in Knowledge Sharing (2003) Jon Mason, Paul Lefrere.and I described the transformative impact of the Web on the manner in which we experience knowledge and its impact on every aspect of scholarship and learning. At an accelerating pace, personal communication devices and smart facilities are creating a world in which learning spaces are everywhere. Add in cloud computing and mobile learning (which is growing at a rapid pace across the globe) and one can envision a world in 2020 where every class room in K-20 – and other spaces as well – becomes a technology-rich learning space. While many high-priced visualization and virtual/augmented reality technologies will be limited to more affluent, selected settings, ubiquitous, mobile technologies will at some level empower every learner.

Strategic thinking for 2020 should consider how profoundly these new patterns of engagement and interactivity could change our models, practices, and costs for learning, when coupled with new competitors, open learning, and such.

Rethink the Physical Needs of the Campus. Ohio State University made headlines the other week by deciding that new facilities could be justified only if comparable square footage could be retired. For some time, institutions like the University of Central Florida have utilized on-line and blended learning as a means of “stretching” existing physical resources and growing to a size that could not be supported by the existing physical facilities. Institutions are increasingly using technology to create online and blended options that reduce the need to come to campus. New approaches are also changing the mix of classroom space required (adios to the need for a significant number of large. tiered lecture classrooms) in new facilities. As these practices grow, campuses will find they need less space than in the past.

The Great Recession has dramatically slowed the advancing of new facilities projects into the pipeline in American higher education. By 2020, the pressure to retrofit, repurpose, and retire facilities will be extreme. Sustainability will expand to include the financial sustainability of physical and virtual campuses in a profoundly networked world where the e-Lifestyle includes learning, research, innovation, entrepreneurship, and collaborations span physical and virtual worlds. Existing campus facilities will increasingly be used as “great, good public places” for convening events and collaborations in order to use existing space productively.

Reinvent Sustainable Career Models for Academic Professionals. Robin Wilson’s provocative article in the July 4 edition of The Chronicle of Higher Education, “Tenure RIP: What the Vanishing Status Means for Higher Education” described the dramatic decline in tenure-track faculty from 56.3% of the total faculty corps in 1975 to 30.2% in 2007. While this pace of reduction does not hold for all institutional types, it does suggest what everyone already knew: provosts, deans, and department chairs have been turning to other, cheaper types of adjunct and part-time faculty to address teaching needs in the face of financial pressures and limitations. This trend will continue as long as the financial model is broken or unsustainable.

The question for institutions should be: In 2020, if we can achieve fundamental financial sustainability, what are sustainable career models for academic professions? This is perhaps the most difficult challenge facing higher education leaders.

Focus on Increasing Access, Affordability, and Success for Increasing Diverse and Challenging Populations. The Delta Project Report articulates well the challenge of raising attainment, for an increasingly diverse and challenges student population, in an environment of resource constraint. Dennis Jones’ presentation to SHEEO in 2009, “Heightened Expectation/Diminished Resources: What’s a SHEEO to DO?” dramatized the difficulty of achieving growth targets for degrees awarded in this environment.

On the other hand, the combined efforts of groups such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Lumina Foundation, the Education Trust, and others, are demonstrating that attention to the fundamentals of retention and student success can yield significant results for almost every institution. And the compounded impact of their innovations and research on “what works” will likely have a significant impact by 2020.

Establish a Culture of Performance Measurement and Improvement with Transparency and Accountability. Today, higher education is moving beyond a culture of reporting, moving toward a culture of evidence. In the future, the times and our publics will demand that we be operating in a culture of performance measurement and improvement, with transparency and accountability. Such a culture will require a new constellation of analytics processes and practices in which predictive analytics are embedded in academic and administrative processes to enable real-time interventions and adjustments to aid students at risk, processes deviating from the optimal, and faculty and staff needed development or assistance. We have developed the concept of “Action Analytics” to be a vehicle for advancing such a culture, which we expect to have pervaded higher education by 2020.

Provide Mass Customized, Customized Offerings. By 2020, many learners will expect institutions to tailor offerings to their needs, rather than offering “one size fits all.” There will be many more competitors for e-learning and blended learning experiences, at a wide range of price points. Moreover, many continuing learners will be focusing on a perpetual cycle of filling “knowledge gaps” through participating in free-range learning through communities of practice which provide immediate feedback loops on what is needed to succeed in particular industries.

Discover Systemic Solutions that Span K-20 and Link the Learningforce and the Workforce – and Back Again.
Today, institutions of higher education have a poor track record in scaling successful innovations to the entire enterprise. Moreover, K-12 and postsecondary education have been “siloed” even though every state has some variation on a K-16 or preK-20 reinvention initiative. Moreover, the link between K-20 education and workforce has been inadequate.

In reality the achievement of financial sustainability would be considerably easier if we could develop systemic solutions that span K-20 and school-to-work transitions. While we spend more than any other developed nation on education as a percentage of GDP, we waste much of those resources through having to teach the same things two or three times (remediation and the burden of not meeting needs for credit-for-prior-learning), failure to get on and stay on career pathways, and failure to receive necessary attention and mentoring.

By 2020, the combination of K-20 and workforce initiatives, foundation-supported innovations in student access and success, and large-scale longitudinal studies on success should have yielded a constellation of systemic solutions that improve both student success and financial sustainability. Efforts to reduce time-to-degree and total-cost-of-learning will depend on these sorts of initiatives. Today’s strategic planning efforts should seek to advance and support such initiatives, which will be necessary to institutional efforts to achieve financial sustainability.

The next blog in this series will deal with the Principles for Realigning and Reallocating Higher Education (2010-2013). It will be followed by a multi-part blog on It’s Time to Reimagine Higher Education (Part 4) – A Portfolio of Actions for 2010-2013. It will describe four areas of change management focus: 1) Academic and Learning Environment, 2) Administrative Environment, 3) Resources to support Innovations and Realignment, 4) Tools and Structures to Ensure Innovation.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

It’s Time to Reimagine Higher Education (Part 1) – Making the Case

Over the past week, a number of research reports, responses, and presentations have reinforced several intersecting themes:

• America needs to reach its targets for raising educational attainment and economic competitiveness if we are to thrive as a nation and a civil society;

• These rising expectations collide with the reality of diminished resource capacity from state and federal governments, learners and their families, and many corporate and philanthropic sources;

• In order to achieve its attainment goals within the resources likely to be available, higher education will find it necessary not just to pursue efficiencies and new sources of revenues but to reimagine its offerings and to reinvent policies, processes, and practices..

• Enhancing learner access, affordability, and success, combined with reimagination and reinvention, can establish a new plane of financial sustainability for American higher education.

Reimagining higher education is an imperative. Moreover, the timeframe to begin strategic action is narrow – and the clock is ticking.

The Delta Projects: Troubling Trends in College Spending

The Delta Project released its latest report, “Trends in College Spending, 1998-2008, which answers the three questions: 1) Where does the money come from? 2) Where does it go? and 3) What does it buy? The report is a treasure trove for readers wishing to crawl over data addressing these issues. Throughout, interesting and troubling insights emerge. Several conclusions emerged from the report and are paraphrased below:

• Sharp increases in spending between 1998 and 2003 by a handful of colleges and universities, creating competitive pressures on spending everywhere.

• Regular cycles in funding for both public and private non-profit institutions: up in good times, down in bad. The one constant is growing dependence on tuition revenues, now the most stable and predictable source of revenues in higher education.

• The share of spending going to pay for instruction has consistently declined when revenues decline, relative to growth in spending in academic and student support and administration. This erosion persists even when revenues rebound, meaning that over time there has been a gradual shift of resources away from instruction and towards general administrative and academic infrastructure.

• Except for private research universities, tuitions are not increasing because spending is going up. They are going up because of cost-shifting—meaning that instead of cutting spending in the face of revenue declines, institutions consistently shift to higher tuitions.

• There are wide variations between states in the ways they invest in higher education. A few states have actually increased spending for higher education over this decade, although many did not. There has also been a slight shift in state subsidy patterns, away from public research universities and toward masters’ and community colleges.

Jane Wellman, Director of the Delta Project concludes, “The depth of the funding crisis is such that more than ever before in our history, there is widespread consensus that the “cost model” for higher education is broken.”

She goes on to say, “The current prolonged recession means that we can no longer expect new revenue to pay for increasing attainment in higher education. In the next decade, we are going to be lucky to hold onto the resources we have. That means that all institutions – from the Ivies to the community colleges –are going to have to develop investment strategies that support goals for attainment. That will require new habits: looking at spending, and promoting the values of efficiency and cost effectiveness as co-partners to the never-ending search for new revenues.”

Troubling Inequalities in Resource Distribution. Probing into the details of these findings is troubling to anyone concerned about the patterns of resource distribution among the different types of institutions in American higher education and the rising cost of education to learners and their families. The compounded impacts of the patterns described by the Delta Report suggest how difficult it is going to be to raise educational attainment, the responsibility for which will largely fall to institutions such as community colleges and public universities that are resource strapped.

The insights from the Project Delta Report reveal why thoughtful educational leaders feel a state of cognitive dissonance. At the very time when many elite private American universities place near the very top of the international league tables on reputation, public universities and community colleges find their resources constrained, dangerously.

Taking Actions a Step Farther – Richard Vedder

In a July 9 posting in The Chronicle of Higher Education titled “The Delta Cost Project Report and True Reform,” Richard Vedder, Director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity, extends this argument a step farther. While he supports the basic foundation of the Delta Project Report, he believes their conclusions do not go far enough.

“All the talk about increased access, greater affordability and enhanced accountability is just that: talk. The three "A's make for good rhetorical flourishes, but what is needed for real transformation and rising productivity is attention to the three "I"s—information, incentives, and innovation…..In short, part of the problem is that colleges fail to collect or disclose key information needed in assessing programmatic performance—you cannot solve a problem if you don't know what it is. Are students learning much? How do they fare after graduation relative to those attending other schools? Do anthropology majors fare better than those in physics? etc. etc. Who knows? For a sector that worships research, the amount of money devoted to R and D towards improving higher education performance is pathetic……Paying attention to the first two "I"s will lead to the third I—innovation—new uses of cheap capital (e.g. computers) as substitutes for expensive capital (e.g., faculty), etc.”

Vedder has long been on record in support of technology in education, Open Educational Resources (OER), less expensive educational options, leveraging innovation, and challenging existing practices. In order to achieve the enhancements that are the mission of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity, higher education will need to embrace action-oriented analytics and leverage those analytics to achieve reimagination and reinvention.

SCUP Highlights the Reimagination of Higher Education, Post Recession

The reimagination imperative was taken to an even higher plane at this week’s annual conference of Society for College and University Planning (SCUP). At SCUP 45, a number of speakers at plenary sessions and workshops discussed the need for higher education to leverage technology as an instrument of transformation.

Linda Baer, Program Officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Donald Norris of Strategic Initiatives staged a workshop specifically on the topic of “Reimaging Higher Education, Post Recession.” Baer and Norris stated the following basic premise:
“In order to lift out of recession, higher education needs to leverage its use of technology-enabled process reinvention and analytics, focusing on performance and value. Institutions must discover, demonstrate, and deploy operational efficiencies, innovations, reimagined processes and practices, and fresh sources of revenue – all at once.”

A Narrow Window of Opportunity. This message captures the spirit of both the Project Delta Report and the Center for College Affordability and Productivity. But there is another element to this message: time. American Higher Education is in the midst of recession-driven budget adjustments, which in the past have predominantly resulted in cost shifting to tuition revenue rather than the preferred package of: 1) strategic budget cuts, 2) innovation-led transformation, and 3) reinvention of processes and practices. .We are already two to three years into such adjustments and are facing at least three more years of recessionary-based woe. Unless institutions react quickly to “put a strategic face” on their reactions, we will miss a signal opportunity. So far, we have ignored the admonition that “a crisis is a terrible thing to waste.”

Smart Leadership to Shift from “Muddling Through” to Strategic Innovation and Tranformation. Linda Baer, Anne Hill Duin of the University of Minnesota, and Judith Ramaley of Winona State University presented a paper at SCUP 45 on “Smart Change: Tools for Strategic Planning and Adaptive Change.” This presentation continues a string of papers and publications on smart change from these authors. In their work, they suggest the parameters of the kinds of leadership and processes needed to promote institutional smart change that engages the future strategically, not incrementally – or decrementally.

The following timeframe emerges when we apply the principles of smart leadership to the imperative reimagination of higher education.

Campus leaders have been “staunching the flow” and muddling through, leveraging stimulus money, raising tuition revenue, and making short-term adjustments, and hoping for the best.

2010-2013 Cutbacks will continue, especially as the impact of the stimulus wears out. Most institutions will continue to muddle through. They will lose the chance to act strategically. Five or six years of muddling through will consume all remaining organizational slack and capacity to scale innovations.

On the other hand, smart leadership at particular institutions will use this period to craft new strategies and reimagine practices to enhance performance and value for “the New Normal” of diminished resources and enhanced new demands for greater student access, affordability, and success.

2013-2020 State revenues and funding will not rebound as they have after past recessions. Even when revenues do recover, there will be other demands on the public purse and Federal Budget Reduction Initiatives. At the same time, the capacity of learners and their families to pay for education will continue to erode and they will seek greater “value” from learning providers. They will be more discriminating and imaginative in seeking solutions. to their learning needs (See July 10 blog “The Changing Meaning of Value for Tomorrow’s College Students)

Smart leadership will use this period to strategically realign institutional practices to the New Normal,” reinventing processes and developing organizational capacity in tandem, responding to changing learner value propositions, improving student success, and rediscovering financial sustainability..

2020 By 2020. strategically realigned institutions will have achieved a new plane of financial sustainability, with significant changes in capacity, policies, and practices. Their vision and offerings will be responsive to the changing value propositions desired by students in 2020.

Reimagining Higher Education and Planning from the Future Backward. So how should institutions engage in two concurrent tasks:

1) Reimagine themselves in a condition of financial sustainability for 2020? and

2) Identify and launch a combinations of actions to achieve financial sustainability – efficiencies,; scalable innovations; reinventions in policies, processes, practices, and partnerships; and new revenues (with raising tuition increasingly difficult) – starting immediately.

These topics shall be the focus of the next blog in this series: “It’s Time to Reimagine Higher Education (II) – Planning from the Future Backward. .

The Changing Meaning of “Value” for Tomorrow’s College Students

American higher education serves a wide range of learners at many stages of their lives and careers. Everyone from the traditional 18 year-old, first-time-in-college student at a residential college or university to the 34 year-old mother returning to complete the degree she started before kids to the 54 year-old manager retooling after being laid off. And all permutations and every variation in between: part-time to full-time, learning in formal institutions to “free-range learning, and face-to-face to blended to virtual.

Given this complexity of needs and means, each learner has a different and distinctive value proposition. Value has particular and personal meanings. Perceived value is shaped by the perspectives and needs of the learner, not the provider.

Many traditionally-aged college students are seeking educational experiences that develop them as individuals and prepare them to live a meaningful life and make a comfortable living. For such students, the values and value of their educational institution are important factors in their selection. Many value-centric institutions depend on this as a differentiator in appealing to such students. Developmental experiences are important to such learners.

For the 85% of students in higher education that are older and non-traditional, however, the value they are deriving from their learning experience is pre-eminent. Perceptions of value consist of rich and personalized combinations of three factors: 1) the outcomes desired by the learner and the outcomes they actually achieve, 2) the desirability and convenience of experiences through which the outcomes are achieved, and 3) the price of the entire process.

The Great Recession, the affordability crisis, publicity about crushing student debt burdens, and the declining state of family wealth have made learners and parents much less certain about the future. The capacity and willingness of individuals and families to invest in learning have taken a shock. Learners are becoming more rigorous in questioning the “value” they derive from their learning. Families are rethinking their value propositions. They are becoming more aggressive about askingt he question “Are we getting our money’s worth?” Assumptions about outcomes, quality, and value are being reframed.

Continuing the Economic Slide

This situation will only get worse over the next few years. Institutional finances will be weak and tuition at many institutions will continue to increase at 5-10% per year to close budget gaps. On the employment side, many graduates will continue to be underemployed and unemployed. Many graduates are being driven to seek new, entrepreneurial and “free agent” opportunities. This will erode confidence in the return on investment on higher education from traditional providers.

Anya Kamenetz’s book, DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education described two facets of this problem. First, that he Millenial Generation are the “canaries in the coal mine” demonstrating that college education by the old model s unaffordable. Metaphorically, the Millennial canaries have expired.. Second, the Millennial generation is much more open to new ways of achieving learning – the “Do-It-Yourself-University (DIY U) approach – and are confronted with a wide range of new, open learning options and new competitors that will challenge the hegemony of traditional, institution-based higher education and possibly establish new price points for learning.

Between now and 2013, the economy’s recovery will likely be weak. whether there is a “double dip” recession, an “L-shaped”, Japanese style recovery and lost decade, or some other visual descriptions of a bad situation, the prospects are not rosy. In turn, this means that the financial condition of the states will continue to worsen. Figures from the State Higher education Executive Officers (SHEEO) suggest that state budget health will reach its nadir in 2012-2013. The “New Normal” is that we will not bounce back like after past recessions. While most institutional leaders understand these conditions, many of the rank-and-file faculty and staff expect a normal bounce-back and conditions returning to the old normal.

Smart institutional leadership will use the period between 2010-2013 to articulate the challenge of the New Normal and to recraft strategies and reimagine their institutions, post recession, building capacity and reinventing policies, processes, and practices.

This will continue from 2013 through 2020, by which time reimagined and strategically realigned institutions may have achieved a new plane of financial sustainability.

Achieving financial sustainability will only be possible, however, if institutions are mindful of what “value” means to the learners of 2013-2020 and act accordingly.

Focusing on Value from 2013-2020

So in this environment of an emerging “New Normal,” what will value means to students who will be engaged in higher learning from 2013-2020? From the viewpoint of anxious and perceptive learners and their families, we suggest the following elements of a learner-centric set of value propositions:

• Provide me with flexibility of learning and developmental experiences, so I can complete my learning objectives conveniently and on time.

• Do not require me to repeat learning for competences I can already demonstrate.

• Reduce my total cost of education and my debt burden.

• Prepare me for the global workforce so I will be employable and competitive for jobs from the start.

• Provide me with the habits of mind, body, and spirit to be able to continuously learn and develop throughout my careers.

• Provide a network and community of lifelong support to know what I will need to know to continue to be competitive.

• Provide continuing learning and development options that are fast, fluid, flexible, and affordable.

This should be a manifesto for learners and for institutions keen on serving their needs.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

A New Amenities Arms Race: Student Success

Donald M. Norris
President, Strategic Initiatives, Inc.

For the past two decades, American higher education has been engaged in a sort of “amenities arms race” of epic proportions. As institutions vied for the attention and favor of ever-more sophisticated student consumers, they have acquired a generation of shiny new academic and research facilities; plush athletic stadiums, practice fields, and wellness facilities; commodious residence halls, condominium-like student apartments, and student unions with every feature from rock climbing walls to bistros to juice and coffee bars.

The aftermath of the Great Recession has slowed the pipeline of campus construction projects and dimished future prospects. But it has given fresh impetus to the race to offer an amenity of enhanced importance: improved student success. Students are demanding better feedback on what they need to do to succeed and fulfill their learning objectives on time and within their budget. Shrewd and purposeful institutions have developed a range of analytics-based tools, practices, alerts, and interventions than enable them to develop policies that improve student performance and better advise and inform students. They are also acting decisively and in real time to alert and assist students whose performance deviates from the patterns that have characterized cohorts of previously successful students.

Consider the following examples of action analytics in practice in support of student success in courses:

Purdue University has been one of the pioneers in applying predictive modeling, longitudinal data and large-scale data sets to student success.
They have mined data from systems that support teaching and learning to provide customization, tutoring, or intervention within the learning environment – this is what they call “Actionable Intelligence.”

One of their most successful efforts has been the Signals program, featured in an MSNBC news clip. Using historical data, Purdue deployed predictive modeling to identify patterns of behavior and performance in introductory gateway courses that led to success and compared them to current student efforts. Students receive a red, yellow, or green indicator to show them where they stand. Starting as a pilot, this effort has scaled to 500 gateway course sections enrolling 11,000 students at a cost of $47 a student. John Campell demonstrated this application at the First Symposium on Action Analytics.

While technology is the enabler, the Purdue Team feels strongly that it is the capacity of the organization - people, skills, and processes - that makes the difference in a successful intervention system. This system has made tradeoffs between predictive perfection and scalability; it focuses on actions that are made possible by the analytics. Purdue has partnered with SunGard to develop a commercial version of Signals that is available to other institutions.

Capella University embeds analytics in every aspect – academic and administrative – of the student experience. Capella is a market-drive (for-profit) university that uses predictive modeling to increase application rates, enrollment, and course attendance; to improve academic performance and the learning experience; and to increase persistence. Capella’s leadership and faculty are dedicated reflective practitioners. They have studied student behavior and success and understand both the characteristics of online learners and the elements of successful online learning experiences for their students. Five factors differentiate the online learning experience as a platform for predictive modeling:

• Online learning generates a huge amount of data
• The data arrive in a cyclical manner,
• Capella has a long-term engagement with learners
• They can monitor learner behavior on different time scales
• Learners have more freedom in managing their time

For Capella’s online learners, the first week is everything; students who get off to a bad start seldom catch up. So Capella perpetually monitors students, uses predictive modeling to match them to past patterns, and sends tailored messages to students to get them on track and keep them there. Predictive modeling and artificial intelligence are key elements of the management of every student’s learning experience. Alex Ushveridze of Capella University demonstrated these modeling techniques at the First National Symposium on Action Analytics.

These analytic mindsets and approaches also affect learning outcomes. Capella’s offerings are based on competence. They utilize embedded templates, rubrics, and analytics to enable students to acquire competences and demonstrate them in ways that are understandable to employers. Jeff Grann and Kim Pearce demonstrated Capella’s approaches atCapella is sharing its ideas and practices through the Action Analytics in Education Partnership and the Action Analytics Community of Practice, seeking to advance transparency and accountability in higher education.

Many institutions have developed “home-grown” predictive modeling tools for recruitment, keeping students on track, and improving student success.
Most leading-edge community colleges have similar versions of these tools to manage and improve student success. Last year, Ken Moore from Sinclair Community College described his institution’s retention and student success practices and at this year’s National Symposium, Vernon Smith from Rio Salado Community College described his institution’s efforts to develop open source solutions to student classroom progress and success. There are many models to emulate and improve upon - and these approaches have a high return on investment, when done well.

Powerpoint presentations of the Purdue University and Capella capabilities can be found at the Public Forum for Action Analytics website. They will be featured in an upcoming Webinar, along with other cases, in a Webinar announced by John Hammang of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU). The time and date for which will appear on the Public Forum for Action Analytics.

These developments were discussed on May 5-7 at the Second National Symposium on Action Analytics in St. Paul Minnesota. At this meeting, institutional leaders and practitioners, policy makers, and foundation representatives discussed how to deploy and leverage analytics that will provoke action to improve student access, affordability, and success and enable the rediscovery of financial sustainability.

The sense that emerged from this meeting was that the imperative for concerted, aggressive action to improve student success has grown dramatically given the current state of the economy and family finances. Students are demanding better feedback and support in improving their odds of success. Their demands are destined to grow and they are likely to vote with their feet – and their clicks – if they are unsatisfied. Learners can be counted on to ratchet up their demand that the current generation of intervention and advisement tools be enhanced and extended.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Launching the Action Analytics Community of Practice

Donald M. Norris

I’m on my way the Second National Symposium on Action Analytics, hosted in St. Paul Minnesota. This Symposium is part of a coordinated effort to support a national agenda on action analytics, undertaken by the Action Analytics in Education Partnership (AAEP). It has been my honor to have been involved with the AAEP from its conception in brainstorming sessions more that a year ago with Dr. Linda Baer, Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs at the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities and Dr. Michael Offerman, currently Interim President of Capella University.

The Action Analytics in Education Partnership (AAEP) includes the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) system, a the nation’s fifth largest system of two-year colleges and state universities; Capella University, a 17-year-old proprietary university; The Shank Institute for Innovative Learning, a nonprofit think tank focusing on future technology and learning organization; and Strategic Initiatives, Inc., a for-profit developmental consulting firm that is known for its ground-breaking work in leveraging technology to transform practices and outcomes in higher education. Other partners are being sought to provide other perspectives.

The Partnership’s mission is to capture, share and implement best practices in analytics and predictive modeling and to encourage the breadth and depth of use of action analytics across higher education institutions as a tool to ultimately improve institutional performance and student success in postsecondary education within the context of financial sustainability at the institutional, state, and federal levels.

Intermediate success will be achieved when we have a viable Action Analytics Community of Practice with 1) well-defined issue domain, 2) vibrant community and subcommunities, an 3) clearly articulated practice principles and tools that attract a critical mass of practitioners, thought leaders, and policy makers and have achieved financial sustainability for the community. Longer-term success will be achieved as we influence the effective practice of action analytics and support the development of the capacities of individuals, institutions, policy makers, foundations, accreditors, and educational agencies to measure qand improve performance and reimagine learning to meet the needs of the post-Recession global economy.

AAEP has launched and seeks to sustain a national agenda on the use of action analytics and predictive modeling to improve performance of the postsecondary education system and support the successful completion of postsecondary degrees by U.S. students. The predictive modeling emphasis will support better data decision making among students and faculty. While data are important, the expanded capacity to determine best interventions for students given the data is the critical element in making a significant difference in student success. The goals of the initiative include: establishing a repository of best practices in improving student readiness, retention, and success and achieving financial sustainability; instituting a dynamic observatory of new competencies and skills needed to be proficient and effective professional in advancing student success through analytics; establishing a community of practice (CoP) among analytic practitioners and policy makers; and hosting the second and third annual National Action Analytics Symposium.

The First National Symposium identified a range of desired actions, including securing sustaining funding, launching the community of practice, and articulating a National Agenda. These have all been accomplished. The AAEP has been funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and we are launching the Action Analytics Community of Practice tomorrow at the National Symposium. The National Agenda is posted on the Public Forum for Action Analytics, a public community that serves as the “front porch” for ideas and materials developed by the Community of Practice.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education

Anya Kamenetz's new book is stimulating lots of conversation - and not a small amount of controversy. I have written a book review for Planning for Higher Education which provides a critical assessment of this book - Check it out.

This is a book worth reading by anyone interested in confronting the perfect storm currently beseiging us: the increasing cost of higher education, diminished family finances, Great-Recession-based declines in opportunities for new graduates and long-term returns on education, limited capacity of higher education organizations to transform, and revolutionary approaches to do-it-yourself (DIY) learning. Paul Lefrere and I have called these new approaches "free-range learning" and they are presenting viable alternatives that likely will gain traction as the perfect storm roils and churns its way across the educationspace.