SEM Funnel Graphic Suite for Review (Version 2)

This is not the final version (go here to get V4)

Thanks for all of your input to the first draft.

SEM Funnel Graphic Suite for Review (Version 2) is delivered in four diagrams (below).

  • Strategic Enrollment Management Funnel: Is the full complete detailed funnel.
  • SEM Funnel: Recruitment, Provides just the recruitment section.
  • SEM Funnel: Retention, Provides just the retention section (I am considering modifying it to include the retention classification system. Thoughts?)
  • SEM Funnel: Is the simplest collapsed version.

This draft graphic suite is designed to illustrate the SEM Funnel. We would appreciate comments, edits, observations etc. Please feel free to put your comments in the comment box below the post and if you Like these please hit the like button. These will be available for your use after posting to the public. Please do not reuse these until we release them. When using them please do not remove our logo or copyright.

Strategic Enrollment Management Funnel


SEM Funnel: Recruitment


SEM Funnel: Retention


SEM Funnel


Strategic Enrollment Management Plan: Part 6

Prototype a Learning Age Strategic Plan Series Banner

The Strategic Enrollment Management Plan is the sixth element in a cohesive prototype plan leading an institution into the future. It is an integral part of a cohesive planning and management system serving to guide organizational development, focus and workflow. I receive many requests for an outline but the specifics of a plan are largely dependent upon the institutions typology and strategic condition of its academic portfolio and enrollment history. This post will serve to frame the basic functions and some strategic elements necessary for any Strategic Enrollment Management Plan.

The purpose of the Strategic Enrollment Management Plan is threefold:

  • Inform the Master Academic Plan regarding global learning market conditions, challenges and opportunities;
  • Present the institutions academic program to the global learning marketplace and engage prospects to yield enrollments;
  • Manage enrollment dynamics to optimize revenue and enrollment performance.

The foundation of any Strategic Enrollment Management Plan emanates from assumptions either formal or de facto about the relative position of the institution in the global learning ecosystem or within specific learning market segments.

Common Strategic Enrollment Management Plan characteristics include:

  • A long range view with specific references such as 1, 3, 5, 10, 15 year milestones.
  • Updated annually
  • Translates the Institutional Strategic Plan and Master Academic Plan into action
  • Fully integrates the Master Academic Plan with the global learning marketplace
  • Fully involves the academic leadership
  • Guides academic and enrollment organizational development (human capital and systems infrastructure)

Strategic Position

The Strategic Enrollment Management Plan when combined with the Institutional Strategic Plan and the Master Academic Plan determine the institutions relative strategic position in the global learning ecosystem. Conversely the desired strategic position focuses the development of specific strategies, tactics, goals and objectives in the Strategic Enrollment Management Plan.

Strategic Position is defined as the sum of the competitive characteristics an institution or program possesses when compared to other institutions or programs in the global learning ecosystem or specific market segments. While marketing, branding, and competitiveness are certainly integral to the strategy, the roots of strategic positioning lie in the academic master plan and the academic culture and curriculum it defines, builds and sustains. The process begins with institutional strategy emanating from mission and vision. We use the SRS Method to develop a clear and concise translation and guide Strategic Enrollment Management plans, campaigns and analysis.

The SRS Method of Mission Review and Strategy Development

Figure 1: The SRS Method of Mission Review and Strategy Development

Contrary to the common practice, “we need more,” is neither a strategy nor a plan. The concept of strategic position is built around assessing where an institution is with respect to others in its competitive sphere. The assessment of strategic position is informed through at least six lenses.

  • The Demographics Lens
    Examines enrollment strategy and performance against geographic scope, reach and yield. Scope assesses and defines target populations, reach details tactics to engage target populations and yield measures enrollment performance.
  • The Learning Outcomes Lens
    Examines the metrics and perceptions of the benefit and value added through the learning experience.
  • The Academic Programs Lens
    Examines the scope and focus of the academic program mix requiring an evaluation of saturation and opportunity against market dynamics.
  • The Research and Scholarship Lens
    Examines the comparative scholarly performance of the institution against competitors.
  • The Employment Domains and Discipline Spheres Lens
    Examine the requirements of employers, contemporary realities in academic communities and the performance and success of alums.
  • The Community of Practice Lens
    Examines academic strategies tied to emerging trans-disciplinary communities of practice that require a collaborative academic background to join.
Six Lenses Informing Strategic Position

Figure 2: Six Lenses Informing Strategic Position – Strategic Position can be defined as the sum of the competitive characteristics an institution or program possesses when compared to other institutions or programs in the global learning sphere or its specific market segments.

Note the primacy of academic programs (Academic Programs, Learning Outcomes, Research and Scholarship) in the concept and strategic position framework. Because the academic strategies drive enrollment management performance, the cycles that drive each of them must be aligned, and synergy developed. They must also be aligned with the three external factors; population dynamics and demographics, employment domains and global discipline conditions, and emerging communities of practice.

The Life Cycles of PIE

Strategic enrollment management utilizes a basic PIE (Plan / Implement / Evaluate) Cycle to produce results. It is a three year cycle. Each fall, enrollment managers begin the cycle by evaluating last year’s campaign against enrollments registered on census day, launching the current recruitment plan as informed by ongoing evaluation, and planning the next fall’s recruitment campaign. The full cycle takes three years to complete:

  • Year 1
    Develop the recruitment Plan
  • Year 2
    Implement the recruitment plan
  • Year 3 and Continuous
    Evaluate results using analytics and time series methods.

Curriculum management also runs in a basic three year PIE cycle. Academic program modifications, curriculum development, and academic policy modifications are collected, and the results are published in the academic catalog to be offered as the basis for enrollment. Because it serves as the basis for a contract between the institution and the student the academic catalog becomes the input to the development of a Strategic Enrollment Management Recruitment campaign. The confluence and interplay between the various cycles of development, review, approval, and implementation require consistent, clear communications and a commitment to a common goal.

Synchronizing the academic and enrollment management calendars, schedules, and cycles are essential to a smooth enrollment development culture. Cycles must nurture enrollment management campaigns designed to recruit the next cohort of students.

The recruitment, retention, and graduation of students follow the predictive staged path detailed in the Strategic Enrollment Management Funnel. Between each band lies the yield from decisions made in the previous to progress further down the funnel toward registration. Campaigns are designed to yield the progress from suspect populations (input to the funnel) through the various stages.

The Strategic Enrollment Management Funnel

Figure 3: The Strategic Enrollment Management Funnel


Defined as an integrated set of recruitment activities designed to achieve a specific enrollment target in a specified amount of time. A campaign is guided by institutional strategy, master academic plan, and strategic position and developed in order to meet recruitment period enrollment targets.

  • Targets Begin with trajectory statements such as increase academic profile of freshman class or increase diversity of the undergraduate population, or increase geographic representation of graduate enrollments. Specific campaign targets then flow from these trajectories, such as, grow enrollment from Asia (specifically China, Japan, Malaysia, India, & Indonesia) by x% to 100 incoming students in fall (year).
  • Messaging Develops the specific messages and sequences them to influence prospect decision making. Messaging creates the value proposition, removes barriers, engages the interest, and leads the prospect through learning about the opportunity to experience an academic culture. It is both art and science and is rarely enhanced by opinion.
  • Channels Map the messages to specific communications systems and schedule them in a strategic order to influence prospects decision to proceed through the application process to enrollment. Channels include events (face-to-face), social media, advertising, including virtually every vehicle of engagement available.
  • Closing In the end the entire campaign is about the final negotiation and closing the offer of enrollment. The right tools and flexibility must be in the hands of the closer.

Enrollment managers are working a minimum of three campaigns at any given time. They are evaluating what worked in the previous, implementing the current and planning the next. A consistent critical weakness we have observed is too little time, and attention is paid to campaign planning and analysis.

In Closing

This brief introduction to the construct, value and key elements of a Strategic Enrollment Management Plan serves to orient its role in the structure of a solid strategic planning process. Without this solid foundation enrollment development activities are adrift, guided only by angst, panic, opinion, beliefs, notions, and impatience.

Master Academic Plan: Part 5

Proficiency Based Curriculum Model: Part 6


This is the sixth post in the series on Academic Strategic Enrollment Management.

One of the most profound developments in Academic SEM is the emergence of a Proficiency-Based Curriculum Architecture Model (PBCAM). Its development and continued evolution are the results of a synthesis by a number of scholars, communities of practice and higher education associations. The Proficiency-Based Curriculum Architecture Model is driven by and feeds the continued evolution of the global learning ecosystem. It is built upon a digital learning framework and serves to restructure the basic architecture of higher education’s curriculum. An institution’s curriculum architecture defines the essential components of its curricular system; maps the interrelationships between the components and the environment, and specifies the system’s intended learning and award outcomes. Put simply, the curriculum architecture synthesizes the many institution-specific design and delivery decisions inherent in curriculum management.

An Evolving Proficiency-Based Curriculum Architecture

The scope of the emerging Proficiency-Based Curriculum Architecture Model embraces learning leading to an accredited formal educational credential and extends to include the universe of practice based educational experiences. Practiced based curriculum has historically been considered not for credit in a collegiate program of study. The lines have become blurred as new learning experiences are built and experienced and woven into the for credit curriculum. An example of the implications of the Proficiency-Based Curriculum Architecture Model considers the Kahn Academy’s inventory of learning objects and their integration by the learner into their collegiate experience. Until now there was not a structure within a collegiate curriculums architecture to accommodate the experience.

Curriculum architecture is defined by four underlying domains:

  1. Programs of Study
    The taxonomy of degrees, certificates, sequences, courses, modules, and learning objects within a school’s curriculum inventory defines the primary design feature of the school. This domain anchors the architecture, shifts attention to outcomes and program-based design elements, and, thereby, facilitates the alignment of the academic master planning process with other institutional processes.
  2. Authentications
    This domain details accrediting, licensing, and assessment oversight organizations, the units warranted, and related specifications. In doing so, the architecture incorporates the School’s accreditation and outcomes assessment planning processes.
  3. Delivery and Learner Access Strategies
    This domain tracks program term parameters (calendar), schedule model parameters, delivery modes, facilities implications and other delivery specifications.
  4. Business Model Variables
    This domain specifies the human resource specifications, instructional and non-instructional funding, and other resource specifications required to deliver the curriculum.
    Of these domains, the basic structural elements of the programs of study define the learner’s curricular experiences and provide for the primary value assessment of a credential. The POS and the courses that build the cumulative knowledge and skills are essential to positioning an academic offering in the 21st century global learning marketplace. The system that is now in place is structurally two tiers that link the program of study to required course experiences.

The Two Tier Program Architecture

The managed components of curricula consist of the top tier referred to as the Program of Study or POS. The program tier consists of a prescribed number of roughly sequential course experiences designed to culminate in a credential. A typical baccalaureate program of study is five courses per term over 8 consecutive terms summing to 40 courses earning a minimum of 120 credits.

The Program of Study

Figure 1: The Program of Study

The second tier is the Course. Courses are defined in terms of seat time equivalency and calibrated to credits. A three credit course is typical. Courses in this example are delivered over a 15 week term requiring 3 hours of faculty contact per week for a total of 45 contact hours. In addition, students would be expected to spend 6 hours per week reading, preparing, and problem solving, or studying the material for an additional 90 hours of learning the experience. Combined these two basic course elements sum to 135 hours of learning engagement and earn three credit hours. Learning is assessed primarily through summative course assessments in the form of midterm and final exams with further evidence supplied by a term paper, quizzes or a project. A new model has evolved since 1995.

The Seven Tier Curriculum Architecture

The new model begins with the understanding of the emergence of learning objects and their role in constructing curriculum architectures. Learning objects are the smallest component of the curriculum. They form the foundation of a structured curriculum, are integral to learning and are used to build pathways to higher level cognitive awareness and understanding. The content within learning objects has always been integral to the teaching and learning processes. The shift to digital learning environments enables discrete digital lessons that can be created, stored, used and reused, labeled (tagged), mapped in sequence, coupled with specific formative assessments, and integrated into larger cohesive curricular structures.

IMS Global Learning Consortium (IMS GLC)

In 1995, IMS Global Learning Consortium (IMS GLC) came into existence as a project within the National Learning Infrastructure Initiative of EDUCAUSE. While IMS got its start with a focus on higher education, the specifications published to date as well as ongoing projects address requirements in a wide range of learning contexts, including of course K-12 schools and corporate and government training. The primary focus of the initiative and the work of the consortium involve the establishment of standards for the emerging digital learning environment especially with respect to the formal curriculum.

Learning Objects

On June 25 1999 Cisco System published version 3.0 of their Cisco Systems Reusable Information Object Strategy: Definition, Creation Overview, and Guidelines marking a key milestone in the evolution and development of the use of objects.

The RIO Strategy is built upon the Reusable Information Object (RIO). An RIO is granular, reusable chunk of information that is media independent. An RIO can be developed once and delivered in multiple delivery mediums. Each RIO can stand alone as a collection of content items, practice items and assessment items that are combined based on a single learning objective. Individual RIOs are then combined to form a larger structure called a Reusable Learning Object (RLO).

Objects are then combined to build modules, and modules are combined to build courses.

The Proficiency-Based Curriculum Architecture Model

Figure 2: The Proficiency-Based Curriculum Architecture Model


The first distinguishing factor in the use of the term ‘Learning Object’ is that it is an element of the Digital Learning Environment. There are a number of learning object models that have emerged. Early on the learning object was defined as “a collection of content items, practice items, and assessment items that are combined based on a single learning objective.” “The term Learning Object, first popularized by Wayne Hodgins in 1994 when he named the CedMA working group ‘Learning Architectures, APIs and Learning Objects’

The second distinguishing factor is determined by the three basic characteristics of an object:

  • Accessibility
    An object must be able to be stored, retrieved, indexed, referenced and used directly by the learner. To achieve this means that it must be labeled with ‘metadata’ or tagged with keywords in order to facilitate the function within a digital archival system.
  • Reusability
    An object once cataloged and warranted for credibility should serve the learner in different instructional and learning contexts.
  • Interoperability
    The object should function independently from the learning management system, curriculum or content management systems, student record and registration system.

Course Curriculum Flow Model

The Course Curriculum Flow Model diagrams a course design into a sequence of related experiences and maps them in a time framework. The model provides a structured means of defining, combining, and developing learning experiences built upon a fine granularity assessable learning engagements building toward proficiency.

The Course Curriculum Flow Model

Figure 3: The Course Curriculum Flow Model

The course then plugs directly into the existing Program of Study diagramed in Figure 1: The Program of Study.

Disciplines and Communities of Practice: The guiding forces of formal curricula

Academic degrees and credentials are much more than just a random assemblage of learning experiences. Two fundamental drivers guide them. See Figure 2: The Proficiency-Based Curriculum Architecture Model.

The first driver is the structure, focus, and rigor of academic disciplines. Disciplines historically drive credential development and anchor the credential on a bedrock of scholarship, reason and accumulated research.

The second driver involves the structure, focus, and rigor emanating from trans-disciplinary Communities of Practice (often referred to as CoP) as the framing construct for the overarching scope of the curriculum. Communities of practice are formed by those who engage in collective learning within a shared domain of interest and through that interaction develop shared practice over time (Wenger, 2011). A community of practice curriculum is an emergent learning pathway for practitioners and scholars who share a common interest in or focus upon an area of research or scholarship that crosses disciplinary boundaries.

The Proficiency-Based Curriculum Architecture Model recognizes the multi-disciplinary and interdisciplinary nature of communities of practice and bridges between Collegiate/Scholarly offerings (arrayed down the right side) and Professional Practice offerings (arrayed down the left side). The feature, thereby, anchors the curriculum in both the scholarly and practitioner realms, forming the foundation for a Scholar/Practitioner curriculum. The discipline layer in the Proficiency-Based Curriculum Architecture Modelrecognizes that community of practice learning needs are translated and organized by discipline or field of study experts into programs of study. In turn the formal curricular structure provides a sequential term/course view of the learning opportunities designed to meet the needs of those wishing to enter or continue learning within a community of practice.

In Closing

I hope this brief sketch provides an evolutionary view of how the foundations of curricular innovation are driving the future of Academic Strategic Enrollment Management. The emerging  Proficiency-Based Curriculum Architecture Model permits dramatic expansion and integration of collegiate curriculum into the continuing education and learning requirements of the new millennium.

Stay connected and engage with your colleagues join the ASEM Group in Linked In, and join us in Claremont on December 8th for the Institute for Academic Strategic Enrollment Management and Sustainability where we will discuss the Proficiency-Based Curriculum Architecture Model.

Achieving Strategic Position in the
Global Learning Marketplace: Part 7

Programs of Study: Part 5

Enrollment ‘Crisis’ Management: The Art & Science of the Bump

Crisis has a way of blinding folks to clear thinking, realistic strategy development, focused tactics, and forced implementation on yield. One of the tactics that are very effective in the short term is what we call the ‘Bump Strategy.’ A bump is a short term windfall in enrollment that is based upon specific institutional characteristics. The Bump Strategy goes like this. An opportunity is discovered and developed to achieve a one time elevation in enrollment. These can be pockets of 40, 60, 100, even as high as 250 enrollments that can usually be achieved over no longer than three years; many are just 1 year. Looking at a longitudinal analysis they appear as a bump in enrollments if more serious long term strategies are not developed in parallel. We often deploy a bump strategy when dealing with an enrollment crisis. When engineering a bump we look for under recognized opportunity, incomplete or incomprehensible academic narrative, underestimated market/program of study value, or precious pockets of unrecognized market opportunity.

Bump strategies are a two edged sword. They do yield a temporary bump in enrollment. Because they are pocket opportunities, they cannot sustain a growth trajectory although they often can sustain a higher enrollment plateau. They have one lethal unintended outcome. They take the pressure off and derail investment in new long range strategy and allow reversion to the ‘old ways.’ If the money from the bump is wasted then meaningful growth falters. No institution has an unlimited number of bump opportunities and once they are used they do not yield forever. Each bump is unique to the institution and is dependent upon finding the right enrollment alchemy using indigenous curricular elements to exploit known enrollment dynamics.

The Tyranny of Cycles and the Magic of the Bump

If enrollment were a cake, it would take three years to make. Curriculum initiatives achieved this academic year get recruited for the next academic year and yield enrollment in the third academic year. Enrollment problems are failures to bring the academic and enrollment management functions into alignment in enough time to impact a recruitment cycle. Because the development cycle for any enrollment strategy is so long (tree years), and the focus on enrollment yield is so short (annual budget cycle), it is common to derail meaningful strategies underway prematurely. A bump is akin to a chef creating a tasty, satisfying meal from a marginally stocked pantry. Once it is consumed, well, the pantry just doesn’t yield it again. The magic of the bump strategy is that in an enrollment or fiscal crisis it does bypass the three year development cycle and gives a bump in resources on which to get by.

The Secret

It’s the Curriculum Stupid” Sorry to be so blunt but as explained in our post the one inexorable truth, “Curriculum drives enrollment, enrollment drives revenue, revenues drive everything else!” Because the curriculum generates the primary source of revenue by enrolling students, it is the first place to look in the treasure hunt for a bump. Remember a bump strategy is unique to the institution, there is no secret list somewhere you can just copy. To get the secret to yield turn to yield analytics. Social Media, inquiries, recruiter feedback, and historic enrollment build profiles. Next turn to market dynamics. It is not enough to just know from where your students come but where they are and what motivates them. For those of a certain age, bumps are more of a MacGyver type of operation.


There are a number of barriers to engineering a bump. If enrollment managers are too panicked and pressured to think, then they are unlikely to discover such opportunities. Resources being what they are, in limited supply; the team may be too busy to build the bump. Cycles are relentless, and timing is everything, this post appears in prime bump strategy season. If decision makers are too risked averse to try (and fail), a bump is impossible to engineer. Decisions can also be crowded by too many opinions and too many with veto power. I recall a board member who asked me (and most enrollment managers have this experience) ‘this all sounds like it takes too long, do you think they should try sending letters, visiting high schools, putting up a billboard or maybe doing a TV commercial?’

In closing

The bump as a crisis mitigation mechanism can be very effective. But it is not a remedy for long term enrollment issues. If used wisely, a bump strategy can give a needed boost in morale and enough fiscal oomph to energize an enrollment management team. No one can guarantee the success of bump initiative. October begins prime bump engineering season for next falls enrollment. But it is a short season and has serious limits. Please consider Joining the ASEM Group in Linked In, and joining us in Claremont on December 8th for the Institute for Academic Strategic Enrollment Management and Sustainability where we will discuss the bump as an option.

Enrollment Worries?

The only real way to enrollment and fiscal stability and sustainability is to engage both academic and enrollment management professionals in a structured approach to find, recruit, and enroll the critical mass of enrollments necessary to meet fiscal requirements.

Institute for Academic Strategic Enrollment Management and Sustainability

Don’t waste another academic or enrollment management cycle. Attend the Institute for Academic Strategic Enrollment Management and Sustainability.

Master Academic Plan: Part 5


The Academic Plan must be the center of any Strategic Plan for an Institution of Higher Education. It serves as the ‘Master’ Academic Plan because “Curriculum drives enrollment, enrollment drives revenue, revenues drive everything else!” It can also be termed the Academic Master Plan because it translates institutional mission and vision into action and establishes the strategic terms and conditions for the development of all things academic. An Academic Master Plan by its nature is dynamic and in a constant state of evolution. If it is not constantly being nurtured, developed, and aligned with emerging changes in the global learning ecosystem then it is in decline. If it is in decline then, the institution is either in decline or not far behind. There are many moving parts, and they must work together.

Master Academic Plan (Graphic)

The Master Academic Plan is essential to the process of fostering institutional vitality and fiscal health. Enabling the future requires that the conceptual framework of the MAP be future focused evolving changes in the learning ecosystem into academic strategies. The future focus is established in the institutional strategic plan. The first four posts in this series addressed this requirement by highlighting four pivotal strategies:

  • Change the Paradigm
  • Focus on Value
  • Develop Capacity, and
  • Make Everything Count.

The Master Academic Plan must enable the academic enterprise to lead on the pathway to institutional vitality and fiscal health. The Master Academic Plan establishes the foundation for the future by guiding and enabling development of the institutions supporting tactical plans, such as:

  • Enrollment Management Plan,
  • Digital Learning Environment Plan
  • Systems and Technology Plan
  • Human Resources Plan
  • Assessment Plan
  • Financial Plan
  • Campus Master Plan

Conversely, each of these plans supports, nurture, and are essential to the success of the master academic plan and the institutions strategic plan.

The Master Academic Plan (MAP)

The concept of a Master Academic Plan can appear daunting at first. Remember all of the elements are currently and in some way already in play and underway. The first step is collecting all of the various pieces, aligning them and reviewing their intent and impact based upon assumptions about the future and the strategic direction desired. The MAP more than any other planning effort establishes the foundation for fiscal sustainability.  “Curriculum drives enrollment, enrollment drives revenue, revenues drive everything else!”

Fiscal stability starts with first determining the critical mass required to support the facilities and basic human capital required to operate a college. Critical mass is the minimum enrollment the institution requires to sustain operations (Hint: it is larger than you think).  The MAP guides enrollment goal setting when synthesized with the financial plan and the enrollment management plan.

The second step requires understanding the theory and practice of managing the margin (see “Curriculum drives enrollment, enrollment drives revenue, revenues drive everything else!” post).

The third step is key to fiscal stability is also outlined in that post, curriculum drives enrollment, the MAP drives curriculum.

About the Master Academic Plan

The Master Academic Plan provides a cohesive central point of reference for all things academic. The Master Academic Plan serves several primary functions:

  • it unambiguously establishes a basic framework for the academic enterprise, and defines structures, relationships and terms;
  • it clearly articulates academic philosophies and their relationship to and with curriculum, learners, scholarship, research, and public service;
  • it defines the academic enterprise including organizational structures, such as management and governance; academic cycles, calendars, and major events;
  • it establishes the curricular architecture and the evolutionary path it will take to optimize the emerging global digital learning environment;
  • it provides specific academic contexts for the institution at large to align (hence designation “master”) their plans, processes, and initiatives;
  • it translates the institutional strategic plan into academic language and concepts and translates academic realities into broad institutional contexts providing the foundation for the institutional strategic plan.

Institutional Mission, Vision & Strategic Position

The institutional mission informs and establishes a foundation for the Master Academic Plan. The reverse is also true the MAP serves as a foundation to review and reflect upon the mission and how it is written and conveyed by institutional planning and operations. The mission should address the purpose, scope and focus of the institution. The MAP fills in the details and translates the mission into an academic entity.

Academic Missions, Visions and Strategies

The institutional mission, while preeminent, is not the only mission in an academic institution. Schools, colleges, departments, institutes, and programs have missions as well. A Vision establishes the trajectory of the academic enterprise. In other words where is it headed comparatively and competitively with respect to the education sphere. The vision also provides a point of reference to evaluate strategies, goals, objectives, initiatives, policies, processes, and procedures. The vision provides an interpretive framework for processing assessments.

Academic Philosophies

Making academic philosophies explicit helps clarify the intent and overall culture of the institution. Academic philosophies help make the enterprise more understandable and decisions more interpretable by academics,  administrators, learners, constituents and evaluators. Academic philosophies are not mutually exclusive, but rather a collage of foundational belief’s that nurture the academic enclaves that sustain them. Articulating the range of academic philosophies makes it clear that their are more than one at work in an institution and the MAP provides the means for them to blend and cooperate.

Examples of Academic Philosophies

(philosophies ultimately drive the design of the academic enterprise)

Academic Scope and Focus

The array of schools or colleges, programs of study, institutes, and learning communities define an institution’s scope and focus. The strategic position an institution will achieve in a global learning marketplace is to a large degree established by and dependent upon the scope of the academic programs and the scholarship and research portfolios they nurture.

The academic scope and focus exist in dynamic equilibrium with the global learning marketplace.

The MAP aligns the academic scope and focus with a global learning marketplace and maintains a dynamic equilibrium. When the alignment process is broken or failing the institution is in dire trouble. Curriculum architecture is the primary means of alignment.

Curriculum Architecture

An institution’s curriculum architecture defines the essential components of its curricular system; maps the interrelationships between the components and the environment, and specifies the system’s intended learning and award outcomes.  Put simply, the curriculum architecture synthesizes the many institution-specific design and delivery decisions inherent in curriculum management. Curriculum architecture is defined by four underlying components:

  • Programs of Study (POS):  Consists of the taxonomy of degrees, certificates, sequences, courses, modules, and learning objects within a curriculum inventory. The inventory of programs defines the primary design feature of the institution.  The inventory of programs of study anchors the architecture, focuses attention on outcomes and program-based design elements, and, thereby, facilitates the alignment of the academic master planning process with other institutional processes.
  • Authentications:  This domain details accrediting, licensing, and assessment oversight organizations, the units warranted, and related specifications.  In doing so, the architecture incorporates the institutions effectiveness, accreditation and outcomes assessment planning, monitoring, and improvement processes.
  • Delivery and Learner Access Strategies:  This domain tracks program term parameters, schedule model parameters, delivery modes, facilities implications and other delivery specifications.
  • Business Model Variables:  This domain specifies the human resource specifications, instructional and non-instructional funding, and other resource specifications required to deliver the curriculum.

Curriculum Architecture is where the structural elements of the curriculum are documented, and further developed that enable achieving the institutional and academic missions and visions. The curriculum architecture includes (but not limited to):

  • Programs of Study by Credential
  • Content Design Models
  • Content Delivery Models
  • Calendar Models
  • Schedule Models
  • Business Models
  • Assessment Models
  • …as a blog post this is intended to be illustrative

 Academic Program Plans

Programs of study derive from and are nurtured and sustained by the curriculum architecture and the infrastructure and capacities it provides. Faculty capacity is essential, and an active faculty development process provides the energy and seeds of innovation to keep the portfolio vibrant and aligned with market realities. Academic programs require planning, and the MAP establishes the process. Successful academic program identification, development, and innovation requires a significant amount of global market awareness, demographic acumen, intuition, and creativity. In the end the Program of Study, such as the schematic below, drives enrollment.

POS-Map-Banded V3

Caution,  looking for a program that appears successful then constructing one that looks like it from the a la cart resources of the master course list is a process to be used with great care. It is a difficult challenge to nurture healthy curriculum to market. Market aversion, strong opinion, defensive behavior, and lack of awareness all conspire to make it difficult. A well developed MAP process can help get an initiative underway quickly and avoid roadblocks that inhibit the realization of academic goals. Alignment and integration with the strategic realities of the learning marketplace is essential. The SEM Matrix below, helps align curriculum with market realities.

SEM Matrix

Institutional Effectiveness, Learning and Learner Assessment

Intensive focus on Institutional Effectiveness (IE) is required by virtually every academic accreditation process. Increasingly this mean a comprehensive process that integrates learning and learner assessment, required if an institution is going to improve its performance and effectiveness continually. To be effective, IE must be comprehensive, cohesive and drive decision making.

Academic Strategies

Academic strategies are a topic of legend. We are repeatedly asked for the illusive little trick that harvests ample enrollments, with little or no investment, and secures the financial future forever. Well, hate to say it, but, it doesn’t work that way, and we all know it. Contrary to proclamations we have seen a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) Analysis is neither a Strategic Plan nor a strategy.  I watched a Board of Trustees applaud at the announcement that a course was going online. The problem is that ‘online’ is not an academic strategy, either is a MOOC or a SOOC. They are tactics and when guided by a strategy can be very effective.

Strategy development is messy. To prove the point examine the whiteboard notes taken during an initial MAP development meeting that began a successful curriculum development process. It resulted in several new programs being launched, critical improvements in the SEM Plan and significant (≈20%) enrollment growth.

Session Notes: Failure is not an option

  • Strategy 1: An institution’s MAP is the basis for a significant strategic advantage
  • Strategy 2: Three options for the trajectory of the MAP
    • Option 1: Remain primarily focused on the way it is now.
    • Option 2: Evolve to optimize the emerging global digital learning ecosystem
    • Option 3: Recognize both options and seek synergy through the transition period and beyond
  • Strategy 3: Entity Strategies (choose all that apply)
    This is where the academic organizational strategies are developed and various academic entities articulate their specific strategies, plans and …

    • Academic Organization
      • Organizational Structures Strategy create vibrant synergy and innovation
      • Strategic Position Strategies align programs with markets
        • Globalization/Quality/Growth
        • University Press (Amazon Publishing Utility)
        • Faculty Scholarship
        • Staff Scholarship
        • Student Scholarship
    • Faculty Development Strategies create future focused capacity
      • Orientation
      • Faculty Information Environment
      • Faculty Training
      • Orientation to IE
    • Curriculum Architecture Strategies create the foundations of academic innovation and creativity
    • Curriculum Development Strategies create healthy competitive curricula they can come from
      • School
      • College
      • Division
      • Department
      • Program of Study
      • Campus School
    • Academic Policies must be addressed
      • Admissions
      • Student Handbook
      • Faculty Handbook
      • Financial Planning and Budgeting

In closing

The Master Academic Plan is the pivotal fulcrum of any institutions future. Every institution has one, whether it is articulated as such or it exists as an ad-hoc collection of decisions, policies, deliberations and opinions. Unless it is aligned and integrated with a holistic planning portfolio, it looses its potency.

Programs of Study: Part 5


This is the fifth post in the series on Academic Strategic Enrollment Management.

The fundamental tenet of Academic Strategic Enrollment Management is “Curriculum drives enrollment, enrollment drives revenue, revenues drive everything else.” The Program of Study is the primary way by which students enroll and revenues flow to the institution. It is also a primary determinant of the costs to operate the curriculum. The Program of Study is a formal component of a Curriculum Architecture. There are normally many Programs of Study within an institutions Curriculum. The Program of Study is defined as the prescribed sequence of courses required to attain a credential. We refer to the Program of Study as a POS (read each letter). For illustration purposes we have selected a 40 course, four year baccalaureate degree program to illustrate the fundamentals of Program of Study design.

Mapping a Program of Study

Illustrative Baccalaureate Degree (Program of Study) POS Matrix

Figure 1: Illustrative Baccalaureate Degree Program of Study (POS) Matrix

A Program of Study is shaped by the specifications delineated in the institution’s curriculum architecture. In the illustration Figure 1, courses in major are designated in Green. Courses required from the core curriculum or to meet general education requirements are in Blue. Selective courses, those chosen from an options list to meet a requirement, are in Yellow, and open electives (learner’s unrestricted choice) are in Red. There is also an overload option if financial policy for the institution permits overload within full time tuition policy.

Every Program of Study and Course are endowed with specifications. Program of Study specifications include such defined characteristics as calendar model, schedule model, admissions prerequisites, program sequence requisites, and course options (elective, selective, open elective).

Program of Study Specifications (Illustrative)

  • A Program of Study is designed to result in a specific credential; and
  • inherits the credentials specifications; such as
    • Calendar Model (Defines number of terms, Credit Requirements for Full-time, Term Pattern for Course Offerings, …),
    • Schedule Model (Defines Daily/Weekly/Term Course Offering Pattern,
    • Admission Requirements,
    • Credit Accumulation (i.e. 120 credit degree limit)
    • Distribution Requirements (Defines course thematic requirements i.e. major, core, general education, upper division or 100/200/300/400 level)
  • Enrollment Specifications
    • Cohort Size (a class commencing the POS together in a 1st term)
    • Course Section Size
    • Course Sequencing Model
  • Program Design Specifications
    • Defines Course Requirements
    • Electives (includes Open Electives, Program Electives, Selectives)

Course Specifications (Illustrative)

  • are designed to define the learner engagement model, learner experience, pedagogy and resources.
  • Learner Engagement Model specifies how the course syllabus content will be encountered by the learner.
  • Learner experience is the view by the learner of how well the course facilitated learning for them.
  • Pedagogy refers to the learning methods available to the learner in their quest to master the syllabus.
  • Faculty qualified to teach the course are an essential element of the profile of course specifications.
  • Resources include room requirements, digital platform requirements, as well as supplies and equipment.

These brief descriptive lists are not intended as check list or meant to convey the comprehensive scope and content but rather to develop the concept that specifications drive cost, effectiveness, quality and recruitability of the ccurriculum. The line between Program and Course specifications is a blurry one. In our curriculum work we use our program planning system to help identify and organize the requirements of courses across a curriculum. It is a daunting task and we observe that it is common for institutions to manage the complexity of it all by exception, meaning everything is assumed fine unless someone if complaining.

In the end it all has to come together and then it must be presented to the marketplace. Crafting marketing strategies and campaigns is as much art as science. When both art and science are used they result in a narrative that rationally presents the program and courses to specific target market segments in a way that differentiates them from competitors.

 Why does all of this matter?

The curriculum architecture and the programs of study that flow from it establish both the recruitability (marketability) and carrying cost of the curriculum. They determine the success as much as the skill and design of marketing campaigns. Enrollment management strategy is bringing all of these into focus and the reason we have begun the Academic Strategic Enrollment Management initiative. Success is measured by the degree to which the curriculum together with recruitment, retention, marketing, and institutional effectiveness generates a stable financial platform upon which the curriculum is supported. The reality is “Curriculum drives enrollment, enrollment drives revenue, revenues drive everything else!” To illustrate the Margin Case Study begins to construct the nature of the relationship between curriculum architecture, program and course specifications and the financial viability of the curriculum.

Margin Case Study

This case example of margin is a highly distilled illustrative study from a client engagement illustrates sustainable scenario.


Working together, academic and enrollment management can develop very effective strategies for sustainability. It is a complex process requiring synthesis across disciplines, and integrating them into a future focused scenario. When scaled to a university the impact is enormous. The case example below illustrates the difference by summing the rooms required and the resulting square footage of academic space required to meet the needs of a fixed number course offered under different curriculum architecture models in planned growth from 20,000 enrollments to 40,000 enrollments. The difference in cost to build the most efficient (estimated at ~$2 Billion) v.s. the least efficient (estimated at ~$3 Billion) was an extraordinary $1 Billion dollars.

Room Count Comparison by Scenario and Schedule Model (Chart)

Room Count Comparison by Scenario and Schedule Model (Chart)


In Closing

The role of the Program of Study in Academic Strategic Enrollment Management strategy development and implementation is a pivotal one. It is important to keep a balanced perspective. MOOC’s, for example, as a Program of Study strategy, are primarily experiments in scalability. They are not in themselves going to cause the demise nor save institutions. Online programs are an initiative that explores and develops a curriculum delivery/learning modality. The emerging global digital learning ecosystem is a shift in the foundational repository of knowledge and information. It results in a shift in access, utilization, manipulation, and assimilation of learning into everyday life. The future is not about the doom of higher education but rather the extraordinary future that stands before it. Curriculum architecture, the program of study, and the credential are extremely important and deserve close scrutiny, evaluation and deep nurturing attention to keep them improving in both effectiveness and efficiency.

Proficiency Based Curriculum Model: Part 6

SEM Matrix: Part 4

Academic Strategic Enrollment Management (ASEM) Professional Group Launched

ASEM-Hero-LogoMGDA announced today the formation of the Academic Strategic Enrollment Management Group as a professional community of practice established on the LinkedIn social networking platform.

The Academic Strategic Enrollment Management (A-SEM) Group is dedicated to the concept of sustainability by nurturing synergy between Academic Leaders and Enrollment Planning and Management Professionals. The group is a forum for the  emerging community of scholars and practitioners dedicated to exploring and developing the foundations of academic strategic enrollment management.  The group is a community of higher education professionals serving  in such roles as academic leaders, faculty, enrollment managers, curriculum designers, marketing, institutional research and assessment engaged in efforts to build the highest quality, fiscally sustainable academic programs.

SEM MatrixTo get a deeper view please visit the Academic SEM Series to explore the Primacy of the Curriculum, the use of the SEM Matrix, the concept and power of a Curriculum Architecture, and the insight embedded in a Learner-Centered Curriculum.

You are invited to connect with Michael G. Dolence on LinkedIn and look forward to you joining our group.


Make Everything Count: Part 4


Make Everything Count Toward a Goal of Sustainability

Contemporary thought has reached consensus that the existing model of higher education is not economically sustainable.  The angst this produces across all higher education communities is palpable. Defensive postures, the natural reaction of denial and resistance to change resulting from heightened tensions creates a difficult political environment for developing meaningful plans to move forward. The issue of economic viability, as it moves to the fore of public educational and economic policy, often precludes thoughtful transformation. Leaders often seek quick fixes to budgetary constraints, and attempt to achieve short term returns instead of investing in the future by building a resilient educational enterprise. Sadly some academic leaders are just trying to make it to retirement without confronting the future. Sadly the beliefs, their metrics and value structures turn to successes of the past wasting valuable cycle time for transformational planning and implementation. Unfortunately, many just do not understand the different dimensions that are emerging that define the future of the global digital learning ecosystem.

SustainabilityThe concept of sustainability when applied to the future of higher education refers to rendering a new model or models that are economically and intellectually viable, and both socially equitable and responsible. The curriculum as warranted by the earning of the credential is and will remain the lifeblood of the  global digital learning ecosystem. The production of new knowledge, the continued research and development of new concepts must be a continued focus of the realm if society is to address the legacy and emergent problems facing the human condition. How these are done is an open question.

Higher education must focus upon the right things and understand their context for the future. Academics must take care to avoid internecine warfare over the challenges to the current models brought about by the paradigm shift. Instead, a focus upon optimizing the emergence of the global digital learning ecosystem as a means to create a more effective and efficient higher education experience. For example, we focus our attention on online programs rather than assimilate the power of the emerging global digital learning infrastructure. We evaluate the impact of MOOC’s (Massive Open Online Course’s) through a lens of completion rates rather than what is learned about scalability, geographic reach, open engagement or the magnitude of impact on strategic position. The point here is not that completion rates are not important when evaluating the performance of an industry accumulating $1.2 trillion in consumer debt. It is to point out that the comparison to MOOC’s that are free to the consumer renders the issue impotent. Make no mistake all of higher education is not asleep, and there is a palpable pulse of strong creativity, innovation and experimentation building worldwide.

The goal of sustainability in the future of higher education refers to rendering a model or models that are both economically and intellectually viable. To do this, we must recognize that the fundamental economics and business models are intertwined, and they need very close scrutiny. First is the issue of section size. In the post “Curriculum drives enrollment, enrollment drives revenue, revenues drive everything else!” we illustrated in the Margin Case Study (below) the economics of managing to a break even section size and pointed out that the failure results in a structural deficit that undermines the long term economic health of the institution. The specifications of section size are basic components of the curriculum architecture that is in place, and it is difficult to modify.

Margin Case Study

This case example of margin is a highly distilled illustrative study from a client engagement illustrates sustainable scenario.

Understanding the future requires accepting that the curriculum architecture is the fundamental foundation upon which to build the future. We described the context, concept and construct of Curriculum Architecture in another post. The issue becomes how do we engage the academy in a sustained serious discussion of new horizons for the design, development, and implementation of a curriculum architecture that aligns with and optimizes the new paradigm. See Higher Ed as a Business vs. the Business of Higher Ed. The stark reality is that it has become an open global dialog, and innovation and entrepreneurs are simply building strong, effective components of a resilient, cost effective learning ecosystem.  In our resource page on Digital Learning Environments, we shared some of the examples and more are on their way.

In the U.S., two elements hold the current model for higher education together, and they are inexorably linked. The first recognizes the sanctity of accreditation as a prerequisite to the second, access to massive federal and state funding. As public policy aligns with new realities these elements are vulnerable to change. Crushing public debt will force them to change. Higher education must make progress toward preemptive positioning the sector, and that is the focus of “Make Everything Count” as a strategy. Take stock of the initiatives underway illustrated in Change the Paradigm. Examine the experiences in Merging Public Colleges in Georgia, and the new planning efforts exampled by MIT as described in Develop Capacity: Part 3. Extrapolate the impact of the Georgia Tech initiative where students enrolled in the new Master of Science in Computer Science program will pay less than $7,000 for a graduate degree, compared to $45,000 for on-campus students. Time waits for no one and transitions are occurring much faster than most realize. Sustainability requires a keen focus upon institutional effectiveness and organizational performance.

Sustainable Performance

Deep systemic, strategic planning is required to nurture change. Change that results in a cohesive focus upon efficiency and effectiveness while creating an environment of sustainable performance aligned with the emerging realities of the Global Digital Learning Ecosystem. That means removing barriers and creating an environment for sustainable performance. To begin the Ivey Business Journal offers The New Leadership Challenge: Removing the Emotional Barriers to Sustainable Performance in a Flat World and Harvard Business Review offers Creating Sustainable Performance. Remember the result must be sustainable.


Sustainability of an institution of higher education is determined by its position in the global digital learning ecosystem resulting from the paradigm shift. Making everything count requires an intense focus upon understanding the strategic position that is desired for the organization and the detailed elements that contribute to achieving it. Sustaining that focus constantly requires doing the things that advance position in the global learning marketplace. This means working within means and not developing an everything strategic is an add on mentality.

Path Forward

  • Building an open, healthy academic culture is paramount.
  • Recognize the insidious sources of overhead.
  • Recognize the need to make time for working on the future.
  • Understand that everything that costs time or money must add value to the learning process or the design, development, delivery, or assessment of it
  • Closely examine initiatives already underway.
  • Engage in one sustained, comprehensive process that delivers immediate, mid term and long range  results.


Recognize that developing metrics to help measure value is an important part of the process. Also understand developing a culture of good stewardship of resources (time, money, space).

  • Understanding the basic financial realities of the learning sphere and academic enterprises is essential.
  • Understand the concept of margins-a condition where the value exceeds the cost.
  • Understand changes in scale, scope, and geographic reach now being contemplated by colleges, universities, and learning providers.

How to begin?

  1. Begin by using structured dialog to bring focus and clarity to planning and managing the academic enterprise in the learning age. The MGD+A SRS method is useful in this effort.
  2. Conceptualize an overarching effectiveness strategy to guide structured assessments that help determine the value and impact of ideas, initiatives, and strategies.
  3. Document the dialog and the plan and use it to guide you to the future.
  4. Don’t forget to let us know what you are using and how it is working. Engaging will also permit us alerting you to new postings, tools, and references.
  5. Ways to engage with MGD+A
    • Read, like, follow, post comments and questions and engage in open dialog via our Blog.
    • Join the Academic SEM LinkedIn Group.
    • Email questions or observations.
    • Continue to use the website to navigate our methodologies and use our tools
    • Utilize one of our webinars
    • Schedule web consultation using our WebEx conferencing system
    • Schedule a call to explore questions, process, or opportunities

Our next post in the series will feature the Master Academic Plan.

Master Academic Plan: Part 5

Develop Capacity: Part 3