Integrated Academic Strategic Enrollment Planning: Part 9


Academic Strategic Enrollment Management Series Banner

In our practice, we encounter a lot of confusion and misguided understandings concerning what Strategic Enrollment Management (SEM) and especially, what planning Academic SEM is about (see 50 Losing SEM Strategies). The laments around planning are numerous, “too complex, too big, too long term, make it simple, I need a quick fix…” blah, blah, blah. The cold hard truth is that Academic SEM is not simple and it is a primary reason why it is such an important emerging profession. Don’t take this the wrong way. There are plenty of ways to achieve short term bumps (see the Art and Science of the Bump) and bring in pockets of enrollments to backfill budgets. We all know those are an integral part of our tool box. Just focusing upon them, however,  out of context of the holistic spectrum of Academic SEM, is always a losing proposition. This post is a simple articulation of the scope of Academic SEM planning.ASEM Planning Layers

Academic Strategic Enrollment Planning and Management is an institution wide function involving virtually all divisions, units, colleges and key decision makers. This means a multiplicity of systems, functions and perspectives must align and work together in order to achieve optimum enrollment performance.

Four Institution-wide Integrated Layers

The various elements including systems, functions and perspectives must work together synergistically, to achieve optimum performance.  We array sixteen discrete elements in four layers, consisting of four elements each. Guidance and direction is provided within the Strategy Layer, the capacity to perform is detailed in the Capacity Layer, functions are defined and aligned in the Operations Layer, and the Systems Layer provides rules, content, metrics, automation, data management, etc. to make it all work.

The Strategy Layer

ASEM 1AThe strategy layer drives virtually all functions within an Academic SEM enterprise. The layer consists of at least four symbiotic integrated planning foci.  The Institutional Strategic Plan articulates the mission, vision, and major goals that define the future direction of the institution and establishes basic operational commitments. The Academic Master Plan  translates those commitments into a discrete academic portfolio and program functions. The (Strategic Enrollment Management) SEM Plan  seeks to align the Academic Master Plan through enrollment management efforts and initiatives with the dynamics of the global enrollment environment. The SEM Plan must inform both the Institutional Strategic Plan and the Academic Master Plan in iterative cycles in order to achieve alignment. Together, the Strategic, Academic and SEM plans function to develop a Strategic Position among peer institutions and competitors for resources, students, faculty and staff. Strategic Position is the result of academic strategy, marketing, and the net effect of multiple subsystems all coming together to create a sustainable competitive capability.

The Capacity Layer

ASEM 1The Capacity Layer involves at least four interrelated conditions that must work together to get any meaningful academic SEM initiative to work. The organization’s Human Capacity must possess the requisite knowledge and skills across critical functions in order to succeed. The work must be achievable in the work plans of the organizational entities and key individuals across the institution. An institution must have the Organizational Capacity including the systems, methods, tools, processes, as-well-as, the planning and management acumen to undertake and successfully complete complex, integrated, tasks that build to long term success. The Physical Capacity to manage enrollment loads, residency functions, and specific academic pedagogy requirements must be present. The institution must develop and sustain the Fiscal Capacity to develop the resources to support the enterprise.

The Operations Layer

Academic Strategic Enrollment Management is a comprehensive process designed to achieve and maintain the optimum recruitment, retention, and attainment of students where “optimum” is defined within the academic context and results in the strategic position of the institution in the learning marketplace.

Operational AcadeASEM 3mic SEM involves four primary lenses: Recruitment, Retention, Operations (back office, front facing, calendaring, scheduling etc.) and the Academic Portfolio.  Recruitment is defined as an active process an institution undertakes to influence a learner’s decision to attend. Retention is defined as the maintenance of a learner’s satisfactory academic progress toward her or his pedagogical objective until it is attained.

SEM Operations involves a number of cycles and their component processes. Cycles involve Curriculum Development and Revitalization, Recruitment Campaign Design and Development, Campaign Implementation, Yield Monitoring and Optimization, and Retention Management to name a few. Each cycle contains preconditions, policies, processes and procedures. They involve individuals from across academic and administrative units and result in predicted outputs all arranged in a time series workflow that is calendared  and resourced.

The Systems Layer

Both the Academic and Strategic Enrollment Management domains rely upon systems to provide basic functionality.  Any curriculum system facilitates learning content being conceptualized, designed, assessed, packaged, managed and delivered to a learner. All curricular systems have certain characteristics. For example:ASEM 4

All curricula reside within an institutional or organizational context. The context is defined by the mission of the organization in which it resides, the stakeholders who shape that mission, and their vision of where the institution is going and how it is to evolve.

All curricula result in outcomes, in other words, they have a tangible and often intangible impact upon those that engage it. The outcomes may be expected or unexpected. They may be intended or unintended. They may be measurable or difficult to ascertain.

All curricula have an economic reality that they exist within. It may be stable, adequate, inadequate, growing, shrinking, or in a state of flux. The economic realities shape a great deal of what the curriculum is and how it is delivered.

All curricula have an architecture either both well defined and articulated, or defacto, having evolved over time. By architecture we mean that all curricula have a defined structure that fits many parts together. Each identified part is defined and has a defined role to play in the overall function of the system.

The sum of these characteristics helps to define a curriculums’ (system) architecture. The curriculum architecture is framed, enabled and dependent upon the institution’s Information Systems; academic and administrative Policies, Processes and Procedures; the organizations Human Capital Development; and are informed and guided by the institution’s Performance Metrics. In Academic SEM Planning, we consider all of these elements and aspects of the academic and enrollment domains in the planning process. It makes Academic SEM Planning seem at first blush very complex. Upon reflection, it should be understood as a mega system of subsystems and key components that must fit and work together.

Overview of MGDA Academic SEM Projects

MGDA ASEM Projects

One of the great quotes in contemporary American politics:

“It’s the Economy Stupid”
– James Carville (circa 1992 serving as chief campaign strategist) during the first Clinton campaign for President.

I often think back to that campaign for the Presidency of the United States and the impact those few words had on the outcome of the election. It brings to mind a nagging malaise among a number of client institutions who wish to energize their recruitment and retention success. I often parrot Carville’s quote, “It’s the curriculum, stupid,” when analyzing enrollment problems. An initial strategic enrollment management engagement often centers around harvesting any number of descriptive observations by client constituents: not enough students, too many students, too many here not enough there, students not the academic quality we want, the list continues with various emphasis and causal inference. Inevitably someone blames the economy, the web site, the enrollment management system, or admissions, or the president, or marketing. While any and all of these may be contributing to a problem the real heart of any educational, organizational success is the curriculum. This is not to blame faculty or anyone for that matter. It is about recognizing how to shape and promote curriculum for a competitive market.

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 three years or less. 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 are gone (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 best time to tune your Academic Strategic Enrollment Management strategies is when you are not in crisis. That is when a focus on your Strategic Position in the Global Learning Marketplace can yield the best outcome. When not in crisis is the time to carefully construct a long term academic enrollment management program designed to build forward momentum over multiple future cycles to achieve a sustainable enrollment profile.

Our projects are as varied as the extensive client base we serve. They include initiatives to significantly increase perceived value of General Education, the redesign of the first year experience, the reconceptualization of the general education model around engagement, integrating partner marketing into program design, exploiting pocket markets, aligning curricular narrative with market dynamics, differentiating curriculum among crowded competitive environments, curriculum narrative to entice early decision, and the list goes on.

To explore opportunities to collaborate use our Academic/Enrollment Strategy Clinic Offer.

50 Losing SEM Strategies

50 Losing SEMThe roots of failing enrollment management strategies can often be detected in the things people say when asked about enrollment. The following are paraphrases (to protect the innocent) of quotes we have collected over the past few years that reflect losing Strategic Enrollment Management strategies. All of these paraphrased quotes come from institutions with declining enrollment scenarios resulting in budgetary reduction ramifications. They were collected from our notes between 2013 and yesterday. They are in no particular order. They are numbered for reference in comments should you decide to. If you have quotes you would like to add, send them along or for the brave – post them in a comment.

  1. “We had some pretty good candidates for our SEM leader but in the end I went with the bubbly, energetic, very positive attitude over the experience because the experienced candidate dwelled too much on the challenges and problems. I think attitude wins over experience.” – President on selection of a VP for Enrollment Management
  2. “I really don’t want to hear about long term anything. It is June 1 and we have a serious budget hole I need fixed by September.  Seriously, you should have gotten the message when I rejected your five year enrollment plan because it did not fix our short term revenue needs.” – President to VP for Enrollment Management June 1st.
  3. “Strategic Enrollment Management approaches are interesting but they are just too complex. We need simple solutions and easy to do fixes that are within our limited budget and resources. Our folks are all busy and they do not have time to learn their way out. Besides, if I train them, they will just leave and make more money somewhere else.” – President
  4. “I have not seen any newspaper ads this year. No wonder we are not making enrollment.” – Board Chair weighing in on enrollment goals
  5. “We have not budgeted for a second year of Online development. It was supposed to be self-sufficient after one year.” – Provost
  6. “I don’t need marketing or Strategic Enrollment anything, just a good PR person that really knows what they are doing and reporting directly to me.” – President
  7. “We spent the last year rewriting all of the correspondence that is used in admissions and have not had time, as a task force, to do anything else.” – Provost in charge of Enrollment Task Force
  8. “We used the money allocated for a Social Media person to fund another road warrior. ” – Director of SEM
  9. “We have a SEM plan, have had for years. Each year we tweak our visitation schedule and our roadshow. Every 3 years we redo our collateral material. We do Social Media, I wouldn’t call it a strategy really. Financial aid reports to another VP, we don’t know what they do really. The web reports to IT so we don’t have a lot of say in it.” – 2014 comments by an Admissions Director
  10. “We go with what has worked for us in the past.” – Director of Admissions
  11. “I cut my marketing and enrollment staff by 1/3 to help with budget cuts as a result of lower enrollment. They should suffer just like the rest since it is their fault.” – President
  12. “Our curriculum isn’t any different, better or worse than anybody else’s. We are different because we care more.” – Provost
  13. “Yes I used bump strategies. I bumped off the Director of Admissions and the VP for Enrollment Management and took over the leadership of our marketing and recruitment staff. I got a fire under them and they will do just fine with a little fear in their hearts.” – President
  14. “We did SEM for a year. It didn’t work, so we are moving forward on branding.” – President
  15. “If everybody just did their job, we would be fine.” – VP Finance
  16. “Academics and curriculum have nothing to do with managing enrollments and recruitment.” – VP Academic Affairs
  17. “I am not investing one more dime until someone shows me a guaranteed method of enrollment growth.” – VP Finance
  18. “Applicants do not care about the curriculum, they care about parties, drugs, where their girlfriend or boyfriend is going, getting away from home, nightlife, dorm rooms, and fun. Don’t tell me its the curriculum, stupid.” – Chair Academic Senate
  19. “I am afraid to change anything, because I can’t be sure what is working and what isn’t. My only hope is to add on and hope it gets better.” – Interim Director for Enrollment Management
  20. “I had no idea we were discounting to that extent.” – President to Board in a Finance Committee meeting
  21. “We do what we know, and we know what we do. Everybody is down so our decline is in line with the market. We just need to get used to being smaller.”- Director of Admissions
  22. “We don’t offer enough financial aid. I need to cover a good deal more of our total cost of attendance with grants and discounts or I just can’t compete.” – Director for Enrollment Management
  23. “I wouldn’t come here. I wouldn’t send my child here.”- An Academic Dean responding to the question “Why should a parent send their child here?”
  24. “I will invest in curriculum when you can prove to me that enrollments are guaranteed and we have the faculty and curriculum already in place.” – President
  25. “We promise the moon and deliver a moon pie.” – Admissions Staff
  26. “The President has to approve all messages, every letter, every paragraph. The VP Finance has to approve every purchase order, even if it is in our budget. We just acquired software to help in our Enrollment Management efforts but ended up getting the one we determine would not meet our needs because IT said they liked it and of course the price. It is August 1 and I am waiting for approvals on virtually everything I need for our Fall campaign. Our CRM system, which will not meet our needs, has been delayed from August and will not be installed until January. How do you think we are doing?” – Outgoing Director for Enrollment Management
  27. “We do OK until we tour our freshman housing.” – Admissions Staff
  28. “Campus tours are tricky, we have to avoid litter, falling plaster, peeling paint, old furniture, antique classrooms, and focus on a small route that has been cosmetically engineered. We have been told that our preferred word for our campus is ‘charming.” I have not one wow place to dwell in.” – Admissions Staff
  29. “I have heard all of the excuses, a lot of competition, need more aid, not enough staff. I believe there are plenty of students waiting to enroll. We are just not very good at getting them here.” – President to the Admissions staff during a ‘Pep Talk’
  30. “I was told we will never directly market programs. There is not enough money to market all of them and selecting some to promote is a powder keg that would blow in a second.” – VP for Enrollment Management
  31. “Our SEM plan is simple, get more higher ability, low financial need students now. I just can’t convince anybody to go do it.” – CFO half joking
  32. “Our academic story is limp and very hard to get a prospect excited. We sound just like everyone else. In fact, there are folks who are proud of we are just like everyone else. There is not much of a value equation we can talk about except the basic value of an education. We tell students we have small classes, faculty care, we care, our students like us and are glad they came to us. But they basically get that from a lot of institutions.” –  Admissions Staff
  33. “Basically we communicate with prospects three times, by letter, by email and then by letter again. Once they apply, I think we do much better… Social Media? I can’t get budget approval to hire someone.” – Director of Admissions
  34. “Our students mostly come from the surrounding communities. Our region has a lot of institutions and competition is fierce. We have never examined strategically what the geographic recruitment sphere should be. We did try recruiting in California for a year, but it was expensive and didn’t really pay its own way in results.” – Admissions Staff
  35. “Not that we would admit it, but our discount rate is over 45%. We report to the board that it is 35%, but that is because we use clever accounting to disguise certain aid types.” – VP for Enrollment Management
  36. “We do virtually no marketing at all. Our VP Marketing serves the President. They do speeches, event planning for Development, and they do print really well. They are not a great deal of help to us. They write nothing for us. There is no concept of strategic position or where do we measure up with respect to the competition. Planning from Marketing’s perspective is event and development publications, even those cater to our older alums.” – VP for Enrollment Management
  37. “There was a directive handed down that academics should develop some new programs to fix our enrollment shortfall projected next fall. Really, can you imagine, believing that a new program developed in Spring can impact fall enrollments? That’s what we are up against.” – VP for Enrollment Management
  38. “We are so far out of alignment managing our various academic and enrollment cycles, it is a wonder we even function. I tried to get the cabinet to at least fully understand when I arrived last fall but I can’t get anyone to even engage in the conversation at the executive level. Everyone is overwhelmed. We are always in crisis of the minute mode. Everything appears too complex to really understand, so we just run around slapping on Band-Aids and getting through the day.” – VP for Enrollment Management
  39. “Remember, I just got here. We have never done anything strategic. Our strategy has really been a financial one. We sold real estate to cover operating deficits.” – CFO
  40. “We closed our two-year college, presumably to focus on upper division. It was very disruptive and helped create a culture of finger pointing, fear, second guessing, and blame. Very bad academic culture was the only real result. The upper division strategy failed to turn us away from decline. So then we chased quick fixes. When that failed the head hunting began.” – Chair Academic Senate
  41. “I need an implementer not  a strategist to head my Enrollment Management team.” – President
  42. “When I arrived a month ago, I was handed a SEM Plan. Apparently it simply was not implemented. Seems they thought new staff would be hired to enable all the things in the plan to be done. When that didn’t happen the operations just continued as they always had and enrollment continued to decline.” – VP for Enrollment Management
  43. “Our SEM Plan required a modest, bare bones, really, system and training budget which was not funded. Hard to implement new when you can’t get folks up to speed and can’t acquire the basic tools of the trade.” – VP for Enrollment Management
  44. “I spend a lot of time listening to ‘suggestions’ of how to fix our enrollment decline. Things like, ‘have you called them,’ or ‘did you ask them to apply,’ or ‘did you tell them how different we are and how much we care.’ I also am handed an inventory of distracting must do’s, like meetings I have no real need to be in but take many hours out of my week. Then there are the constant drags on momentum. It took me two years to get our Social Media efforts funded, then they were postponed for a year putting us three years behind.” – VP for Enrollment Management
  45. “We go from crisis to crisis and magic fix and short cut to Band-Aid. No sustained focus, no long term effort sustained for enough time to get results. No one understands we work forward looking, multiyear cycles.”  – VP for Enrollment Management
  46. “We tolerate failure and poor performance. Our VP for Enrollment Management has been here forever, has no real plan, reveals shortfalls too late, has a million excuses, resists change or even evaluation of any kind. I surely would not get away with any of it.” – VP Development
  47. “We have a new Leader who is clueless. Came in and stopped everything that was in progress. Occupied the Marketing staff for most of the first 6 months supporting an Inauguration instead of supporting recruitment. Spent a year reorganizing and focusing on a dashboard. Replaced everybody so they are the President’s folks. Fired the Provost, the VP Marketing, the head of Enrollment Management and reallocated budgets to support pet projects. Put out a mandate to increase enrollments, no plan, no analysis just mandate and control. Meanwhile, we have gotten smaller, weaker, and poorer. And this leader was not the Selection Committee’s first or second choice.” – retiring Faculty member
  48. “The culture is tense. Nervous, without a plan, whittled expenses to the bone, kind of tense. The expectation is that there is a sure thing, quick fix trick we can use.  We keep chasing it, wasting time, money, and precious recruitment cycles. We have been doing this for three years and avoided a detailed plan that had promise because it spanned five years. We avoided it because it required a reallocation of resources that we had at the time but politically difficult.” – Academic Dean
  49. “Our enrollment strategy? Blame, fire, repeat.”- Admissions Staff
  50. “We talk about the decline, talk a lot about it. We seem unable to even get a footing upon which to do anything. So we talk. Been talking for a couple years. Now we are talking about downsizing. No one seems to like any idea that is suggested. They are unsure. Risk averse, they ask where is the proof, how can we be sure? I have to go to a meeting now, to talk about holding positions vacant.”- Associate Academic Dean

 HELP! Here are a ideas to help differentiate by using Academic SEM Strategies.

  • Understand academic strategic advantages and how to recognize, develop and showcase them.
  • Understand the dynamics of the emerging global digital learning ecosystem and its impact on the future of education.
  • Develop an academic narrative that differentiates. Ensure your plan delivers a balanced short-term (bump), medium-term (program market revitalization), and long-term strategic position approach. Then live the plan.
  • Invest in increasing the value of your student’s educational experience, and that means curriculum.
  • Recognize that the underlying issues that created such tense market dynamics defy quick marketing, branding, slap together program fixes. Doesn’t mean marketing and branding are not important, they are, but it does mean success requires much more than billboards on freeways, placards on buses, going on-line, and hastily copying others curricular portfolio.
  • Recognize it takes an Academic/SEM Team to achieve a competitive strategic position in the dynamic learners market that is today and tomorrow.
  • Recognize the gift of ‘bump’ strategies that provide a short term increase in enrollments and the precious investment dollars they provide to continue meaningful transformation.
  • There is much more to Academic SEM…

So, what can be done NOW?

  • Starting with mining the mission, and re-conceptualizing your Strategic Plan as ‘Curriculum-Centered’ and the Curriculum as ‘Learner Centered,’ then focus on strategic position. How? Use the Curriculum-Centered Strategic Planning Model (CCSPM) and the SRS Method as reference. This is not a long drawn out effort, it starts with evaluating the existing strategic plan and assets and creating short-term market wins. In the process identify opportunities for program market revitalization and develop a strategic market narrative.
  • Use Academics, Programs of Study, Curricular Elements, Research, and learner experiences to create a compelling narrative that builds competitive strategic position.
  • Use the emerging principles and practices of Academic SEM to enhance your strategic market position by developing a long term, sustainable strategy.
  • Use bump tactics to gain in selected areas in order to fund broader innovation and revitalization and pave the pathway to a strategic market position. Make everything count toward the future.
  • There are numerous ways and methods to begin an Academic SEM approach to sustainability. The following links provide options, information and opportunities.

Evolve to Academic SEM

Learn why all “Strategic” Enrollment Management is “Academic,” attend:

Academic SEM Posters Available

Academic SEM Funnel [MGDA01]


Academic SEM Cycles [MGDA02]






Federal Financial Aid: 3 Part Documentary Available

Looking Back to Move Forward: A History of Federal Student Aid

The Lumina Foundation has posted a three part documentary on the policy and the political origins of U.S. federal financial aid programs. These resources are a great background training for student affairs professionals, academic leaders, and enrollment management professionals.

In addition to the three videos below, you may wish to explore:

How Did We Get Here: Growth of Federal Student Loans (Part 1)

Where Financial Aid Began: Partnering with Campuses and States (Part 2)

Pell Grant: Building Block of Student-Based Aid (Part 3)

Lumina ReportDownload the companion PDF to the series.

Academic SEM Strategy: The iMBA at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign College of Business

The UIUC iMBA is expected to launch in 2016, and be priced at $20,000 or so. The digital curriculum architecture is designed to serve learners in a MBA degree program of study, as well as, individuals seeking advanced practice standing in seven contemporary business communities of practice. [Coursera iMBA page]
Using a strategy of interweaving Coursera MOOC courses with embedded specializations/certifications either in parallel or as precursor to the College of Business MBA, UIUC has optimized its digital curricula for multiple markets. There are seven specializations with embedded certifications anticipated with at least one available now, including:

  1. Digital Marketing (available now)
  2. Global Business Strategy and Economics
  3. Healthcare Management
  4. Entrepreneurship and Innovation
  5. Business Analytics
  6. Innovation and Technology
  7. Advanced topics in Finance and Accounting

Each specialization and their corresponding certification packages discrete ‘Community of Practice’ portions of UIUC CoB digital MBA and positions them firmly in both advanced practice and collegiate degree markets. Between now and 2016, the school will put all the courses required for its traditional MBA program on Coursera and they will be available free of charge. Students can explore, experience and digest courses selected to meet their interest or need or they can take the program curriculum. If no credit or certificates are of interest, the program is free. However, to earn a degree one must apply, be accepted, enroll, complete with satisfactory grades and pay an estimated $20K (other comparable MBAs cost $75K to 100+K). If one wishes to earn a certificate, such as, the Digital Marketing specialization, which is available now, the cost is $474. The DM Certificate curriculum consists of 5 courses plus a capstone. Learners can pay as they go or all at once.


The UIUC iMBA is designed and intended to be disruptive. It is built upon the next generation curriculum architecture. It optimizes the emerging digital learning ecosystem, connecting the curriculum directly to learners everywhere. It embeds assessment in the design, and provides certificates of achievement for high value course sequences as standalone or stacked credentials. It, combined with, Georgia Tech / Udacity / ATT $7K Masters in Computer Science are signs that large scale (MOOC/SOOC type) curricula are moving beyond proof of concept. It is reasonable to expect that monetizing large scale curricula will continue to evolve.

Note: also see

Evolve to Academic SEM

If you’re not thinking Academic SEM, you are not thinking about the future. To explore Academic SEM strategies, join us by attending:

Academic SEM Posters Available

Academic SEM Funnel [MGDA01]


Academic SEM Cycles [MGDA02]



MGDA Releases Two Academic SEM Professional Development Posters

Academic SEM Funnel Poster MGDA01

SEM-Poster-512Finally an office graphic that conveys the complexities of Academic Strategic Enrollment Management. The Poster begins with a carefully detailed Enrollment Funnel (no the funnel is not dead, in fact it is healthy and thriving).  It then portrays the five integrated and complex cycles that build curriculum, develop & implement campaigns, monitor retention and attrition and evaluate SEM Performance. Finally it concludes with the SEM Matrix, juxtaposing seven dimensions of SEM with a framework of seven learner centered questions. We offer the poster individually or in packs of five. Clients report using them for training, loaning them for deans and  department chair meetings and using them to guide complex conversations with executives and boards of trustees. Order today!
• Museum Quality Stock
• Measures 24″ Wide x 36″ Long
• Semi Gloss Finish
• $59.95 each +S&H
• 5 Copies $259.99 +S&H

Academic SEM Cycles Poster MGDA02SEM-Cycle-Poster-512

Depicts the intricacies and interrelationships of the five integrated cycles that inform Academic SEM.

We offer the poster individually or in packs of five. Clients report using them for training, loaning them for deans and  department chair meetings and using them to guide complex conversations with executives and boards of trustees. Order today!

• Museum Quality Stock
• Measures 24″ Wide x 24″ Long
• Semi Gloss Finish
• $49.95 each +S&H
• 5 Copies $199.99 +S&H





* Shipping & Handling U.S., International & Territories


Academic SEM Looking Ahead: Three Years from the peak in enrollments, May 1, 2015 looms large

I promised a recent class of Education Graduate Students some links to tracking the roller coaster ride of enrollments over the last few years. Below are some useful links tracking trends in enrollment issues.

Inside Higher Ed

From Inside Higher Ed Survey: Student Populations That Will Be Target of More Attention in the Next Year

Population % of Publics Agreeing % of Privates Agreeing
Recruited with non-need-based scholarships 53% 58%
Full-time undergraduates 81% 84%
Part-time undergraduates 40% 15%
International students 53% 63%
Transfer students 63% 72%
Minority students 73% 63%
First generation students 71% 50%
Out-of-state students 60% 64%
Full-pay students 35% 57%
Veterans and military personnel 70% 42%

Survey of College and University Admissions Directors  2014

Survey of College and University Admissions Directors  2013

Survey of College and University Admissions Directors  2012

College Board

College Board Trends in Higher Education

US Census Bureau Reports

College Enrollment Declines for Second Year in a Row, September 24, 2014

Higher Education Research Institute

The American Freshman: National Norms Fall 2014 – With Past Reports back to 1966

SEM Funnel Graphic Suite (Version 4: Final)

The Strategic Enrollment Management Funnel Graphic Suite is designed to illustrate the fundamental flows of students through the enrollment processes involved in higher education. The suite is designed to provide leaders in higher education with a planning and educational tool to assist in managing enrollments and academic functions.

The Strategic Enrollment Management Funnel depicts the flow of learners through the stages of selecting and enrolling in an academic program as seen from two perspectives. The institution’s perspective arrays all of the potential stages and the learner’s perspective is described by the decisions to progress from one stage to the next. The Strategic Enrollment Management Funnel is separated into two distinct phases: Recruitment, detailing stages and activities prior to enrollment; and Retention, detailing stages and activities after enrollment. Be aware of the following when deciding to use or refer to the Strategic Enrollment Management Funnel.

  • The Suite includes four separate images:
    • Strategic Enrollment Management Funnel. The full complete detailed funnel.
    • Strategic Enrollment Management Funnel: Recruitment Phase. The recruitment section of the detailed funnel.
    • Strategic Enrollment Management Funnel: Retention Phase. The retention section of the detailed funnel.
    • Strategic Enrollment Management Funnel: Compressed View. The simple view of the funnel.
  • The open segments are designed to illustrate the porosity of the funnel. This means that students can appear to enter or leave an institution’s process at almost any stage. Learners proceed through the funnel moving from stage to stage unless they opt out.
  • Enrollment management recruitment campaigns are designed to initiate proactive actions that enable and facilitate the learner moving through the stages to successful enrollment.
  • Enrollment management retention campaigns are designed to monitor student progress and enable and facilitate the learner moving through the stages to successful completion of their objective or graduation.
  • Yield is a concept that describes the percentage of individuals moving down the funnel from one stage to the next until they either opt out or complete their objective.
  • There is significant variability in the processes institutions use to support and define Strategic Enrollment Management Funnel operations. These graphics are intended to frame a more specific institutional focus by providing a common structured reference point.
  • There are numerous variations in how learners move through the processes as articulated in the stages of the Strategic Enrollment Management Funnel. This graphical representation is not intended to cover all of the options or permutations available to an institution.

Strategic Enrollment Management Funnel

Strategic Enrollment Management Funnel (Detailed)

Strategic Enrollment Management Funnel

Strategic Enrollment Management Funnel: Recruitment

Strategic Enrollment Management Funnel Recruitment

Strategic Enrollment Management Funnel: Recruitment Phase

Strategic Enrollment Management Funnel: Retention

Strategic Enrollment Management Funnel Retention

Strategic Enrollment Management Funnel: Retention Phase

Strategic Enrollment Management Funnel

Strategic Enrollment Management Funnel (Simple)

Strategic Enrollment Management Funnel: Compressed View

We would appreciate you letting us know if you are using our graphics and for what purpose ( training, education, planning tool, etc.). We welcome your comments, recommendations, and observations. Please feel free to put your comments in the comment box below the post and if you Like these graphics please hit the Like button. Look for our Training Posters featuring these graphics, available online.

These are available for your use, however, when using them please do not remove our logo or copyright.

Enrollment ‘Crisis’ Management: Managing Academic and SEM Cycles & Workflows : Part 8

We all know timing is everything. Some of the first strategic elements an enrollment crisis disrupts are the Academic and SEM Cycles & Workflows. In fact, it is one the biggest challenges an institution faces in an enrollment crisis, to stay focused on performing SEM cyclical activities and developing strategies. Suddenly, a shortfall in enrollments and the concomitant shortfall in revenues can cause shock waves of second guessing, demands to alter the course, change tactics, new leadership, new people, etc. The desire to shake things up in order to appear that decisive action is being taken can be overwhelming. But before acting upon any of these impulses, a little reality orientation is in order.

Step 1: Take a Longer View of the Underlying Issues

Recognize that higher education is in the middle of the most dramatic paradigm shift in its history accommodating the emergence of a global digital learning ecosystem. One result is an explosion of options for learners to acquire sought after learning objectives. Additionally, higher education is experiencing a demographic shift and a demand for greater accountability and higher productivity. Learners are facing economic crises and face significant challenges meeting educational costs as evidenced by the extreme debt burden. At the same time, institutions are facing their own unprecedented economic challenges emanating from the demand for more services, increased regulation, and because of demographics and competition, low growth or declining enrollments. These realities impact virtually every aspect of higher education’s structure and function. In this light, it is advisable to take a systemic view of how enrollments are developed and work within a defined structural framework to develop a closer alignment with learner markets and enhanced educational outcomes. It is a complex task, and for the framework to be affective, it must be inclusive across academic and enrollment management domains. This requires the integration of practices between academic and enrollment management outside the normal culture of most institutions.

Step 2: Understand and Work the ASEM Cycles and Workflows

To borrow Hillary Clinton’s metaphor from her 1996 book, “It takes a village to (raise a child) deliver enrollments.” Specifically, an Academic–Strategic Enrollment Management Village. We focus in this blog post upon understanding the structured cycles and workflows that are behind every enrollment report. Realize that every enrollment report has behind it a three to four year rolling cycle that delivered it.

For example, this post is being published in December 2014. As you read this post you should be in the middle of planning the campaign(s) to be launched in the fall of 2015 to deliver enrollments in fall 2016. This means that the curriculum, as it exists in fall 2014, is responsible for delivering the fall 2016 enrollments. If academic innovations or revitalizations are being developed to influence fall 2016 enrollments, they must be very carefully integrated into the campaign plan being developed now. Rarely do academic, and SEM communities engage in such careful dialog, planning, analysis, and integration.

To give life to the metaphorical village, MGDA launched the Academic Strategic Enrollment Management Initiative in 2014. The initiative began with the Academic SEM series of posts in the MGDA Higher Education Blog. We then began engaging academic and SEM leaders in the community of practice group in LinkedIn. We then turned our focus upon Sustainability by developing Academic SEM Institute (December 2014 and to be repeated in June 2015). Most recently, we announced our 2015 Transformational Institutes Series to provide deeper support and development to our clients.

In order for academic and enrollment management communities to work better together, they must first understand the basic cycles and workflows that culminate in an enrollment report. Such understanding is required at all levels – from the President and Vice Presidents, to the deans, faculty, academic and enrollment staff.

Basic Academic SEM Cycles

So what are the cycles? They follow the flow depicted in Figure 1: Academic/SEM Cycles Overview. Five stages in four highly (but not totally) linear arrays of activities.

The first stage involves the design, development and implementation of the curriculum. This stage is guided by academic and accreditation policies, processes and procedures. Curriculum cannot be offered for enrollment until the criteria are met, and approvals are granted. It is the curriculum that learners enroll in, and the specifics of the curricular requirements form a contract with the learner. This stage is ongoing throughout the year.

The second stage involves developing a campaign to find, attract, and persuade students to enroll in the institution’s curricula. The second stage begins in the fall with a review of the last campaign yield for current fall enrollments. It also utilizes the day to day experience of the current campaign underway (to deliver next fall’s enrollments) as a frame of reference. The primary focus is the development of the campaign to be launched next fall to deliver the following fall’s campaign. In most institutions, these campaigns roll together in a continuum from year to year. We separate them to focus the evaluation, design, development, and implementation on discrete cycles.

Academic/SEM Cycles Overview.

Figure 1: Academic/SEM Cycles Overview.

The third stage involves campaign implementation. Its purpose is to deliver the next annual class of freshmen. The function of the campaign is to identify prospects and systematically nurture them through the process of choosing and enrolling in a curriculum. Campaign implementation begins in August/September and ends usually on enrollment census day the following fall.

The fourth stage involves two distinct pathways. One follows the students through formal retention monitoring and intervention, the other engages the Academic SEM community in formal comprehensive evaluation. The fourth stage Academic SEM is ongoing and interfaces with Institutional Effectiveness, Research, and Assessment activities. The fourth stage Retention path is ongoing and interfaces with academic and student support services.

All of these stages are running simultaneously within annual cycles. The parallel nature of the cycles is the source for significant confusion in understanding why an Academic SEM full sequence of cycles involves three to four years of calendar time. Campus leaders rail against this basic pace and often try to force academic program work in the current fall term and demand it impact the next fall’s enrollment. This naïve understanding of how enrollment building works may lead to weak, impotent curricula, and may distract academic and enrollment staff from building strongly market aligned programs. Hasty and ill focused action can create the illusion that one can just demand a fix, and it happens. Clarification requires a little more detail.

Basic Academic SEM Workflows

Within each cycle there are a number of tasks, processes, and procedures, collectively called workflows. They conspire when aggregated to achieve each cycle’s outcomes and feed the next cycle and other workflows. Figure 2: Academic/SEM Cycles & Workflows, adds, in outline form, the various elements and steps that are included in each of the stages. Note how the workflows attach to the cycles. In reality, the working groups involved in each cycle possess unique organizational cultures driving each cycle and the workflows that comprise them.

Academic/SEM Cycles & Workflows

Figure 2: Academic/SEM Cycles & Workflows

Let’s examine them one at a time. The bullet list below will permit you to cut and paste should you decide to make a deeper example for your institution of the actual processes utilized. Remember these are not intended as exhaustive lists, each institution has its unique array of processes and lexicon.

Curriculum Planning & Development

The curriculum planning and development processes are continuous and derive from academic affairs policies and the master academic plan. Academic annual cycles normally begin in the fall and culminate at the time of graduation. Summers are sometimes used for special intensive curriculum development projects. Classically, the ‘last like term’ is used as a model to set up the curriculum term. For example, last fall is used to set up next fall. Once the last term’s data is imported, modifications are made, and the new term is launched. An institution’s master course list and term schedule model are a very complex web of interrelationships. Room schedules are a delicate dance of preferences, specifications, and demand. Enrollment patterns induce schedule requirements forcing harsh realities, hurt feelings and the inevitable go-a-rounds, work-a-rounds, power plays, and the occasional ‘I moved my class, what are you going to do about it.’

New programs are most often launched based upon faculty interest. While this approach is certainly not bad, it can be significantly enhanced by innovation opportunities emerging from the enrollment market place. The marketplace has grown saturated with hyped program names populated by an ‘a la carte’ course sequence selected from the master course list. It has also become saturated by cloned copies of another institution’s innovation. The current market thrives on new curriculum. New is defined by the content, by where the learning experience leads or by the quality of the learning experience. New doesn’t mean throw out the existing but align it with emerging realities and refresh the focus. Processes involved in curriculum revitalization include:

  • Curriculum Architecture and Academic Program Specifications
  • Historic Recruitment Performance Review
  • Longitudinal Programmatic Enrollment Analysis
  • Strategic Position Analysis
  • Program & Discipline Scanning
  • Program Mix
  • Program Revitalization
  • New Program Development
  • Formal Program Review
  • Prototyping of new and existing programs of study
  • Messaging related to academic programs
  • Program and course approval
  • Course scheduling
  • Facility scheduling
  • Faculty load management
  • Faculty Development

Campaign Planning & Development

As in the curriculum process, it is common for campaigns to simply assume the structure and steps of the last campaign. For the same basic reasons, it too is very complex and hard to turn on a dime. Changes require time, attention, resources, and above all, a plan. Changes require training, testing, systems, policies, processes and procedures. Campaigns are not just mechanics. There is a great deal of visual design, messaging, persuasion, intuition, teamwork and follow through. Campaign planning and development must be informed by the performance of previous campaigns. Any campaign must also be designed to present the curriculum emanating from the previous workflow in the best possible way to meet enrollment targets. Processes involved in campaign planning and development include:

  • Campaign Model
  • Campaign Project Management
  • Calendar
  • Scheduling
  • Market Segmentation
  • Prospecting
  • Engagement Plan
  • Messaging
  • Channels
  • Collateral Material
  • Conversion
  • Responsiveness
  • Metrics
  • Analytics
  • Campaign Plan
  • Training

Recruitment Campaign

Recruitment activity often assumes the context, structure and initiatives of the last cycle as well. Recruiters stick to what has worked in the past, what they know, slowly they watch and listen and learn. They, above all, encounter the resistance, the competition, lack of interest, and a host of market behaviors we all wish didn’t exist when they don’t go our way. Any change is seen as add on and requires additional resources. These may or may not be forthcoming. Campaigns must be documented and managed as the complex projects that they are. This takes time and overhead. Above all, a recruitment campaign must be adaptable. Processes involved in campaign implementation include:

  • Launch Campaign
  • Manage Campaign
  • Monitor Activities and Metrics
  • Assess Performance (Causal) and Feedback
  • Track Media Analytics
  • Adapt Campaign Plan to Emerging Revelations
  • Innovate around opportunities that arise
  • Focus recruitment teams on market segments
  • Engage Suspects, Prospects, and Applicants
  • Involve prospects and the academic community
  • Conversion Tracking and Analysis
  • Closing the loop with a Deposit
  • Nurture
  • Negotiate

Campaign Evaluation (The ASEM Community Learns)

Comprehensive campaign evaluation is commonly abbreviated due to a lack of time, clear delineation of cycle boundaries, resistance to change and fear of consequences. It can also be strangled by a lack of process data or evidence granular enough to drive changes. Campaign evaluation is a numbers game. You must have the numbers to play. It is also enhanced by a culture of continuous improvement rather than one of fear. Processes involved in campaign evaluation include:

  • Campaign Post Mortem
  • Messaging Conversion Performance
  • Channel Performance
  • ILA (Institution Last Attended) Performance
  • Geographic Yield Analysis
  • Prospect List Analysis
  • Systems Analysis
  • Team Performance (Recruiter, Support, …)
  • POS (Program of Study) Performance
  • Collateral Material and Resources Performance
  • Feedback to Academics (Formal)
  • Feedback to Student Affairs and Learner Support Services
  • Engage Retention Management System
  • Engage Institutional Effectiveness

Retention Classification System (A Basic Status Tracking Taxonomy)

Retention is a constant activity, perpetually monitored, evaluated and improved. For all of the attention the subject of retention receives, clarity over the dimensions and underlying causes of attrition is poorly understood. Retention may be better renamed ‘Progress Toward Credential Objectives.’ Clearly marking the various stages of progress and tracking student progress significantly improves performance. This requires a formal taxonomy with specific discrete definitions. An example:

Retention Classification System

  1. Persisting – Currently Enrolled Students
    1. Satisfactory Academic Progress
    2. Unsatisfactory Degree Progress
    3. Unsatisfactory Grade-Point-Average
    4. Unsatisfactory Program Progress
  2. Achieved (Graduated with Credential)
  3. Attained
  4. Transferred
    1. Planned
    2. Unplanned
  5. Stopped-out (No-Show)
  6. Dropped-out (Formal Withdrawal)
  7. Dismissed
    1. Academic Disqualification
    2. Administrative Disqualification
    3. Disciplinary Disqualification
    4. Financial Dis-enrollment

Creating a Systems Flow View

So, how does this all work together? If your response was, well, it doesn’t, you would be in the majority.

We all know the fall work plan is overloaded with getting the new academic year started and a new class settled. The fall starts anew, getting the year’s workload underway, adapting to the fall enrollment numbers and corollary budget that it drives. New gives way to preparing for the fall board of trustee’s meeting and engaging the suite of integrated workflows that deliver enrollments. Time is short, too many meetings, and the holidays come out of nowhere and the term ends. Suddenly we realize that it is mid-January, and it is too late to develop a bump strategy for next fall enrollments. Sure we can try a few tricks, but the train has left the station, so to speak, and all that remains is trying to squeeze every bit of yield we can out of a dwindling pool of prospect/applicants.

A focus upon the flow and prioritizing within the workflows is required.

Figure 3: Academic/SEM Cycles Flow Model separates out the Retention and Campaign Evaluation pathways and connects them in a flow and feedback pattern to begin to work through the various interrelationships.

ASEM Cycles Text

Figure 3: Academic/SEM Cycles Flow Model



The schematic view of the workflows outlined in Figure 3 is illustrative. It has not been developed as a comprehensive list but rather as a prompt for compiling a bespoke institutional list. Inevitably compiling a list of workflows responsible for enrollment engages the politics of the organization, especially when the list includes programs of study, curriculum development and academic planning and strategies.

In the end, the totality and comprehensiveness of the family of Academic Strategic Enrollment Management Workflows must come together into one cohesive system with a blended culture and focus upon institutional sustainability.

In order to reflect upon this challenge better, we offer:

Academic/SEM Cycles Framed

Figure 4: Academic/SEM Cycles Framed


In Closing

I hope this brief sketch of the five Academic and SEM Cycles & Workflows provides an insight into the basic weave of complex elements that culminate in an enrollment report. We encourage your input, thoughts, suggestions and comments.

In our continuing effort to support our clients, MGDA is excited to announce our schedule of Transformational Strategies Institutes for 2015.

The transformation of higher education is evolving more rapidly with each annual cycle. While dealing with the annual litany of challenges, remember that a longer more permanent transformation is underway. The paradigm shift to the learning age is powered by a global digital learning ecosystem requiring unprecedented focus on academic and enrollment strategy. The planning horizon is characterized by increased demands for accountability, increased competition, significant learner and institutional economic challenges, and significant differences of opinion on how the future should be approached.

Our Institute series recognizes the need for unprecedented collaboration between academic and enrollment domains guided by new visionary strategic plans that forge a cohesive approach to a future full of uncertainty. We continually develop resources to help the journey into the future, so please check in regularly.

To stay connected and engage with your colleagues, join the ASEM Group in Linked In.

Achieving Strategic Position in the Global Learning Marketplace: Part 7

Academic Strategic Enrollment Management Series Banner

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

No one can achieve and sustain long-term enrollment and fiscal health with mandates or short-term, reactive, quick fix initiatives.

Strategic Position

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. The concept comprises both marketing and branding and extends the efforts of competitiveness to a holistic, proactive, cohesive process defining, developing and implementing a strategy of sustainability. The roots of strategic positioning lie in the academic master plan and the academic culture and curriculum it defines, builds and sustains. The most effective enrollment management strategies are designed to build and sustain strategic market position. The process begins with institutional strategy emanating from mission and vision.

The concept of strategic position is built around assessing where an institution is with respect to what prospective students are looking for in an educational opportunity and what other providers in its competitive sphere offer. 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 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.
Strategic Position Diagram

Figure 1: 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.

Achieving strategic position requires the institution to define the specific parameters that position the institution in the global learning marketplace. Enrollment managers work as partners in developing strategies to achieve and to maintain the competitive position of the institution within the global learning market. The learning marketplace is dynamic, and those dynamics change over time and within each competitive domain an institution is recruits. It is important to anchor recruitment campaigns in strategies that align the academic portfolio with market parameters.

Parameters Driving Strategic Position

Strategic position as a conceptual approach recognizes the confluence of factors, forces and elements that contribute to the competitiveness of the institution in the global learning market. Examples of parameters driving strategic position.

Geographic Mix

Defines the actual and targeted geographic representation of enrolled students.  Expressed as percent distributions by defined geographic regions (e.g. zip code, county, region, state, country). Provides a framework to align enrollment targets and performance with population distributions and dynamics.

  • Why is this important?
    Geographic mix defines the raw suspect pool that yields prospects and eventually enrollments. If the geographic mix is too narrow the pool is not large enough to achieve or sustain enrollments. If the mix is unfocused (such as international by country) or undeclared then, the services required for student success may not be available. Geographic mix also helps determine who the competitors are.
  • Example
    An urban independent institution with numerous competing academic neighbors and an enrollment profile so localized it was termed line of sight recruitment experienced steady erosion in enrollments. Their initial proposed geographic mix strategy involved a three-year focus to develop the capacity to expand to contiguous states then to a twelve state region. In addition, because of well-developed affiliations a limited international effort was also recommended. The strategies in this case were directly linked to specific programs of study.

Program of Study Mix

Defines the array of academic programs and services an institution offers to the population it serves. Provides a framework to align credentials with economic, social, political, and technological challenges and opportunities.

  • Why is this important?
    The mix of programs and disciplines ultimately define the profile of the institution to the learning marketplace. Program of study clusters can also be used to position schools, colleges, and departments in communities of interest and practice. The goal is to generate a following among influencers and a constant buzz in the social media regarding programmatic opportunities. Institutionally focused general marketing while necessary is insufficient alone to sustain healthy enrollments. Program level marketing must be developed and sustained.
  • Example
    A college of art and design offered a limited number of programs of study. The growth strategy involved adding four programs of study in developing the first stage of enrollment futures strategy. The programs rather than being selected from interest areas among faculty were selected to build a cohesive strategic position in the market. For example, a Business of Art and Design program was developed in order to emphasize the economic value of art and design and highlight the role of the institutions programs in producing practicing artists and designers. Geographic mix was then considered. The same institution relied heavily upon in-state enrollment with a geographic mix of 77% in state, 20% other 49 states (but predominantly six other states) and 3% international. Is this a healthy distribution?

Employment Domains and Discipline Spheres

Defines existing and emerging disciplines and employment sectors and opportunities.  Provides a framework for connecting and aligning structured disciplines with economic opportunities.

  • Why is this important?
    The linkage between academic disciplines and preparation for employment within defined economic sectors is of extremely high value when developing academic strategy. It is often deeply misunderstood. Every academic credential needs to embed employability knowledge and skills into the curriculum. The narrative describing the curriculum must make the case that the curriculum is up-to-date, relevant, and content and experience rich.
  • Example
    A Universities’ Liberal Arts programs recognized they needed curriculum revitalization to invigorate enrollment. The process was guided by the notion that a well-constructed liberal arts undergraduate degree could be argued and proven to be the perfect credential for this century. The core was reimagined to include thematic essential employability competencies that were shaped into curricular experiences. Faculty focused on:

    • Quantitative and qualitative reasoning and decision-making
    • Effective communication
    • Global cultural and political awareness
    • A strong sense of self and an understanding of self in relation to community
    • Basic economic structures and dynamics
    • Political systems and governance

    These were embedded into the curricular experience and designed to be assessed.

Community of Practice Focus

Defines emerging need or problem based communities. Provides a framework for understanding and aligning multiple programs and disciplines with emerging global needs and opportunities.

  • Why is this important?
    Communities of Practice represent self-identifying contemporary clusters of individuals with diverse knowledge, skills and credentials coming together to address an important issue, problem or need. They are very fertile ground to identify, shape and develop new curriculum. The community of practice lens is also a great way to approach existing curriculum revitalization and market realignment.
  • Example
    A School of Management had developed and was preparing to launch a program of study in fraud and forensics. The preliminary design was primarily accounting in nature. The scope of practice was narrowly focused. By engaging the communities of practice that included judiciary, law enforcement, and financial sectors in a structural review of the preliminary curriculum significant changes were made. As a result of the participation, the Communities of Practice members populated the initial program cohorts and augmented faculty expertise.

Learning Outcomes

Defines the knowledge and skills acquired form engagement in an academic program of study or learning environment. Provides a framework for mapping outcomes, developing narrative and leveraging academic value.

  • Why is this important?
    Teaching and learning are the heart and soul of an academic institution. Differentiating an institution based upon learning achievement, teaching quality, learning environment, and educational value-added is seldom attempted and difficult to achieve. Focusing upon learning outcomes includes completion rates, placement rates of graduates, and rankings and ratings by employers. It also structurally can be used as a guide to revitalizing the curricular design model.
  • Example
    Recognizing that roughly half of the prospects searching for their first enrollment opportunity are undecided as to the major they are interested initial strategies were developed to launch a common first year experience for undecided majors. The curriculum was designed to provide a strong academic experience flowing directly into more than a dozen majors. It was designed without a time to degree extension penalty being required (similar to the Liberal Arts example above except within a human services curricular cluster) regardless of the major selected within the cluster.

Research and Scholarship

Defines the knowledge focus and foundation of an academic organization and its relationship to the global academic and knowledge ecosystem. Provides a framework for innovation, focus, and leveraging knowledge and discipline expertise.

  • Why is this important?
    Research and scholarship anchor the academic reputation of the institution. The higher the demonstrable quality of research and scholarship the higher the perceived value of the learning experience.
  • Example
    An urban universities’ professional school sought to increase their rank and strategic position among their peers and enhance both research and faculty and student recruitment. A review of the research scholarship platform revealed more than 50 centers, institutes, and laboratories. As the school designed a new facility a comprehensive focus resulted in re-conceptualizing the organization, integration and support of the research and scholarship functions.

These examples illustrate in a nutshell, what we mean by taking a strategic position approach. The path to developing effective strategies can appear daunting and overwhelming. In order to construct meaningful strategy, we treat the view through these six lenses from the current institutional position as vectors. The concept of vectors adds two defining characteristics to the view through the lens, direction and magnitude. Note the primacy the curriculum and the academic portfolio play in developing strategic position. A well-developed strategically focused Master Academic Plan provides the best foundation. The use of the vector view is a powerful lens providing a focus for both the Master Academic Plan and developing Strategic Position.

SP Vectors

Figure 2: Strategic Position Using Vectors: Example

The vector view in figure 2 provides sufficient detail (an early draft and not the more exhaustive view) to synthesize cohesive and comprehensive strategies for the future of the enterprise. Each element on the six lens lines is in a state of change; increasing or decreasing, expanding or contracting, changing rapidly or slowly,  either in growth or decline, is becoming more popular or more essential or is becoming less so. These six lens inform the development of the Master Academic Plan and help identify candidates for bump strategies, or long term development. They inform the status of the institutions current strategic position and provide insight and opportunities for future development.

Such a view can plug back into an initial strategic position assessment using the SRS Method to develop a clear and concise translation and guide Strategic Enrollment Management strategies.

SRS Pyramid (Diagram)

Figure 3: The SRS Method for Strategy Development

In Closing

Hopefully this Strategic Position approach has provided deeper insight into the intricate and detailed elements involved in constructing a comprehensive competitive position in the emerging global learning marketplace. A colleague commenting on this approach quipped “Wouldn’t it be nice if this were much simpler? Send a few Social Media messages, even put up a billboard on the freeway or placards in buses and by golly the enrollments would overflow. In a perfect world, they would all be eager, well prepared, well-mannered, full pay students that just do as they are told and graduate on time.”  Pardon a quote from a contemporary commercial—“that’s not how any of this works.” It is complex; efforts take time and persistence, and results (not wishes) must be designed into strategies and initiatives. In the end curriculum drives enrollment, enrollment drives revenue and revenue drives everything else. That means ultimately strategies emanate from the curriculum (see “It’s the Curriculum Stupid”) and the academic enterprise.

Proficiency Based Curriculum Model: Part 6