Overview of MGDA Curriculum Projects

MGDA works with curriculum across the entire spectrum of institutional types (see Carnegie Classifications) to enhance curriculum design, development, market value, learning experience, and competitiveness. A few examples are outlined below.

MGDA Curriculum Projects

In our engagements with clients, we use a variety of methods, tools, and models we have developed over the years to understand and enhance curriculum architecture, program of study design, course design, assessments, and learning experiences. The Seven Tier Curriculum Architecture Model (aka Proficiency Based Curriculum Architecture Model) depicted above is an example. Our blog contains numerous refrences to the tools and methods we us and we encourage you to explore the various blog posts on the subject of Academic SEM, Academic Strategy, and Strategic Planning.

 

Boosting Program Enrollments: Curriculum Development & Revitalization Workshop, October 2015

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October 19-21, 2015, Claremont California

“The first and most important step in fixing sagging program enrollments.”

The Academic SEM Curriculum Development & Revitalization Workshop  (view agenda) recognizes that enrollment performance and the quality of the curriculum can both be significantly enhanced when curriculum is prepared, aligned, reengineered, or tweaked with enrollment markets in mind. The workshop articulates methods to recalibrate fundamental curriculum design and content to better align with the enrollment marketplace. The workshop is designed to help academics and enrollment managers to better position curriculum and programs of study in the complex global learning marketplace and improving enrollment performance.

Eventbrite - Academic SEM: Curriculum Development & Revitalization Workshop 2015

Session Summaries

  • Session I: Introduction to Principles of Academic SEM
    Reviews the foundational tenets of Academic SEM. Introduces strategic variables and options of competitive academic program strategies.
  • Session II: Academic Strategies, Tactics and Capacities 
    Introduces a structured approach to designing, developing and implementing academic strategies and developing new capacities required to meet the challenges of the learning age powered by a global digital learning ecosystem.
  • Session III: Curriculum Architecture and Specifications 
    Reviews the basics of curriculum architecture and assesses the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats emanating from the degree of alignment between architecture, program design, course options, assessment strategies, and curriculum-learner optimization pathways.
  • Session IV: Integrating the 5 Workflows of Academic SEM
    Reviews the basics of integrating curriculum and enrollment strategies by focusing upon synchronizing the five fundamental workflows of Academic Strategic Enrollment Management.
  • Session V: Curriculum Options and Optimization
    Examines the principles of sustainability and applies them to various curricular scenarios. Focuses on innovating from where you are with what you have.
  • Session VI: Program of Study Strategies
    Programs of Study are the lifeblood of academic institutions. The fundamentals of effective program design, emergent models and methods of embedding marketable value into a program of study are examined and evaluated.
  • Session VII: Curriculum Prototyping and Modeling I
    Examines basic principles of effective academic management and the fit and friction points encountered in academic collaboration, strategy development and implementation. Developing synergy between academic missions, visions, perspectives, calendars and workflow cycles.
  • Session VIII: Curriculum Prototyping and Modeling II
    Examines basic principles of effective academic management and the fit and friction points encountered in academic collaboration, strategy development and implementation. Developing synergy between academic missions, visions, perspectives, calendars and workflow cycles.

Developing Academic SEM Strategies

Academic Strategy Illustrated

The Five Workflows of Academic Strategic Enrollment Management

SEM-Cycle-Poster-512

What participants say about our Institutes.

I just completed a 3 day Institute for Academic Strategic Enrollment Management and Sustainability (December 2014) with Michael and it was tremendously helpful. Not only did my enrollment VP and I gain a better understanding of the impact that the curriculum has on enrollment’s ability to recruit students but we learned many very practical examples of what works and what doesn’t in designing curriculum and attracting students. I think the Program of Study plan is very helpful in helping faculty design narratives that enrollment can use to sell programs. I would recommend Michael and his workshops to anyone who is open-minded enough to believe that higher ed needs to change and we have to get in front of that change if we are to survive and thrive! – Christine Pharr, Ph.D., Vice President for Academic Affairs, College of Saint Mary, Omaha, NE

 

I had the opportunity to attend Michael’s first institute of this series on Academic Strategic Enrollment Management and Sustainability. As a former Chief Academic Officer who thought she had a pretty reasonable grasp of enrollment management strategies and their critical integration with academic affairs planning – I was astonished about how much I learned not just from MGD in his presentations and discussions, but from those enrollment management leaders in attendance . The institute served to crystallize in just 2 days an approach, a way of thinking and resources that all provide a pathway for the work we need to do for our own institutions. Based upon the postings already offered to us on https://mgdolence.com/, this next institute appears to be a very logical next step – especially for academic leadership – to fully grasp what is involved in a academic planning for meeting our enrollment challenges in this new learning age. – Margaret K. McLaughlin, Ph.D., Carlow University, Pittsburgh, PA

 

As a newly appointed Academic Vice-President for an institution of higher education, I enrolled in the Academic Strategies and Master Academic Planning Institute hoping to obtain the necessary elements to begin my new role with a clear understanding of my role. Given the current trends in education and in society in general, the Institute delivered clear guidance and exposure to excellent resources for my toolbox. However, what was most valuable for me was the outstanding balance between strategic vision and nuts-and-bolts advise that Dr. Dolence provided. It was an opportunity to obtain information and inspiration. I would certainly recommend this Institute to anyone facing the challenge of leading a higher education institution in today’s learner-centered and dynamic environment. – Tricia Penniecook, MD, MPH

Eventbrite - Academic SEM: Curriculum Development & Revitalization Workshop 2015

A Primer on Academic Strategies

What is Academic Strategy?

There are a number of perspectives from which this question can be approached. We will focus on only one in this brief.

The purposeful development of academic initiative(s) designed to secure an institution’s, school’s, college’s, or program’s strategic position in the competitive global digital learning marketplace.

Why are academic strategies important?

Academic strategy is essential in developing quality, effectiveness, efficiency and sustainability in colleges and universities.

Academic Strategy Illustrated

Figure 1: Academic Strategy Illustrated

Another major reason in today’s world is the massive paradigm shift to a Global Digital Learning Ecosystem. The new learning ecosystem is ubiquitous (everywhere), content rich (has everything), and is available to the learner at precisely the time when they need or want it (convenient). The new ecosystem provides unprecedented learning access to digital native populations (by definition under 35 years of age, but significantly broader than that). Digital communications provides unprecedented access to information, thought leaders, knowledge providers, learning communities, curricula, creative tools and tutorials. The new learning ecosystem changes all of the academic rules of engagement.

What are the implications of the paradigm shift and its impacts on colleges and universities?

Because the new paradigm and the new global digital learning ecosystem changes all of the academic rules of engagement, planning must focus first and foremost upon the master academic plan for the future. This means the MASTER ACADEMIC PLAN assumes primacy in the institutional planning hierarchy. Serving as a Master Plan it guides the other plans and nurtures the institution’s energies toward the new paradigm.

Are academic cultures too parochial and focused upon self-interest to make the transition?

Certainly some are, but by no means all. There are a host of academic visionaries that lead the transition into the future. Further, we must remember that not all resistance is due to parochial self-interest. A great deal of consternation occurs over concern for the best interest of the learner and what is believed to be the holy grail of quality undergraduate education—small class size. Legitimate concern sets off a myriad of myopic arguments fed by beliefs of what is coming rather than deep reflection about what should a college or university look like in the new global digital learning ecosystem. MIT faculty have taken a very deep look at that very question. Certainly the founders of EdX, Harvard, MIT, Stanford, their 38 charter members, 27 members and 7 national and regional consortia adopting the EdX platform. The founding of Western Governors University is testament to the transformation. Georgia Tech’s new OMSCS in partnership with Udacity and ATT is a great example that academic cultures, programs and institutions can move judiciously toward optimizing the emerging global digital learning ecosystem.

How can an institution proceed using small steps that build toward a larger transformation?

The development of academic strategies is a complex undertaking. The first assumption centers on the principle that “Curriculum drives enrollment, enrollment drives revenue, revenues drive everything else!” This principle of sustainability translates into two primary focal points for academic strategy, the curriculum, and the learner. The economic challenges of sustainability are not counter to academic quality they must be synergistic with academic excellence. Focusing upon learners first provides a clearer perspective of the individuals who seek, find and enroll in programs of study. The learner-centric approach must simultaneously focus on the tenets of academic quality and effective learning. To foster this focus, we have developed the Learner Centered Curriculum Framework around seven strategic questions guiding academic planning.

The questions for higher education are a matter of Academic Strategy and are learner-centric in nature. Seven framing questions focus attention on the learner and learning:

  1. Who are the learners?
  2. What objectives do the learners seek?
  3. What learning provider models are available to the learners?
  4. What learning theories and methods are appropriate for specific learners and the objectives they seek?
  5. What is the optimum curriculum architecture for an institution or educational entity?
  6. What specific curriculum can be configured to meet the learning needs of the learner population(s) an institution has chosen or been charged to serve?
  7. What support services are necessary to enable specific learner population(s) to successfully complete the curriculum and meet their objectives?
The Learner-Centered Curriculum Framework

Figure 2: The Learner-Centered Curriculum Framework – The Learner-Centered Curriculum Framework developed by Michael G. Dolence as an integrating concept linking Enrollment Management, Strategic Planning, and Curriculum Design, Development and Delivery

Answers to the seven questions orient the planning and analysis discussion on an integrated array of factors that must be considered as institutions ponder pathways to sustainability. Each of the seven questions must inform and be informed by the institution’s overarching strategy for sustainability, strategic position in the academic marketplace, and performance in terms of utilization of resources and educational outcomes. Answers to each question help inform and build the master academic plan. The master academic plan informs and sets the strategic framework for recruitment, retention and operational portfolios and performance. Policy enables and assures effectiveness, efficiency and overall quality of the enterprise. Analytics informs all aspects of strategic and operational functions.

The Strategic Enrollment Management Matrix

Figure 3: The Strategic Enrollment Management Matrix

The intersections in the matrix establish deep queries and framed analysis of the relationship of the institution and its master academic plan to the global learning marketplace. One fundamental element of that analysis is the strategic analysis and evaluation of the institution’s curriculum architecture.  The task of assessing the existing curriculum architecture against the seven dimensions of strategic enrollment management has resulted in the formulation of a proficiency based curriculum architecture model.

Proficiency Based Curriculum Architecture Model

Figure 4: Proficiency Based Curriculum Architecture Model

The new model is built from the IMS chassis of Reusable Learning Objects and Modules existing courses and programs, and the recognition that communities of practice are beginning to drive new program planning and expanded views of the value of state-of-the-art curriculum. The proficiency based curriculum architecture model provides for the design, development and implementation of more granular curriculum, that can be assembled and reassembled into programs that address credit bearing curricular applications as well as practice based applied learning requirements. The model expands the usefulness and application of curriculum to a much broader educational marketplace. The new expanded view of curriculum provided by the proficiency based curriculum architecture model opens new options for higher education.

Introduction to Academic Strategic Variables

The development of academic strategies involves manipulation of variables within an educational entity (e.g. institution, college, school, program, or department) in order to gain strategic position in the global learning marketplace. The development of academic strategies is both art and science and is enhanced by the depth and breadth of knowledge of the options available to an academic strategist. Academic strategy development requires both systems thinking and contemporary knowledge of cognitive research and learning strategy. The following, while not exhaustive provides a foundation for understanding the roots of academic strategy development.

  • Curriculum Architecture Strategies (using variables strategically to align curriculum with market segments)
    • Term Variables: adjust enrollment periods to align with market segments requirements or shorten time to course completion. Examples include 4 week term, 8 week term, 15/16 week term or open term.
    • Schedule Variables: adjusts synchronous learning engagements to align with market segments requirements. Examples include traditional day schedules, weekend colleges, and evening schedules.
    • Granularity Variable (see proficiency based curriculum architecture model, above,  with 7 Tiers rather than 2): adjusts curriculum content, courses, and engagements into smaller components permitting deeper assessment, application across multiple programs of study, and access for necessary developmental coursework.
  • Content Strategies
    • Curriculum Scope: defines the breadth and depth of academic programs in an institution’s portfolio.
    • Community of Practice Focus: identifies trans-disciplinary, interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary programs of study designed to address emerging needs of society and concomitant interests of learners.
    • Discipline Focus: provides a clear definition of specific elements of content for promotion and consideration by learners, employers, faculty, and philanthropy.
  • Assessment Strategies
    • Integrated Assessment: allows the assessment of learning and curriculum, including the collection of data associated with it, to occur routinely within the curricular engagement process.
    • Digital Assessment Support Systems include a wide range of digital formative assessment tools as well as systems for learning outcomes management (i.e. Canvas, Angel Learning).
  •  Learning Environment
    • Campus Master Plan: provides a rational design view of a campus and the strategies to create an effective, efficient learning environment supporting the academic community.
    • Academic Facilities Portfolio enhances specific academic facilities to highlight their design features that promote effective learning and scholarship.
    • Learning Management Systems (LMS): is a software application for the administration, documentation, tracking, reporting and delivery of digital courses. The use of LMS as a strategic element provides unprecedented information and control over digital curricula and learner assessment and engagement.
    • Digital Learning Environment (serving synchronous and asynchronous learning engagements) recognizes the ubiquitous critical mass of digitized information and resources, creative tools and communications options open to learners, scholars and academic leaders.
  • Strategic Positioning Strategies
    • Packaging (See Georgia Tech, Western Governor’s links above) push the boundaries of existing portfolios by combining the pieces in creative and effective ways.
    • Transformational efforts redefine the rules of engagement to optimize position and performance in a new paradigm.
    • Preeminence defines efforts to achieve the acknowledged status of best of breed.

In closing

The need for forward thinking academic strategies is demonstrated daily across higher education. Institutions considering changes to their core curricula, departments developing new programs, schools and colleges developing strategic plans or Master Academic Plans, institutions developing academic enrollment management initiatives, institutions approaching accreditation review, re-accreditation processes or responding to findings from a review are just a few of the prompts for deep thoughtful reflection on academic strategy.

Note: This brief Primer is designed to illustrate the elements of academic strategy and how they relate to each other. It is neither complete nor exhaustive.

Introducing the SRS Method for Mission Review and Strategy Development in Colleges and Universities [Video]

Developing strategy is a delicate and reflective process. Six interactive framing concepts help to shape strategy in higher education. The SRS Method is designed to provide a point of reference for the discussion of the six concepts. The SRS Pyramid depicts the schematic outlining a formal method for reviewing a mission statement and developing strategy in colleges and universities.

The SRS Pyramid frames seven interactive constructs built around and reflective of mission that shape an institution’s vision, focus its strategies, and achieve its position in the broadest global learning sphere. The SRS Pyramid recognizes that mission defines the role of an Institution within its defined sphere of influence. It is designed to provide a common reference point for structured dialog regarding each of the seven concepts and the relationships they have to mission and its fulfillment.

Dialogue begins with mission at the base of the pyramid and is directed right for a discussion of the Sphere of influence and left to illuminate the Role or roles played in that sphere or spheres. An institution’s or entity’s (school, college, department, program) sphere is defined by its geographic reach, competitive and collaborative contexts, and the communities of practice that influence or are influenced by the entity. The role of the entity – its purpose and function – within its sphere is defined by its mission. Environmental scanning and analysis (e.g., SWOT, GAP or other situational analyses) evaluate changes within the sphere for their impact on mission and role. As Sphere, Mission, and Role conditions and interactions are understood; strategists, planners, and constituents can invest in the creative process of determining a Vision for the future. Strategies are then developed to enable the vision. When implemented, the strategies modify and sustain an entity’s Strategic Position within its sphere of influence. In summary, Mission defines Sphere and Role, Vision relates Role to Strategy, Strategy redefines Strategic Position within and organizations Sphere of influence.

SRS Pyramid (Diagram)

The Sphere of an entity is defined by its geographic reach, competitive and collaborative organizations, subjects, disciplines, and communities of practice influenced by; and whose influence is exerted on the strategic entity. Each strategic entity is defined by its mission within a sphere that defines its role (purpose and function) within the sphere. Environmental scanning and analysis (often referred to as a SWOT Analysis for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) inform and evaluate changes within the sphere and how they impact mission and role. Environmental scanning without an analysis is a waste of time.

Once the Sphere, Mission, Role conditions and interaction are understood strategists, planners and constituents invest in the creative process of determining a vision of the future in which strengths are sustained or enhanced, weaknesses are addressed, opportunities are capitalized on and threats are mitigated. Strategies are then developed to enable the entity to realize its vision. When implemented the strategies modify and sustain the entities strategic position in its sphere of influence.

At the center of the pyramid lies the Learner-Centered Curriculum Framework (LCCF) providing a conceptual structure to guide dialog and inquiry about curriculum. It frames curriculum in its broadest strategic context and provides a framework for the design, implementation, and evaluation of curriculum within the broader context of institutional mission, vision, and strategy. The Learner-Centered Curriculum Framework, help unravel and clarify the complexities of translating mission, vision, and strategic position into effective curriculum as mapped across seven interlocking constructs:

  1. Learner Populations;
  2. Learner Objectives;
  3. Learning Provider Models;
  4. Learning Theory and Methods;
  5. Curriculum Architecture;
  6. Curriculum Configurations; and
  7. Learner Support Services

These constructs are, in turn, decoded or operationalized through seven learner-centered questions. When asked and answered, the questions are ideal for building, improving, and sustaining design integrity across curricular elements and guiding a wide array of institutional internal and external alignments.

The Learner-Centered Curriculum Framework is a tool that helps frame strategic dialog and analysis around the principles and practices of the concept learner-centered academic environments. This article describes the seven learner-centered questions that emanate from the Learner-Centered Curriculum Framework and  help frame a basic enrollment management perspective useful for strategic enrollment management professionals when they dialog with academics. The table below can be printed and guide deeper insight into the options revealed through each question.

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.

Barriers

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.