Develop Capacity: Part 3

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A paradigm shift challenges every organization to develop the capacity to meet new demands. New paradigm means new rules, new relationships, new patterns and new models of efficiency and effectiveness. The shift to a digital learning ecosystem characterized by open curricula, vast amounts of digital information, ubiquitous interpersonal communications via social networking and fluid global interconnections, challenges every aspect of our current post-secondary models. Demands for accountability for public and personal funds (coupled with a staggering $1 Trillion Student Debt), the persistent emphasis on meaningful formative assessment, and the growing expectations of higher performance learning environments, place extraordinary demands on institutional capacity. As institutions scramble to develop in-house skills, systems and solutions the first question becomes; What guides the process? The development of a prototype plan provides a rapid means of organizing an approach and process for addressing the demands of the paradigm shift. Since the paradigm is new it means assessing the capacity of the institution to address, capitalize on, and/or optimize the features of the new paradigm.

The concept of capacity is multifaceted. Our primary intent is to focus on the capacity of the institution, to plan effectively during a paradigm shift to a global digital learning ecosystem. Capacity refers to institutional capability to meet the demands placed on a contemporary educational institution. The paradigm shift sets the stage for the prototype plan. We use a prototype plan as a pre-planning process because there is much unknown by the organization and its constituents, about what is on the other side of a paradigm shift. Capacity, in the context of a paradigm shift, can refer to:

  • the physical capacity of facilities
  • the technological capacity of the infrastructure
  • the human capacity (knowledge and skills) to perform functions or tasks
  • the capacity of the curriculum to meet societal needs or learner interests or job market demands as they shift with the paradigm
  • the ability to recognize and respond to threats, challenges and opportunities
  • Capacity can mean any or all of these

The function of developing a prototype plan in a planning process is to enable the discovery of what is unknown, encourage review of options that may not be popular or well understood, and take an unbridled view of the future and implications for the organization. Figure 1 illustrates the relationship where required capacity is defined that which is required by a post paradigm shift institution.

Function of a Prototype in Planning

Figure 1 – Function of a Prototype in Planning: The relationship where required capacity is defined that which is required by a post paradigm shift institution.

Responding to or accommodating the magnitude of the change in a paradigm shift requires a formal plan that defines a new reality, and moves beyond the status quo, and the comfort zones of the past. A big challenge to be sure. One of the first questions to emerge is; Do we have the capacity to meet the challenge of a paradigm shift? This question must be addressed twice, once in developing the prototype that guides the future view, and again once the prototype moves forward and begins to refine emerging strategies, goals and objectives in further development of the formal strategic plan and its implementation. Since the paradigm shift establishes the context it must be clearly articulated.

Mandate for Change

The first step in developing the capacity to change, is to declare the need and substantiate the reasons change is required. The mandate for change must be clear and concise. One approach to change is to charge a team with developing a rapid prototype plan. The charge to the team begins to guide and shapes the capacity that needs to be present in both planning process and the organization that the plan creates. A great example of a charge to a group to prototype a plan with a vision is detailed in the Final Report of the Institute-wide Task Force on the Future of MIT, July 28, 2014.

In a letter to the MIT Community on February 6, 2013, President Rafael Reif described the formation of an Institute-wide Task Force. The Charge: So that you may advise me and MIT’s administration, I charge the Task Force to:

  • Propose an “ecosystem” for ongoing research, learning and innovation about the future of education.
  • Recommend a range of possible experiments and pilot projects that will allow us to explore the future of MIT education.
  • On our own campus, in ways that incorporate online learning tools to the fullest extent while maximizing the value of face-to-face learning for both faculty and students.
  • Beyond our campus, through which learners around the world could benefit from important aspects of MIT’s educational content, vision and values
  • Evaluate the future strength and sustainability of MIT’s current financial model in this evolving context and propose alternative or complementary approaches.
  • Develop a roadmap that will describe the work streams and the phases of work necessary to enable this ecosystem and implement these experiments.

Notice the artful characterization of the prototype as a roadmap. Hopefully, in a previous post “Change the Paradigm,” I was clear that a vision is needed in order to get a strategic plan that guides the institution into the future. In the MIT taskforce charge, the future is referenced as an ecosystem. The parameters of a global context and digital learning environment are called out. The concept of sustainability is anchored in MIT’s business model, and the importance is underpinned by service to humanity. Once the mandate for change is clear, and the group is charged the work must be accommodated and that means making time for it.

Remember the task force is just the first round of translating the mandate for change into a roadmap for the future. Subsequent rounds go deeper into the organization and align organizational capacities with future requirements.

Time

We could easily have labeled this one people because having the right people focused on the future is so essential. Time and again, we see in our planning practice, all of the right people are appointed to the process, but that does not mean they have, can or will make the time to invest in it. The first symptom is substitutions at meetings. When that is mitigated by presidential decree, we see behaviors like individuals showing up with routine work to do while they sit in a meeting. Or they ‘revolving door’ the meeting to take calls, or are interrupted by their staff. So even if you have the right people in the process with the intent that they are contributing knowledge, insight and skill in shaping the context; the single biggest obstacle to success may be the failure to make time for the work that is required to meet future needs and challenges. New initiatives clash with beliefs and behaviors where the challenges and needs of the past take the first claim on time.

Make Time for the Work That Matters

by Julian Birkinshaw and Jordan Cohen, in Harvard Business Review, September 2013

We’ve spent the past three years studying how knowledge workers can become more productive and found that the answer is simple: Eliminate or delegate unimportant tasks and replace them with value-added ones. Our research indicates that knowledge workers spend a great deal of their time—an average of 41%—on discretionary activities that offer little personal satisfaction and could be handled competently by others. So why do they keep doing them? Because ridding oneself of work is easier said than done. We instinctively cling to tasks that make us feel busy and thus important, while our bosses, constantly striving to do more with less, pile on as many responsibilities as we’re willing to accept

The planning process must raise and deal with the issue of making time for the work ahead. Two of the implications emerging from understanding time strategy (there are more) are the issue of complexity and the emergence shorthand references that are not understood (and are afraid to ask).

The first has to do with complexity vs. simplicity. The common expectation is that both solutions and communications be simple and easy to understand. This saves time. But what happens to concepts that are not simple and easy to understand. What happens to deep restructuring and rethinking an enterprise (the kind of planning required in a paradigm shift). In our curricular and  enrollment management work we experience the constant pressure to distill very complex scenarios into sound bites and quick fixes. We often face distracting fairy tales such as ‘branding is a solution to systemic enrollment decline’ or cloning a program of study being misrepresented as innovation. We see getting courses online becomes more important than developing a sustainable digital learning strategy, and we see impatience that leads to bad decisions and wasted academic cycles and institutional budgets.

The second is the use of abbreviated lexicon that is meant to transmit a complete understanding in as few words as possible (presumably this makes it quicker and easier to read). Examples often appear in published plans whose primary feature is a list of Strategies, Goals and Objectives (shorthand for these is the designation SGO’s). The SGO’s or even worse a list of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT Analysis) is postured as a strategic plan. They are a basic list, and the expectation is that everyone can read the list and know what needs to get done. They (whoever they are) are then expected to go do it. But in reality does a list mean everyone gets it? Of course not. Will a list change behavior? No.  Can understanding be derived from reading a list of what must be done or is expected? It is unlikely, so we must ask is there a better way?

Evidence in change management indicate lists are insufficient. As a result of this evidence we proposed the development of a Prototype Strategic Plan that can be more than a list of SGO’s or a list of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. The prototype plan and the process that creates it must bring clarity to the context of the path ahead. So how does one develop clarity of the path ahead?

Clarity

Clarity begins with establishing a common context for the planning participants. The context is established when data and information are gathered, shared and discussed. Context is established when terms are defined, and timelines framed. Context is established when parameters, relationships, limits, norms, minimums and standards are introduced and understood. Context is established when strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats are identified, defined and understood.

Clarity is then advanced when there are discussions and agreements on what the context means to the future of the planning entity (department, school, college, institution). Developing agreement on direction means understanding the concept of intent.

I find Daryl Conner’s Blog on managing intent very approachable for clients and colleagues. His four part series is well worth the read.

In Search of the Missing Link

As a professional change community, we have not always paid sufficient attention to intent. Our focus has often been more on getting people to adapt to a change than on the change itself. What I mean is, sometimes we are so attentive to issues like resistance and commitment that we fail to see that the people involved are lacking a common understanding of what is being asked of them. ♦  What Is Intent? Properly positioned, intent is a complete, concise, understandable, and compelling expression of the expectations for an initiative. — Daryl Conner

Clarity of the context of the future and the options available to the institution enables the development of a vision that provides a synthesized view of the organizations potential future.

Vision

Too often the vision is developed as a vision statement and lacks sufficient depth or clarity to guide a plan. Hopefully in “Change the Paradigm,” it was clear that a vision of substance is needed in order to get a strategic plan that guides the institution into the future. In another post, Developing Institutional Strategy, the SRS method MGDA uses to develop and synthesize a future view is introduced.

For a great example of a prototype plan that articulates a vision of the future examine the MIT Final Report of the Institute-wide Task Force on the Future of MIT. For MIT, the headings guide the logic in this report with Laying a Foundation for the Future, then developing the concept of Transforming Pedagogy. The reason is made clear in the next section Extending MIT’s Educational Impact, which then comes back around to Enabling the Future of MIT Education and opening it back up to vision with Imagining the Future of MIT Education. Embedded in the report are sixteen recommendations. Many of the recommendations are about developing capacity.

Summary of Recommendations from the Task Force on the Future of MIT

  • Recommendation 1
    The Task Force recommends that MIT establish an Initiative for Educational Innovation to build on the momentum of the Task Force, enable bold experimentation, and realize the future the Task Force has imagined for education on campus and beyond.
  • Recommendation 2
    The Task Force recommends that the new Initiative for Educational Innovation engage in bold experiments to catalyze ongoing research, learning, and innovation about the future of MIT residential education.
  • Recommendation 3
    The Task Force recommends that MIT build on the success of freshman learning communities and consider future expansions of the cohort-based freshman learning community model.
  • Recommendation 4
    The Task Force recommends that the Institute use online and blended learning to strengthen the teaching of communications.
  • Recommendation 5
    The Task Force recommends that MIT create an Undergraduate Service Opportunities Program (USOP).
  • Recommendation 6
    The Task Force recommends that the Institute explore online and blended learning models to improve graduate curriculum accessibility.
  • Recommendation 7
    The Task Force recommends that this commitment to pedagogical innovation for the residential campus be extended to the world to set the tone for a new generation of learners, teachers, and institutions.
  • Recommendation 8
    The Task Force recommends supporting efforts to create a lasting community and knowledge base for MITx learners.
  • Recommendation 9
    The Task Force recommends that MIT define a K-12 strategy through a special interest group under the auspices of the Initiative for Educational Innovation.
  • Recommendation 10
    The Task Force recommends that the Institute create new opportunities for engagement between the MIT community and the world.
  • Recommendation 11
    The Task Force recommends that MIT move forward to consider the types of certifications that can be supported through MITx and edX, and develop pricing methodologies and revenue-sharing arrangements for agreed-upon certifications.
  • Recommendation 12
    The Task Force recommends that MIT strengthen its commitment to access and affordability.
  • Recommendation 13
    The Task Force recommends that the Institute expand fundraising activities to embrace a broader MIT community.
  • Recommendation 14
    The Task Force recommends that MIT charge an ad-hoc working group to further evaluate revenue opportunities surrounding technology licensing and venture funding.
  • Recommendation 15
    The Task Force recommends that the Institute establish a working group on spaces for future student life and learning to bring together stakeholders from around campus to envision, plan, and create spaces for the future of MIT education.
  • Recommendation 16
    The Task Force recommends that MIT bolster infrastructure for Executive and Professional Education to reduce barriers to offering programs and engage more faculty to broaden program delivery.

The summary above outlines recommendations for MIT moving into the future. It is not a strategic plan but rather a prototype in the form of a report, developed by an extensive task force that deeply examined MIT and developed a future view. Not a perfect view but a glimpse of MIT as the 21st century emerges and a proposed series of recommendations to get there. The next phase (and some of the working groups from MIT extended their work into the next phase) involves determining and analyzing the knowledge, skills, and resources necessary to achieve the vision of MIT in the future. Be sure to read the preliminary report included in the MIT Final Report ( Appendix 5 beginning on page 105). The vision permits the development and defining of detailed capacity specifications.

Capacity Requires Knowledge, Skills, and Resources

The new millennium marches on and it is a digital era. Does this mean all face-to-face teaching and learning will disappear, no of course not. But change is flowing through the population as learners are born into and acculturated to a digital reality not analog environments. The digital age is an era where learning is increasingly being disintermediated. We are faced with the issue of the magnitude of change required to meet the challenges presented by a paradigm shift to a global digital learning ecosystem. This is not an era of quick fixes, slap together a strategic plan and everything is ready to go. It is not an era of wait for it all to settle out and then go cherry pick the best ideas and proven strategies. The paradigm shift requires deep sustained planning. Developing the capacity, knowledge, skills and resources for such planning is urgent and in short supply. Acquiring the requisite knowledge, skills and resources of how to manage the paradigm shift and not only survive but flourish defines MGDA’s practice. A little adviceon moving forward.

Path Forward

  • Recognize that the Learning Age requires a new portfolio of knowledge, skills, and capabilities
    • Learner & Learning Centered Strategies
    • Dramatically different curriculum design, planning, delivery
    • A more granular content design curriculum model
    • Embedded formative assessment that informs and enables learning performance
  • Recognize that the Learning Age requires a dramatically different infrastructure
    • New fully integrated administrative and learning management systems
    • New fully integrated assessment systems with learning management systems
  • Recognize that the transition years to new and emerging models are precious to the survival of an institution and should not be wasted
    • Sustained planning and development are required
    • Academic focus is essential
    • Organizational development requires symbiotic evolution of human, systems, and organizational capacities

Goal

Capacity is not something that is achieved but rather a process of constantly developing and building. It is a characteristic that degrades when not paid attention to.

  • The future of Higher Education is built on an emerging new level of professionalism and specialized expertise required to conceptualize, design, build, implement and evaluate the academic enterprise of the future. This requires academic leadership to help faculty and academic support to move to a new level of understanding of the future of higher education. This means relentless focus on educating for the future and learning to build capacity. A must is allocating a learning and professional development budget.
  • The Learning Age is an era where reflective practice is driven by relentless assessment, fact finding, and evaluation. These collective insights serve to advance academic strategies and are not simply a collection of interests. This means that the academic enterprise must know where

 In closing

This post outlines the need to pay strategic attention to the issue of organizational capacity beginning with understanding the context of the global shift to a digital learning ecosystem. As one of the four framing strategies in the development of a prototype plan the concept moves the institution forward by  developing the capacity of the organization to understand and meet the challenges of the future.

Focus on Value: Part 2

Focus on Value: Part 2

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For decades higher education as flown the banner of the value of a college degree when assessing the earning potential over the life of the learner. David Leonhardt in his column in the New York Times (May 27, 2014) Everyday Economics asked “Is College Worth It? Clearly, New Data Say

Some newly minted college graduates struggle to find work. Others accept jobs for which they feel overqualified. Student debt, meanwhile, has topped $1 trillion. It’s enough to create a wave of questions about whether a college education is still worth it.A new set of income statistics answers those questions quite clearly: Yes, college is worth it, and it’s not even close. For all the struggles that many young college graduates face, a four-year degree has probably never been more valuable.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics track and publish data illuminating the differential that education attainment provides in both earnings and employment. The data is both compelling and has been consistent over the years.

Chart-EarningsUnemploymentByEducation

But is this sufficient to warrant a trillion dollars in student debt, or compete against infrastructure and social needs for public funds. Higher Education leaders and advocates must take great caution in relying on this argument as a sole response to demands for accountability, responsiveness and value-added. There are many ways to strengthen and deepen this fundamental value equation. One example is to focus upon the relationship between curriculum and to develop the talent that advances responses and solutions to global issues, opportunities, and the effects of the paradigm shift.

For example curriculum such as programs in digital film, fraud and forensics, game art and design, optimizing social media, high performance learning, environmental chemistry, project management, performance optimization, or global commerce position curriculum to support existing and emerging communities of practice that are tightly coupled to opportunities. They also all provide a very powerful framework for a strong liberal arts foundation that is highly contextualized in contemporary frames of reference.

Higher education and learning environments continue to develop and are transforming the global learning ecosystem. For a look into the future from a different perspective visit Thomas Frey’s Blog for a peak at 162 Future Jobs: Preparing for Jobs that Don’t Yet Exist.

Jobs are a focus many academics find alienating as a frame of reference for understanding the value of an education. For a great portion of the population they help contextualize the investment in learning with a proposition for a return on that investment in a tangible career thereby substantiating the broad statistic of earnings over their lifetime. More to the point, in addition to the intrinsic value of a degree, institutions must build an institutional/programmatic value equation for prospective students and their families to consider while they are engaging in the process of deciding where to go to college. The equation must have the full power of the curriculum and emanate from the strategic and academic plans behind them and they must be warranted by a comprehensive assessment process. This requires a systematic, cohesive structured value equation for curricula, research, and the contribution that educational experiences have on each learner striving to optimize their own economic health, quality of life, and future.

Where does one begin? At the start of the Academic Strategic Enrollment Management Series I paraphrase the Clinton/Carville 1992 quote by asserting “It’s the curriculum stupid!” This focuses attention on the perceived and actual value of the curricular/learning experience provided to a learner in exchange for resources. If all curriculum is perceived to be of equal value, such as in a commodity (subject of another blog post), and the only variable is the price, what is the competitive strength of any given institutions curriculum. Don’t be fooled by the draw of premium brands such as Harvard, MIT, Stanford, Yale … these operate in a different competitive structure than the rest.

The concept of focusing upon value is multifaceted. Value immediately conjures up the notion of cost-benefit analysis and most understand the concept fairly well, even if they choose to ignore it. Value is also highly contextualized to the individual or organization doing the valuing. When it comes to exchanging services for long commitments in time or large commitments in money the concept must be contextualized to the individual. Enrollment managers have understood this reality but it is more rare among academics. Focus on value means being able to demonstrate value and it is not a formula or slogan or marketing question but one of fundamental benefit from and engagement with a learning opportunity or pursuit of a credential.

For one it is a question of differentiation. Is one curriculum distinguishable from another.

Path Forward

  • Understand the concept of value to society and to the individual learner
  • Understand learner needs and realities
  • Understand accountability and the requirement to substantiate value
  • Build value into every program design
  • Build value into every learning experience
  • Prove value through assessment and strategic positioning strategies
  • Build a value based academic and administrative culture

Goals

  1. Substantiating and continuously enhancing real and perceived value through the academic experience.
  2. Differentiating the value of one credential from another as a competitive strategy. This is a difficult task in a world where credentials are viewed as commodities of basic equal value regardless of source.

In Closing

The purpose of this blog post was to raise the concept of developing real and perceived value by embedding the focus deeply in the strategic plan. Except named premium credential brands, price has become the number one issue and it very desperately needs to be balanced by the value of the credential and the experience. This requires evidence, proof if you will, that the many dimensions of value emanate from progress through the degree program. Platitudes are too often relied upon. What is needed is a coordinated cohesive effort to design, develop, and experience quality (not the my students love me type) within the academic program. To find it in the academic program it must first be in the strategic plan.

Note to reader: Follow our blog series and posts they will continue to develop this theme and provide insights, methods, suggestions, and opportunities to improve both real and perceived value in the academic program.

Develop Capacity: Part 3

Change the Paradigm: Part 1

Change the Paradigm: Part 1

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The concept of Paradigm Shift emerged in 1962, from the work of Thomas Kuhn, who wrote The Structure of Scientific Revolution. The concept of “paradigm shift” argues that scientific advancement is not evolutionary, but rather a “series of peaceful interludes punctuated by intellectually violent revolutions”, and in those revolutions “one conceptual world view is replaced by another.” The current paradigm shift can be said to have very humble beginnings at the same time 1962. It is documented in the Brief History of the Internet.

The first recorded description of the social interactions that could be enabled through networking was written by J.C.R. Licklider of MIT in August 1962 discussing his “Galactic Network” concept. He envisioned a globally interconnected set of computers through which everyone could quickly access data and programs from any site.

The Digital Revolution

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What followed has been called the Digital Revolution, the Third Industrial Revolution, the Information Age and the Learning Age. Its beginning is usually pinned as the 1980’s. The Internet was not officially named however until October 24, 1995. This corresponded to the Eastman Kodak Company beginning a decline in profitability resulting in declaring bankruptcy in January 2012 despite significant leadership in digital photography. The print industry in general began to slide quickly with the U.S. print industry declining 1% per month during 2009. Newspaper, periodical, book, and directory publishers have experienced significant decline and are expected to fall another 25% in the next ten years. Record store, media rental, and wired telecommunications carriers are all suffering from rapid decline. The point here is that the evolution of the Digital Revolution has had a huge impact upon a wide variety of business and social sectors globally. It has had a huge impact upon the global learning environment as well.

A confluence of innovation around the digitization of books began a full rethinking of knowledge transfer and learning infrastructure design as it relates to the written word. Project Gutenberg begun by Michael Hart in 1971 with the digitization of The U.S. Declaration of Independence and can be called the birth of the eBook. The Library of Congress announced Oct. 13, 1994 that it had received $13 million in private sector donations to establish the National Digital Library Program.

We turn next to pages from the brief history of Google:

In 1996, Google co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page were graduate computer science students working on a research project supported by the Stanford Digital Library Technologies Project. Their goal was to make digital libraries work, and their big idea was as follows: in a future world in which vast collections of books are digitized, people would use a “web crawler” to index the books’ content and analyze the connections between them, determining any given book’s relevance and usefulness by tracking the number and quality of citations from other books. The crawler they wound up building was called BackRub, and it was this modern twist on traditional citation analysis that inspired Google’s PageRank algorithms – the core search technology that makes Google, well, Google.

As of April 2013 a Wikipedia page reported Google had scanned 30 million of the 130 million unique books that exists from around the world. It expects to complete the task by 2020.

Chart-InternetWorldUsers

The World Digital Library was launched on April 21, 2009 at UNESCO headquarters in Paris, France. The WDL has stated that its mission is to promote international and intercultural understanding, expand the volume and variety of cultural content on the Internet, provide resources for educators, scholars, and general audiences, and to build capacity in partner institutions to narrow the digital divide within and among countries. It aims to expand non-English and non-western content on the Internet, and contribute to scholarly research. The library intends to make available on the Internet, free of charge and in multilingual format, significant primary materials from cultures around the world, including manuscripts, maps, rare books, musical scores, recordings, films, prints, photographs, architectural drawings, and other significant cultural materials.

Open Curricula

In parallel to the digitization of books, open curricula began to appear. Consider the MIT’s Open Courseware initiative.

In 1999, MIT Faculty considered how to use the Internet in pursuit of MIT’s mission—to advance knowledge and educate students—and in 2000 proposed OCW. MIT published the first proof-of-concept site in 2002, containing 50 courses. By November 2007, MIT completed the initial publication of virtually the entire curriculum, over 1,800 courses in 33 academic disciplines.

In 2006 Salman Khan created the Kahn Academy. To date, they have delivered over 458 million lessons and learners have completed over 2 billion exercise problems (which is around 4 million per day!). In addition, they have 350,000 registered teachers around the world who use Khan Academy in their classrooms to help to inspire, motivate and guide students through their learning paths.

In 2008, the first massive, open, online course (MOOC) was offered by Stephen Downes and George Siemens building off a for-credit course at the University of Manitoba, Canada. The title was ‘Connectivism and Connective Knowledge/2008’ (CCK8). Around 2,200 people signed up for CCK08, and 170 of them created blogs. The course was free and open, which meant that anyone could join, modify or remix the content without paying (although a paid, certified option was offered). The primary contribution MOOCs make to the future is one of testing scalability to large numbers of networked learners.

In 2012, two Stanford Professors, Sebastian Thrun and Peter Norvig offered “Introduction to Artificial Intelligence” for free online. Designed to resemble real classroom experiences and offer high-quality classes for everyone, the idea had the advantage of carrying the prestigious Stanford name. More than 160,000 students in 190 countries signed up. They went on to start Udacity. In May 2012 MIT and Harvard University founded EdX as a massive open online course (MOOC) provider and online learning platform with pedigree partners from around the world. Coursera also launched in 2012. As of April 2014, Coursera reported 7.1 million users in 641 courses from 108 institutions and raised $85 million in capital by December. In 2013, the Open University began building its own MOOC platform, Futurelearn, which will feature universities from the United Kingdom.

In 2008, Jose Ferreira (formerly from Kaplan) launched Knewton to provide an infrastructure platform that allows others to build powerful proficiency-based adaptive learning applications.

It’s easy to get lost in the technology of it all and forget all of this is really about open access to the curriculum and an effort to improve learning experiences and optimize learner performance. I summarize this paradigm shift as the emergence of the Digital Learning Environment (DLE). The emerging proliferation and increasing positive performance of Digital Learning Environments is a revolution, a transformation, a sort of metamorphosis. The early stages of the digital revolution disintermediated film, paper and a host of other players. What is the potential for DLE’s to disintermediate colleges and universities?

January 15, 2014 Georgia Tech in partnership with AT&T and Udacity launched the first massive online degree program (MODP).The first cohort of 375 students enrolled in the Master of Science in Computer Science program will pay less than $7,000 for a graduate degree, compared to $45,000 for on-campus students.

It is important at the outset of planning to recognize these and other profound changes occurring in the global learning ecosystem. The shift from print-based to digital information, ubiquitous networking, social interaction systems, cloud-based learning management systems, massive digitization of the world’s knowledge resources and the emergence of new business models (i.e. Western Governors University and Georgia Techs Masters degree). These fundamental shifts require an organizational learning initiative to bring into focus the full impact of them on the higher education enterprise of the future. This post is by no means an exhaustive review of the evidence of a paradigm shift that has already occurred. It is planning reference point to signal significant environmental events that change the evolutionary course of education.

Strategy One: Change the Paradigm

The first strategy in our prototype strategic plan is, therefore, Change the Paradigm. To survive and flourish an institution must recognize the paradigm shift and adjust to meet the new demands required by the emerging global digital learning environment. This strategy requires that an institution reconcile its mission and vision with the emerging new context. This does not mean abandoning the strengths of the current model but instead contextualizing and connecting to a digital future. Much must be considered in the process of adapting to the new paradigm. Below is an outline of the beginning of the path forward and few goals one might consider in the process of planning.

Path Forward

  • Understand the emerging dynamics of the Learning Age
  • Understand the magnitude of change that is occurring with the transition from a physical learning ecosystem to a digital learning ecosystem
  • Understand the fiscal challenges facing global societies and the challenge of developing sustainable systems
  • Understand the emerging body of knowledge about learning and incorporate that knowledge into future design
  • Build a deeply informed academic and administrative leadership team
  • Build an academic and administrative culture that aligns with the dynamics of the Learning Age
  • Assess your current strategic position compared to the emerging future dynamics of the global learning sphere
  • Map the gaps between your current strategies and the emerging realities of the Learning Age

Goal

Build an academic culture and enterprise that is aligned with and is of high value to learning age societies.

  • Recognizes that curriculum is more than an internet of things and conceptualizes an architecture that conveys curriculums true value designed to meet the needs of 21st century learners.
  • Reorient the academic enterprise to the challenges and opportunities presented by the lifelong learning needs of a diverse global population.
  • Create a more manageable, more granular curriculum to enable closer alignment with the emerging form and function of the emerging global digital learning environment.

Focus on Value

Prototype Series Overview

Prototype Series Overview

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Current estimates are that there are roughly 20,000 colleges and universities worldwide. Each renews or refreshes its strategic plan every 3 to five years. That means on average every year there are between 5,000 and 6,667 institutions worldwide that are in the process of reviewing their mission statements and developing a strategic plan. Each faces a daunting task. Each must plan the process of planning (called the plan to plan). Each must inventory, invite, and convene their constituents and engage them in the process. Each must labor over process design; methods used, committee structures, wordsmithing, concept development, and visions. In the end, it will engage thousands of person hours and provoke virtually everyone. In each case just getting the planning work done and fitting it into the everyday routine work plan is a major challenge.

In the meantime, the world continues to evolve rapidly. For example, MOOCs came on the higher education scene achieving levels of scalability never before imagined. Online learning continues to grow, national and state investment in higher education have become strained to the limit, (in the U.S. federal student loans have accumulated to a trillion dollars in debt). As a result the public is demanding more flexible options, higher levels of accountability, greater efficiencies, proof of value of the higher education experience and evidence that outcomes are achieved by learners.

Trying to understand the dynamics of the changing environment while constructing a flawless blueprint for the future (not what the plan is, but we hear planning team participants echo this sentiment frequently) is a daunting mission impossible. One method is to slow down in order to speed up. That means let the leadership team practice. In order for the planning team to more fully understand the fundamental changes and the impacts emanating from the paradigm shift currently underway we recommend the development of a rapid prototype strategic plan. Such a plan is done in preparation for the development of the plan to be enacted.

Prototype Strategic Plan

Prototype a Learning Age Strategic Plan Series Overview

The Four Strategies and Eight enabling Tactical Plans that make up a Prototype Learning Age Strategic Plan

A rapid prototype helps frames issues, draws contrasts, proposes emerging solutions and recognizes new realities surrounding the emerging global digital learning environment. The approach permits the development of a comprehensive picture that looks and can reach farther into the future. A rapid prototype is developed in a minimum amount of time, with limited resources and provides the maximum in cost to transformational benefit.

This post begins a series that focuses upon the design and development of a Prototype Strategic Plan for an Institution of Higher Education. We recommend developing a forward-looking prototype strategic plan as a means to introduce constituents to the profound changes occurring as a result of a paradigm shift currently underway. Developing a prototype plan, allows planners to frame the future and its implications to the institution in a structured way. The prototype plan then serves as a possible view of the future as a reflective tool prompting deeper dialog.

A planning process is complex, highly political and can be fraught with pitfalls, missteps, and misperceptions. The literature is replete with examples of failure. Leaders recognize that the true value of the planning process is not a plan (sure it is important and must be produced), but in how the process engages the organization and prepares it to address critical challenges and improve performance.

Series

Our prototype sets forth four basic strategies: Change the Paradigm, Focus on Value, Develop Capacity, and Make Everything Count. The series will then take these four strategies and explore how they shape eight tactical plans beginning with the Academic Master Plan.

Prototype Framework

Over the next few weeks of this Series, we will post more detail on each of the twelve basic elements of a Prototype Strategic Plan. We invite you to engage with us, make suggestions, observations, and add to the concept.

Change the Paradigm