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.

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.

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


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.

Academic Strategic Enrollment Management and Sustainability 2015

Eventbrite - Institute for Academic Strategic Enrollment Management and Sustainability

When: June 22 – 24, 2015

Where: DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel in Claremont, California


Strategies for Enrollment and Fiscal Sustainability

The design of the Institute for Academic Strategic Enrollment Management and Sustainability recognizes that academic leadership and enrollment management professionals must join forces in order to meet the challenges and opportunities of higher education as it is carried into the future by the paradigm shift to a global digital learning ecosystem. Once joined, they form a resilient and effective Academic SEM community of practice capable of forging near, mid, and long term strategies for enrollment and fiscal health.

Session Summaries

  • Session I: Academic SEM Structures
    Reviews the various structures involved in Academic SEM. Participants will assess their institutional structures with the intent of developing collaboration between academics and enrollment managers.
  • Session II: Academic SEM Strategies
    Establishes a strategy baseline using the SRS method. Illustrates examples of Academic SEM strategies and extrapolates to institutional academic and SEM cultures.
  • Session III: Curriculum Architecture
    Reviews the basics of curriculum architecture and assesses the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats emanating from the degree of alignment between architecture and enrollment markets.
  • Session IV: Curriculum Options and Optimization
    Examines the principles of sustainability and applies them to various curricular scenarios.
  • Session V: The SEM Factor
    Examines basic principles of effective enrollment management and the fit and friction points encountered in academic SEM collaboration. Introduces the tyranny or the synergy of the link, or lack thereof, between academic and SEM calendars and cycles.
  • 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: Campaign Strategies
    Enrollment health is built via sustained campaigns. Campaign design will be presented as a means of optimizing short range (bump), mid range, and long range enrollment and fiscal health.
  • Session VIII: The Academic SEM Plan
    Evaluates and constructs the principles of integrating the Master Academic Plan with the Strategic Enrollment Management Plan.


June 22, 2015

  • 10:00 am – Check-in & Registration
  • 1:00 pm – Session I: Academic SEM Structures
  • 3:00 pm – Break, Check In & Networking
  • 3:20 pm – Session II: Academic SEM Strategies
  • 5:00 pm – Sessions Conclude

June 23, 2015

  • 8:00 am – Continental Breakfast (Provided)
  • 8:30 am – Session III: Curriculum Architecture
  • 10:00 am – Break, Check In & Networking
  • 10:20 am – Session IV: Curriculum Options and Optimization
  • 12:00 pm Lunch (Provided) Break, Check In & Networking
  • 1:00 pm – Session V: The SEM Factor
  • 3:00 pm – Break, Check In & Networking
  • 3:20 pm – Session VI: Program of Study Strategies
  • 5:00 pm – Sessions Conclude

June 24, 2015

  • 8:00 am Continental Breakfast (Provided)  & Networking
  • 8:30 am – Session VII: Campaign Strategies
  • 10:00 am – Break, Check In & Networking
  • 10:20 am – Session VIII: The Academic SEM Plan
  • 12:00 pm – Adjourn

Institute Philosophy & Pedagogy

The current paradigm shift requires unprecedented synergy and collaboration between academic and enrollment management. A philosophy that is both learner and learning centered must be focused through a lens that is intensely curriculum-centered. The Institute curriculum delivers practical strategic solutions for short, medium and long range impact. Institute pedagogy uses a blended seminar style guided by a digital interactive syllabus with readings, self-study and participant dialog. Participant’s institution will be the subject of their case study. Participants will have the opportunity for interaction with institute colleagues long after attending the program as they contribute to the emerging Academic SEM community of practice.

About the Faculty

Michael G. DolenceMichael Dolence is President of Michael G. Dolence and Associates, a global research consulting firm specializing in innovation in education,  academic planning, curriculum development and enrollment management. He authored the first Primer on Strategic Enrollment Management and is the originator of the concept of Academic Strategic Enrollment Management. His career includes extensive research and analysis of financial aid efficacy, utilization, and policy impacts for both federal and state aid. He has conducted more than 140 post mortem analysis of colleges and universities that have failed and either closed or were merged with another institution. MGDA has developed a comprehensive curriculum planning and prototyping software system used to design academic prototypes for new universities worldwide. The system also supports program of study design and development as well as academic optimization scenario analysis.


  • Institute Terms of Payment and Refund Policy
  • Enrollment is limited to 40 participants.
  • Accommodations are NOT included in Institute Registration and are the responsibility of the attendee. A separate link directly to the hotel is provided for convenience.
  • Institute seating is rounds of 6 providing ample space for each participant.
  • Wi-Fi will support access to online resources.
  • We recommend at least two individuals from an institution attend, one from enrollment management and one from academic leadership.
  • Monday afternoon start time permits Saturday air travel and Wednesday departure and is served by five airports (LAX, SNA, BUR, ONT, LGB ).
  • Claremont location is central to Los Angeles area sites and attractions.
  • Participants are on their own for dinner Monday and Tuesday. Options include hotel dining or the numerous restaurants in the village of Claremont.
  • Hotel Shuttle is available for the short ride to the village or take your time and enjoy the walk through the streets of the city of trees.

Certificate of Advanced Study

COAS MGDA Cert0001

Selected Topics to be Covered

As we work through the concepts and construct individual pathways to addressing enrollment shortfalls, recruitment yield, and developing strategic position in the enrollment marketplace there are a hosts of tools, methods, concepts and approaches we will introduce and use. Here are a few examples:

Curriculum Architecture

What is curriculum architecture and why is it important? How is it incorporated into SEM Strategy? How does academic strategy inform SEM strategy via curriculum architecture? How does SEM strategy inform curriculum and how are the insights rendered into implementable initiatives?

Strategic Enrollment Management Matrix

What is the SEM Matrix and how is it used in planning, decision making and campaign development? What are the seven learner-centered questions that help focus development of sustainable solutions?

SRS Method of Strategy Development & Mission Review

The SRS Method provides a framework for structured dialog that integrates institutional mission and vision with curriculum and enrollment management. How does mission and vision translate to strategy and sustainability?

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.

MGDA Transformational Strategies Institutes 2015


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.

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

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.

COAS MGDA Cert0001MGDA began offering Institutes covering Transformational Strategies in 1998, shortly after publishing Transforming Higher Education. For 2015, we are planning five programs, all to be held in Claremont, California. Enrollment is limited to 40 participants in each event. All events will be held at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Claremont, 555 W. Foothill Blvd. Claremont (Los Angeles Area), California 91711. Each Institute begins Monday afternoon permitting Saturday air travel and Wednesday departure helping to keep air travel costs contained. Los Angeles is served by five airports (LAX, SNA, BUR, ONT, LGB ). The Claremont location is central to Los Angeles area sites and attractions. Registration can be completed online and participants can either be invoiced in advance or register by credit card.

Institute for Academic Strategies and Master Academic Planning

Events-EventBriteSideBar_01The Institute for Academic Strategies and Master Academic Planning recognizes that academic leaders must plan to meet the challenges and opportunities of higher education as it is carried into the future by the paradigm shift to a global digital learning ecosystem. Without a Master Academic Plan, an Institutional Strategic Plan is powerless at forging near, mid, and long term strategies for enrollment and fiscal health.

Institute for Curriculum Centered Strategic Planning & Learner-Centered Curriculum

Events-EventBriteSideBar_02The Institute for Curriculum-Centered Strategic Planning & Learner-Centered Curriculum recognizes the centrality of the learner to the curriculum and the primacy of the curriculum to the institutional strategic plan. It also recognizes that planning for education in the learning age is supported by a global digital learning ecosystem. 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.

Institute for Academic Strategic Enrollment Management and Sustainability

Events-EventBriteSideBar_03The Institute for Academic Strategic Enrollment Management and Sustainability recognizes that academic leadership and enrollment management professionals must join forces in order to meet the challenges and opportunities of higher education as it is carried into the future by the paradigm shift to a global digital learning ecosystem. Once joined, they form a resilient and effective Academic SEM community of practice capable of forging near, mid, and long term strategies for enrollment and fiscal health.

Institute for Academic Strategic Enrollment Management Campaign Design

Events-EventBriteSideBar_04The Academic SEM Campaign Planning Workshop acknowledges that the nature, scope, and methods of recruiting have changed dramatically over the past few years. The workshop recalibrates the fundamental components, restructures an alignment around five integrated workflows, the intent of which, is to develop a strong competitive position in the enrollment marketplace. A well constructed campaign once developed and launched is capable of sustaining near, mid, and long term strategies for enrollment performance and fiscal health.

Institute for Academic SEM Curriculum Development Workshop

Events-EventBriteSideBar_05The Academic SEM Curriculum Development Workshop 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.

SEM Funnel Graphic for Review (Version 3)

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

Thanks for all of your input to the first and second draft.

  • SEM Funnel Graphic for Review (Version 3) reflect changes to stage 4, 5, and 6 reflecting suggestions to formally include Financial Aid..

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

Strategic Enrollment Management Funnel

SEMFunnelDetailed FA

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