Paradigm Shift: Crisis, Opportunity or Myth?

The Paradigm Shift is real, presents extraordinary opportunities, has and will continue to lead institutions into crisis, and is believed to be a myth by a small and dwindling community. Regardless of whether you believe the current paradigm shift to a Global Digital Learning Ecosystem is a crisis, an opportunity, or a myth, the failure to recognize its impact and implications can be catastrophic for an institution.

The Paradigm Shift has led to the dawn of the Learning Age. An age characterized by ubiquitous and persistent lifelong learning within, between, and throughout global cultures. For higher education, we already see a significant differentiation of the curriculum architecture serving the learning age versus that serving the industrial age summarized in Figure 1 below.

Paradigm-Shift(2)

No disrespect or pejorative context is intended or implied here. We depart the Industrial Age having optimized that paradigm for learning with extraordinary institutions of knowledge, research and learning and most important a dedicated cadre of talented researchers, teachers, scholars, and practitioners dedicated to advancing the human condition. A paradigm shift however, has little to do with the accomplishments of the past, it is built upon what is possible in the future given certain changes in conditions.

Lets examine just three of the conditions that have changed that fuel the fires of the Learning Age.

Digital Communications

Ubiquitous digital communications and connectivity defines the first conditional change. The ability to openly connect to global populations instantaneously alters the human condition. This ability to connect changes human interactions and dynamics, establishes a global, cross cultural borderless society that superimposes over the existing geographic boundaries of nationalism. It opens the flow of data, information, opinion, images, narratives, beliefs and creative expressions to all with access. The dimension and utilization of the global digital communications infrastructure is staggering.

The fundamental change involves infrastructure development, connectivity, capacity, and utilization.

Global digital communications define the new learning ecosystem’s functional and operational parameters. Interpersonal communications channels, systems, platforms, and facilitators are rapidly evolving, providing a plethora of options upon which learning processes are built and enhanced. The Conversation Prism provides an excellent visualization of the ever evolving digital communications domain.

JESS3_BrianSolis_ConversationPrism4_WEB_1280x1024

Figure 3: The Conversation Prism V4.0: Developed in 2008 by Brian Solis, The Conversation Prism is a visual map of the social media landscape. It’s an ongoing study in digital ethnography that tracks dominant and promising social networks and organizes them by how they’re used in everyday life.

Ubiquitous digital communications provides the means to deliver copious amounts of content to individuals. The next condition rapidly evolving and driving disruption across learning and education systems is the extraordinary amount of information digitized, stored and available for open access.

Global Digital Knowledge and Information Repositories

Basic knowledge media (the media by which knowledge and information is collected, stored, and accessed) has shifted from physical (primarily paper) to digital media. Collectively, the mass of data has been referred to as the digital universe.

The shift in media from physical to digital expands access exponentially to the information required by individuals engaged in learning. When coupled with digital search, filter, share and cite capabilities, the impact is dramatic and the implications profound for learning architectures and systems. The impact might be more marginal if the sheer volume of the content were not so extraordinary.

The digital universe is growing at 40% a year. It is almost doubling in size every 2 years and by 2020 the digital universe – the data we create and copy annually – will reach 44 zettabytes or 44 trillion gigabytes. EMC Digital Universe Study

Online Reference Sites abound on the Internet. University of Texas at Austin is a handy compiled list to illustrate a profile of collected links leading to terabytes of indexed information. The vast repositories of data and information are accessed via and used by an ever expanding inventory of learning and creative tools learners are organizing into high performance learning and creativity environments.

Digital Learning & Creative Tools & Environments

Teachers and faculty have recognized the value of digital learning and creative tools from the beginning.  The Top 100 Tools for Learning 2014 published in the U.K. compiles the results of the 8th Annual Learning Tools Survey conducted by Jane Hart from the votes of 1,038 learning professionals from 61 countries worldwide and published on 22 September 2014.

The digital learning landscape is rapidly evolving. The same digital paradigm shift is driving rapid evolutionary changes across all sectors of global society and no one is immune. There are numerous examples of institutions that understand the magnitude and implications of the shift.  There has been a dramatic impact upon the academic and curricular elements in education.

Start with MIT’s Open Courseware initiative now posting 2,150 courses and clocking 125 million visitors.

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.

MIT didn’t stop their visioning with OCW. I encourage you to visit the website and read the report of the Institute-wide Task Force on the Future of MIT Education. I also encourage you to examine the $7K Georgia Tech, Udacity, and AT&T  online Master’s degree in Computer Science. The edX.org organization should be thoroughly examined taking note of the expanding list of partners. Coursera has a large scale course delivery system with over 10 million learners enrolled in 883 courses from 116 providers is an example of courses delivered on a massive scale. There are many more examples.

Pathways to the Learning Age

These three fundamental characteristics of the emerging Global Digital Learning Ecosystem are paving the pathways to the Learning Age. As the dawn of the Learning Age sheds new light on the potential of a Global Digital Learning Ecosystem, education can be expected to pass through at least three stages of change.

  1. Disruptive change is characterized by two paradigms colliding abruptly. Fear, anger, disbelief, and resistance are natural reactions during this period of adjustment.
  2. Adaptive change is characterized by educators making use of the functionality of the digital environments but resisting substantive change to the system that controls and manages it.
  3. Optimized change constructs a new system around the new paradigm and the adaptive learning culture that it nurtures. New realities shape the need for validated credentials and new features and functions evolve within the emerging digitized learning environment.

In the end, the new paradigm means rethinking the higher education model and that means rethinking all things academic. The bad news, there are any number of barriers to an institution rapidly evolving to accommodate and optimize the Global Digital Learning Ecosystem. The good news, there are significant options emerging and more under development that facilitate and enable institutions to adapt, and if done in time, flourish. There are, however, no simple solutions, proven pathways to clone or slam dunk approaches that guarantee success.

Each educational entity (college, university, school, educational system, learning organization…) will move through each of these stages at their own pace. Some will not survive the economic and enrollment disruptions occurring in parallel as the new paradigm takes root. The perils of the shift are exacerbated by corresponding economic, demographic and political factors, frictions and conditions. College and University trustees must  recognize the need for dramatic realignment and learn to require, encourage and support institutions through the maze of decisions and options that must be confronted in order to flourish in the new paradigm. Because it is a fortunate institution who has a senior leadership team capable of navigating the turbulent waters of the paradigm shift, we must focus upon developing the human capacity to engage the future. Most, if not all, strategic plans in higher education must be recast to facilitate preparing an institution for the post paradigm shift future.

In Closing

The magnitude of impact and speed at which the emerging paradigm is developing, coupled with very significant trends directly effecting higher education, make a concerted effort to adapt extremely urgent. This is not to abandon the model we have but to rapidly adapt to emerging new conditions. That means a focus on developing an institution’s strategic position in a global learning market.

MGD+A is currently posting a series in our blog titled Prototype a Learning Age Strategic Plan, to help focus institutional planning on the future. In February 2015, MGD+A will host an Institute on Academic Strategies and Master Academic Planning and in March 2015, MGD+A will be hosting an Institute on Curriculum-Centered Strategic Planning and the Learner-Centered Curriculum to address academic and institutional options and opportunities emerging from the new paradigm.

Strategic Enrollment Management Plan: Part 6

Prototype a Learning Age Strategic Plan Series Banner

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

The purpose of the Strategic Enrollment Management Plan is threefold:

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

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

Common Strategic Enrollment Management Plan characteristics include:

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

Strategic Position

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

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

The SRS Method of Mission Review and Strategy Development

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

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

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

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

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

The Life Cycles of PIE

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

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

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

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

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

The Strategic Enrollment Management Funnel

Figure 3: The Strategic Enrollment Management Funnel

Campaigns

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

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

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

In Closing

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

Master Academic Plan: Part 5

Master Academic Plan: Part 5

Prototype-Banner

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

Master Academic Plan (Graphic)

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

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

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

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

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

The Master Academic Plan (MAP)

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

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

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

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

About the Master Academic Plan

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

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

Institutional Mission, Vision & Strategic Position

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

Academic Missions, Visions and Strategies

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

Academic Philosophies

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

Examples of Academic Philosophies

(philosophies ultimately drive the design of the academic enterprise)

Academic Scope and Focus

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

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

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

Curriculum Architecture

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

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

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

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

 Academic Program Plans

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

POS-Map-Banded V3

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

SEM Matrix

Institutional Effectiveness, Learning and Learner Assessment

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

Academic Strategies

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

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

Session Notes: Failure is not an option

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

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

In closing

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

Develop Capacity: Part 3

Prototype-Banner

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