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.

Compliance as a University Wide (Enterprise) Issue

220x146-Regulation-Task-Force-ReportThe compliance problem is exacerbated by the sheer volume of mandates—approximately 2,000 pages of text—and the reality that the Department of Education issues official guidance to amend or clarify its rules at a rate of more than one document per work day. As a result, colleges and universities find themselves enmeshed in a jungle of red tape, facing rules that are often confusing and difficult to comply with. They must allocate resources to compliance that would be better applied to student education, safety, and innovation in instructional delivery. Clearly, a better approach is needed. Source: Recalibrating Regulation of Colleges and Universities

Every higher education administrator needs an introduction to compliance as an Enterprise (Institution Wide) Issue. Beware, entering the maze of rules, regulations, and requirements, is not for the faint of heart. It is complex, convoluted and confusing, and difficult to reconcile from the internal perspective of academic management as the lens most administrators rely upon. I recommend beginning with the 144 page report Recalibrating Regulation of Colleges and Universities cited in the opening quote and published by the Task Force on Federal Regulation of Higher Education (February 2015). Specifically, focus upon Appendix I, the Regulations Matrix (pages 43-57). This first matrix introduces the issues within a recognizable and approachable context of the issues related to the challenge of compliance as faced by front line administrators and institutional governance.

cover_trusteesdhip_julaug_13_0I recommend you next turn to the Board’s Role in the Regulatory Era available from AGB (Association of Governing Boards). If you are a member of a governing board then this is a must read. The succinct article is valuable to all administrators and those in academic governance as a means of building a cohesive awareness, understanding the scope and magnitude of the influence of a compliance culture on managing an institution. AGB just released a new publication Top 10 Campus Legal Issues for Boards that zeroes in on a finite list of legal risks that help campus citizens to understand that the issues of compliance may also expose the institution to legal and financial risks. AGB’s short list of issues includes:

  1. Sexual Violence
  2. Risky Student Behavior
  3. Cybersecurity
  4. Online Learning
  5. Affirmative Action In Admissions and Financial Aid
  6. Workplace Issues
  7. Statutory and Regulatory Compliance Issues
  8. Federal Cost Accounting and Effort Reporting
  9. Construction and Deferred Maintenance
  10. Transparency, Ethical Conduct, and Behavior

If you have specific compliance concerns, findings, or wish to dig deeper then I recommend turning to the Higher Education Compliance Alliance (HECA) Compliance Matrix which provides a comprehensive list of key federal laws and regulations governing colleges and universities. It includes a brief summary of each law, applicable reporting deadlines, and links to additional resources.

If you wish to explore a career in compliance then I recommend the National Association of College and University Attorneys (NACUA) and the University Risk Management and Insurance Association (URMIA).

If you have other resources you recommend please feel free to append them to this post.




Future Proofing Your Strategic Plan, January 2016



January 20-22, 2016, Claremont California

The design of the Institute for Future Proofing Your Strategic Plan, 2016 recognizes that strategic plans developed under a 20th century paradigm and context do not adequately prepare institutions for the realities of the emerging global digital learning ecosystem.

Eventbrite - Institute for Academic Strategic Enrollment Management and Sustainability

There is mounting evidence that the condition of higher education grows more ominous. (Higher Education: Apocalypse Now?) One thing has become crystal clear — no more business or planning as usual. The Institute focuses upon the process of Future Proofing a Strategic Plan, detailing 10 vital planning initiatives required to prepare for the future to achieve fiscal and enrollment sustainability.

  1. Future Proof your Strategic Plan (The Importance of a Prototype and how to do one quickly)
  2. Revitalize the Academic Master Plan
  3. Engage Academic SEM Integrated Planning
  4. Develop and Implement Academic Program SEM Initiatives
  5. Revitalize CORE/GE Curriculum
  6. Refocus and enhance Strategic Position Strategies
  7. Optimize Resources
  8. Develop Capacity
  9. Solidify an Institutional Effectiveness System to Inculcate an Integrated IE Quality Culture
  10. Accelerate action, make room for the work

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 Strategic Plan and Master Academic Plan that are aligned with future realities, institutions are powerless to forging near, mid, and long term strategies for enrollment and fiscal health of colleges, schools and programs.

Who Should Attend

The Institute is designed for institutional and academic leaders, including board members, presidents, provosts, vice presidents, deans, department chairs, faculty leaders, academic governance officers, interested faculty, accreditation team members, institutional planners, and institutional effectiveness professionals.

Session Summaries

  • Session I: Understanding the emerging global digital learning ecosystem
    The first session opens with building an understanding of the emergence of the digital learning ecosystem and the changes to the rules in education and learning it brings. A survey of the overall changes, the rules and sectors they disrupt and the emerging principles that govern the future will be covered.
  • Session II: Future Proofing Your Strategic Plan
    We begin with the importance of developing a Prototype Strategic Plan as a means of shifting dialog to  framing the future rather than focusing upon the discomfort of change or the disruptions of current or past dynamics. Then we will provide a method to do one quickly.
  • Session III: Academic Master Plan for the New Learning Paradigm
    This session focuses upon the Academic Master Plan (AMP) or as some like to call it a Master Academic Plan (MAP). The AMP is critical to the future because it establishes all of the basic elements of the curriculum’s architecture. It is in the Academic Master Plan where the foundations for the future are established. This session assesses the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats emanating from the degree of alignment between architecture, program design, course options, assessment strategies, and curriculum-learner optimization pathways. Particular attention is paid to creating strategic advantage through curriculum architecture revitalization.
  • Session IV: Establishing and Optimization Curricular Value for Market Advantage
    Examines the principles of sustainability and applies them to various curricular scenarios (such as revitalization of the core or general education curriculum, establishing community of practice based programs of study…). Focuses on innovating from where you are with what you have. Emphasis is identifying opportunities and focused implementation.
  • Session V: Understanding Academic and Enrollment Strategies Tactics and Capacities
    Examines basic principles of effective enrollment management, 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: The Academic SEM Plan
    Evaluates and constructs the principles of integrating the Academic Master Plan with the Strategic Enrollment Management Plan.
  • Session VII: Securing a Strategic Position in the Global Learning Marketplace
    This session focuses upon the assessment of strategic position as informed through six lenses.
  • Session VIII: Optimizing Performance and Institutional Effectiveness
    Examines basic principles of establishing a comprehensive and cohesive system for institutional effectiveness. Identifying and defining capacity requirements and managing workflows and cycles to maximize fiscal and enrollment health.

Eventbrite - Institute for Academic Strategic Enrollment Management and Sustainability

Join us at one or more of our Institutes to more deeply explore critical issues facing higher education and strategies to address them.

Academic SEM Posters Now Available

Academic SEM Funnel [MGDA01]


Academic SEM Cycles [MGDA02]





Future Proofing Your Strategic Plan (10 urgent initiatives that should not be delayed)

There is mounting evidence that the condition of higher education grows more ominous. (Higher Education: Apocalypse Now?) One thing has become crystal clear — no more business or planning as usual. (I considered titling this post “Sins of Omission: 10 urgent things you should do now, but probably will delay, and deeply regret it.”)

Strategic plans developed under a 20th century paradigm and context do not adequately prepare institutions for the realities of the emerging global digital learning ecosystem. As competition for enrollment increases, yield decreases, budgets tighten, and the outlook for higher education grows more perilous.

Higher Education generally appears to be languishing in a static, moribund routine, perpetuating the past while a few focus upon inventing the future. The current fiscal/enrollment malaise is not just a cyclical downturn in students and funding driven by demographics and economic bad times (although these are certainly the case), but rather a permanent shift to learning in a new paradigm.

Excuses and approaches bounce back and fourth between needing quick easy to implement ideas to stimulate enrollment, to firing people for not achieving enrollment, to being too busy to engineer a solid strategy and persist in its implementation, to just being too busy to do anything different. Failing approaches are generally myopic, underfunded, launched too late, or just ill conceived opinions of something that someone in authority believes should work.

While we need not fly into oblivion on autopilot, I fear some will, based upon all too often refrains such as: “we can’t do that-politics-you know,” “show me a strategy guaranteed to work and I am all in,” “that is too complex, I need simple solutions that require no time, no budget, and no talent,” “we have decided to wait until the future is clearer so we are not on the bleeding edge.” For more see 50 Losing SEM Strategies. One always has the option of just sitting by and waiting for the tide of the future to wash them away. If that is not the chosen option, then we must move beyond the debilitating, nagging, internal dialog resisting the forces that are shaping the future and get on with it.

Here are ten critical initiatives required to prepare for the future and acheive fiscal and enrollment sustainability.

  1. Future Proof your Strategic Plan
  2. Revitalize the Academic Master Plan
  3. Engage Academic SEM Integrated Planning
  4. Develop and Implement Academic Program SEM Initiatives
  5. Revitalize CORE/GE Curriculum
  6. Refocus and enhance Strategic Position Strategies
  7. Optimize Resources
  8. Develop Capacity
  9. Solidify an Institutional Effectiveness System to Inculcate an Integrated IE Quality Culture
  10. Accelerate action, make room for the work

Let’s examine each of these in a little more detail.

Future Proofing your Strategic Plan

Many strategic plans fulfill the need for a plan but focus on a paradigm that is rapidly being overtaken by a digital reality. Such a strategic plan, built upon the old paradigm, can completely miss the entire point of having one. A strategic plan is an opportunity to visualize the future of the academic enterprise and set it on a course toward what will be. For this reason, we suggest a curriculum-centered strategic plan designed to inculcate a learner-centered curriculum. Looking to the future requires that a plan set a strategic course that recognizes and optimizes the paradigm shift to a global digital learning ecosystem. The new paradigm connects the curriculum to the learner rather than requiring the learner to come to the curriculum. This fundamental change in strategic relationships establishes new competitive rules, alters the scale of enrollments achievable in a course or program, eliminates geographic boundaries, and creates global markets. A strategic plan must deal with increased competition for students and resources, and the pressure to reduce the cost of a credential. It must advance strategies for institutional effectiveness as well as reference market awareness and alignment. These are huge challenges made more complex by campus politics and distracting calls to return to the last millennium and the ‘rules’ of that playing field. The plain fact is that higher education has never received adequate public funding and the shift in burden has been steadily to the learner. Some call that approach the house that student debt built, racking up a whopping $1.2 Trillion in students loans. So above all, a future proofed strategic plan must chart a course toward sustainability.  The first step is to frame a prototype Learning Age Strategic Plan  that helps visualize the pathway forward and articulate the various options.

One option is to develop a rapid prototype strategic plan designed specifically for the 21st century as a preparatory and learning step to developing your strategic plan. The following graphic depicts a development model for constructing a prototype, much of which will form the strategic plan that follows.

Figure 1: A Model Prototype Strategic Plan

Prototype 3

Recalibration of an academic culture of the magnitude required to align with the emerging global digital learning ecosystem, takes time. Time at this stage is in short supply and demands are growing more intense. A rapid prototype provides a means to rapidly run through scenarios that help remove the scariness from the future and get a sketch of what a future focused strategic plan looks like. Further, multiple scenarios can generate more than one prototype so various entities can follow their logic and ideas to a complete concept articulated in their prototype. A Prototype is just that and not a final plan so participants focus upon the scenario and not politics first.  The result can be one or several competing prototypes that articulate different approaches and interpretations of the forces through an institutional lens. The graphic above depicts an approach we developed to illicit a framed prototype providing more detail of an approach. A great example of a pre strategic planning preparatory and learning process is captured in the Future of MIT report. Another great resource is The American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) 21st Century Commission’s report, Reclaiming the American Dream: Community Colleges and the Nation’s Future. As you examine these resources be aware the entire process is anchored in Mission and Vision.

Revitalizing the Academic Master Plan (AMP)

In order to future proof a strategic plan, serious attention must be given to academic strategies and that means the Academic Master Plan or as some prefer the Master Academic Plan.  A revitalized AMP examines the scope of the curriculum, as well as program of study design models and emerging options for curriculum. The AMP should articulate a forward looking curriculum architecture that enables the institution to embrace the emerging  global digital learning ecosystem, such as the seven tier proficiency based model. A future focused planning process assesses different curricula generas such as, scholar practitioner, community of practice, proficiency/competency/outcomes based, optimized core/GE, and all the permutations they engender. The AMP must provide meaningful assurance through curriculum, learning, and learner assessments. The assessment processes and the use of what is learned from them must be embedded in both the curriculum review/revision process and learner engagement strategies. Above all, the AMP must be developed as a holistic approach to the new learning paradigm. This means tempering politics with reason and a restoration of civility as academic options and approaches are identified, reviewed, discussed, adopted or rejected, adapted and implemented. In the end, it is the curriculum that determines sustainability.

Academic Strategy Illustrated

Engaging in Academic SEM Integrated Planning

Even the best Academic Master Plan will under yield if the jagged rift between Academic Culture and Strategic Enrollment Management is not eliminated and a vibrant Academic SEM culture nurtured. That means that a quality curriculum must be informed by market realities and aligned with the tenets of academic excellence, public good and learner needs. Academic quality and demonstrable value are essential. The concept of perceived and real value must be understood, examined, and developed as a tool of recruitment and retention. New programmatic design models must be embraced as they emerge in a new paradigm. Academic programs and initiatives must connect inspirationally to the prospect’s decisions and choices. Deeper more connected programmatic narratives must emerge to undergird and advance institutional strategic position. In the process, the concept of geographic reach and service area must be reexamined and interpreted through a new, more global academic lens. Academics and SEM professionals must explore and optimize the social media tools and methods to engage potential enrollees. Academic SEM is, in fact, an approach that nurtures a community of scholars and practitioners engaged in extending institutional reach, strategic position and enrollment health. Understanding the complex cycles, interdependent timelines, integrated operational realities and managing them is an essential element of future proofing a strategic plan.

Figure 2: Academic SEM Cycles and Processes


Developing and Implementing Academic Program SEM Initiatives

Academic SEM initiatives are fed by two factors, academic program development/revitalization, and strategic positioning strategies. Planning is essential but it is fruitless without tangible Academic SEM initiatives. These two sometimes dispirit communities come together most tangibly in a recruitment campaign (paradoxically often the most under designed aspect of a recruitment program). This means that campaigns must translate academic value into terms that can be understood, that are inspirational, that connect to campus visits, and that illustrate student engagement and reveal outcomes. Campaigns must provoke interest, capture imagination, open a dialog, intrigue the viewer and engage the curious. New program launches are not just an academic triumph but a significant SEM campaign challenge that requires expert timing, careful preplanning, and meticulous attention to detail. Existing programs must also be positioned and that does not mean just marketing and promotion it means the systematic development of competitive narrative that compels interest and drives enrollment. Every aspect of the curriculum and academic life must be examined and considered for use in achieving a competitive position in the enrollment marketplace.

Revitalizing CORE/GE Curriculum

Virtually every institution must take a critical look at their core/GE curriculum strategy. Given that it consumes 30% to 40% of the courses in an undergraduate program of study and accounts for 30% to 40% of the cost of an undergraduate credential, it must deliver value that is understood by students and their families. Contention is needless since the evidence is strong of the long term value but few tell the story well and even fewer optimize the design of their Core/GE for market value. Regardless of approach, core curriculum or distribution requirements, the basic tenets naturally align with core employability skills.  One only need review What Work Requires of Schools (aka the SCAN Skills Report) commissioned by the U.S. Secretary of Labor to see the relationship between employability outcomes and those of foundational programs such as Core/GE curricula, co-curricular and first year experience programs. Design must enhance a narrative about the curriculum’s value. The narrative must describe and explain the value and the curriculum must deliver the outcomes required.

Refocusing and enhancing Strategic Position Strategies

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.

Strategic position is the term we use to sum the competitive position an academic entity has in a defined learning market. Strategic positioning requires a deep understanding of the emerging competitive market dynamics and institutional strengths and weaknesses with respect to attracting, enrolling, and retaining students. Strategic position is not branding, marketing, advertising or public relations, although all of these are tools used to help develop and sustain a strategic position.  The impact of strategic positioning strategies are the result of research, analysis, campaign design and implementation efforts along six interrelated dimensions. Enhancing strategic position requires 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 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.

Figure 3: Six Dimensions of Strategic Position


Strategic Position Diagram

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.

Optimizing Resources

Optimizing resources means aligning the allocation of time, money, and human capital with the evolving challenges facing higher education. It means building capacity and managing strategic effort, and the creative development  of resources to support the initiatives necessary to achieve the desired strategic position. Before one can optimize a resource one must first have it. This means the first step in optimizing requires assessing one’s strategic assets against future needs and challenges. The guiding principle in the process is found in the prototype strategic plan strategy (above) ‘Make Everything Count,’ toward the ultimate goal of sustainability. Inevitably this means making tradeoffs and it is here that many efforts fail. Success in optimizing resources means developing a keen sense of keeping things on the critical path forward and not letting artifact processes of the status quo derail the move forward.

Developing Capacity

Capacity is defined by the resources available that align with and support the initiatives necessary to achieve the desired strategic position. Capacity includes knowledge, skills, systems, methods, organizational strengths, and time. Time means room in appropriate work plans, schedules and projects. Knowledge, skills and methods means we must invest in people and recognize that apprenticing in the old paradigm and acculturating to old memes is insufficient to meet the demands of the future.  For example, after helping a client get budget approval for a social networking person we were disappointed to learn a road warrior had been hired instead crippling the social networking strategy.

Developing capacity also means getting the most out of institutional systems. We have experienced decades of implementing sub optimized systems. Choosing to install or engage only the minimum required to get a system to work, leaving till later the realization of a system’s true potential. We have seen this sub optimized approach in every institution we have evaluated.  Well, it’s later, and time to bite the bullet and drive toward true systems optimization. It is time to demand full systems implementation and full utilization of systems performance. Time to rectify bad decisions of the past and get on with getting the most out of the institution’s systems infrastructure. This does not mean just start implementing old or antiquated systems that were never optimized. It means take a fresh look, determine where optimization contributes to the critical path toward sustainability and move forward.

Solidify an Institutional Effectiveness System to Inculcate an Integrated IE Quality Culture

Yes, a system and it must integrate with the management culture and operations, planning, and decision making. Too often these elements are ad-hoc and not connected. A checklist of words are evaluated to determine we have that and that. But in fact, they are just isolated elements that do not contribute to decisions and operations. When key elements are isolated and fragmented they give the illusion that the bases are covered, when in fact, they are not. Time to close the loop and make sure that the assessments that are conducted inform the decisions of the future.

Accelerate action, make room for the work

Finally, comes the accelerating the processes and pace of work. Work is a combination of effective asset and resource management, optimizing tools and systems and removing what gets in the way. I am frequently reminded by clients that a meetings culture in their institution gets in the way of their work. Attention to the amount of time administrators and staff spend in meetings is valuable discipline. Where it exists, a very serious effort must be made to restrain runaway meeting syndrome and reign in the unrestricted claim on work time allocated to meetings that do not contribute to sustainability. A colleague describes a meeting subculture in higher education that has led to individuals defining their role by the meetings they call, attend, and require with little or no attention to the unintended cost in unrealized goals.

One of the biggest barriers to strategic planning success is that nothing happens because the plan or critical parts of it are not implemented. Room for the work must be carved out of the business as usual routine. Leaders who just keep heaping on items and expecting the human system to just continue to absorb the new demands have crippled many institutions. If willingness, ability, or understanding of the work to performed is the issue then that must be dealt with as well. This is a management function and in our experience poor management is an Achilles heal for higher education. Specifically, attention needs to be paid to strategic plan implementation. It requires more disciplined calendaring, time management, project management, resource allocation, and monitoring.

In Closing

Future proofing your Strategic Plan is not just a box to tick during accreditation review processes or a chore to be done because the Board of Trustees requires one. It is an essential element in making enrollment goals and achieving a sustainable position in an increasingly global, highly competitive, enrollment  marketplace. A strategic plan is not just a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) Analysis, nor is it just a table of SGO’s (strategies, goals, and objectives).  A strategic plan, if done well, articulates the pathway to sustainability. If it does not then it needs to be ‘Future Proofed.’


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

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

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

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

SRS Pyramid (Diagram)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Overview of the CCSPM Model [Video]

The Curriculum-Centered Strategic Planning & Management Model (CCSPM) provides a framework for strategic planning in higher education. This video provides a brief overview of the Curriculum-Centered Strategic Planning & Management Model and its functions.

What is the Curriculum-Centered Strategic Planning & Management Model?

The Curriculum-Centered Strategic Planning & Management Model is built specifically for higher education, and centers as the name suggests, on the curriculum. It is designed to import whatever planning has already occurred in an institution avoiding the unpleasant prospect of starting over. It integrates seamlessly with accreditation self-study processes, and if implemented in time, can become the core of the accreditation process. The Curriculum-Centered Strategic Planning & Management Model can also integrate academic program review into the overall institutional strategic planning initiative providing unprecedented cohesion between academic and institutional plans. The process is designed to run continuously, refreshing itself each cycle and providing an effective communications process resulting in clear understanding among the array of both internal and external institutional constituents.

The Curriculum-Centered Strategic Planning & Management Model is conducted through seven interlocking planning activities including:

  1. Identification and definition of Key Performance Indicators
  2. Detailing of a Learner-Centered Curriculum Architecture
  3. Conducting an External Environmental Scan
  4. Conducting an Internal Environmental Scan
  5. Building on the knowledge and insights gained in the first four activities then engaging in strategic, operational and action planning
  6. Implementation and integrating plans into the management process
  7. Evaluation to determine effectiveness that feeds back to the internal environmental assessment

Curriculum Centered Strategic Planning Model

About the Curriculum-Centered Strategic Planning & Management Model

The Curriculum-Centered Strategic Planning & Management Model was designed and developed by Michael G. Dolence, President of Michael G. Dolence and Associates, a consulting firm serving higher education and the vendors and public policy entities that engage with it worldwide. The Curriculum-Centered Strategic Planning & Management Model is the next generation of strategic planning model that evolved from the Strategic Decision Engine published in Working Toward Strategic Change (Jossey-Bass 1996).

Faculty Increasing Use of Learner-Centered Education Practices

Faculty have steadily increased their use of Learner-Centered Pedagogies according to a comparison of faculty reported teaching and learning methods deployed in their classrooms. “The Undergraduate Teaching Faculty: The 2013-2014 HERI Faculty Survey,” a triennial national survey of college and university faculty has been conducted since 1989 by the Cooperative Institutional Research Program, by the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA’s Graduate School of Education and Information Studies.

Learner-Centered Pedagogy

The concept of Learner-Centered pedagogy has deep historic roots in the work of Dewey, Piaget, Rogers’ Gardner and Bloom (and many others) as well as the innovative models of Maria Montessori and the Reggio Emilia approach. Faculty in higher education have begun to adopt and adapt Learner-Centered pedagogies in such efforts as the flipped classroom and a host of in class and in course methods. The HERI Faculty Survey has been tracking progress in the use of these pedagogies since 1989-1990.

Changes in Faculty Teaching Practices, 1989 to 2014

Changes in Faculty Teaching Practices, 1989 to 2014


Class Discussions

In 1989-90 69.6% of faculty reported using class discussions in “all” or “most” of their courses increasing to 88.2% in 2008 and leveling off at just over 82% in 2011 and 2014.

Cooperative Learning

Cooperative learning is the use of small groups through which students work together to accomplish shared goals and to maximize their own and others’ potential.” – Johnson, Johnson and Holubec (ASCD 1994)

In 1989-90 20.6% of faculty reported using cooperative learning strategies increasing to a peak of 73.2% in 2008-2009 and settling to 60.7% in 2013–2014.

Group Projects

The use of group projects was reported by 15.7% in 1989-1990 growing to just under half (45.5%) in 2013-2014.

Student-Selected Topics

Incorporating the use of student-selected topics within a course has increased 8.5% in 1989–1990 to 26.3% in 2013–2014

Student Evaluations of each others work

The use student evaluations of each other’s work in “all” or “most” of their courses has nearly tripled from 10% in 1989–1990 to 28% in 2013–2014.

Table 1: Faculty Reported Teaching and Learning Methods 1990 to 2014

Comparing the reported use of specific pedagogies over a period of fifteen years.

Method 1990 1993 1996 1999 2002 2005 2008 2011 2014
Class discussions 69.6 69.8 67.7 68.4 72.3 81.8 82.2 82.2 82.8
Community service as optional part of course 0.0 0.0 2.2 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
Community service as part of coursework 0.0 0.0 2.5 0.0 5.1 7.1 8.1 5.9 8.9
Competency-based grading 52.4 55.7 48.4 48.4 49.3 0.0 53.0 47.6 0.0
Computer or machine-aided instruction 13.2 16.0 18.5 21.5 29.7 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
Cooperative learning (small groups) 26.0 32.5 35.0 37.1 41.3 47.8 59.1 56.7 60.7
Electronic quizzes with immediate feedback in class 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 6.8 7.4 15.2
Essay exams 40.6 41.7 40.1 40.9 42.2 57.6 44.3 41.3 0.0
Experiential learning/Field studies 18.8 19.8 19.3 19.3 22.3 0.0 30.0 25.6 31.0
Extensive lecturing 55.7 53.6 48.5 47.2 46.9 55.2 46.4 45.0 50.6
Grading on a curve 22.9 18.2 18.5 17.5 16.8 19.1 16.8 17.3 21.2
Graduate Teaching
8.3 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
Group projects 15.7 20.9 22.8 23.4 26.8 33.3 35.8 32.0 45.5
Independent Projects 34.1 37.1 33.1 33.1 35.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
“Learn before lecture” through multimedia tools (e.g., flipping the classroom) 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 21.8
Multiple drafts of written work 12.4 14.1 15.5 16.8 18.5 0.0 24.9 23.9 34.2
Multiple-choice exams 33.7 35.4 30.8 30.8 32.5 32.3 33.1 29.3 0.0
Multiple-choice quizzes 16.7 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
On-line instruction 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 13.9 0.0 0.0 0.0
Performance/Demonstrations 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 34.8
Quizzes 0.0 40.9 36.1 36.7 38.7 0.0 39.8 38.9 0.0
Readings on racial and ethnic issues 11.1 15.2 15.6 16.7 18.6 19.9 23.9 0.0 26.1
Readings on women and gender issues 10.6 14.2 15.0 15.9 17.4 18.2 21.1 0.0 22.3
Recitals/Demonstrations 0.0 20.1 19.2 18.0 18.4 21.4 21.9 19.0 0.0
Reflective writing/journaling 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 18.1 21.7 17.6 25.2
Rubric-based assessment 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 55.9
Short-answer exams 34.0 36.7 32.9 33.8 36.4 36.9 45.5 44.9 0.0
Short-answer quizzes 24.3 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
Starting class with a question that engages students 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 49.5
Student evaluations of each other’s work 10.0 12.0 12.9 13.1 14.6 19.4 23.5 21.0 28.0
Student evaluations of teaching 83.3 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
Student presentations 25.5 29.8 30.9 32.7 36.0 44.7 46.7 43.8 52.4
Student-developed activities (assignments, exams, etc) 15.3 17.1 13.1 13.3 14.4 0.0 26.7 0.0 0.0
Student-selected topics for course content 8.5 9.8 8.0 8.6 10.2 15.0 17.0 19.8 26.3
Supplemental instruction that is outside of class and office hours 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 36.1
Teaching assistants 0.0 7.9 9.5 9.4 9.2 10.1 11.8 12.7 0.0
Techniques to create an inclusive classroom environment for diverse students 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 56.5
Term/research papers 31.9 32.1 32.8 34.7 36.7 34.7 44.3 43.3 0.0
Undergraduate Teaching Assistants 2.9 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
Using real-life problems 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 55.7 55.4 69.8
Using student inquiry to drive learning 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 47.1 45.8 56.4
Weekly essay assignments 14.2 17.6 15.9 17.9 19.0 0.0 21.7 20.2 0.0

While the advances in the use of learner-centered pedagogies maybe laudable, faculty efforts tell only part of the story of the transformation of the learning ecosystem. While faculty are engineering and re-engineering their curricula, courses, teaching and classroom instructional methods, students are busy optimizing their access to the emerging global digital learning ecosystem. These are not competing efforts but transformations on parallel development tracks and trajectories. They are neither integrated with each other nor cohesive in a unifying purposeful design but rather opportunistic initiatives.

A Parallel Universe: Technology Enabled, Global Digital Learning Ecosystem

So where are the learners in their quest to nurture and support their own learning. Students tend not to classify technology as a learning approach but rather the use of digital tools to assist in their quest to master their course material. For students, the technology is largely taken for granted and not seen as either innovative nor at the expense of other methods and tools. Increasingly, being Learner-Centered means integrating the use of technology and the realities of the emerging Global Digital Learning Ecosystem into the curriculum and learner experiences. For a thorough understanding of the current technology status examine the Global Information Technology Report 2014.

EDUCAUSE 2014 Student and Faculty Technology Research Studies, October 2014

In 2014, ECAR collaborated with 151 institutions to collect responses from 17,451 faculty respondents across 13 countries about their technology experiences. ECAR also collaborated with 213 institutions to collect responses from 75,306 undergraduate students about their technology experiences. The research found:

  • Technology is embedded into students’ lives, and students are generally inclined to use and to have favorable attitudes toward technology. However, technology has only a moderate influence on students’ active involvement in particular courses or as a connector with other students and faculty.
  • Students’ academic use of technology is widespread but not deep. They are particularly interested in expanding the use of a few specific technologies.
  • Many students use mobile devices for academic purposes. Their in-class use is more likely when instructors encourage such use; however, both faculty and students are concerned about their potential for distraction.
  • More students than ever have experienced a digital learning environment. The majority say they learn best with a blend of online and face-to-face work.
  • Most students support institutional use of their data to advise them on academic progress in courses and programs. Many of the analytic functions students seek already exist in contemporary LMSs

Using Technology to Support At-Risk Students’ Learning, September 2014

The Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education (SCOPE) founded in 2008 to address issues of educational opportunity, access, equity, and diversity in the United States and internationally published a report titled Using Technology to Support At-Risk Students’ Learning. It concluded:

  • Technology access policies should aim for one-to-one computer access.
  • Technology access policies should ensure that speedy internet connections are available to prevent user issues when implementing digital learning.
  • At-risk students benefit most from technology that is designed to promote high levels of interactivity and engagement with data and information in multiple forms.
  • Curriculum and instructional plans should enable students to use technology to create content as well as to learn material.
  • Policymakers and educators should plan for blended learning environments, characterized by significant levels of teacher support and opportunities for interactions among students, as companions to technology use.

Campus Technology: Report: Digital Use Up Among College Students, May 2012

Way back on May 25, 2012,  Campus Technology , in a story written by Tim Sohn, reported on a survey, conducted that year, by CourseSmart and fielded by Wakefield Research regarding the use of technology and social media by college students. Five-hundred college students between the ages 18 to 23 participated in an online survey. The survey found:

  • 96 Percent had taken traditional courses that included online elements.
  • 79 Percent had handed in assignments online.
  • 71 Percent had taken Web-based tests and quizzes.
  • 40 Percent used digital technology at least every 10 minutes, and
  • 67 Percent said they use technology at least every hour.
  • 68 Percent said they saved two or more hours daily, and 14 percent said they saved at least five hours using technology in their learning process.
  • 51 Percent said they were more likely to complete reading assignments on time if they used digital devices instead of print.
  • 79 Percent searched for information on a mobile device immediately before an exam.
  • 78 Percent said they had received updates from professors via learning management systems or student portals.
  • 84 Percent said they had access to their class syllabi online.

In Closing

Learning is the point. Technology, as enabling and essential as it is, is not the point. Neither is ‘On-Line.’ Faculty, generally, are not Luddites, but rather careful explorers and experimenters searching for effective pedagogical practices. Technology innovations and their application by scholars, educators and innovators, to building a Global Digital Learning Ecosystem are enabling learners, to transform their educational experience. The industrial model of the 20th century, while an extraordinarily powerful system then, does not align with either the power of, nor the potential of, the new 21st century constantly and rapidly evolving Ecosystem. We cannot ‘fix’ this fundamental misalignment by enhancing the efficiency or effectiveness of existing models. The elements of a comprehensive and cohesive new academic model are emerging. Higher education leaders, scholars, and policy makers must come together to shape the educational systems of the future that optimize the Global Digital Learning Ecosystem and its impact on learning.

In our continuing effort to support our clients managing the transitions through turbulent times, MGDA is offering a full schedule of Transformational Strategies Institutes for 2015. The curricula are focused on the development of academic strategies to cope with the rapid transitions and fundamental transformations now underway.

These topics and sessions are also available as workshops:

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.

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.


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.


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 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.

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.