CIOs in Higher Education: Enroll in a MOOC for Professional Development

MOOCsI wrote an article about MOOCs and career exploration that has been posted on the site MOOC News and Reviews. This website is an amazing resource devoted to exploring the ever evolving landscape of MOOCs, massive open online courses.  The subject of my guest post is how recent college graduates can use MOOCs as an advantage to secure employment.  I got to thinking, how can CIOs and rising technical leaders in higher education leverage MOOCs for professional development?

3 Reasons to Take a MOOC

1. Develop an informed opinion about MOOCs. For sitting or aspiring CIOs in higher education, keep your finger on the pulse of new teaching and learning technologies that will soon (if they haven’t already) impact your institution.  Experience from a student’s perspective, what it’s like to take a course. Ask yourself a few questions while taking the course. What are the challenges in the user experience? What works well?  Is there value in offering MOOCs at your institution? What insight can you add to the conversation about this topic on your campus?

2. Advance or enhance your leadership skills.  Strategic planning and mentorship are two desired competencies. Universities and Community Colleges look for technical leaders with business as well as technical competencies. MOOC providers such as Edx, Coursera and Udacity offer courses that enrich strategic planning, organization management, and mentorship skills.

3. Low Barrier to Entry. Enroll in a MOOC and you can complete the course at your convenience and at no cost. There’s no lower barrier!

Final Thoughts

The utility for MOOCs will continue to evolve as more universities and community colleges offer them as part of their teaching and learning delivery portfolios.  I believe the real benefit will be to career changers and explorers, and other lifelong learners interested in expanding their knowledge and perspective during conversations in a global classroom.

Questions about how to maximize your career portfolio for an executive position? Contact me at
[email protected].

Higher Education Student Services Redesign in 6 Phases: An Overview

medium_2521904717Recently I revisited the report “Reclaiming the American Dream: Community Colleges and the Nation’s Future” and the call to action for community colleges.  The report identifies 3 overarching imperatives required to reimagine community colleges.  These are:

  • Redesign students’ educational experiences;
  • Reinvent institutional roles; and
  • Reset the system to create incentives for student and institutional success.

The challenge for most higher education institutions is to identify where to put the stake in the ground and begin the reinvention process.  Should the assessment process begin with people, process or technology- or all three? I recommend a 6- phase process for initiating a redesign.  This blog post introduces the phases recommended for beginning a redesign effort.  In subsequent posts, I will  detail how to engage in each of the 6 phases.

6 Phases for a Student Services Redesign:

  1. Launch project
  2. Assess the current organization
  3. Conduct best practice research
  4. Develop a vision and goals
  5. Formulate options for student service models
  6. Create a go forward plan

 Checklist for Launching a Student Services Redesign:

Pre-launch critical success actions that set a foundation for overall project success include the following:

  • Committed executive sponsorship: President, Provosts, academic leadership, and administrative leadership all need to be on board for supporting this effort.
  • Committed senior student services leadership: Provides resources and support for initiative.
  • Assigned project leader with a work team: Using volunteers is tricky.  A truly transformative initiative needs committed resources.  If performance is only tied to day-to-day responsibilities that are unrelated to this initiative, only those responsibilities will be the priority. A best practice in overall project success is to formally allocate a % of the assigned individual’s time to this initiative.  Align project outcomes to performance metrics to guarantee the initiative maintains priority status.
  • Allocated project administrative support. Communication, scheduling and resource management need to be carefully managed to ensure the project stays on track and continues to move forward.

 Question to Consider?

What will it take for my campus to prepare for a student services redesign effort?

Do we have the right resources allocated to this initiative?

What other campus partners can improve our success in executing this initiative?

Questions about how to begin a student redesign initiative? Contact me at
[email protected].

photo credit: Wonderlane via photopin cc

21st Century Commission Report on the Future of Community Colleges: One Year Later

It’s been about a year since the report “Reclaiming the American Dream: Community Colleges and the Nation’s Future” was released at the 2012 AACC Annual Convention in Orlando, Florida. The report is the result of the Two-Phase  21st Century Initiative that is a response to President Obama’s education agenda and challenge for community colleges.  The goal of President Obama’s education agenda is to educate an additional 5 million students and provide them with degrees, certificates or other credentials by 2020.  To address this goal, the report presents a vision for re-imagining community colleges, anchored with the following directives:

  • Redesign the student educational experience
  • Reinvent institutional roles
  • Reset the system to create incentives for student and institution

What is the status of the 21st Century Initiative?

At this point, Phase One: “ The Listening Tour” and Phase Two, the construction of the report, are complete.   Following these two phases, nine teams have been convened to provide guidance and identify implementation challenges reported by AACC constituencies.  The implementation teams are organized in the following manner:

 What are 21st Century Initiative implementation options for your community college?

One track some community colleges have chosen to pursue is to use this framework for a campus-wide strategic planning effort. Another option is to contemplate the three imperatives in the report.  Consider assessing the quality of your institute’s student education experience. Explore student lifecycle processes such as:

  • Enroll: Recruitment, Admissions, Financial Aid, Registration
  • Engagement: Academic/Degree Planning, Counseling, Career Services
  • Emerge/Embark: Transfer (Articulation), Continuing Ed (course advisement), Professional (transcript verification)

 Question to consider:

How does the quality of the student experience compare across all student demographics?

If student services are top of mind for your institution- where do you begin?

(Check out the student services redesign blog series).

Questions about how to leverage the findings from this report at your institution? Contact me at
[email protected].

Corporate Tech Leaders: Interested in becoming a Higher Education CIO? Don’t Forget Your Cover Letter!

One of my ongoing consulting engagements is with an executive search firm that recruits technology leaders for higher education. Recently I’ve noticed an influx of applicants with a corporate background looking to transition to higher education. There are, of course, many similarities in the CIO role across industries. However, I find many industry changers make a detrimental error in their application packet: omitting a cover letter. Or equally unfavorable: including a generic cover letter.

Here are two tips that can improve the opportunity for a corporate CIO to be considered for a technology leadership role in higher education.

Why Higher Education?

Tell me, the executive search consultant, why you’re interested. Be specific. If you are interested because you are passionate- why are you passionate? Conduct research. What about higher education interests you? Demonstrate your knowledge of issues that impact technology leaders and the overall business of higher education. Don’t go overboard with details in the cover letter. Your cover letter should subtly show that you’ve done your homework about the institution and higher education.

Why You?

Technology leaders with significant experience in higher education are your competition. Help me understand why you should be considered for this role instead of an applicant with deep industry experience. In addition to a broad introduction to your background, correlate your experience to specific requirements for the position. Tell me about yourself in the context of the priorities for the role. If the primary priority for the new role is planning for academic technologies— highlight elements of your background that demonstrate your success working with a highly political constituency. What are the other experiences in your background that can correlate to a higher education cultural environment? If the institution priority is improved IT services, call out your experience in maximizing the customer experience. Have you led a strategic planning effort? Highlight experiences where you’ve provided leadership from both a technology and business perspective.  View the cover letter as the qualitative context for your application. Your resume provides the quantitative back up.

Questions to Consider

Does your cover letter augment your resume or replicate it? (opt for the former)

What three points do you want the evaluator to remember? Are these clearly stated with supporting data points?

And finally, review the position description and compare to your cover letter and resume. Does your application packet clearly illustrate why you are interested in shifting from your industry to higher education?

Questions about how to maximize your career portfolio for an executive position? Contact me at
[email protected].

photo credit: woodleywonderworks via photopin cc

MOOCs and Community Colleges:Ready or Not Here Comes Disruptive Change

medium_6192423704This weekend I attended the American Association of Community Colleges in San Francisco. I wondered how MOOCs would influence the agenda to reinvent the student experience.  AACC focused a program track on progress made taking action on the report Reclaiming the American Dream: Community Colleges and the Nation’s Future.  The report from the 21st Century Commission calls out redesigning the student educational experience as one of the strategic pillars for reimagining the community college. Here are two questions to consider:

How do MOOCs intersect with the 21st Century Initiative Implementation?

Nine teams have been deployed to guide and evaluate progress toward nationwide implementation of the 21st-Centrury Report Initiatives. MOOCs are an important option for community colleges to consider across the continuum of the student experience. One implementation team is focused on reimagining pathways for student success. I attended this team’s session on their progress.  Participants were energized and the discussion was lively. I sensed this team would be open to incorporating examination of this innovative solution to reinvent student success pathways. Wake Technical Community College is an example of a first mover in partnering with MOOCs provider, Udacity. Together Wake Tech and Udacity are testing how to revolutionize developmental education using MOOCs.

Are there costs for Community Colleges associated with MOOCs being offered for “FREE?”

There is absolutely a cost associated with “free.” So far, the dialogue for MOOCs is focused on teaching and learning on a global scale. Questions about what “free” means in delivery are still being formulated. As delivery continues to ramp up and discussions focus on faculty and student engagement in MOOCs, the conversation will quickly move to student support services. Student support in MOOCs courses requires re-thinking the services business model.  How can the current student services support framework either adapt or innovate in real ways? How can the student services support model align with how students interacts with the community college- not how the institution interacts with students?

The MOOCs question is important to the future of community colleges, however, there are broader organization questions that need to be considered in tandem.

Are you interested in having a conversation about how your institution considers the MOOCs question? Contact me at [email protected].

photo credit: York College of PA via photopin cc

MOOCs in the Higher Education Student Lifecycle

Higher Education MOOCs have now become part of the dialogue in higher education for debating “what is the purpose of the university?” David Brooks  hypothesizes that the purpose of universities is to “transmit technical and practical knowledge.” In my mind the intersection of technical and practical knowledge is embedded in the overall student lifecycle. There’s another question that should be included in the discussion. How does online education seamlessly integrate into all aspects of the higher education student lifecycle?

3 Ideas to Integrate MOOCs in the Student Lifecycle.

  • Start at the beginning of the lifecycle with student recruitment. Are there opportunities for pre-college courses to be developed and leveraged as an incitement for recruitment efforts? What about a weekend seminar introducing a popular faculty member and academic discipline?
  • Augment and extend degree program offerings.  Students could engage in MOOCs during the summer to build skills for translating their academic experience to support landing a job after graduation.
  • Provide more flexibility to low residency executive education programs. Busy executives could extend their residency experience through participation in online courses with their peers in the program.

Question to Consider:

What other intersection points exist for MOOCs in the higher education student lifecycle?

Are you interested in having a conversation about how your institution considers the MOOCs question? Contact me at [email protected].

Is there a ROI for Community Colleges to Invest in Alumni Relations?

A recent survey conducted by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education shows that fostering relationships with alumni is advantageous for community colleges. Not surprising, one of the principle obstacles community colleges face is the lack of available funding to support alumni programs.  Are there benefits that warrant reconsidering such investments?

Benefits to engaging community college alumni:

One benefit to increased alumni outreach is to work with locally based alumni to develop apprentice and internship opportunities for students. A study conducted by the Council for Resource Development shows that 70% of community college alumni live within 50 miles of their alma mater.  Local alumni benefit by partnering with their alma mater to source an educated workforce.

A second benefit is philanthropy.  Government funding reductions has caused community college leaders to think creatively about generating new revenue streams.

Questions for community college leaders to consider:

  1. How does my institution currently engage with alumni?
  2. Are there opportunities to extend existing resources and programs to increase interaction with alumni?
  3. What benefits can be offered to alumni? Support with job search? Provide opportunities to give back to institution through providing mentorship or apprenticeships for students?
  4. What communication strategies (such as social media campaigns) can be augmented to include messaging that targets alumni?
  5. What metrics will be used to measure the return on resource investment?
  6. Are you interested in having a conversation about how your institution can maximize alumni relationships? Contact me at [email protected].

photo credit: Alumni Relations via photopin cc

Higher Education: Harnessing Change from Within

Higher Education

Higher Education

Disruptive change and the impact of MOOCs on higher education is still top of mind for me. LinkedIn Group discussions, opinion pieces in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Insider Higher Education and industry blogs passionately focus on this topic.  As online and hybrid teaching and learning models expand across the higher education ecosystem, the alternatives are either to make change or to be changed.  William G. Bowen writes in The Chronicle  that three barriers stand in the way of online education to be truly transformational. In a nutshell, these are:

    • Lack of consistent research that offers evidence of improved or equal learning outcomes in online education delivery modes and evidence of cost savings;
    • Lack of teaching and learning platforms that are customizable, scalable, shareable and cost effective; and
    • The need for a fresh institutional leadership mindset and approach to decision making with the goal of innovating teaching and learning.

Bowen’s article illustrates the need to take a measured and thoughtful approach to apply new teaching and learning models.  And, importantly, retain aspects of the academic experience that cannot be quantified and assessed.

In my previous blog post, I posed questions about student services and incentives for reinventing pedagogy for next generation learning models.

Conversation Starter:

What aspects of the teaching and learning experience are worth preserving as delivery and engagement modes shift?

Are you interested in having a conversation about how innovation in teaching and learning models influence the student experience? Contact me at [email protected].


Disruptive Change in Higher Education

Higher Education

Higher Education

Thomas Friedman gets it right in his op ed article The Professor’s Big Stage. Higher education is in the midst of disruptive change. A key point is that new modes of course delivery – such as MOOCs (massive open online courses) are revolutionizing higher education worldwide. MOOCs delivery modes prove to broaden access to education. However, MOOCs are most successful when blended with an in person discussion forum (here’s another great article about MOOCs and how in person peer study groups influence successful outcomes). At this point, higher education institutions are not equipped to scale support of in person discussion forums for a MOOC.

Where to begin? Here are two possible questions to get the conversation started for higher education leaders.

1.  How can student services be restructured to support successful learning outcomes in blended learning environments?

2.  What support or incentives are required for faculty to reinvent pedagogy for next generation learning models?

The call to action is to think differently and innovate the entire education ecosystem. My favorite line in Thomas Friedman’s article is “average is over.” Brilliant.

Are you interested in having a conversation about how your institution responds to disruptive change? Contact me at [email protected].

photo credit: giulia.forsythe via photopin cc



Strategic Planning CPR: How to Breath Life Back Into Your Strategic Plan

February 26, 2013 by  
Filed under Higher Education, Strategic Planning

Recently I had a conversation about strategic planning with a past higher education client. We discussed the challenge in staying on course when taking action on a strategic plan.  The time commitment to develop an actionable strategic plan is not small. However, the real challenge lies in implementation. Our conversation reminded me of an interview I did a few years ago.

I had the pleasure of being interviewed on The Business Dig, a blog radio show hosted by Lisa Kanda and Debra Frey, Our discussion focused on challenges in successful strategic plan implementation and steps to get back on track.  The focus of this interview was not necessarily on strategic planning in higher education, however the message is applicable.

Has it been awhile since you’ve reviewed your strategic plan? Here is a link to listen to how to get back to your plan.  Strategic Planning CPR: How to Breath Life Back into your Strategic Plan

The four steps below are highlights from the interview to get back to taking action on your strategic plan.


Dust off your strategic plan and take a hard look at it. If it’s been one or two quarters since you last reviewed the document, organize a review session (ideally a half-day retreat) with a committee of key administrative or academic representatives from your school or department. The goal is to re-engage.  Consider the goals listed in the plan and discuss where you are today.

Refine Plan

Does the plan in its current state resonate with where you want to be in the next 18 months?  If not, how can the goals and initiatives be adjusted? What are five key actions that need to take place in the next quarter to get started?

Take Action

The next steps are pure action planning.  Designate an owner of the plan to steer implementation. Discuss and allocate resources needed. Define and agree on immediate next steps for implementation.

Report Progress Regularly

Create a strategic plan dashboard to track progress on key initiatives. How will progress be communicated? What is the communication mechanism? Who is accountable for managing communication?  Who is included on the distribution list?

Questions about starting a strategic planning initiative at your institution or department? Contact me at [email protected].

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