Higher Education Student Services Redesign Phase 6: Create a Go Forward Plan

Student Services Redesign Phase 6“Create a go forward Plan” is the seventh in a blog series that provides a high-level process roadmap for structuring a student services redesign initiative. This process can be applied in all higher education institutions for entire student services organizations or individual departments. To review this blog series from the beginning, click here.

 In Phase 6, the goal is to create an implementation plan that is concrete and actionable.  A key success factor for executing a student services redesign initiative is to assign an owner to lead implementation.  Oversight of the implementation plan should be formalized with performance metrics incorporated into the annual performance review process. Without formalizing this role the student services redesign initiative is at risk for being less of a priority than other day-to-day responsibilities.

Here are three characteristics to look for in selecting an owner for this initiative:

  • High potential, rising leader on campus with the ability to get work done
  • Strategic thinker with strong organizational skills
  • Politically savvy influencer who can build consensus and manage change

If the redesign initiative spans multiple service lines in student services, additional team members may need to be assigned.  Identify if work streams require full-time, part-time or ad hoc team members and plan resourcing accordingly.

 The go forward plan includes 2 components: a communication strategy and an implementation plan.

Components of a communication strategy

  • Goals for communication
  • Key messaging
  • Audience definition
  • Frequency of communication
  • Method of communication
  • Owner of content development

Implementation plan components:

  • Time-bound activities with defined start and end dates
  • Assigned owners for each activity
  • Stated milestones and performance measures
  • Detailed budget and investment requirements

 Questions to consider:

  1. Does it make sense to appoint the project leader who managed the student services redesign planning effort to implement the plan?
  2. How are change management activities accounted for in the go forward plan?
  3. In communication planning, how will the implementation team gather ongoing faculty, staff and student feedback about the redesign effort?

Interested in receiving a white paper focused on this student services redesign blog series?  Contact me at [email protected].

Higher Education Student Services Redesign Phase 5: Formulate Options for Student Services Models

Student Services Redesign Phase 5“Formulate Options for Student Service Models” is the sixth in a blog series that provides a high-level process roadmap for structuring a student services redesign initiative. This process can be applied in all higher education institutions for entire student services organizations or individual departments. To review this blog series from the beginning, click here.

In Phase 5, the goal is to develop model options. Documents that are helpful in generating student services model options include:
• Student Services Assessment Brief (Phase 2)
• Best Practices Research Results (Phase 3)

There are several approaches to generating model options. This approach works particularly well. Here are the three steps:

Step 1: Develop student services model options

If the “develop vision and goals” work session is a full 2-day work session, there is generally sufficient time to brainstorm possible options. This is ideal because cross campus leadership and other influencers in the design-and-decision-making process are generally represented. Towards the end of the second day, assemble breakout groups. Each group generates a draft student services model that reflects the vision and goals. The breakout groups capture the pros, cons and risks for their respective option. The goal is to present all the options to the larger group and select the best 2 or 3, which are then handed off to the project team.

Step 2: Refine student services model options

The project team refines each option to include the following detailed components:

• Description
• Benefits
• Potential risks
• Analysis of viability
• Critical success factors required for implementation.

Step 3: Select a final student services model option

The final decision will likely fall to the steering committee or to a sub-set leadership group, which may include representation from student services, academic leadership, and IT leaders. A facilitated, in-person discussion is optimal to capture ideas and explore multiple perspectives. The deliverable and expected outcome is a consensus for the future student services model. The model selected is the basis for developing an implementation/transition plan in Phase 6.

Questions to consider:

1. Are additional resources required to augment the project team to generate quality student service options? What other skills and expertise are required to recruit?
2. What mix of cross-campus representation should be included in selecting the final future student services model?
3. Does the future student services model align with the vision and goals?

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

Higher Education Student Services Redesign Phase 4: Develop a Vision and Goals

Student Services Redesign Phase 4: Develop a Student Services Vision“Develop a student services vision and goals” is the fifth in a blog series that provides a high-level process roadmap for structuring a student services redesign initiative. This process can be applied in all higher education institutions for entire student services organizations or individual departments. To review this blog series from the beginning, click <here>.

The goal in this phase is to begin crafting a student services vision to support an optimal student experience.  Inputs into this phase include a critical review of the current student services model (Phase 2) and research conducted on alternative models and peer institutions (Phase 3). Once the vision is created a set of goals is developed that are SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, results oriented and time sensitive) to successfully realize the vision.  Together, the vision and goals anchor the student services model to a foundation where performance measures can be set.  A best practice in this phase is to convene a 1 to 2 day work session with a cross section of campus and student services leaders and other key influencers such as faculty.  The retreat serves two purposes: creates a dialogue about the student experience as it exists today and second, harnesses the brain power and creativity of key constituents to envision an optimal student experience.

Vision and Goals Setting Work Session

Below is a sample agenda for a student services redesign work session:

  • Review current state assessment and best practice research.
  • Gain agreement on the strengths, weaknesses and opportunities for improvement which student services organization should prepare to address in the future.
  • Develop a vision and a statement of values to guide the behaviors of the student services organization members.
  • Identify major goal areas for discussion and development.  If this is a cross campus student services redesign effort, consider priority areas of improvement.
  • Identify next steps.

Questions to Consider

    • Do we have the right mix of campus stakeholders in the room?
    • Does the Student Services vision and goals align with the institutional mission?
    • Does the vision and goals optimize the end-to-end student experience?

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

 

Higher Education Student Services Redesign Phase 3: Best Practices Research

SSRSlide3“Conduct Best Practices Research” is the fourth in a blog series that provides a high-level process roadmap for structuring a student services redesign initiative. This process can be applied in all higher education institutions for entire student services organizations or individual departments. To review this blog series from the beginning, click <here>.

The goal of this phase is to gather insight from external sources to help transform the student services organization.  The outcome for best practices research is to generate ideas to innovate student services. Here are 5 possible research options to help change the model:

1. Evaluate best practice student service models.

Identify improvement opportunities to optimize the end-to-end student experience. Understand organizational models that support a shift from a function driven to a purpose driven support model. Cast a wide net when evaluating student services models- review institutions of all sizes.

 2. Evaluate individual service areas.

Select one or two individual departments that require the most innovation. Identify external institutions that are considered forward thinking in how they approach these service areas. Examples may include student recruitment models that leverage social media or career services that leverage non-traditional pathways for job placement support.

3. Conduct student demographic market research.

Leverage student demographic data from the institutional research organization.  Use this data as a baseline and determine if there is additional information required to understand the needs of your student populations. Depth of understanding will provide context for how services need to change to maximize the student experience.

 4. Conduct peer institution research.

Look at peer institutions and what can be learned from them. Determine which elements of their models may work well in your institution. How are these institutions leveraging resources differently? What differs in the overall student experience?

 5. Understand overall trends and potential disruptors to higher education.

Consider MOOCs and other recent innovations that pose the potential for major institutional change. Try to estimate how trends in these ancillary areas affect the student experience and the potential to influence student service offerings.

Question to consider:

1. Review the State of Student Services Assessment Brief from Phase 2. What other research data may be helpful in redesigning student services?

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

Higher Education Student Services Redesign Phase 2: Assess the Current Organization

SSRSlide2“Assess the Current Organization” is the third in a blog series that provides a high-level process roadmap for structuring a student services redesign initiative. This process can be applied in all higher education institutions for entire student services organizations or individual departments. To review this blog series from the beginning, click <here>.

In Phase 2, the goal is to gather sufficient intelligence about how students are served as they navigate from being a prospective student to an alumnus of the institution. If an individual department is under review, the goal is to understand where these services fit into the student services eco-system. There are four steps in this assessment phase:

 Step 1: Review background data.

The background materials may include: department strategic plans, marketing materials, process maps, annual reports and other existing service materials. The goal is to understand the student services eco-system in its entirety.  Intelligence gathered during this step is used to develop interview guides, focus groups guides and survey tools.

Step 2: Conduct individual interviews.

Individual interviews are conducted with campus, academic, and administrative leaders in each of the student service areas.  The goal is to develop a complete picture of the strengths, challenges and opportunities to improve services.

Sample questions may include:

  • Describe the strengths of the current student services model.
  • What distinguishes your institution’s student services from others?
  • What is your institution’s vision for student services?
  • Where are there opportunities for improvement?
  • What role will campus leadership have in guiding student services towards their vision?
  • How will instruction influence this process?
  • What guiding principles should the steering committee consider when prioritizing initiatives?
  • Which external organization’s student service model do you recommend for best practice research?

Interview results are then used as input to design focus group guides.

 Step 3: Conduct focus groups.

The objective is to ensure that all key demographic perspectives are represented in the organization review.  Focus groups are assembled with students, cross-sections of departmental staff, and faculty. Focus group questionnaires are developed with the audience in mind.  As an example, student focus groups may focus on identifying experiences as they progress from enrollment through commencement.  The facilitators gather real stories to add qualitative context. Faculty focus group participants may discuss what they see and hear from students and how current service models impact the academic experience. Staff provides insight into opportunities for service improvement, service strengths and ideas for vision.

 Step 4:  Analyze data.

The final step in this process is analysis and synthesis of all data collected.  The project team will create a State of Student Services Assessment Brief. This document represents a summary of findings.

 Questions to consider:

  1. What student needs are currently going unmet?
  2. Does the State of Student Services Assessment Brief provide a complete picture of the current environment?
  3. Questions about this phase or how to begin a student redesign initiative? Contact me at
    [email protected].

Higher Education Student Services Redesign Phase 1: Launch Project

SSRSlide1“Launch Project” is the second in a blog series that provides a high-level process roadmap for structuring a student services redesign initiative. This process can be applied in all higher education institutions for entire student services organizations or individual departments. To review this blog series from the beginning, click <here>

There are two goals in the Launch Project phase. The first goal is to confirm the approach, scope and objectives of the project. The second is to establish the foundation for a well-structured project to ensure success.  Phase 1 is organized into 3 steps:

Step 1: Organize the Project Team

This is accomplished by allocating key project responsibilities and setting up project management processes and tools. In this step, the project leader ensures that each of these responsibilities are assigned:

  • Timeline, schedule and resource management
  • Project communication
  • Focus group facilitators
  • Interviewers
  • Best practices researchers

These responsibilities can be combined as required by resource allocation for this project.   A key deliverable of this step is a project charter.  This document will provide an overview of the project organization and plan; detail the approach, scope and objectives;  include a communication plan and qualitative and quantitative project metrics.

Step 2: Convene Project Kickoff Meeting

A formalized steering committee is the audience for the kickoff meeting. The project leader uses the project charter to guide the conversation to confirm the project’s approach, scope and objectives. In addition, the approach for data collection, draft list of interviewees, focus groups and proposed peer institutions for best practices research are presented. A formal communication plan is also reviewed and confirmed with the committee.

Step 3: Launch Project

The project leader is now ready to initiate the project.  At this point, interviews and focus groups are scheduled and formal communication is sent out about the student services redesign effort.

 Questions to Consider

  1. Does the project team have sufficient resources to enable success?
  2. Are project communication tactics with the project sponsor, steering committee, key stakeholders and campus constituents clearly defined and ready to execute?
  3. Who needs to be included on the steering committee to ensure project has cross-campus support and buy-in?
  4. Questions about this phase or how to begin a student redesign initiative? 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].

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