By Brian Fleming, Analyst
“This is just the way we’ve always done it” is no longer an option.
To claim your institution can not, should not, or simply will not adapt to the tidal wave of change currently taking place across all of higher education is unrealistic, not to mention inconsistent with the mission of higher education itself. Higher education has always adapted, in many cases quite rapidly, to any change that promises to better serve students and impact the public good. There’s little reason to believe that most of the digital, political, and organization disruption taking place today poses any real threat to these values; in fact, these changes promise to sustain them.
Consider some of the following:
- Technology is changing the way institutions disseminate knowledge and manage processes. Online learning, flipped classrooms, integrated student services models are enabling vast possibilities for improving the overall quality, cost, and outcomes of the student experience. Your institution now has the capability, for instance, of offering streamlined mobile solutions to empower students to access course content and student services any time of day and in real time from anywhere in the world.
- Accountability is pushing institutions large and small to achieve greater measures of teaching and learning excellence through demonstrated and measurable learning outcomes, more efficient services models, and improved organizational efficiencies all around. No longer do anecdotal or inconsistent measures of quality suffice. Your institution must now cautiously and conscientiously align everything you do with that of a broader social and political push to ensure a quality student experience. Students are your “customers” and the public at large (even institutions themselves) “beneficiaries” of services rendered. This is not a threat. It’s sensible and sustainable business.
- Governance is shifting from the familiar teacher/instruction-centered model of institutional management to learner/learning-centered models. With this are more efficient management structures that seek to maximize institutional efficiencies in order to serve the needs and expectations of students more effectively. This new professionalization of higher education is ushering in more agile, collaborative, data-driven, and service-orientated processes that seek to meet the needs of students and enhance learning outcomes. The balance of power at your institution likely no longer lies with a select few. Your institution is, or will soon become, more focused on students than ever before.
New Possibilities, Familiar Values
Belying common assumptions, higher education has always adapted to changes aligned with core values, including transformative learning, equity, access, social responsibility, and education for the common good. In fact, some of the most impactful movements in the history of higher education (e.g. the Morrill Land-Grant Act, the Wisconsin Idea) have been fueled by a deliberate return to these values, which, however controversial at the time were revolutionary in calling institutions back to first principles.
Integrating Student Services
Which raises yet another idea your institution can no longer afford to ignore. Integrating student services signifies another fundamental return to the student-centered mission of higher education. Whatever change this model may pose, in an era of technology, accountability, and learner-centered governance, one stop shop is a critical idea that’s time has come.
Integrating core business functions—admissions, registration, financial aid, and payments—helps overcome the impact of rigid, siloed, and confusing business structures, which today only cause frustration, distraction, and barriers to learning all around. “One stops” improve the overall impact and efficiency of an institution, leading to better uses of technology through interactive web portals, engaging mobile platforms, improved customer service, and more coherent organizational models.
Integrated services free students up to focus on the business of being a student and institutions to focus on the business of responsible management. This “change,” of course, should not seem foreign to higher education. Integration is fundamental to sustaining mission and values, which flourish most in times of change.
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