We find that there are basically two kinds of top-leaders at institutions.
There are the hands-off, fund raising leaders, who generally don’t leave their stamp of change on an institution with regard to operations, implementation, or process. Perhaps a politician or other non-academic, this style of leader is usually more focused on boosting the endowment than fixing operational inefficiencies.
The other type of leader is absolutely working to improve experiences. Working directly with the Vice Presidents, department heads, school senate, enrollment and marketing directors, etc., these change leaders use strategic, political capital to transform and seek efficiencies, as well as gains. For those in the latter category, this blog is to you. To make it easier on the word count, know that we’ll use “President” throughout the article, but understand that the application of this information may apply to a Provost, Chancellor, or other titles associated with the final authority at an institution.
Presidents face as much pressure as anytime in the history of higher education. Enrollments have lowered by 5-10% (depending on which research you use) since 2012 and are predicted to lower significantly more by 2026, when the 2008-recession impact of not having children will really be felt. So, often for the first time, competition for students with other colleges or universities is quite real.
With non-traditional students seeming to have settled into a percentage that has normalized, a shrinking military (G.I. Bill) population, and international efforts being made more difficult than ever due to growing competition from credible schools in other countries, not to mention the current political climate which is dissuading students from coming to the states at all, and you have an enrollment crisis. While a few schools will likely never feel the pinch, most schools will see dwindling applications, which in turn will lead to any number of potential consequences. We know that Private Universities will take the biggest hits, following many for-profits from the past decade into closing or merging. 55% of Private Universities will likely close or merge by 2025, according to some experts. Add to that the constant drum beat of college value, with dozens of “experts” telling families that college is just not worth it or CEO’s reprimanding higher education for the lack of real-world skill production, and things get messier. Finally, Accreditation and oversight make all of this even more difficult, with perceived ambiguous expectations being used as the mightiest of sticks, typically reported as an episodic nuisance that disrupts your entire campus.
Adding to external pressures are internal pressures. Faculty unions, University Senates, historical silos of work, an extremely diverse workforce with just as many pockets of dysfunction as pockets of potential greatness; all of these factors create a less-than-desirable product for many students (your customers / consumers), not to mention their parents, etc. Quality education is often in a dogfight with lower standards or increased retention as educators fight to do right by both student and outcome. Students report loneliness, depression, bullying, and more in record numbers, leading to a lack of success for many.
Finally, the infrastructure that supports everything we’ve discussed so far, at least at most schools, is in disarray. Legacy systems are barely able to support existing programming let alone disruptive initiatives. IT staff are often over-committed and tend to be less of a partner and more of a vendor to other offices. This means people – students, faculty, staff, alumni, and more – struggle to find what they need, when they need it. People struggle to find connection, support, community, and the tools they need in any meaningful way. So, as you work to build culture and momentum, the existing processes and systems actually make those initiatives harder rather than easier.
A Better Way
You are not going to hear that Campus will solve all the problems above. Such a statement would be silly. Besides, technology implementation without thought and strategy around people is a fool's errand. (As is holistic support at scale without technology...) But it is important that you know we have been working toward solutions for all of the problems listed above for decades, prior to creating the Campus solution. So here is what Campus can (and cannot) do for you.
First, it is important to note that Campus will be implemented by practitioners; not by techies nor by project managers with no academic context or experience. Campus will start by matching long-time, academic / student success administrators with your people, to perform meaningful discovery. People who have implemented Campus at other Universities will be involved to talk through typical “gotcha” moments, to work out ways by which Campus can support Strategic Plans, and to ensure meaningful touch-points between all of your stakeholders.
Then, as Campus rolls out, we will work iteratively to ensure adoption, usage, and efficacy. We will provide data to help drive decisions around who, what, where, why, and when. Want to turn every module on for every student out of the gate? We’ll recommend another strategy, as that is likely to confuse or frustrate. Despite possible financial uptake for Ucroo, we want Campus to be as positive an experience as possible for everyone. Just as we want to ensure you have the right setup for a better experience than the college or university down the road.
In parallel, Campus will provide trainings, consultation, and assistance for the “people side” of the equation. Students don’t read email? Campus can put a major dent in that problem. Your Student Services folks struggle to see how Academics intervene around success initiatives? Campus can provide tremendous insights into those experiences. Need a mobile app and web based solution for connecting people to every resource and community group? Campus handles both elegantly. Students struggle to find application forms, student support documentation, the Writing Center, department sign-ups? Campus is designed to make that work fluidly and seamlessly.
Finally, Campus will provide access to data unlike any you currently have, illustrating new, different, and potentially better predictive analytics for risk and success. Regular updates and check-ins will showcase how the platform is or is not being used by various constituents at your school, ensuring better adoption over time. These meetings will also ensure that the platform is supporting your operational and initiative needs too, showcasing how other schools are using the system creatively or with success.
Will Campus fix your assessment woes with accreditors? While we might provide better communication options and a dedicated channel for that communication, it won’t transform your assessments. But when you start asking other, big questions, like can Campus help us gain enrollments, the answer is yes. When you ask if Campus might help us boost persistence metrics, the answer is yes. When you ask about alumni affinity, donations, or simply giving students a modern foundation to connect and communicate with anyone at any time, the answer is yes.
If you have read Peter Senge’s book, The Fifth Discipline, or followed the Apple Technology longitudinal studies (Sandholtz), you have seen both theoretically and through research that it takes time for any initiative, including technology, to transform an organization. We know that too. So, we will work tirelessly, side by side with your people, to help create little win after little win, ultimately leading to that transformation. Campus by Ucroo, while not a silver bullet, might well be seen as a secret weapon. It is a platform that can help students and staff without being obvious. Like the light switch illuminates without much thought anymore, Campus helps support without concern for the technology. It is a nudging, crowd-sourcing, block-chain creating, mobile and web-based support tool for students, faculty, staff, and administrators. This solution was built for educators by educators, for students, by students...Campus is a solution built for you.
We hope you’ll ask us for more information. We would love to have a conversation about just how powerful Campus can be for your people, connecting them to everything and everyone at just the right time.
Sandholtz, J. H. (n.d.). Apple classrooms of tomorrow research: Teaching in high-tech environments: Classroom management revisted first-fourth year findings. (A. C. Inc, Compiler) Cupertine, CA, USA.