Last month, I had the honor and pleasure of presenting the closing keynote address at the Distance Learning Administrators Conference (DLA), sponsored by the University of West Georgia. I am grateful to Melanie Clay for the invitation, and to Janet Gubbins, for her help and support in making things go smoothly.
This year’s conference was held on Jekyll Island, GA, a terrific location I had not visited in nearly 20 years. You can find information about the conference and program at http://www.westga.edu/~distance/dla/, and I believe they plan to use the same venue, next year.
My presentation was titled, “Challenging the Status Quo.” I argued that established institutions are especially at risk in a disruptive environment, because their assumptions, processes, and perspectives make meaningful innovation difficult to achieve. Established institutions are built to maintain the status quo, not turn it upside down. Incremental improvements are their strength.
Challenging the status quo requires a different mindset. When the goal is to attract new student audiences, existing practices are nearly guaranteed to be off the mark. For that reason, developing a unit dedicated to innovation is typically the best approach. Innovation teams call for bringing together the right mix of talents and experience, then giving members the time and opportunity to become immersed in their projects.
If you are interested in seeing the PowerPoint slides, you can find them at http://www.westga.edu/~distance/dla/concurrentsessions_2012.php#mon. On this page, you will find titles and descriptions for all of the conference presentations. Many of the presentations have links to other documents, as well. Scroll to the bottom of the page for the link to my slides.
I encourage my branch campus friends to consider attending DLA (in addition to attending NABCA or RBCA, of course). Branch campus conferences these days include a lot of discussion about online/distance learning, but I found it valuable to spend time with a group specifically focused on that topic. I continue to believe that branch campuses and online programs can strengthen one another through collaborative partnerships. Indeed, I doubt that branches can thrive in the future, without providing online and hybrid options for their students.
Most institutions would be wise to develop a comprehensive strategy for reaching out to potential students. Broadly, this might include a more or less traditional approach on their main/residential campus, and a hybrid approach at branch campuses to serve a broader region for which their brand is especially strong. In that context, a focused set of fully online programs that meet the needs of those for whom maximum flexibility is the first priority, or that attract enrollment in programs that are especially distinctive or that serve a relatively unique audience, completes the strategy.
In addition to DLA, the folks at the University of West Georgia also publish The Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, which you can find at . The Journal is both interesting and free, so check it out!