Monday, May 20, 2013

Five Concerns That Can Interfere With Branch Campus Growth (Continued)

Last time I wrote about two concerns I have, regarding branch campus administration, if institutions hope to see an entrepreneurial attitude and significant enrollment growth.  These choices stem from not understanding innovation and entrepreneurship, and they get in the way of an outreach mission.

My third concern came as a shock to me, when I began consulting.  Many institutions actually have their academic departments at the main campus develop the class schedule for their branch campuses.  This never, ever works well. When the schedule is set at the main campus, I hear about courses required for graduation that are scheduled at 10:00 am, when the intended audience is working adult learners.  I hear about courses added and deleted, without anyone bothering to tell the branch administration about the changes.  Even worse, I hear about programs being offered without any predictable plan for delivery of required courses, at all.  Stop it!

The fourth concern may be less certain, but it reflects my strong opinion about the importance of establishing structures that encourage collaboration.  I believe it is unwise to have separate units pursuing online and branch campus growth, without some structural element that assures cooperation and cost efficiency. 
Expecting these units to partner in good faith generally will not work.  They need to see each other as collaborators, and there should be financial advantages to the online unit for supporting growth at the branches, through hybrid courses that make use of online content.  Without an executive (not the academic vice president, who lacks the necessary time) bringing oversight, they are more likely to compete than to collaborate.

Finally, in nearly all cases, marketing and recruitment need to be audience specific.  Understaffed main campus offices that are not engaged in the branch communities on a daily basis cannot effectively recruit or make marketing judgments for their branches.  They can and should partner, and the main campus has a legitimate need to insist on consistency of messaging and design, but people who get up every day thinking about the branches, not something else, should lead the principal work.

After more or less ranting in my last few posts, I think it is time for me to take a break and concentrate on other projects, for the summer.  Creating access and opportunity is important, and if I can be of help, either as a consultant or as a coach, please get in touch.

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