The author’s information and thoughts align well with a couple current areas of focus; Budget Planning for 2014-15 and planning for Strategic Enrollment Management.
In budget conversations we talk about the ‘right class schedule’ to meet the needs of students and offering an array of sections in the most efficient way possible with our limited funding. In our enrollment management work we are looking at the community, asking who they are (relative to educational attainment), how they feel about our college, what do they need and how can we best reach out to them. The bottom line is our traditional sources of new students are diminishing; high school graduates are declining and incumbent workers aren’t going to college because they are back to work after the recession. And for those who do want to go to college, financial aid isn’t keeping pace with rising tuition and other costs to attend. How can we possible grow enrollment and fill a schedule of sections if the students are simply not there?
It is the last trend that give us hope; #5 – more Online! We don’t offer and promote online degrees adequately. As a district exceeding our capacity, we’ve not needed to. Our general transfer degree courses fill in the first few days of open registration when current students are enrolling. That leaves little opportunity for new and returning students to get into these courses. Those general transfer program courses could be supplemented with new courses that provide transfer paths for specific majors, like Psychology, Business and Education. Did you know we offer fully online professional programs in Homeland Security, Fire command Administration and Occupational Safety & Health? If not, I wonder who in the community knows…and how far does the community extend when you are talking about online? Offering programs online is one way to attract those incumbent workers and time-bound students who want to earn their degrees. It makes going to college flexible and convenient for those high school graduates and returning adults who need to work part-time to fill the funding gap.
We want the online educational experience to be a quality one, however. That means professional development for our faculty, like training on the strategies and best practices unique to this type of teaching. We need to support them by having designers and technical staff who can facilitate continuous ‘just-in-time’ learning and assist with course construction. The ratio of faculty to staff is currently too high. Students need to be prepared, too. Forming online degree cohorts and investing in their preparation to be online learners can pay great dividends in retention and success. We need to engage them in their eLearning community from the day they submit an admissions form through the day they cross the virtual podium to receive their degrees! We have the tools to do it!
eLearning systems give us a leg up on the problem. Employing an eLearning philosophy and its related tools minimizes the need to be in one place at one time. We are empowered to connect with the students who want a higher education! We are facing “the hard times.” Do we have the will to “adapt and innovate,” then ultimately succeed? Please share your creative ideas and questions using the forum below!