The Transformative Institution Model

By now, we’re all aware that American higher education is at a moment of profound transition. The key question facing colleges, universities and edupreneurs is: to where is higher ed transitioning? What’s the end state(s) of all our efforts to reinvent higher education?

The partners at Experience Design Works care deeply about higher education. Having worked both inside and outside of academia, we’ve had the chance to look at the challenge from a variety of angles. In an effort to guide our work with clients as we help them transition to the next era of higher education, we’ve put together a model that we call the Transformative Institution Model.

 

 

It’s not enough just to change for the sake of change. Moreover, in increasingly tight budgetary times, it is paramount to make data-driven decisions about how we change student enrollment decisions, build student engagement using social media, structure advising programs to enhance student outcomes and how we think about technology adoption decisions, both in and out of the classroom. Experience Design Works believes two things about strategic decision-making in higher education:

  • Decisions must be based at their root level in a deep understanding and care for the student and faculty experience. This understanding must go beyond traditional self-reported satisfaction surveys; rather, a more rigorous model involving an integration of qualitative, quantitative and ethnographic methods must be used.
  • Higher education institutions – and the education technology companies that partner with them – must approach solutions from a systems-thinking and design-thinking perspective. All solutions must thoroughly integrate with each other to produce a holistic experience for all stakeholders that advances student outcomes.

We’ve put together our thoughts on how to transforms institutions and companies using these two guiding principles into the Transformative University Model. Over the next few weeks, we will be exploring this model on our blog by examining each of its levels – Traditional, Modern, Transitional, Social and Responsive – in turn, and how experience design can help higher education decision-makers and entrepreneurs make effective decisions at each of these levels of development that can transform their institution, programs, services and products. We would love to have your feedback on the model and our exploration of it in the comments section or by contacting us on Twitter at @ricetopher, @andydrefahl or @keithstefanczyk.

Let’s Blame The LMS…

At a major research university in the Midwest, we recently concluded an Experience Analysis and Design (EAD) on student and faculty LMS use. During the qualitative research phase, we were told by faculty, staff and students alike the technology was rife with problems, that it should be discarded and that at the very least, it’s UI needed a major update. Fingers were being pointed every which way.

As many know, increasing LMS adoption brings numerous benefits to an institution, the least of which is a more consistent student experience. Yet changing an LMS can be expensive and time consuming. Our client wanted objective and thorough research about LMS use. Additionally, the client wanted data that would lead to a list of solutions prioritized by methodological scoring and cost implementation. Furthermore, they wanted an inclusive process that engaged departments from across the institution.

And that’s exactly how the EAD methodology works. It’s objective and anonymous avoiding blame and internal politics.

Perhaps one of the biggest surprises we uncovered was that many of those who complained about the LMS had actually either never used it, or used only its very basic elements. Many simply were repeating what others had told them or were unaware of the many features the LMS offered. We also uncovered a rich story involving support structure and staffing, pedagogical approaches, faculty and student usage behaviors and college-level adoption strategies.

As I write this, a prioritized set of solutions, with buy-in from across the campus, is being phased in.

And nobody’s pointing their fingers at anyone else. At least for now :)