Operational Efficiency and the Student Experience

AUDIO | Efficiency Through Technology Central to Operational Excellence

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The following interview is with Diana Wu, dean of the UC Berkeley Extension and executive director of the Berkeley Resource Center for Online Education. Despite shrinking operational budgets for higher education institutions, they’re being forced to compete against rising numbers of competitors all working to improve their product and provide best-in-class customer experiences. This is, of course, familiar territory for continuing education (CE) professionals. In this interview, Wu discusses the value of operational efficiency in helping institutions navigate both challenges and successes in the modern postsecondary marketplace …
For a long time, efficiency was seen as an enemy of the Academy. Lurking in the shadows and threatening to take away from rigor and performance, efficiency was all but avoided at top institutions. But it’s no secret that the business model of higher ed is changing, and as a result, efficiency is being looked at through a different lens. Once a detractor — a model used only by struggling institutions — efficiency is now a differentiator. The key to understanding efficiency as a differentiator centers on the divide between the administrative side of an institution, where efficiency reigns supreme, and …

The following interview is with Robert Wensveen, associate director of continuing education at the University of Calgary. Since their inception, continuing education (CE) units have navigated the challenges of providing high-quality programs and services on a limited budget to a constantly changing marketplace. This is a challenge main campuses are only starting to become familiar with, and learning how to successfully accomplish this task will require some process and policy changes. In this interview, Wensveen discusses how CE units use their need for operational efficiency to their …

STATS AND QUOTES

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Percentage of higher education support centers that are either downsizing or are in a hiring freeze as a result of budgetary pressures, according to a report by HDI Research.

 
 
“It’s focused on measuring what we’re doing and continuously trying to improve it every day.”

~ GAYLE SAUNDERS, president of Richland Community College in Illinois, said higher education institutions should think of themselves as businesses and focus serving students as customers, or else they will become less relevant.

 
 
“More students will get the degrees they deserve. Community colleges will be recognized for the value they add to education. And—by granting more degrees—states will be better positioned to attract new business.”

~ WALTER G. BUMPHUS, president of the American Association of Community Colleges, said the National Student Clearinghouse’s Reverse Transfer Project will give universities and colleges unprecedented access to data about transfer students and could result in up to two million eligible students being awarded an associate’s degree.

 
 
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Does “efficiency” matter in higher education? If we consider what currently challenges American higher education — rising tuition rates, growing student debt, declining enrollment — I believe it does. But efficiency is meaningless to students if they don’t see or experience the benefits directly. In other words, as institutions work to streamline and improve their internal processes to optimize staff contributions while lowering costs, it’s important they also take the opportunity to address changes that benefit students, and then communicate the effects of those changes as appropriate. So what does or could dual, inward and outward-facing efficiency look like? …

The following interview is with Meg Benke, a professor in the School for Graduate Studies at Empire State College. Benke, a board member of the Online Learning Consortium and former provost and acting president at Empire State, is a leader in higher education transformation and change. She helped to grow Empire State’s Center for Distance Learning and has been involved in issues around postsecondary access for adult students and improving student services in online programs throughout her career. In this interview, Benke discusses the impact increased efficiency has on an institution’s capacity to serve …

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