March 26, 2019

Reading time minutes

The precipice of higher educational change – dangerous or exciting?

The AACRAO 2014 conference is coming up in Denver. With this being AACRAO’s 100th conference, I can’t help but think of what the conversations must have been like at the first one. Everything was done manually, on paper and in person.

Laurel Stiller

Marketing portfolio manager, Higher Education

A person in a red parka sits on a rock outcrop.

Think about it: No computers, no smartphones. I wonder how often students changed their majors? What did the completion rates look like?

With the ghosts of attendees past hovering around us, this year’s theme, “The Precipice of Change,” is a matter of perspective. We’re either standing on the shaky edge of tradition looking down, or we’re looking up at a rather intimidating climb.

What happens if we don’t embrace change?

When we change a technology, it doesn’t mourn the fact that it’s no longer doing things the way it always did. It just does what we tell it to do. Technology doesn’t “think” about the end result, people do. And it’s a big reason we tend to resist change. At least until we have the opportunity to analyze what results change will bring:

  • Positive student outcomes
  • Higher completion rates
  • Stronger advising
  • Retention strategies
  • Enrollment predictability
  • New academic programs

When we connect these results with change, we no longer resist it.

At a recent conference, Hyland featured an IT Leaders Panel, where three prestigious institutions all talked about leading through tremendous change. John McGuthry, CIO at Cal Poly Pomona, discussed how he guides change around campus by acknowledging the work the offices have done up to now.

With careful thought and integrity, McGuthry recognizes that staff have a personal stake in their processes. So he asks them thought-provoking questions like, “What does our customer really need?” and “What processes should be invisible to the student of today?”

While today we might be strategically evaluating what we can make more invisible, my guess is that, ironically, Enrollment Management was working to make things more visible 100 years ago. Regardless, student success is at the heart of any change we make.

As such, we must balance students’ needs with the needs of the institution. The real challenge of this precipice of change – no matter your perspective – is for us to remain thriving, adaptable and ready to handle change from any angle. It’s both dangerous and exciting.

For those who will be joining us in Denver, please stop in to our presentation Monday, March 31st at 9:30am in Room 302 to hear how automating curriculum review and approval processes helped San Juan College and Franklin University produce the most accurate course catalogs.