Tuesday, December 3, 2013

What Does the New Year Hold?

As I begin preparing for the New Year, there are a variety of items I want to share with you. The most important item has to do with the challenges facing the entire higher education landscape. As I have said before, things are getting harder for all of us. There is increasing pressure on colleges to improve our outcomes (both graduation rates and graduate employment), reduce our prices, and increase our enrollments. The world wants us to be faster, cheaper, and better.

As you read this, there are four national conversations that I will be participating in that bear on these demands. In early December, I will join the Council for Higher Education Accreditation's new Commission On Quality Assurance and Alternative Higher Education. My role will be talk about non-collegiate assessments (badges and CCAP). Then in January I have been asked to deliver a plenary session at CHEA's annual conference called Innovation, Disruption and the Status Quo: What Do We Want for Accreditation? My talk will be about Education Without College: What Is It? Is It Desirable? Can It Last? In mid-December I have been asked to participate in a conversation about the link between college and employers by the Aspen Institute. And in early February I will be on a panel at the EDUCAUSE conference in New Orleans to discuss Strategic Innovation and Institutional collaboration.

All of these engagements reflect two important themes: Higher Education is undergoing remarkable changes and Charter Oak has experience in those elements that are changing. I have told you that we are working to help the U.S Department of Education re-think its Title IV financial aid regulations, and we have just heard that the department is going to request ideas for experimental sites that can explore those new ideas. Charter Oak has been collaborating with the Lumina Foundation and a set of institutions that are interested in competency-based learning to create An Experiment in Hybrid, or Mixed-Modality, Programs Using Competency-Based Education. This work seems to be moving to the next level and we are excited about submitting an application to be an experimental site. If we are selected, our students would be able to use their financial aid for portfolios and tests as well as online courses.

And finally, there is a movement right here in Connecticut around our Going Back to Get Ahead initiative. President Gray is committed to moving this project forward. In early Spring we hope to release letters to 100,000 Connecticut residents with credits from ConnSCU institutions but no credential. Charter Oak will be responsible for moving these students forward toward successful degree completion.

You might ask, what does all this activity have to do with me? Well, it's all designed to keep Charter Oak at the leading edge of higher education, and in the minds of those who award grants for new initiatives and funding. These efforts are part of our commitment to making college available and affordable to as many adults as possible.

So you can see that there is a great deal of work ahead of us. If we perform as I know we can, you should see us in the news, our student enrollments should increase, and our approach to adult education should gain ground in Connecticut and across the nation. This is the work we were invented to do 40 years ago, and we are thrilled to be asked to do it.

How can we help make your 2014 more productive and rewarding?

Happy Holidays to all of you!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

More Feedback Please

This is a continuation of my previous blog that focused on your experiences with Charter Oak. We received some interesting and useful student feedback about courses, enrollment processes, and lots more. So I am encouraged.

I want to dig into your experience with our Fall 2013 courses. We have noticed that interest in our fifteen week courses is declining while our eight week offerings continue to grow in popularity. As a result, we are developing mostly eight week courses, leaving the longer format for those courses that require a longer learning curve. Please tell us why you are choosing the eight week format. How does this format serve your needs better than longer (or shorter) courses?

Next, we have also noticed that many of you were pre-registered for this semester, but at the deadline, you did not complete your paid registration. We know that adult students do not pay for their courses until the last minute, presumably because family money for your education must wait until the family expenses are covered. So we get that. But for those of you who did not finalize your Fall registrations, even at the very last minute, please let us know why not. What changed? What can we do to help?

And finally, we have been working hard throughout the entire College - Admissions, Advising, Registrar's office, and the Business Office - to better coordinate our outreach to you through the registration process. We have reviewed our outgoing messages, coordinated their content, and tweaked their timing; we have compiled "must call" lists and assigned those calls; and we have tracked the whole process. So now is a good moment to ask how we did with reminding you about registration, prompting you to meet deadlines, and working with you to make sure your course selections met your Plan of Study. Please let me know your thoughts about our process so we can do a better job of meeting your needs.

As always, I love hearing from you, even with criticisms. We are committed to being the best adult serving College out there, and only you can help us become that.