Friday, August 1, 2008

Connections, August 2008

The fall of 2008 marks a special moment for the College and for me. On October 3rd, we will hold an inauguration ceremony publicly celebrating the transition to a new president. This is the first time in eighteen years that the College has needed such a ceremony, and it seems a propitious moment to reflect on changes—both personal and institutional.

For me, this is what the IT folks call a career moment. As I write this, I am five months into the job and beginning to see just how large and exciting a challenge it is. I am thrilled to be Charter Oak State College’s new president and grateful for the support and encouragement I am receiving from staff, students, and alumni. But as I assist with planning for the inauguration, I am forced to face just how significant a moment this is for the institution; and that is a more solemn proposition.

The economic challenges that swirl around all of us require that we execute the College’s strategic plans with special care. But these difficult conditions also reveal the wisdom of our previous efforts. As the cost of fuel rises, the cost effectiveness of distance-delivered education becomes clearer to everyone. We now have over 200 online courses, with new courses being added with every launch date. Our courses are delivered in 5-week, 8-week, and 15-week versions, and we begin new “semesters” across the whole calendar year. Clearly, our distance learning efforts have placed on the right side of history as higher education moves to deploy the power of modern communication technologies to project learning to the learner.

In addition, the economic landscape is being shaped by the looming retirements of baby boomers and the decline of their college-age offspring. These two demographical realities point toward adult learners as the population that will require intense educational support in the coming years. Charter Oak State College’s distance learning expertise and its 35 years of adult learner focus will become its sharpest tools in meeting that challenge. As it becomes increasingly difficult to find new workforce talent, we expect that companies will be working furiously to find ways to keep their workers prepared and educated. We are preparing the College to assist with that challenge by using its ability to deliver education to the workplace and to construct that learning to serve adult learners.

So, the strategic focus of the College over the next months will include preparing ourselves for increases in online learners and wider public interest in online learning. Already, the College is being included in a variety of workforce proposals that seek to educate the Connecticut workforce using the tools of technology-mediated education. We have launched a Corporate Partnership Program to increase our visibility in Connecticut’s workplace, and we are continuing our efforts to find partners whose educational content can be combined with the College’s advising and eLearning capabilities.

Stay tuned. It should be an interesting journey.

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