The Learners First Framework

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Dr. Peter Smith, Professor of Innovative Practices in Higher Education and Sr. Advisor to the President at University of Maryland Global Campus, joined the podcast to discuss The Presidents Forum’s Learners First Framework and what will be necessary to expedite its acceptance across higher ed.

Go back seven years, take those data points and run them to the present for the last seven years, and then assume the same progression for the next seven years. And where are you as an institution? You're listening to enrollment growth university from Helix Education, the best professional development podcast for higher education leaders looking to grow enrollment at their college or university. Whether you're looking for fresh enrollment growth techniques and strategies or tools and resources, you've come to the right place. Let's get into the show. Welcome back to enrollment growth university, a proud member of the connect ETU podcast network. I'm Eric Olsen with Helix Education and we're here today with Dr Peter Smith, professor of innovative practices and Higher Education and senior advisor to the president at University of Maryland global campus. Peter, welcome to the show. Well, it's great to be with your Eric, and thanks for thanks for asking me. Really excited to talk to you today about the learners first framework and your beliefs on its inevitability in higher at but before we dig into that, can you give the listeners a little bit of background on University of Maryland Global Campus and your role? They're sure, ever, say Maryland global campus. UMGC is a separate, freestanding member of the university system of Maryland, with all the other institutions people are aware of. Fully accredited public has been in operation since one thousand nine hundred and forty seven. Then, starting after the GI bill and main constituents in a continuing ED program where military people enlisted, men and women, their families and veterans, and that has been a core of our history through to the current day. Became in separate and independent college, I'm going to say thirty five years ago, accredited and all of that in and now I've diversified and serve...

...about a hundred and a hundred twenty thousand students a year, all in on for continents. Most of the overseas students are in fact military spouses, family or vets, but they now are probably half of our student body as we operate globally. Love it, Peter, to kick us off today. Can you give us a high level overview of the President's Forum from which this Learner's first framework originated from? Well, just understanding Eric, that I'm giving my perspective honor as a great advocate for it and proponent. It's one of those groups that, if it didn't exist, you want to invent it. The President's forum is a as, I believe, as you want to be a member, you can become. I'm a member, you have to join. I think there's a financial consideration, but all of that. But the notion is progressive institutions and presidents that are looking into the future and are worried about public policy, both governmental and other, the accreditation or whatever interstate standards that are now overseen by n see Sarah, whatever it might be. That but the notion that there is a future coming that is disruptive to the traditions of higher education that I grew up with any way, and most of us did, and that we need to get together identify best practice has, identify the values, the pitfalls, the opportunities and then articulate them to the Department of Education, to the United States Congress, United States Senate and other public agencies. And I think the same would be true at the state level, where that is pertinent as well, but really aimed at having coming to understand better themselves, but then having other people understand that what we're in is not a momentary passing thing, that the world is changing around us and that if we...

...want to be a leader, the leader in ten years from now that we were twenty years ago and are today still, we need to think freshly about how to serve learners in America. So we have this really, really strong group of presidents and Chancellors who are trying to think through the inevitability of the future and make sure that we are are getting out ahead of that puck. Can you give us a high level overview of this learner's first framework and perhaps the most critical differences? Where institutions couldn't look at this and say, yeah, Peter, we already do all that. Well, some people may be beginning to do all that, and that has been the the answer through much of my professional career is we already do that or, more implicitly, if we just hold our breath and wait a while, it will go away and things will return to normal. Yeah, but I think the I think this situation is very different. At the crux of it is Clayton Christiansen's theory of disruption and how it how the world around us, if we are a campus based institution, is changing and what it takes to respond to the changes in that world. And I think one of the core things, and there are many institutions doing some of these things, but the fact of the matter is that what is needed is not reflected in policy and many policies, and in fact the changes we need are going going to become more evident and more serious and clear as as time passes. But I think if I were to say one one statement, it would be how do we wrap the resources of the institution around the needs of the learner so that we're in it for them and with them to deliver the consequence of the outcome that they need, whether that...

...is a degree or not? And we know that employers are beginning to take them before a much more clear and firm stand about what they want and what they need. They have a very differential point of view in terms of how prepared college graduates are versus how well we think our graduates are prepared. So there is a gap between the perceived value by educators and the hope for value on the part of students and the received value and part of employers. And we can make this issue of wrapping resources around the needs of the learner as complex or as simple as possible. But, for instance, there are people that would say, there's when you teach history, you teach American history. If you are Hispanic American or an African American or an indigenous American, your perception of the history, you of experience may be very different. is their respect for that history in the curriculum? Now, I know that sounds political these days, but if I don't see myself in the things I'm being taught, I am one degree alienated from that that process. Again and again there are they're just ways that we have decided what it is important for people to know, and I think what's happening is that other forces and pressures are flattening that field, if you will, small d democratizing it and saying what is it that if I want to know something, but I also want to be able to apply it in a variety of circumstances, how do I learn that, as opposed to just passing a test? So it gets to student support services, career services, very clear degree and certificate paths, learning outcomes result or in the assessments of learning. Each institution has to decide for itself what's...

...important. But the market around us. You know the Christiansen's definition of disruption. There are one of them anyway. Forces exist where the very thing that you have been good at the last you pick, the time frame thirty years, no longer serves you well, that the sources of your strength historically are now sources of weakness going forward in terms of your ability to survive in a changing environment. So it's a very complicated situation and each institution has to decide for itself where it was to go, how it wants to deal with it. But answering those basic questions that you saw in the the ad dive article, how am I going to do this for our students? Online, friction free, great career information, etc. Etc. These are things we just got to get better at. Yeah, Peter, some of the elements of the framework you mentioned, they do feel inevitable in the long term. They feel necessary if we want to align ourselves to the current modern student. And yet systemic change in higher read seems to always happen slower than we think or we wish it to be. What do you believe is actually going to be required for higher ed to restructure significantly around a framework like this, for instance, what stages is this framework at within the institutions of those members of the President's Forum who conceived it, including you, MGC. Well, I think first of all, you're not going to see a new one way we do things. Yeah, you know, and if you think about it, although our traditions are campused and faculty based, with those dominant traditions, in fact community colleges are very different from each other, from state universities, which are in different from land grants, privates and the Ivy League. I mean, so you have this overall way we do it, quote unquote, but in...

...fact there's a whole variety of ways that that model is in fact played out every day for learners. What I think you're going to see as a broadening of the spectrum of what is considered appropriate and acceptable higher reed lifelong services and that you're going to see new providers and you're going to have the elite colleges May in many ways change less because they don't have to, but at the same time they're going to be new providers and other colleges will change more as they see where their learners are coming from and what their learners actually need. So, for instance, I think some will be willing to accept people into programs where they are not going to finish in a sustained one time admission cycle or participation cycle. By design they're going to come and go, but over a five to a seven year period they can accumulate, with the support of the institution, the credit, the experiences and bringing some of those experiences with them to assessment of prior learning, apprenticeships, previous employment, etc. Then they're able to accumulate a degree, but doing so in a very different way than we would see. That what I just described as an exceptional practice today. I think for some institutions it will be a more standard practice and expectation in seven to ten years. But I think you're going to see a whole spectrum of services when you have places like Cradley and course, Sera or straighter line, you know, doing what they're doing. That's going to change the landscape of what's possible. Peter, speaking of what's possible, do you believe, do you hope, that the pandemic was and is going to be, a spearhead that forces higher edds reinvention toward this learner's first focus, perhaps sooner...

...than it may have otherwise? Absolutely. I don't think I'm the inventor of that, but the notion that we are hurdling or high jumping or pole vaulting over a period of time that it would have taken us to do things much more slowly, precisely because of the conditions at the pandemic imposed unemployment on people's revealing people's vulnerability, the societal demand and need to recognize the talent that's out there that higher education frankly, doesn't recognize as well as it should. I see a much more confrontation with the social inequity that lack of access to higher education presents to the society as a whole as an economic, social civic cost, and also the exhibiting of that. The technologies can do things, make things possible, whether it's working from home or learning from home or whatever, and that may be tougher for a ten year old than it is a thirty five year old, but opening the door to all those options of necessity, I think, has forced us to think differently about what is possible, what is affordable, what is effective and what is valuable. Peter Really, really great stuff. Any final next steps? Advice for hired leaders? They're trying to steer course right now coming out of the pandemic, especially for those who may be looking to salvage what they had and where they were, versus try to find and claim this new green field space. Well, it's I don't pretend to think that it's easy, and you know I have been the founding president of two institutions, but in and that's very hard and difficult work. But in many ways it's different than trying to change the culture of an existing organization. You're building the culture when you start something, changing the culture is...

...much more difficult. I would say for that ladder group, I would identify the ten most important data points so that you pay attention to to determine whether you're being successful or not and whether you're healthy or no. So admissions rate, dropouts rate, graduation rates, budget, number faculty and down at whatever those seven to ten, five to seven, the data you look at, enrollments, your name it, go back seven years. Take those data points and run them to the present for the last seven years and then assume the same progression for the next seven years. And where are you as an institution? And I said that to one person. He said, Oh my God, I never do that. That would scare the heck out of my board and everybody else. And I said exactly so if nothing changes, here's where you are in seven years, five years, ten years, you pick the number. The most important thing is to create a rock solid clarity and you have to change or you will be either seriously compromised or out of business. Then you've opened the door to a constructive conversation about what can you do differently to attract more learners, to hold on to more learners, to be more relevant to learners? I saw one place where they're they're giving students intern ships their senior year and staying with them, reducing the tuition, but staying with them, and they graduate after they've held the internship for a year and the person gets the job in which they were an intern. So they're they're taking the last six months or whatever it is, and saying, okay, we've had you for three and a half years now, we're going to stay with it, it's part of our program we're going to get you this, you're going to make some money, not as much as you would and then when that's done, the company is said, will hire them. Very different,...

...but talk about a payoff. You're working in the field you were you are learning in. So there are all sorts of ways to think freshly, community service, public service, etcetera, etc. That creates stronger connections between the Learner and the institution, the Learner in the community and, importantly, the learner in their future, which is they got us see how it pays off, how it why they're doing it, then they'll stick around. Peter, thanks so much for your time today. What's the best place for listeners to connect with you if they have any follow up questions? It is Peter Dot Smith at UMGC DOT EEDU. Peter Dot Smith at UMGC DOT EDU, Solo operator, and I would say I welcome honest discussion. If somebody wants to write me and be angry, probably not going to spend a lot of time trying to assuage their anger and there may be a little to lay no matter what, because I actually do have a job finishing a book, so I've got other things to do, but welcome dialog anytime. Peter Dutch Smith at UMGC dotted you awesome, Peter. Thanks so much for joining us today. Eric, my pleasure and keep on you doing a hell of a job. It's great. Attracting today's new post traditional learners means adopting new enrollment strategies. Helix educations data driven, enterprise wide approach to enrollment growth is uniquely helping colleges and universities thrive in this new education landscape, and Helix has just published the second edition of their enrollment growth playbook with fifty percent brand new content on how institutions can solve today's most pressing enrollment growth challenges. Downloaded today for free at Helix Educationcom. Playbook. You've been listening to enrollment growth university from Helix Education.

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