Dave King
Dave King, Associate Provost Outreach and Engagement

Some of you may have taken the time to participate in the recent Faculty and Staff Forum on Oregon State’s potential involvement in the Unizin consortium. It was lively discussion about the impact and merits of participating in this major university collaboration to build a “learning ecosystem.” If you missed it, the hour or so conversation is archived at:  https://media.oregonstate.edu/media/t/0_d73ieyl2 

In addition, you may or may not have seen the article in the OSU Barometer that reported on the learning management system change from Blackboard to Canvas. You can see that at: http://www.dailybarometer.com/news/canvas-to-replace-blackboard/article_565dd982-1c02-11e4-bb9c-0017a43b2370.html

It is fairly easy from these discussions to see the possible benefit to the campus as whole for these kinds of visionary changes we are suggesting, but what will this do for Extension and other non-credit programming from OSU?

I think there are (at least) two aspects of this evolution that will have a significant impact on both what Extension at OSU looks like in five years and, beyond that, our opportunities for success.  They are access and analytics.

Access
Up until now, the learning management system (LMS) of the University has been a sole domain of credit courses. The specialized tools for grading and managing curriculum for students were not available to Extension faculty and the learners we were trying to reach. If we used an LMS it was a one-off instance of some other tool—such as Moodle. Now, not only will the new Canvas LMS be open and available to Extension faculty and content developers, it will be available at no significantly increased cost. Access to a robust and constantly improving LMS will, over time, change the look, feel, and interactive nature of Extension faculty members’ relationship with our learners. In addition, it opens the door for much more interchangeability among credit and non-credit courses. We have talked for years about whether and how we can create a stronger synergy among the learning opportunities created in Extension and courses that are offered for credit in similar content areas. Access to the Canvas LMS and ultimately the foundation created by the Unizin learning ecosystem will provide common development approach that will allow much more cross-use of Extension learning objects, modules, and even fully developed programs in the credit environment, and vice versa.

Analytics
The world of learning and education will be driven into the future by our greater ability to understand not just how people learn in general, but how individuals participating in our programs learn. Extension has been built over the last 100 years on the concept of personalized learning. Having people resident in our communities around the state has always offered the opportunity for local learners to find individualized solutions to the issues they face. As populations have grown more urbanized and concentrated, we have struggled to maintain that personalized approach. Our Ask-an-Expert initiative is directly related to the goal of personalized response. As embedded analytics become more of a reality in our programs—a direct outcome of working in the Unizin learning ecosystem—we will all be able to “see” more of what works with more granular groups of people when it comes to learning tactics. Not only that, but you will be able to see what others in the consortium are doing to address similar needs. The more we know about how individual people learn, the more we will be able to develop methods of reaching each of them in that individual fashion. Check out the Unizin web site for more background and information:  www.Unizin.org.   As we continue to step through the process of joining the Unizin consortium, we’ll look to you all for early adopters willing to test the waters of this new learning ecosystem.

Now is the time for us all to frame the future of Extension on an educational foundation that is developed and shared by all our colleagues at OSU and around the country.  Watch for your chance to step up and help ensure the long-term success of all our programs.

Marking a prospective student’s learning demands on this spectrum of access helps institutions identify what type of learning solution is needed for the individual, from just-in-time training to a full degree program.
Marking a prospective student’s learning demands on this spectrum of access helps institutions identify what type of learning solution is needed for the individual, from just-in-time training to a full degree program.

Article originally posted on The EvoLLLution

Click here to download interview audio (MP3)

The following interview is with Dave King, associate provost of outreach and engagement at Oregon State University. During recessions, most businesses change gears and focus on maintaining a status quo through the downturn. Some businesses, however, look to continue growing through these periods. In this interview, King shares his thoughts on ramping up in the postsecondary space, and discusses how it can be possible for an institution to maintaining a focus on institutional growth during periods of declining demand.

1. What are the most significant challenges of competing in the postsecondary space during times of declining demand?

The big issue is how to focus on what the real expectations of the learners are. If demand is off a bit, you have to intensify your focus on what the real demand is and see what you can do about meeting that. That requires more attention to the market analysis you do and the understanding of the marketplace.

2. Is the expectation for institutional growth during downturns realistic?

The market is much larger than many of us think. If you take a look at the numbers from the Lumina Foundation, there are 39 million people within the United States with some college and no bachelor’s degree. Many of those are well into their professional lives and, just in Oregon, there are 940,000 people with some college and no bachelor’s degree. Providing access to those folks is an extremely large market. Just because the demand has softened a little bit, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t reach out to have a very customized and nimble product for that group of people.

3. What are a few strategies institutions can put in place to continue growing enrollments during periods of declining demand?

One of the things we’ve done (and we had been watching market demand for a while) is try to identify those areas where many people or most people have desires. Lots of people need to be doing better at their job tomorrow. Moving them toward actually working toward a degree is an evolutionary process.

One of the things we’ve done is create a post-baccalaureate degree in computer science. Computer science was an area people told us they were really looking for additional educational opportunities. Secondarily, if you already had a bachelor’s degree or were approaching a bachelor’s degree, you could spend one more year with us online and you would have a dual degree. The cost of that, although it’s a fairly premium expense, is less than getting a master’s degree, either face to face or online because you only spend a year doing it. Those folks coming out of that program are finding that their starting jobs are at the same level that the master’s students are starting.

We’re disrupting the marketplace a little bit by moving in and finding a niche where people actually get what they need in a more direct fashion.

4. What role does the extended campus play in helping to drive this growth, and what role does the institution itself play?

What’s important to realize is that there’s a full spectrum of access where [a prospective student’s level of] demand would find a place to land. We could have cooperative extension programming, we can have learning modules, we can have full continuing ed professional programs, we can have credit courses, etc.

The important thing is to have a full spectrum of these access points to meet the demand that’s out there. What we’re finding is that in the non-credit area and in the continuing ed area, we can be a little bit more nimble, a little more reactive; we can actually start some things that people can try and test at a lower price point. That means we have to try to figure out how to connect the credit side from extended campus and the professional and continuing ed group and that kind of thing. There’s a certain amount of culture that has to be bridged in those areas. If we can be nimble in some kind of the spectrum and really try new things, that gives us a leg up in how we meet the demand.

Marking a prospective student’s learning demands on this spectrum of access helps institutions identify what type of learning solution is needed for the individual, from just-in-time training to a full degree program.

5. Is there anything you’d like to add about the growth imperative during periods of declining demand and how institutions can reinvent themselves to make sure they can still compete and grow when traditional marketplaces are starting to fail?

The real issue is, how do we evolve from what has been 300 years of supply-side approach where we said, “We’re the experts, we know what you need” to the demand side, to understanding what the demand is and being able to provide something along that spectrum of access that allows people to find what they want when they want it?

When the Internet surfaced as the next big thing in the ’90s, there were a whole lot of people out there that had no idea, technologically, how it worked, but they began to realize that what this embodies: it’s that “I get what I want when I want it.”

In education, if we can’t figure that out, then we’re at peril.

Key Takeaways

  • Through there is diminished demand in the traditional postsecondary market, there are a large number of new market streams that higher education institutions could focus on to continue growth.
  • It’s important to ensure the institution offers programming that appeals to prospective students at every level of the spectrum of access.
  • If institutions don’t serve students as customers who expect a high quality of service, they will struggle in the new postsecondary marketplace.

Related content

Check out the first digital badge, released last week by our Professional and Continuing Education unit. This one is for people who complete the Master Gardener Online course. More to come from the PACE team in this area!

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And a question …

If you had a day in a car with Provost Randhawa, what questions would you have for him? Please share your comments below.