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    The Great Do-Over of 2020: Inter-Departmental Collaboration in Student Success

    Now that Fall semester 2020 is in full swing and remote learning is offered in various delivery modes, how does your campus leverage the advantages that have become apparent in this new normal?



    How are stakeholders tackling the many unique challenges that have also become apparent? Do faculty and administration agree on what, exactly, they will focus on together? Are educators ready to fast-forward workflow changes such as dynamic scheduling, advanced classroom technologies, and curriculum restructuring?


    If you’re like many of the individuals and teams we’ve heard from these past few months, you may be observing more open and focused inter-departmental conversations than ever before.


    For humanity to proactively cooperate, eliminate redundancies, bridge misunderstandings, and develop efficiencies in improving access and equity, a ‘change mindset’ is needed. As partners, those of us who have made these changes in other industries are ready to assist in facilitating the campus movement that makes sense for your institution.


    A Question of Perspectives


    In the article “Student Success – 3 BIG Questions,” Kathe Pelletier, Director of Student Success Community Programs for EDUCAUSE provides her readers with a clear-cut framework as a catalyst for conversations to begin to emerge between cross-disciplinary departments.


    “Different stakeholders hear different perspectives to the same challenge, i.e. student success.” she explains “Both the advisor and the instructor overcome different barriers, at different times, in different courses.”
    Bringing Diverse Stakeholders Closer to a Shared Understanding of Student Success


    Instructors, those closest to the learner’s needs, know the key performance indicators like time on task. Others include timely registration, early and/or frequent learner engagement with peers, activities completed in the learning management system, and proactively seeking advising appointments.


    But these are not the only metrics to measure academic performance. The instructor also looks at the learners’ understanding of the fundamentals and their ability to keep pace with the activities required to learn a new skill.


    Advisors hear about barriers such as confusion about the curricula, concerns about wasted transfer credits – all distractors to time on task. Instructors may not be as intimately familiar as advisors with learners’ end goal – goals like career advancement, personal enrichment, or certificate and degree completion, which may influence time on task and other key performance indicators.


    All stakeholders recognize that blind spots exist that can not always be measured when it comes to potential barriers to course completion. Barriers like the impact of human struggles, food or housing insecurity, language barriers, cultural bias, or a sense of belonging. It’s these kinds of psycho-social issues that can distract learners from the task at hand. If time on task is hampered, the learners’ capacity to progress through learning objectives is hampered.


    Learning in a new subject, in one course, is presented incrementally, and sequentially. Completing this and living one’s life may seem impossible for some adult learners.


    Campus-wide we look at drop-outs at the course level. What about persistence between semesters? By the time these metrics are examined, the student may have already departed the system.


    Readiness and completion of gateway courses, credit accumulation, and full-time continuous enrollment are all indicators that registrars, advisors, instructors, and mentors (different stakeholders) can use to engage in a shared dialogue with both the learner and each other.


    When it comes to higher education, the context we forget is when one campus is delivering education at scale to 2,000 – 5,000 learners, there are a lot of distinct processes carried out to fulfill all of the individual learner needs.


    Society needs colleges to innovate so they can educate a greater number of adults in career readiness, upward mobility, and/or navigate a degree program while working. To innovate, colleges and universities require a change in workflow processes. Operating in a remote workforce has shown society that a change mindset is essential.


    Using Collaborative Decision Making to Accelerate Innovation


    In facilitating collaborative approaches for 25 years, we at the WebStudy Foundation have seen that mutual understanding of numerous diverse roles across large systems generates engagement and alignment naturally. Still, the most commonly practiced communication and collaboration processes today continue to be insufficient for the 21st-century requirements of large systems.


    In our experience, bringing all minds on deck is essential for effectively planning for an unknown future. Through facilitated engagements, across diverse groups, we create inquiries to uncover blind spots on what one person or group doesn’t know that they don’t know.


    Higher education has always conducted committee discussions and intellectual discourse. Applying technology-enhanced facilitation can accelerate the time it takes a committee to produce a meaningful change that all stakeholders buy-into.


    What if you could tap into what it takes a committee two months to align on in one week? What would the impact be for your institution in its journey towards a shared understanding of student success?


    Creating a World in Which Human Collaboration is Prioritized


    The fact is, actionable solutions to improve outcomes are possible within a single semester, but only if human collaboration and communication are prioritized to bridge gaps and create shared understanding. To do that, stakeholders must adopt an explorer’s mentality and be willing to step into the unknown to uncover their blind spots.


    At WebStudy Foundation, we’re calling on advisors, faculty, educators, students, and all those who are passionate about student success to take the reins of innovation and reimagine what the path to success looks like. What would it mean to create a true partnership across stakeholders, not only your institution but industry-wide?


    A global pandemic has forced change to a system where many believed change was immutable. Fortunately, colleges and universities have always been fertile ground for creating shifts in societal mindsets, and as an industry, higher education has historically met a cross-section of societal needs. Needs like career advising, financial assistance, community organizations, scholarships, athletics, research, and diverse academic course offerings.


    In partnership, will we add inter-departmental collaboration to the list?

    Lexi St. Laurent


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