Institutional Readiness Criteria - Example 1

Does the institution want to control or reduce costs and increase academic productivity?

It is questionable how many institutions really want to reduce or control costs. Many, for example, believe that rich inputs are characteristic of high quality. The Program in Course Redesign (PCR) was based upon the premise that participants wanted to increase academic productivity. Like Alcoholics Anonymous whose program can be effective only if you want to stop drinking, the PCR can help you increase productivity if you want to do it.

What evidence can you provide to demonstrate an institutional commitment to increasing productivity? Here are some examples of the ways various institutions have responded to this criterion.

Cal Poly Pomona

California and the CSU are growth environments. There are political as well as fiscal incentives to find new ways to manage that growth. The strategic planning frameworks of the CSU system and of Cal Poly Pomona have assigned a high priority to increased levels of learning productivity. These plans have been endorsed by the executive leadership of the system and the campus. This priority is especially important as the CSU system is projected to grow by approximately 100,000 students through 2008. Cal Poly Pomona is projected to add 5,000 students during this period, growing from 15,000 to its planned build-out of 20,000 full-time equivalent students. Some of this growth will have to be accommodated through increases in productivity.

The revised "Strategic Planning Guidelines" adopted by Cal Poly Pomona in spring 1997 provide evidence that the institution wants to reduce costs and increase academic productivity. "Inasmuch as Cal Poly Pomona’s primary mission is teaching, efforts must be continued to improve teaching effectiveness and curricula and to implement effective learning outcomes assessments." The strategies for implementing this goal include "efforts to improve the general education program and develop a cost-effective way of offering an interdisciplinary general education program to more students."

On January 28, 1998, the CSU Board of Trustees unanimously endorsed the Cornerstones Report, a systemwide planning framework that states CSU's values, priorities and expectations for the future. The Cornerstones Report articulates the commitment to the idea that the goals of educational quality and institutional efficiency can be complementary. Effective management, including attention to institutional goals and outcomes, must be achieved as a shared responsibility of faculty and administration.

University at Buffalo (SUNY)

SUNY at Buffalo (UB) is acutely aware that its future stability strongly depends upon reduction of costs and increase in productivity. In the largest sense, political, economic, technological, cultural, and demographic shifts compel this understanding. In addition, UB’s analysis of its complex market niche in the powerful competition for students reinforces that perspective. Moreover, from1988 to1999, state tax support for SUNY has declined precipitously. In that period, while average national tax support for higher education has increased 43.4%, it has actually decreased in New York by 0.5%, with state appropriation per FTE student being reduced by 36.5%. New York now ranks 50th –dead last–among all states in its support for higher education. UB is additionally disadvantaged by its location in an upstate region that has not participated in the growth and prosperity experienced downstate and in the rest of the nation.

A majority of UB’s students are drawn from upstate New York where the economy has been flat if not declining, with a third coming from Western New York whose population has diminished 5% since 1990. UB is currently experiencing an enrollment decline otherwise anomalous in the context of modest enrollment increases elsewhere in the SUNY System. Of specific consequence is a system-wide imposition of a Resource Allocation Methodology which calculates return of tuition dollars to the campus based on meeting pre-set enrollment targets. UB is currently 350 FTE students below the target, creating a severe $2 million shortfall for the campus. To recruit more students with constrained resources, UB knows that it must find ways to enhance student academic experience at the same time it controls overall costs.

University of Central Florida

The University of Central Florida is committed to increasing academic productivity through a formal institutional initiative to address the challenges of a rapidly growing student population, a shortage of classroom space, and the need to maintain quality educational opportunities for students. The university is responding to these challenges by aggressively developing distributed learning programs, particularly asynchronous learning through fully Web-based (W) courses and through media/Web-enhanced (M) courses. To meet the diverse needs of a growing student population and to decrease costs through reduced seat time, UCF has committed resources to distributed learning for faculty development, course and program development, assessment for program improvement, and learner support.

There are three goals for converting campus-based courses to W or M courses. The first is to enhance classroom productivity by using full (W) or partial Web-based (M) course delivery. Both methods result in reduced student seat time and therefore reduce classroom space costs. The Web-based courses provide access to those who cannot attend on-campus courses thereby increasing productivity. The second goal is to improve the quality of large-classroom instruction by enhancing interactivity with computer conferencing techniques. The third goal is to enhance student retention and/or completion rates in courses that traditionally have low student success rates by increasing student-student and student-instructor interaction, providing automated tutorials, and monitoring student progress.

Support for distributed learning from the highest levels of the university administration has created an environment in which on-line courses and degree programs are developing rapidly. In less than two years, UCF has progressed from no coordinated distributed learning program to a highly developed program. A pilot of faculty development and instructional design workshops for developing W courses was conducted in Summer 1996 yielding 9 courses offered in Fall 1996. A pilot workshop for developing M courses was conducted in Spring 1997 yielding 14 courses offered in Fall 1997.

Our demographic data revealed that 75 percent of the students enrolled in fully Web-based courses were also enrolled in regular on-campus courses at the same time. Since the Summer 1996 workshop, 138 faculty have been trained to transform their traditional courses to W or M courses. A total of 40 fully Web-based (W) and 75 substantially Web-enhanced (M) courses are being offered during Spring 1999 semester with nearly 6,000 student enrollments. As a result of the success of the on-line initiatives, the administration and colleges have reaffirmed their commitment to expand on-line offerings to reduce costs and increase academic productivity.

University of Tennessee, Knoxville

The University of Tennessee, Knoxville is a land grant, Carnegie I institution with a current enrollment of 19,000 undergraduates and 7,000 graduate students. Over the last decade, UTK has suffered extreme financial difficulties. Operating budgets have remained flat and at levels that existed in the mid-eighties. During the past four years, the number of faculty has decreased while undergraduate enrollment has continued to grow. We expect a 14% increase in entering students for fall 1999. With a rolling admissions policy and mandates from our Board of Trustees for automatic admissions, we have managed to offer instruction to our steadily growing student body with limited resources and with reduced staff. We have achieved this at the expense of operating budgets and maintenance and by outsourcing many of our services. UTK not only wants to control or reduce costs: it is imperative that we do both!

Facing the problem of meeting the demand for quality instruction with limited financial resources, we are investigating means for using technology to achieve more efficient and cost-effective instructional delivery. At the same time, we are examining ways to improve and streamline our core curricular offerings. Our general education committee has identified a need for greater attention to information, computing, and oral and written communication competencies. We remain committed to academic productivity of the highest possible standards.