November 17, 2021
Topic: 
Integrated Academic Operations

3 Lessons Learned from Launching an Academic Operations Hub

Insights from Illinois Central College on Curriculum, Catalog, and Course Scheduling

Managing the curriculum, catalog, and class scheduling has traditionally been an arduous and complex effort for institutions. Administrators spend time coordinating a flurry of paper documents, emails, and spreadsheets to create or amend the schedule, curriculum, and catalog. In addition to the administrator headache from paper-based, fragmented processes, students suffer from inconsistent information and course schedules that don't fit their needs

Dr. Jill Wright, AVP of Assessment, Accreditation, Academic Services at Illinois Central College (ICC) knows this better than anyone. ICC noticed an alarming trend - part-time enrollment was climbing and full-time enrollment was declining, despite the same number of students at the institution. Students were unable to get into the classes they needed or when they wanted them.

ICC set off on a journey to integrate all aspects of their academic operations to ensure students would no longer feel the ramifications of disparate processes. Dr. Wright shared her lessons learned from working with the campus community to integrate their processes and move to a single academic operations platform.

1. Take time to determine campus needs before selecting a vendor

Institutions should map all of the processes and pain points they're hoping to address with a new software solution before selecting a vendor. This includes mapping academic operations processes related to the course schedule, curriculum, catalog, and room scheduling. For example, course scheduling may include instructors, rooms, room resources, supplemental instruction, time slots, and more. To create the schedule, administrators spend time downloading spreadsheets, highlighting changes, and sharing back and forth with each academic program. At the end of this process, institutions often find themselves with rooms that are double booked and unbalanced course schedules that make it difficult for students to get into classes that fit their schedules.

"We began to think strategically about how to get this work done, instead of every semester feeling like we had never scheduled classes before" - Dr. Jill Wright

2. Select a product that aligns with your strategic vision

For many institutions, using standalone solutions to manage the catalog, curriculum, course scheduling, and event planning is insufficient. At ICC, they knew they needed a vendor that understood the pains of standalone solutions and the negative impact on students. Ultimately, they sought a strategic partner that would help them assess their disparate processes and how they could integrate them. This partner would bring best practices in the integration process to positively impact the institution and ultimately drive student success.

"Everyone knows our technology budgets are growing, so if we bought a tech product it needed to have the same strategic vision and priorities as us. We needed a strategic partner to integrate siloed processes and bring a a high level of collaboration." - Dr. Jill Wright

3. Build campus buy-in for product adoption

Work with stakeholders on campus before selecting a solution to help them understand the current processes in place, how processes intersect, and how they may not be serving students' best interests. Without employee buy-in, institutions are unable to leverage the full power of an academic operations platform.

"This is about change management, you have to realize that a software will never do it for you. I will help you get there only after identify where you want to go and how you will get there" - Dr. Jill Wright

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