How to get Executive Buy-in For an Academic Operations Platform

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One of the most consistent barriers that our partners face in the process of adopting an academic operations platform on campus is securing executive buy-in and proving the value is worth the budget. Registrars struggle to garner sponsorship from executives, and even folks in academic leadership struggle to win the support of their peers. This step-by-step guide provides the information, data, and steps you need to take in order to overcome these challenges on your campus, and ultimately to modernize your operations and software. You'll learn how other institutions have managed this process, how to make an ROI-based argument for a variety of different use cases, and how to navigate common objections.

Key Definitions

In this guide we are going to reference the below two terms. While we acknowledge that these may vary by institution, here are some definitions that we use to ensure we’re all on the same page:

Academic Operations: A combination of the processes that contribute to the enrollment, retention, and graduation of students by enabling them to discover, access, and complete the courses they need to succeed, including: curriculum lifecycle and program management, catalog development, institutional policy administration, academic scheduling, regulatory compliance, people and space resource allocation, and degree auditing.

Curriculum Lifecycle Management: The end-to-end curricular data management process, from course proposal and approval, to publication in the catalog, through scheduling sections of the course. Curriculum lifecycle management sits within academic operations.

Overview of Problem

Legacy, disjointed, and siloed academic operations are negatively impacting enrollment rates.

Historically, academic operations have been characterized by antiquated tools, an inability to access meaningful insights, and siloed tasks. This reality is felt most immediately by administrators, whose time is consumed by spreadsheet course scheduling, static schedule rollovers, manual curriculum management, PDF-based updates to the catalog and handbook, and a heavy reliance on IT for custom reporting and integration management.

However, students bear the ultimate burden(s) imposed by legacy processes in academic operations, as they wind up being less likely to enroll, or re-enroll, in an institution, as well as to graduate from it altogether. Difficulty getting into classes necessary to graduate, an inability to plan an efficient degree path, and a lack of user-friendly software, all contribute to decreasing enrollment numbers. These administrative shortcomings not only put learners at a disadvantage when they enter the workforce, but also weigh on the financial health of the institution at a time when student success and budget are at the forefront of many academic leaders' minds.

Current State of Things

The majority of colleges and universities today employ one of two outdated approaches to managing Academic Operations:

  1. Over half of institutions continue to approach scheduling and curriculum and catalog management by hand, leveraging PDFs and excel spreadsheets, necessitating manual, duplicate data entry.
  2. An increasing number of campuses are adopting point solutions that integrate with the SIS to address different stages of the curriculum lifecycle. This disjointed configuration requires a heavy amount of IT involvement to maintain separate integrations, or updates by hand.
Disparate Academic Operations

Negative Impacts of Historical Approaches to Academic Operations

These outdated approaches to managing academic operations lead to:

  • Lower enrollment
  • Inefficient use of institutional resources and staff time
  • High costs to maintain outdated systems
  • Lack of insight into data to make student-centric decisions
  • Lower graduation rates
  • Administrator frustration

The Solution

Higher Education administrators deserve an easy-to-use tool that gives them confidence, visibility, and trust that they are executing student-centric, data-driven academic processes in order to help student sand boost enrollment.

Coursedog’s Academic Operations Platform empowers academic administrators to execute exceptional educational experiences.

Coursedog prevents institutions from losing modern students to legacy software by defining the new game of academic operations: integrated processes that work together, supported by industry insights and best practices.

Executive Buy-in

Getting academic leadership to champion a solution can be difficult; however, it is imperative to both procuring and successfully implementing an academic operations platform.

Executives often do not see the day-to-day pains associated with legacy approaches to curriculum lifecycle management, thus making them more likely to underestimate the urgent need for innovation. Below are a few examples of responses we often hear from academic leadership prior to their understanding the impact of legacy approaches on higher-level institutional goals.

  • “This is the way we’ve always done things”
  • “We don’t have the budget for this solution”
  • “Our processes are too unique to address with software”
  • “It is too risky to implement an all-in-one solution”
  • “We don’t have time to do this now”
  • “We can always do this next year”
  • “Faculty would not be happy"

Higher-Level Institutional Goals

Coursedog’s Academic Operations Platform advances shared goals between executive leadership and the institution by:

  • Supporting curricular innovation to keep up with student demand and job market trends
  • Presenting a branded and searchable catalog to increase enrollment
  • Reallocating IT resources to focus on high-impact initiatives
  • Creating a single source of truth for curricular data in order to reduce disparate, and potentially inaccurate sources of information
  • Reducing time administrators spend on manual work in order to focus on strategies for student success
  • Helping students get into the classes they need to graduate in order to expedite time to degree
  • Making operational data visible and accessible across campus, allowing for data-driven, student-centric decisions

Contextualizing Approach

Turning senior leaders into champions for operational excellence

In order to make an internal case for modernizing your Academic Operations, senior leaders need to understand how a platform that addresses the on-the-ground pain-points of administrators can also help to advance their and the institution’s strategic objectives.

By reframing your daily pain-points as roadblocks to student and institutional success you can help connect the dots between your and your campuses’ need for an Academic Operations Platform.

Example 1: Lack of Data-Based Insights

Administrator Challenge: It’s hard or impossible for us to get the scheduling and curriculum data that’s needed to make student-centric decisions.

Institutional Challenge: Without data-driven scheduling and curriculum management we aren’t able to offer the correct classes students need to graduate.

Solution: We need out-of-the-box demand analytics to project course demand, integrated tightly with degree audit data to meet students where they are in their degree path.

Questions to Ask Senior Leaders:

  • Do our scheduling practices effectively take into account what our students need today, and what they'll need in the future?
  • How much time does it take IT to spin up custom scheduling and curriculum management reports?
  • Do we have maximum visibility into our scheduling and curricular data for effective decision making?
  • Are we confident that our scheduling and curriculum data is always accurate and up to date so that we can draw meaningful insights?

Example 2: Time Wasted on Manual Processes

Administrator Challenge: We spend hundreds of hours manually entering data and maintaining spreadsheets and PDFs to support our academic operations.

Institutional Challenge: We are investing human capital into maintaining outdated, manual processes when we would prefer our administrators to be working on more strategic initiatives that contribute to student success.

Solution: We need to move our academic operations into a single, integrated platform that eliminates duplicate data entry.

Questions to Ask Senior Leaders:

  • How much time do administrators currently spend manually scheduling, processing curricular changes, and updating the catalog?
  • How have students been impacted by human errors resulting from manual academic operations?
  • If each administrator had additional bandwidth each semester, what high-impact initiatives would you have them focus on?

Example 3: Siloed & Inefficient Processes

Administrator Challenge: Our curriculum management process is siloed and tedious, making it difficult to track and organize communications.

Institutional Challenge: Our faculty are dissuaded from submitting course and program proposals due to delays in the approval process, stymying curricular innovation and impacting our institution’s academic reputation.

Solution: We need a single platform to streamline and consolidate the curricular approval process, replacing PDFs and email ping-pong, in order to efficiently update courses and programs to meet student demand.

Questions to Ask Senior Leaders:

  • Are we able to innovate our curricular offerings quickly enough to meet student demand and job market trends?
  • Are students not enrolling because we are not offering them the classes they need?
  • Do we have bottlenecks in our existing curricular review process that delays changes?

Example 4: Costs Associated with Legacy Systems

Administrator Challenge: We have to rely heavily on IT to maintain legacy systems and integrations that often delay our processes.

Institutional Challenge: We are draining money and resources maintaining disconnected legacy systems that could be reallocated to serve high-priority institutional goals.

Solution: We should reduce costs by implementing an Academic Operations platform that reduces IT involvement and eliminates the need to have multiple contracts with different vendors.

Questions to Ask Senior Leaders:

  • How much budget are we currently allocating towards maintaining legacy software?
  • If each IT specialist had additional bandwidth each semester, what high-impact initiatives would you have them focus on?
  • What ROI are we not realizing from not having an Academic Operations Platform?

Example 5: Need to Digitize Academic Operations

Administrator Challenge: Our processes are highly unique and institution specific, so there are no tools that can help us.

Institutional Challenge: Our academic operations have not been innovated in years, and live in the minds of a subset of administrators, making it difficult to keep up with shifting student needs.

Solution: We need to adopt a highly configurable, no-code solution that will allow us to digitize our existing processes, and will give us the flexibility to make changes as needed.

Questions to Ask Senior Leaders:

  • How can we ensure that knowledge of our processes are not lost when the administrators that own academic operations retire?
  • Have we ever explored tools that will support our institution-specific processes while alleviating existing pain points?
  • Are we missing potential areas for improvement by not regularly evaluating our academic operations?

Next Steps

Academic Operations platforms benefit on-the-ground administrators, senior leadership, learners, andthe institution as a whole. Leverage this kit to start the conversation with executives on your campus, and move your institution one step closer to modern academic operations:

  • Student-Centric Scheduling
  • Efficient Curriculum Processes
  • Online Catalogs and Handbooks
  • Forms and Workflows

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