Resiliency in the Now Normal: Spending for Sustainability and Scale is Key

Published by Carrie O'Donnell
on Apr 22, 2021

Earlier in April, Matt Reed proposed the best use of the $12B included in President Biden’s infrastructure legislation for updating infrastructure in community colleges, would be “ways that situate colleges to be more resilient in future economic headwinds.” 

For those of you unfamiliar with Reed, not only does he write the “Confessions of a Community College Dean” blog on Inside Higher Ed, nearly 18 years of his career has been in community college leadership positions. Dr. Joshua Kim, director of online programs and strategy at Dartmouth College, fondly refers to him as “Dean Dad.”

In fact, Kim penned a response in support of the infrastructure spending recommendations Reed made in his post and offered an additional recommendation of his own: learning designers. 

“Today, schools (including community colleges) need to invest in three things to develop their online learning infrastructure:
1. Learning Designers
2. Learning Designers
3. Learning Designers
Learning designers (what used to be called instructional designers) are the secret sauce of academic resiliency.” Dr. Joshua Kim, Director of Online Programs and Strategy, Dartmouth College

We couldn’t agree more. After surveying over 12 thousand faculty last summer, we learned from nearly 500 responses that faculty were spending an average 49 hours prepping new courses for the online environment – and 23 hours prepping existing courses. Moreover, 42% had little experience teaching online and nearly half were simply attempting to mirror their face-to-face teaching. It’s no wonder faculty burnout is a significant problem in higher ed.  Everyone is being asked to do more with less. 

Which is why I’d like to suggest that key to the resiliency Reed and Kim emphasize is a focus on sustainability and scale, especially in light of the pandemic. Infrastructure spending must be directed to initiatives that support this. As higher ed continues to reimagine learning for the now normal, whether online, on ground, hyflex or blended, we need to remember that infrastructure also includes people, namely faculty and students. Supporting both with infrastructure spending is critical. [Learn more about Flexing Your Blended Learning Muscles: Let’s Get #PHYGITAL in our recent webinar on-demand.] 

The challenge of course, as Kim points out, is how “learning design talent is massively unequally distributed. The schools with the most resources have the most learning designers.”  Which means even with $12B available, community colleges will need to intentionally and purposefully invest in faculty support and development for teaching in this now normal to create a sustainable future.

The good news: this doesn’t necessarily mean a massive investment in onsite learning designers for every campus. Nor does it mean a big spend in education technology experts. 

For example, last summer, St. Francis College infused their existing faculty development efforts with our Jumpstart bootcamp product to help faculty increase online learner engagement. Central Ohio Technical College leveraged a combination of our Jumpstart and Propel (1:1 consultation with learning designers) products to prepare a team of eLearning Champions to drive learning innovation among fellow faculty. Both of these immersive experiences are grounded in “learn by doing”  principles, central to our Purposeful Learning FrameworkTM. Clients even outsource redesigning existing learning experiences or building new from the ground up to outside experts. 

It really comes down to leveraging your available resources to yield the most sustainable impact at the greatest scale. External partners are an often effective path for making that happen.  

How can we help you sustainably support your faculty? Contact us to learn more!

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