With student success initiatives trending in higher education, policy managers are feeling the pressure. These initiatives span departments and challenge the traditional way of doing just about everything. Change is necessary and good, but requires communication, coordination and shared governance in the college and university environment. Policy management has a pivotal role to play in effecting change in an agile and controlled manner.
Importance of Student Success
A whopping 84 out of 100 presidents, chancellors and provosts voted student success as one of the top 4 leadership priorities for 2016 in a UB survey. Institutions of higher learning are under increasing pressure to deliver strong return on investment for students and their families. Rising costs, demographic shifts, an uncertain economy and new technologies challenge everything from how courses are taught to how students study, collaborate and view their career paths. Student success is about the whole student—encompassing curricular and co-curricular activities, living spaces, learning environment, safety and preparing for later life.
Student success initiatives are far-reaching by nature. They require extensive communication and collaboration to achieve shared governance. Policy managers and administrators are challenged to document and distribute new policies and procedures in a way that ensures that all voices are heard and changes are understood. In achieving this goal, they pave the way for student success.
Student Success Trends
University Business (UB) recently published a list of what’s trending in blending academics and life lessons. Some of these trends are:
- Living/learning communities. Many universities, like the University of Iowa, describe student housing as living learning communities that blend residential and academic experience. Some, like Old Dominion University, offer LLCs that focus on particular interests, providing living-learning experiences that lead to student success.
- Applied learning experiences. Students are encouraged to combine classroom and real-world experience through applied learning experiences (ALE). At Tufts University School of Medicine, for example, students in the final semester conduct a project that applies classroom knowledge to a real world health communication problem.
- Intrusive (proactive) advising. Gustavus Adolphus University recently received a vocational exploration grant, for example, that will be used to training student counselors in holding conversations with students about their aspirations and desires. The intent is to get students thinking early about what they want to do with their lives.
- Embedding learning experiences in students’ campus jobs. At Southern Oregon University, student employment is intended to complement the student’s academic and career goals.
- Virtual counseling. Virtual counseling centers offer career exploration tests that can be taken and scored online.
- Safety and Security. The chancellor and president of Texas Woman’s University described the challenge of safety and security as finding the right balance of open, enjoyable campus life and controls that mitigate safety and security issues.
Responding to these trends requires communication, cooperation, flexibility and accountability.
Leveraging Technology for Student Success
Professors, students and administrators alike have new technologies available to them that change the way they interact, teach, learn and manage in the college and university environment. Some examples are:
- Huddle rooms for impromptu group studying and team collaboration
- Digital whiteboarding for sharing lecture material and concept visualization, in person and remotely over the Internet
- Social media for building friendships, information sharing, real-time notification, polling, flash gatherings and much more
- Blended learning platforms for combining live, instructor-led coursework and other resources like papers, recorded lectures, interactive testing and instant messaging
Policy management systems help control the creation, approval and distribution of new rules and guidelines for how technology is applied in the academic environment and used by students. Students, teachers and administrators can all be required to acknowledge new policies and procedures by robust policy management controls.
Safety and Security for Student Success
Every institution of higher learning has an obligation to provide a safe and secure environment for their students. At the same time, free speech and free association are hallmarks of campus life. Maintaining a balance between fun and safe, between liberty and security can be a challenge.
Safety and security are bolstered by campus awareness programs, codes of conduct, training, and internal policies and procedures. Policy managers have a key part in this by controlling the development, distribution and acknowledgement processes and providing an online source for quick reference.
Compliance Management and Student Success
Institutions of higher learning must comply with policies and regulations imposed by many different organizations. They must comply with their own, of course, and those of the larger university system to which they belong (if applicable). They also must comply with all local, state and federal laws and regulations governing them. This can be a daunting task even without the added pressures of reorienting toward student success.
Compliance management systems make a significant contribution toward meeting all compliance obligations by providing a workflow for policy creation, approval and distribution. They also can require acknowledgement of new policies, provide easy access and enable both testing and surveying.
Building Blocks of Student Success
Many forces have combined to drive colleges and universities to reconsider how they deliver value to their students. Technologies now connect students with information and each other in ways unimaginable a generation ago. People live longer, work later and expect more in everything. Students want to enter the workforce empowered to make decisions, be creative and have a life as well. Universities and colleges are stepping up to help students achieve this dream with more rounded educations, career assistance, work-focused training and a realistic calculation of return on investment.
Policy managers and administrators have to step up as well, adopting technology that gives them the flexibility and accountability required by the crush of new policies and procedures. Powerful software now manages creation, approval, distribution and acknowledgement processes, making it easier for policy managers to be responsive and even proactive in policy and procedures management.
Communication, cooperation, flexibility and accountability within a shared governance framework is the standard in higher education. Policy management is the cornerstone upon which this framework rests. Using a systematic approach to managing documents, workflow, approvals, distribution, feedback and acknowledgements gives colleges and universities the foundation required to support student success.