University Business October 2017 - 12

OnTopic

Q&A with William Massy

have some idea of what your students
are learning. There are a lot of different
things that people are trying in order to
do that.
The trouble is, it's all individual effort. It doesn't go anywhere, it doesn't
build on itself, it's not cumulative.
What's the solution?
If you're really going to make radical
changes-and that's what course redesign is all about-you've got to have
some kind of measure.
One thing that Carol Twigg and
her group at the National Center for
Academic Transformation have insisted
on from the beginning when they work
with schools on course redesign is that
you don't change the structure of a
course without first having decided
what your learning objectives are and
then writing them down.
Then you find some kind of metric
to measure the degree to which you are
succeeding in achieving those objectives,
and you create a baseline measure of
what you're getting from your present
configuration.
If you can do that in one department,
you can do it more broadly and you can
then take the results of those measures
and put them into your academic business model. Now you've got info on cost,
revenue and margin as well as the learning measure. That's the way to proceed
on this. It's feasible, and I've found faculties tend to like it once they get into it.
You also discuss market forces. Markets typically determine price as well
as quality but that doesn't happen in
education. Institutions don't communicate why things cost so much.
There are several reasons that universities don't do it. First the administration,
the people who handle the communications to the public, don't know themselves. It's hard to communicate what
you don't know yourself.
Second, I suspect that some have an
12 | October 2017

I don't think that we're even on the threshold of
broad-gauge normed tests that would be useful
for decision-making within universities.
idea that while they may be at the top of
the rankings based on research, reputation and selection ratios, if there were
really good measures of learning they
probably wouldn't be that much better
than the second-tier institutions.
I have a pretty strong personal feeling that's true-although, as they say,
nobody can prove it.
What I would like to see-and
maybe it's utopian-is for the market to
know what the universities themselves
are doing to assure their quality. Do
they have systems in place? Do they do
the things that people who study quality know very well they need to do? Do
they have teams working on it? Are they
trying to develop qualitative measures?
If an institution isn't putting time
and effort into these tasks they probably aren't doing nearly as good a job as
they could do. There needs to be some
kind of measure of the effort that an
institution is putting toward improving
its quality.
Very few institutions now have much
of an organized effort to either systemically improve quality or systemically try
to control or reduce costs. The single
bit of marketplace information I would
like to see would be the degree to which
an institution does those things. The
chances are, if they're working on it seriously, they are making some progress.
Where does reengineering start?
It could start anywhere but I think the
best place is with the senior administration of the university: the president,
the provost, and the executive vice
president or chief financial officer.

That triumvirate is really best positioned to make it happen.
You really have to get those three
people on board in order to make a
serious difference.
If the senior management of the
institution and its governance structure
put their backs behind it, there are all
sorts of things they can organize. But
they must be prepared to do it over a
period of years-this is not something
that gets done in six months.
Reengineering the university is not
an edict from on high, it's more of an
ongoing conversation, right?
Very much so. It's a series of sustained
and ever-deepening conversation about
this stuff, about quality, cost, measurement and improvement. That usually doesn't exist to the degree that is
necessary to begin reengineering. For
example, take the amount of time and
effort that the senior administration
devotes to the matter of how we can
improve our teaching and learning and
cost structures, and compare that with
the amount of time that is spent on, say,
athletics or research, faculty scholarships, or faculty research and other topics of the day such as diversity, gender
issues and so on. I'm not saying any of
those are not important-they are-but
the problem is that all that stuff tends to
crowd out even an intent to worry about
modernizing the teaching and learning
systems-and it shouldn't. That's the
core business for most institutions, the
business of the business.
Tim Goral is senior editor of UB.
www.universitybusiness.com


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Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of University Business October 2017

University Business October 2017 - Cover1
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University Business October 2017 - 1
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