How to Start a New Continuing Education Unit


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Presentation at UPCEA, Boston, 2013.

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  • Initially, the opportunity looked like the Stone of Sisyphus. A greek tragedy where the same approach was taken over and over again yielding the same unfortunate result.
  • When I initially moved into my new role, everyone tried hard to be nice, but it was obvious that most of the prior breakups with the individual who had led the CE efforts were messy and trust needed to be earned over time.
  • Along with the “wait and see” attitude across campus was the fact that the ExtensionServiceandcolleges werelookingformaximumreturnonminimuminvestment. A little like trying to get the full flavor of a soda without the consequences.
  • We needed some time to build our infrastructure, the core part of a new team and generate some new signature projects.
  • Ideally, find someplace very safe to build your new organization. You’ll need to be able pilot some of your approaches and technology without getting overwhelmed by the larger university’s needs. You also need enough control over the effort so that those on the outside can’t direct the effort at the level of low-level details.
  • Gather thecodebreakingequipment.Market analyses, business planning:EduventureandEABresearch,UPCEA conferences,peeruniversitynetworking, audience analysis, industry partnerships, astrongdoseofhumilityandaplan.
  • Try to improve the lives of your university partners (revenue & recognition) and the lives of your students. This rising water effect becomes more apparent as the success of a few programs spills over into programs that haven’t been as successful. Seek critical mass for marketing efforts, acceptance of your new unit, etc.
  • Rescuethewaywardprojectsandgetreadytoventureintochoppywaters. Once we moved out of the harbor, we began to find abandoned projects and disallusioned faculty who had ventured out onto the ocean without the proper map, crew and resources. Projects that needed to be rescued oftentimes involved a faculty member who had to be convinced to abandon his ship even though he or she knew the project wasn’t going to be successful.
  • Robert Clinton in “The Making of a Leader”
  • The CE audience,businessmodel,staffing,marketingApproach—these were all different.Initially, we tried hard to repurpose credit-based online courses for noncredit students or drawing on marketing approaches used with degree students. These all failed. Thereisnosuchthingasanorangethatlookslikeanapple.
  • The Currency of the Realm wasn’t necessarily a businessplan,vision,team or form offunding—these were all very importantThe mostimportantneedweresomeearlysuccessesthatwecouldpointtoasexamples—thishasbecomethecurrencywedrawonwhenbuildingnewinroadswithpartners.
  • In a knowledge-worker economy, successful companies value their employees as their most important resource.
  • Early on, versatility is paramount. A programmer on my team brought me this fortune one day after lunch…In basketball terms, I was looking for individuals who could play 1-5 when needed even though it might stretch them from time to time.
  • Success starts as s state of mind. We needed to find smart, entrepreneurial individuals who were willing to regularly take risks. My responsibility was to find these kinds of individuals and look for ways to connect success with reward—have to be creative and persistent in a university setting to provide that kind of work environment.
  • In our case, this has meant sometimes putting in longer hours, moving out of our comfort zone and being willing to sacrifice some short-term comfort to help advance the long-term vision.
  • Iniitially small team with those who had been on the team during the down years – more like baseball at that point (a few players doing the work and the rest watching from a distance)
  • As we hired the right kind of people, football (heavy contac—people bumping up against each other with some role confusion. Much of the time, just trying to move the ball forward and getting to the next down. My role was more important at that point as I felt like I was calling and coordinating all of the plays.
  • After our first year as we added more staff and the amount of work increased, it felt like we were shifting to a team where nobody ever sat in the dugout and where every player on the team’s role was crucial. Perhaps a little more like a good basketball team– every player on the team matters – Not surprisingly, basketball teams value role the specialist, but also versatility. Playersadapt and learn a scheme based on their skill set and changing game conditions.
  • For coach JohnWooden, rated the greatest coach ever by ESPN, one key aspect of success was relationships. In other words, it’s often about the people, not the product and we’ve tried to keep that in mind as our work across the state grows and we can sometimes be tempted to jeopardize a professional relationship for some work-related benefit.
  • It’s about the people—an amazing team that can take on any challenge.
  • It’s hard to get your bearings sometimes on the open ocean and there are definitely some big waves.
  • too many important, but nonessential meetings, committees, tasks and projects. Stay focused on the target.
  • There are consequences to losing track of the road in front of you….
  • Look for ways to help team members feel valued: more responsibility (or less), help throttle change differentially for those who need it, be open and remind them your culture will continue to change as you add new people and your objectives adapt to the changing terrain around you.
  • Look for ways to help team members feel valued: more responsibility (or less), help throttle change differentially for those who need it, be open and remind them your culture will continue to change as you add new people and your objectives adapt to the changing terrain around you.
  • When I first interviewed at OSU about 5 years ago, someone on the interview committee explained his reason for working in a university setting.
  • Oftentimes, the first step in starting a new unit at your university isn’t about teamwork, breaking the code or finding a safe harbor to build your program. For some of you, it might initially be about getting your head out in front of your ski tips and launching forward with reckless abandon.
  • All the while staying focused on your university’s mission and priorities so you land with both feet. Two years later with the riskiest part of the task behind us, we’ve built the framework for a program that is showing success. However, the university leadership will need to more clearly articulate how our efforts fit with the university’s mission and priorities.
  • How to Start a New Continuing Education Unit

    1. 1. UPCEA’s 98th Annual ConferenceBoston, MA From Zero to Sixty in 18 Months Oregon State University Dave King • Associate Provost Chris LaBelle • Director
    2. 2. Eight directors in 10 years
    3. 3. Frequently a messy breakup
    4. 4. Lots of empty calories…
    5. 5. The Solution?
    6. 6. Step 1: Find a safe environment…
    7. 7. Like a small, navigable harbor…
    8. 8. Step 2: Break the code
    9. 9. Step 3: Raise the water… (slowly)
    10. 10. Step 4: Rescue the wayward projects
    11. 11. A philosophy:Methods are many, principles are few,methods always fail, principles never do.
    12. 12. Principle #1 - Credit is not noncredit
    13. 13. Principle #2 – Lead with real examples
    14. 14. Principle #3 – It’s about finding the right team players
    15. 15. The Players.
    16. 16. The ideal team player will seek out new challenges
    17. 17. Smart, risk takers who believed we could succeed...
    18. 18. ...and are committed to the vision.
    19. 19. The Team.
    20. 20. Principle #3 – It’s about finding the right players
    21. 21. And then more like football…
    22. 22. Ultimately, every player on the team matters…
    23. 23. Don’t forget to define what success looks like…
    24. 24. Make friendship a fine art. — John Wooden
    25. 25. The Results.
    26. 26. • Team of 2 to 23• 100+ new programs (from 3)• 500k+ in grants & foundation money• Off-campus partnerships and orders from big business• March = 285 enrollments (record monthly total)• More signature CE programs @ OSU• Growing awareness of our unit• Team ownership & emerging leaders• Website traffic up considerably• Programs that are changing lives for our audience
    27. 27. The Open Seas.
    28. 28. Stay focused…
    29. 29. Or there are consequences …
    30. 30. Your culture will continue to change…
    31. 31. But your principles shouldn’t.
    32. 32. Because we’re not selling empty calories…
    33. 33. What’s your role?
    34. 34. Sometimes risk is necessary
    35. 35. But try to land on both mission and priorities.
    36. 36. Contact