Can coaching help college presidents to cope?

The college presidency, Mark Twain once said, is the “greatest of all callings” for its potential to shape young minds. It is certainly not the easiest calling today. The responsibilities and challenges beyond the ”day job” of running the institution are immense. Nearly half of presidents say they lack time to think and reflect, according to the American Council on Education’s most recent American College Presidents Study.

Yet time to reflect is critical for presidents in an era of tremendous flux in higher education, with each institution plotting its future course without confidence in what academia will look like in 10 or 20 years. For the college president, dealing with ambiguity, absorbing new skills and technologies, and adapting to change can’t be done within the space of policy meetings, planning sessions, donor lunches, or sporting events.

A new source of help

For this reason, some presidents are turning to coaching as a space to breathe, think, and reflect. Coaches can also help a president to learn the ropes of a new position, obtain skills, think through issues, shape strategy, or just to have an objective, sympathetic ear. Executive coaching has been a tried-and-true means of professional support in the corporate sector. It makes sense in an academic setting in which contemplation and reasoned decision-making are valued.

Are presidents receptive to coaching? Most are, according to a survey of sitting presidents recently conducted by my firm. In it, we polled more than 60 sitting presidents on their experience with, and thoughts about, leadership coaching. More than half of these had experienced coaching at some point in their administrative careers. In most cases it was their own choice, though some noted that their board chair or other party had recommended it. The overwhelming response from these individuals was that it was a positive experience and one that they would enthusiastically recommend to others.

(Next page: More insights about finding and using a coach)


How to apply compulsion loop thinking to higher ed

In “4 reasons why student success is misdefined in higher ed and how data can fix it,” we tackled the mis-definition of student success and the need for more actionable data.

Here, we offer a concept of scaling personalized rewards early and often, drawing inspiration and practical lessons from an industry built on “winning”: game theory and the computer gaming industry.

Taking lessons from this industry, especially regarding the concept of a “compulsion loop,” involves acknowledging that some people find this subject controversial. We propose that in the “game” of higher education and completing a degree, personalized rewards fall entirely into the “do no harm” category.

The Compulsion Loop is core to many game designs. It explains an in-game
virtuous circle that keeps players engaged. The loop comprises three stages
each enhancing the next stage, like Escher’s never-ending staircase,
players keep on improving.
—Toby Beresford, founder and chief executive officer

Applying compulsion loop thinking to higher education brings a new set of challenges. First, distribution of tailored data and rewards occur when the subject is active “in the game,” not after completing an action. (Picture receiving an admission offer or a grade days or weeks after submitting.) Second, a simultaneous mix of tailored rewards is best for stimulating emotional response to elicit desired behavior. This mix can include personalized data points, competitive feedback, and new levels of power and challenge.

Bringing this concept to life involves finding institutional answers to four important questions.

  1. What is the main flow of desired student actions and decisions from interest through graduation?
  2. How often do students currently experience an automated “reward” in this flow
  3. What do students perceive and receive as rewards?
  4. How personalized can an automated reward experience be?

(Next page: How universities can scale success)


Artificial intelligence: Enhancing learning or threatening the academy?

A recent Northeastern University/Gallup poll found most Americans optimistic about artificial intelligence’s (AI) impact on their futures while, at the same time, expecting the net effect of AI to be an overall reduction in jobs. If we manage AI effectively, I believe it can be a net benefit to both society and the economy.

The question is: How will higher education manage AI?

Unfortunately, higher education does not have a reputation for managing change effectively. Our experience is much more one of coming late to the party—and not of our own accord. We cannot and should not do this with AI.

First, much of the expertise to develop AI is coming from university laboratories, with AI hot spots in university centers such as Boston, San Francisco, Chicago, and the Research Triangle of North Carolina. If we can develop AI for businesses at home and abroad, why can’t we do the same for ourselves?

Second, many creative applications of AI have already been developed to solve problems within the university. Certainly, enrollment-management processes as well as today’s learning management systems look nothing like those of 20 years ago. These changes are clear applications of AI.

At the end of the day, however, the application of AI within the university is quite limited.

Where are the higher-ed AI opportunities?

To find opportunities for AI growth within the university, we need to distinguish between activities that are uniquely human as opposed to those that can be computerized. Individuals excel at defining problems, distinguishing between “good” and “bad,” at idiosyncratic tasks such as detecting false positives, and in developing novel combinations not anticipated by previous experience. Computers excel at tasks that involve well-understood rules and procedures.

(Next page: Where AI can make its mark in higher ed)


What it takes to be a successful dean

It’s no secret that the field of higher education is experiencing significant and sustained disruption. Cuts to government funding, proliferation of lower-cost models, and increasing costs of wooing high-demand students are applying pressure to universities’ top- and bottom-line growth. Accordingly, the expectations of the dean role have also evolved, with successful colleges no longer looking for the “super faculty member” who can oversee curriculum development and tenure decisions, but rather the “academic entrepreneur” capable of directing fundraising, managing the P&L, and driving the diversification of revenue streams.

Today’s deans are therefore more akin to “mini-CEOs,” who must possess business acumen, strong interpersonal skills, and an entrepreneurial outlook. This is a tall order in the unique cultural context of academia, where highly matrixed shared governance structures and tenure systems deprive deans of much of the decision-making autonomy enjoyed by their corporate counterparts.

To understand whether today’s cadre of deans have the attributes necessary to succeed in this new leadership paradigm, Russell Reynolds Associates asked 15 deans from leading R1 institutions to complete well-validated psychometric assessments that focus on behavioral characteristics relevant to leadership roles. We aggregated their psychometric profiles and compared them to our database of more than 3,500 corporate and nonprofit executives, enabling us to identify the ways in which today’s deans resemble and diverge from their counterparts in other sectors.

(Next page: How to become a more entrepreneurial dean)


5 questions to ask about hyperconvergence software

All of a sudden, software has become all the rage in hyperconvergence. Just the hint of switching from an appliance model to a software model is enough to get financial analysts in a tizzy and the price of a stock soaring. And why wouldn’t it? Software is a much better business model than selling appliances.

But even though software is a better business model, most companies start off by shipping appliances. It’s just much simpler to sell, whether being sold direct by the vendor or indirect through a reseller or distributor. It’s also much easier to develop the software for a limited number of hardware platforms and much easier to support few hardware platforms.

Once that appliance-based product has taken off, the company will want to change to a software business model from a profitability perspective. This can be a difficult pivot to make financially since revenue decreases before profitability improves, and it changes how the sales teams are paid. If the pivot is made successfully, then the company is much more profitable and financially stable.

Even if a pivot to software works out for the vendor, it does not always work out well for the customer—especially if the software model is an appliance “in software clothing.” If you’re considering hyperconvergence software, make sure it’s not an appliance in disguise. Many vendors will claim to offer hyperconvergence software, but still significantly restrict how their solution can be deployed and used.

(Next page: These questions will help you find the most flexible software)


5 lessons on starting successful apprenticeship programs

The future jobs today’s students will hold will require new skills. According to the World Economic Forum, knowledge sets such as problem solving, creativity, and cognitive flexibility are growing in importance in all industries. At the same time, technologies like artificial intelligence and robotics are automating repetitive tasks. Colleges and universities are working to find new ways to keep up with these shifts and prepare students for careers that are specialized and dynamic.

One option receiving increased attention has been the use of apprenticeship programs, with their trademark mix of classroom learning and on-the-job training, as a new workforce development model. But these programs have many moving parts and require an investment of resources from higher education, leaving college and university leaders wondering how to make apprenticeships work. The answer lies in finding the best ways to collaborate with employer partners.

Why apprenticeships matter

In 2016, Festo Didactic, Sinclair Community College, and other partners collaborated on an apprenticeship program in Mason, Ohio. The goals were three-fold:

  • to help a new generation of manufacturing workers level-up their skills for a manufacturing industry that was rapidly changing because of Industry 4.0
  • to minimize the impact of the skills gap in the local advanced manufacturing market
  • to give students a way to earn an income while they attend school and thus reduce their need to incur student loan debt.

We adapted the model that has been used in Germany for centuries. From my years growing up and working in the country, I knew that apprenticeships can effectively deliver the theoretical learning and on-the-job training future employees need. At the same time, these types of programs introduce students to the knowledge and rhythms of the manufacturing industry, resulting in significant advantages for employers.

(Next page: The keys to launching an effective apprenticeship program)


What do you know about Intelligent Capture?

In the world of higher education, many chief information officers are looking ahead to virtual reality, gaming, and the role of artificial intelligence, yet there’s a vital technology, available now, that has gone untapped. Intelligent Capture is a straightforward solution that can revolutionize departments across campus.

Intelligent Capture uses optical character recognition (OCR) to convert different types of documents, such as scanned papers, PDF files, or images into editable and searchable data. This seemingly simple process is actually an advanced technology that’s causing a fundamental shift in the way institutions read and process content, unlocking its value in real time.

Adopting Intelligent Capture isn’t about technology for technology’s sake. Rather, tech solutions should solve a problem and add value, such as accuracy, efficiency, and productivity.

Productivity, in particular, can’t be underestimated. If you walk into an office where people are processing transcripts, what does productivity look like? Is it teams of people doing data entry? Is it staff making equivalency decisions without careful documentation or workflows designed to prevent mistakes? Are students submitting transcripts multiple times because they haven’t heard from the institution, and now the office is needlessly touching the same paper or digital document multiple times?

(Next page: Why Intelligent Capture is being used on college campuses)


How to foster innovation while keeping data private

IT infrastructure at colleges and universities has become increasingly complicated as availability, performance, and student success compete with security. But the threat landscape continues to expand, as evidenced by the growing number of cyber attacks in the sector (education institutions are the number-one target for ransomware attacks). To meet these technical demands, as well as increased cyber risks, IT teams must assume both a strategic and practical position as they seek to deploy innovative learning systems.

As higher education navigates digital transformation in an age of sophisticated cyber attacks, it’s important to look at what is expected of IT, and how they can enable technical innovation while maintaining a campus-wide focus on cybersecurity.

Technology’s role in higher ed

Attending a college or university is a significant investment for students, both in terms of time and expenses. As a result, students seek institutions that provide the highest level of technical resources to maximize their experience and ensure their success in school and beyond. Research shows that the two top business objectives of colleges are enrollment and student success. This is where digital transformation stands to play a major role.

Digital transformation incorporating artificial intelligence, IoT, virtual reality, and cloud offers college students more practical education, as well as new opportunities for collaboration through a more open network. This openness is critical, as students and faculty demand seamless access to the resources provided by the school and broader academia across an array of devices and applications. However, with so many user-owned devices connecting to the network, openness also presents a significant security risk.

(Next page: 3 ways to foster cybersecurity while increasing digital innovation)


Is the liberal arts degree in danger?

Despite rumblings that liberal arts degrees don’t hold strong value for today’s graduates, a new report reveals a number of high-earning occupations for liberal arts graduates to pursue–as long as they have specific skills.

Saving the Liberal Arts, the report from AEI and Burning Glass Technologies, offers an analysis of detailed information on job postings and worker resumes. The data reveal that employers are seeking employees with broad knowledge–the type of knowledge that comes from liberal arts–along with practical skills and knowledge.

Authors Mark Schneider, AEI visiting scholar, and Burning Glass Technologies chief executive officer Matthew Sigelman contend that liberal arts majors should tap into in-demand skills to improve their pay and potentially erase the salary gap with STEM graduates. Those graduates who lack practical skills, even if those skills require additional training, are more likely to be underemployed.

As student debt balloons, conversations about the value of a college degree have also increased. And with much of today’s career emphasis on STEM job openings, the value of liberal arts degrees may seem diminished.

(Next page: What can liberal arts majors to do ensure ROI on their degrees?)