Where in the World is CE?

Where in the World is CE?

It was my great pleasure to have been hosted at the New England UPCEA Regional meeting in Providence at the Biltmore. Two things: if you’ve never been to Providence, make plans to visit — wonderful history, great higher institutions, art, and great places to eat. And if you’ve never stayed at the Biltmore, book it now. Many thanks to Wendi Richardson and her committee for being wonderful hosts.

The New England Regional Conference’s theme asked the question, “Where in the World is CE?” Their answer, “It’s Everywhere!” The opening keynote by Burke Smith, CEO of Straighterline, provided an excellent context for this theme by outlining his vision of truly disrupting not only how our students can obtain learning experiences but also disrupting the cost of high education. Imagine the entire freshman year for $999.00.

In my Musing for 2011 (https://shaeffersforays.wordpress.com/2011/01/06/musings-for-2011/), I suggested that one of the areas to watch was the DIY U movement, and one of the major reasons for that is the progress being made at Straighterline. Under Burke’s leadership you see new higher education partnerships, including the University of Phoenix. Even more important to me has been endorsement by ACE and the College Board of some of the Straighterline courses.

What is Burke’s motivation? No different than my own and many of us: making higher education accessible both in terms of delivery mode and cost. Where is CE? It is not just on our campuses, it is with startups like Straighterline, it is with our vendor partners who are seeking new ways to assist with student success, it is with our students who WILL find ways to “design it themselves,” and it is with those who provide leadership on their campuses in finding new ways of opening the gates of higher education.

Answering the question, “Where in the World is CE?” was also explored in a session titled “CE Leaders Address Today’s Issues.” This session was expertly led by Bill McClure and it was amazing to see 35 colleagues fully engaged in sharing the major issues facing today’s continuing education leaders. I believe that this session has become a tradition at the New England conference and it was outstanding.

I found it very interesting to hear the number of issues on the minds of the New England CE leaders. There were some ongoing issues, like doing more with less, and there were some emerging issues, like what and when to outsource specific services. It seemed like the issues shared by all were defining the role of CE, dealing with growth, and on the flip side dealing with shrinking budgets.

The conversation about the role of CE brings me back to the question, “Where in the World is CE” on our campuses? For some CE leaders, the “where” is a leadership position in the development of new programming, the exploration of new delivery mechanisms, and the opening of new revenue streams. For others, the “where” meant being caught in the middle; that is, the unit would plough new ground with new programs but once those programs were successful, they would then be subsumed by other departments, which leaves the CE unit with revenue loss and the need to redeploy personnel in the development of new programs.

And others were simply frustrated because their institution is re-organizing their units, some moving from administratively centralized to decentralized, for any number of reasons (although a major one had to do with re-directing revenue).

“Where in the World is CE” on our campuses? Quite honestly, from my perspective it depends. CE units range from highly centralized (administratively and academically) to highly decentralized. Is there a best practice in terms of the organization of CE? Again from my perspective, it depends. I know of successful units/universities on each end and in the middle of the spectrum.

No matter the structure, I strongly believe that the time is ripe for us to answer the question, “Where in the World is CE?” The answer is that CE is in the leadership position. I believe that (more than any other time I can remember) our units are poised to be leaders on our campuses who can help our institutions embrace what Clayton Christensen calls the disruptive technology of online learning.

Michael Staton provided the call to action better than I can in his September 15, 2011 Inside Higher Ed piece, “The Disruption is Here.” (http://app3.insidehighered.com/views/2011/09/15/essay_suggesting_that_higher_education_needs_to_change) One of his top pieces of advice for higher education institution is to regard any type of CE unit as a research and development startup in your university, and to allow these units to operate independently exploring new models for programming and serving students. He suggests that universities hire the best, smartest, and most courageous people to run these units, and then allow them to innovate. Finally, let these units and their operation serve as a model for the larger campus.

Where in the World is CE? No doubt, we can and should be the lead.

Again many thanks to New England for a great conferen

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