A regular feature of Inside Higher Education’s online brief is a section on “New Programs” which lists new degree programs created by colleges and universities across the nation.   Recently, one of the programs started by a school of design was an M.S./M.B.A. degree in “Innovation Systems Design.”

In the world of design, as in many things, innovation is imperative, and as we are discovering, higher education is not exempt from the need for innovation. In fact, in the near future, innovation is much more likely to be the norm rather than the exception.

For today’s academic strategist, innovation is likely to take two paths:

  1. What is taught
  2. How it is taught

What is taught

The need to correctly balance the need for marketplace alignment and the need to stay true to your school has never been greater. Borrowing from Stephen Covey’s famous dictum “First seek to understand, then to be understood,” today’s academic strategist will help lead the institution to a richer and more nuanced understanding of how your institutional programs and curriculum are (or are not) meeting the demands of the academic marketplace.

A robust, research-based assessment of your academic program mix should include an evaluation of the institution’s current position among your top competitors. What are the signature majors and programs of your institution that attract students? How do alumni perceive the educational experience at your college or university?

In addition, your research must extend into the current marketplace to assess the latest directions in academic majors and programs. Resist the temptation to follow the crowd, particularly in an already crowded marketplace. Rather, look for innovative academic programs and experiences that can build upon your institutional core strength and mission.

How it is taught

The second part of a successful academic plan must then consider how to deliver instruction to students. Balancing the delivery of traditional face-to-face classroom instruction with online, blended, flipped-classroom, and other innovations in teaching are also important components to innovation.

There certainly is no “one size fits all” innovation formula, especially in this category of delivering an educational experience. Yet the growing evidence as recently cited by Jeff Seligno in College Unbound indicates that students are looking for greater flexibility in when, where, and how they pursue their education. Today’s academic strategist must help equip the institution to both understand these changes, and, to appropriately adapt and adopt those delivery systems and pedagogies that will build upon traditional methods of face-to-face teaching and learning.

At Stamats, we help your institution navigate the changing landscape of higher education. While innovation and change can be daunting, we can partner with you to develop a tangible, practical, and doable academic plan with specific and measureable action steps that will position your institution to be an innovator in the marketplace. Let us help you in this process of innovation, imagination, and change.

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