3 June 2013

Solving How To Expand Capacity at Post Secondary Institutions

Yesterday, I provided a solution to forest management. Today, I would like to tackle Post Secondary Institutions - University, College & Technical Schools. Most specifically, how to get more people educated without expanding the physical campus.

Let's say, you have a small university with a student body of 2000 full-time students. Your school has been around for a long time and the urban environment now surrounds your campus. The grounds of your campus are world famous for their splendor and park-like setting. To remove any of the trees or other botanical items to build a new building would be akin to sacrilege. However, demand to attend your school is at an all time high. How do you solve this challenge??

First, we must get out of the academia box. Although, this protective box shelters students and instructors, alike, from the world. It also stifles imagination and creative thinking. Creative problem-solving is what is needed at this very moment.

First part of the solution set requires change. Ouch!! Now I have done it. Academia hates change. Bear with me and you may find this first change is not so hard to adapt to. Please, hold off the complaints until this whole idea has been presented. It is a package deal. 

The first change is the school year. Institute a 3 semester year. That is correct 3 x 4 month semesters = a school year. This change alone allows a 50% increase in the student population. From 2000 to 3000 per year. 

The second change is the teaching day. Currently, the normal instructional day is from 0800 to 1600 - Monday to Friday. Luckily, I am not extreme and I am not suggesting expanding the school week to seven days.

The solution I am suggesting is to have three instructional cycles per day. 3 x 8 hours = 24 hour instructional hours per day. This will allow students to follow one of three instructional time tracks: Track 1 - 0800 -1600, Track 2 - 1600 - 2400 & Track 3 2400 - 0800.

Before complaining it can't be done, please hear me out.

By step 1 & 2, your limited sized campus can go from 2000 to 6000+ without building any new buildings. 

Can this be done flawlessly?? No, certain infrastructure and planning must be in place first. And it will take at least four years to fully implement, to make the changes as smooth as possible.

I will leave solving the biggest challenge to the end - student housing. First we will tackle instructors - tenured, senior, junior and new. Then, we will address students and tuition. Finally, student housing.

Precursor. Your university campus is active at full capacity 1/3 of the day. However, you have to heat/cool, light, clean, secure, and maintain the campus buildings 24 hours a day. Every hour these buildings sit idle, these buildings are costing you - The University President - a lot of money. By taking a chance and thinking outside the box, you can develop a win-win-win solution.

Faculty. You have tenured staff. In a creative solution, this is the group most likely to rebel against change. They have "earned" their comfortable status on campus. I will refrain from injecting my personal beliefs about untouchable employees - public or private industry. So, the first group that the university management has to get onside with a monumental paradigm shift are the tenured instructors. 

The sale to tenured instructors is flexibility and stability. They are the most senior instructors, so, they get first pick at the expansion. They are guaranteed their current salary. They are guaranteed their current benefits. They will not lose what they already have, so they get to keep the stability they currently enjoy. Now the carrot......they have the flexibility to adjust their work year and/or work day to meet their personal teaching style and lifestyle. Thus, if a tenured instructor prefers to work summers, so they can take the winter block off; they have that option. If they want to work the exact same pattern they currently work, obviously, that is available. The tenured instructors, will also have first choice of working the different time tracks. If, a tenured instructor is a natural "night owl", then track 2 or 3 may work better for them then getting up early to teach first thing in the morning. Again, tenure means first choice. If this will not get support from your tenured staff, this whole plan will probably die before it gets a chance to be put into action.

Senior and Junior instructors. Similar to the tenured staff, seniority has its benefits. More senior, sooner you get to select which semester and which time track you get to work. The lower on the totem pole, means you get the opportunity to work in the times or semester that have vacancies.

Junior and New instructors. Being relatively new to the instructor world, you are probably very hungry to get the hours necessary to pay your student loans and get a little higher on the totem pole. By expanding the instructional day to 3 independent time tracks and using a 3 semester school year, the potential opportunities for new instructors is very inviting. Instead, of only getting a substitute position or maybe a single night school class, you could start of with an almost full-time position, albeit on nightshift or during the summer. BUT, these hours increase your seniority and in less time you can compete for openings in better time lines or semesters.

Students. We know from attending post secondary school, that not everyone has the same learning style. Nor, does everyone have the same time of day to learn their best. So, having 3 time tracks - in addition to opening up more potential courses also has the potential of filling the learning style and needs of the students. For those students that are very academically focused, by having a third semester each year, they could in theory finish a four year program in less than three years. 

Tuition. Since, in the current model the university is paid for by the Monday to Friday, 0800 - 1600; Fall & Winter semesters students, these tuition's would remain the same. Now the afternoon and night time tracks would only need to cover the cost of instructors, the tuition could be reduced, to encourage student support. For those who do not have big scholarships, trust funds or RESP's, they may need to find an alternate way to get their education. So, for argument sake let's attach some numbers. Track 2 (1600-2400) would be 75% of Track 1. And Track 3 (2400-0800) would be 50% of Track 1. So, now there is an option that wins for some students, more affordable education at a first rate school.

Finally, the largest challenge - student housing. This will require the most creative solution of all. If your current dormitory uses a 3 bedroom style pod with a shared washroom, your school will be easiest to adapt. I would suggest at least two types of campus housing - academic and social networking (Sorority). For those who are at school to go to class, get an education and then go meet the world. They need housing that houses all 3 tracks, and must be quiet 24/7 (24 hours a day/7 days a week.) As students will always be in class, a sleep or studying/eating/etc. Now, for those who want a more active social aspect to their education, on campus or off campus housing organized by the different Sororities, could be an option. Each Sorority House would have their own rules, that are published and enforced. A Sorority House, would not necessarily have a 24 hour quiet time. Another possibility would be private off campus housing, if available. Of course, when a university decided to pursue a paradigm shift such as the one I am suggesting, it would be in the university's best interest to communicate with the community to inform them of the schools potential student body increase and the need for full-time housing for students off campus. 

Other on campus challenges may include: food services, library services, fitness facility access and support services such as laundry mats, gas stations, study halls, computer or science labs. For each challenge however, there is also opportunity. Employment opportunity. 

So, there you have it. The short form of my solution to increasing post secondary school capacity without building a bigger campus that is only operational 1/3 of the day and 2/3's of the year.

Keep learning and solving problems,


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