New Year's Resolutions

There is all kinds of science to support the notion that New Year’s Resolutions don’t really work. Most don’t make it more than 3 days, but for those that do, less than 1% reach February.

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So maybe we should all consider a pact or an accord, instead of personal resolutions. It doesn’t seem like any kind of resolution, especially from a single person at an institution, will make much of an impact. That is even more true if most resolutions go by the wayside so fast. So here are a few ideas for various institutional stakeholders. If you find one you like, pass it around to your peers and see if you can’t find a way to make an agreement. Maybe we can do some good as a collective in 2019…

Faculty - as a group, let’s agree to stop using PowerPoint. The tool isn’t “evil” or anything, but it has been so misused and abused, acting like a hammer to punch information into the heads of students, that we should just take a break. One natural offspring of that decision may include less lecturing, which we all know has been shown over and over and over and over again to be highly inferior to other methodologies.

Need a way to fill the void? After all, cigarette smokers are told to replace the hand feel with fidget spinners or the mouth feel with gum to ween off of their addiction to nicotine. Addiction to lecture might be just as powerful. So here is an idea. Pick up a white-boarding tool (like you can find with MeTL). The science is clear. Instead of finding the best, high-fidelity, highly labeled graphics, let your students draw them during the conversation. Your knowledge of the subject matter will not only shine as you ebb and flow in and out of the materials and the natural tangents students try to find, but the students will learn faster, deeper, and better.

IT - Read some non-IT, educational works. There was an interesting article in the Educause Review about IT leaders being relegated to plumbers and not architects. The points made were very strong and make sense - IT should have a seat at the strategy table. So do yourselves a favor and brush up on what success means and looks like. Don’t leave it all to the Vice President of X. Come to the table with background other than IT, showing your credibility and research into other parts of the organization.

For example, read up on the power of mindset, connection, motivation, grit, socialness, and more as they relate to learning and academic success. From Dweck to Lieberman to Duckworth to Pink, there are some great reads out there which curate all of the most important research on those subjects and synthesize them into one volume. This will also show you something important. Not all technology needs, specific to both success and learning, need to take place in the classroom. While you’re researching, note how many students leave school for academic reasons (about 25%) vs other reasons that likely demand an equal representation in the technology portfolio.

Student Affairs - commit to establishing modern, holistic experiences for students that support better communication, reporting, and transparency throughout the entire organization. It’s easy to lament the politics or bureaucracy of a school. The silos are deep, the bridges are scarce, and the money often feels like it’s on a yo-yo. But we don’t have to give into the wants of the system at the expense of the students or staff. Find ways through and around it. Find tools that open up communication lines across the organization and help students from every possible angle, not just around res life or tutoring.

Admissions - channel your inner Disney. If you look at the world’s top companies these days, it’s all about experiences. From Apple to Facebook to Google and beyond, everyone wants to create an experience. Nobody embodies that philosophy like Disney.

What do prospects want as they look at colleges and universities? Yep. They too crave experiences. They want something that is more than emails or phone calls (or heaven forbid the postcard!). They want interaction and information. They want to see, they want to talk, and they want to find. So give them that opportunity. Help them connect to your school by connecting with them through a means they value.

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I hope this New Year brings all of higher education good things. 2018 seemed like a hard year for colleges and universities. I hope we can find a better way in 2019.

Perhaps by working together on some of these ideas we might get there faster? It’s just a thought. Hopefully it won’t get lost as the ball drops on Times Square.

Here is to you, the men and women who make higher education an opportunity for students to better themselves and their conditions around the world. Here is to 2019.

Good luck and good learning.

Jeff Borden