Club-Admiralty

v6.2.3 - moving along, a point increase at a time

A learning circle, and CC-licensed handbook, for program admins


This blogpost is connected to my participation in this fall’s Creative Commons Certification course. The track that I picked was the educator track, but I’ll deviate a bit from the traditional educator track♦ and put on the hat of a college administrator♥. In my day job, I am the main administrative person for an online master’s program. To borrow a phrase - the “Soup to Nuts” guy for my program.  I am there when prospective students ask questions about our program, help shepherd them through the admissions process if our program is the right fit for their needs, help guide them through the program, and see them through to graduation. Sometimes I am also the alumni contact.  That’s not to say I am alone in this endeavor, there are many people who are part of this intricate machine: from faculty who teach courses, to colleagues at the Registrar’s office who actually schedule courses, colleagues in Admissions, and even other students in the program who help provide an on-the-ground view of our program†.

Anyway, the job of a graduate program manager (GPx§) is truly one that is multifaceted and there is no manual for doing the job.  When you start working you are basically thrown in the deep end and asked to make sense of it all.  Sometimes you might be lucky to have colleagues who share tips, tricks, and experiences★, but some are not.  I think this is where I see CC-licensed materials can come into play.  My proposal is to start small: assemble a group of 5 GPx folks who are interested in sharing their stories, tips, tricks, and how-tos. This can form the "manual" (which would be CC-licensed) and a crash course (using the manual as a guide or a centering principle) on how to do the job.

This can include practical elements, such as techniques for connecting with prospective learners,  marketing tips and approaches that are more grassroots as compared to the grander☆ marketing approaches employed by the institution. It can also include more action-oriented learning items such as case studies created by our community for the community, which can help train new people.  If materials are licensed under CC-BY they can be used by other universities, and help others in similar situations. Hopefully, others can also contribute to the collections of works☘ under a similar license.

Now, I don’t think it will be all fair seas and smooth sailing for the entire voyage here.  I think that many institutions (and perhaps some individuals) consider what they do as their “secret sauce”, and as is the case with most secret sauces people don’t want to share their recipe.  They view that as their competitive advantage. Another institution may view our institution as the competitor, and thus may not want their employees sharing their coveted practices. Individual employees, even within the institutional walls may view their knowledge and practices as a competitive advantage that they might want to keep to themselves (we do live in turbulent employment times…)   Hence, they might be reluctant (or even negative) toward the though of sharing materials under CC.

While I don’t think you can win everyone over, I do think that the “secret sauce” lies more in the relationships you build with people, and attitudes of actual caring, rather than any procedural ideas, approaches, and “recipes” you might find in a job manual.  I’ve come across many such negative individuals in my 20 years on this campus, and I think that the approach that yields the best results is one of leading by example.  I don’t think I can ever convince people purely on an intellectual basis to operate in the open, so showing not telling would be my approach♣. I think if I can find some individuals on my campus to start contributing to such an endeavor and we end up with a prototype, we can start sharing it with people in our immediate circles♤. This would also be a good opportunity to educate people further on Creative Commons in a stealth way😀.

Some materials that can be created, and thus licensed under CC, are how-to manuals for using the student information system¶, approaches for tracking student progress, guidance on admissions processes, creation of case studies and role-playing scenarios, and templates for filling in important partner-department information. There is also a possibility of linking to traditionally copyrighted information, such as eBooks and journal articles.  I think this is an advantage for this particular group of learners has because we all work for academic institutions and thus have access to academic libraries that can provide us with those traditionally copyrighted materials for our learning circles. While this material cannot be distributed with the original materials that will be CC-licensed, they might provide some good references that can be incorporated into the “how to” guidebook for the job.

In terms of actually implementing this as a course, once the materials are created (at least in beta form), I am thinking that the concept of the learning circle (p2pu.org) might be useful in this context, starting locally with people meeting in person, and then perhaps cross-institutionally. The materials that we put together and licensed under CC could be the materials used as a central hub for the learning circles, but we don’t have to paint within the lines and only stay with those materials.  Furthermore, how we evolve in the learning circle and inform updates to our CC-licensed resources for the group.  The way that I envision this is similar to the CC-Cert workshop.  The materials can be available to anyone in a PDF, GoogleDoc, or ePub format, but there can be an associated, time-bound, learning event that can occur at my home institution, somewhere else or even cross-institutionally.

Your thoughts?


MARGINALIA
♦ You know, someone who teaches or facilitates workshops or classrooms
♥ You know, what I do for a living.
† Sometimes staff and admins can be detached from the nitty-gritty and don’t remember how it was when they were students.
§ I use the term "GPx" because the "x" can be: manager, coordinator, assistant director, associate director, director - there seems to be little consistency across campus.
★ I was lucky to have had some documentation to decipher, and colleagues to ask.
☆ and perhaps more generic marketing campaigns. I find them to be generic anyway...
☘ this can encompass a manual that can be tailored to the specific institution, a course, or even a community of practice.
♣  especially if they believe that their livelihood is tied to secrecy
♤ Both on and off-campus
¶ A partner department for this could be the Registrar's office.  Other relevant campus IT systems might be the LMS, getting access to email, using the finance systems (for GPx folks who deal with finance), and so on.
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