Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Applying the Logic of Blogging to Academia

Why don’t colleges post their org charts on their websites, for all to see?

It’s an incredibly low-cost thing to do (most colleges already have org charts in HR; all they’d have to do is post them online). Scholars of higher education would have much more raw material to work from in doing studies of what works best. Colleges could swipe ideas from each other. (That may initially seem like a deal-breaker, but the fact is that most of the larger states already have systems of linked colleges. Besides, academics are better at information-sharing than information-hoarding. For that matter, wasn’t academia one of the places the internet initially flourished?) In fact, if colleges supplemented their org charts with some basic Institutional Research data, also posted openly, enterprising managers and other geeks could start to reap the rewards of easily-accessible facts.

If the regional accreditors, say, started mandating it, it would happen quickly. And it would be incredibly, almost laughably, cheap.

The folks who do open-source software would have a much easier time engineering work-flow software for academia, if they better understood the work flow of academia. Then we wouldn’t be held hostage by the likes of Banner, Oracle, Datatel, etc.

We could do a Moneyball of academia, applying actual data to test hoary chestnuts. Are Centers for Teaching and Learning worthwhile? Does the ‘provost’ model work? When does it help retention rates to increase the number of online sections, and when does it increase attrition? What ‘emergency’ budget cuts always wind up getting restored anyway? How many levels of remediation are optimal for student success? What’s the ‘tipping point’ in perceived quality for the percentage of classes taught by adjuncts?

Conceptually, none of these is all that hard. Individual colleges collect data on most or all of these questions, but the data are kept in-house.

Let productivity flourish, and resources will take care of themselves. More efficient internal processes, generated by the ‘value-adding’ increments of thousands of users, will free up precious resources for other things, like, oh, I don’t know, teaching and research.

Just a thought...