Collaboration is a powerful strategy for achieving shared goals and approaching shared opportunities and solving problems. Collaborations are opportunities to accomplish together what can’t be done alone. They represent opportunity to solve a shared problem, or meet a common challenge that is clearly and easily relatable to the needs of the participants and the goals of the institution (as illustrated in the Statement of Shared Purpose).
But when we talk about collaboration we tend to use the term rather loosely. When we reference collaboration, we actually mean something more like cooperation, coordination, or simple networking. All of these strategies have distinct attributes, benefits, risks, and organizational principles as outlined in the Collaboration Continuum:
Networking: exchanging information for mutual benefit. This is easy to do; it requires low initial level of trust, limited time availability and no sharing of turf.
Coordinating: exchanging information and altering some activities for mutual benefit and to achieve a common purpose. Coordination requires more organizational involvement than networking with a slightly higher level of trust and some sharing of one’s “turf.”
Cooperating: exchanging information, altering activities and sharing resources for mutual benefit and to achieve a common purpose. Cooperation is more formal than coordination and thus requires increased organizational commitment and support and may involve written agreements (Memoranda of Understanding, Project Charters, etc.). Shared resources can include human, financial and technical contributions across organizational boundaries. Cooperation may require a substantial amount of time, high level of trust and significant sharing of turf. Positions may need to be modified to provide time for participation.
Collaborating: real collaboration involves exchanging information, altering activities, sharing resources and enhancing each other’s capacity for mutual benefit and to achieve a common goal. The qualitative difference between collaboration and cooperating is that partners are willing to learn from each other to become better at what they do, together. Collaborators are clear that the importance of partners’ success is as great as their own – their own success depends on their partners’ success. Collaborating means that that partners share the risks, responsibilities and rewards. It requires a substantial time commitment, very high level of trust, and sharing of turf.
Collaborative efforts are successful when they are supported from the top down and the bottom up. Administrative support and sponsorship is needed to allow all partners to make decisions about process and resources in a collaborative manner. In this environment both faculty and staff are open and willing to go beyond “business as usual.”
In the development of successful digital curriculum, faculty and staff partner in a truly collaborative manner. Staff partners may include academic technologists, instructional designers, media specialists, students, and librarians. In this model staff are more than “helpful staffers,” they are fundamental to the process. College faculty and staff working to support the digital learning initiative will need to develop these skills together.
On many college campuses there is pressure to develop “innovative” initiatives such as digital scholarship, blended learning, and flipped classrooms. Among other things this will stem from a general awareness (or uneasiness) that colleges must take advantage of the opportunities afforded by digital approaches to research and pedagogy. However, without a programmatic approach with a clear statement of shared purpose to inform the implementation of best practices in digital scholarship and pedagogy, “innovative” experimentation will remain as insulated and isolating projects rather than successful programs.
The statement of purpose is not a mission or vision statement. It is a touchstone program document that outlines the specifics of the opportunity, a problem to be solved, why a solution will benefit faculty, staff, and students, and the organizational roles that will be affected. It is foundational to articulating a shared vision that can be readily communicated to participants and supporters such as funding agencies. It is an initial step in explaining the “why” and in minimizing confusion. It does not attempt to describe specific solutions.
Components of the statement
Drafting the statement of purpose is an important first step in developing a sustainable program. It will help identify the shared (or intersecting) goals that justify the effort and expense of such a significant project. It describes the purpose – outlining why the institution is making the effort and what problem the effort will solve.
A statement of purpose should be concise and include the following:
A brief description of the opportunity or issue at hand.
Where the issue or opportunity is observed e.g., departments, institution-wide, and/or processes.
The time frame over which the opportunity has been observed and anticipated duration.
The anticipated scope or magnitude of the opportunity – the impact to be realized.
Uses of the statement
The statement of purpose:
Clarifies the situation by specifically identifying the issues or opportunities at hand.
Clarifies the urgency and time sensitivity associated with the effort.
Provides a vehicle to ensure increasing buy-in.
Helps secure support, develop funding potential, and identify and cultivate champions.
Helps leadership, partners, and funders grasp and appreciate what you are working to accomplish (and why) and helps to communicate the opportunity to other interested parties.
Many campuses have already accomplished much of the work of developing a statement of purpose through the work of various committees and task forces. That effort often results in several general observations and questions including the need to:
Develop a program that will enhance and improve the experience of the current population of students.
Identify how to enhance the liberal education offered by the college using digital technologies.
Determine how the college will improve its effectiveness through the use of digital learning tools and strategies.
Identify best practices with digital learning strategies as they relate to liberal education.
Develop a system to identify programs and courses that constitute exemplars for digital pedagogy.
Review organizational development necessary for sustaining these curricular models.
Review required improvements to the college infrastructure.
Identify what it will it take to institute these changes.
The next step is to convert the existing work into a clear statement of shared purpose that lays out the attributes described above. The completed statement will specify the affected institutional roles and articulate why the program is being developed. The effort put into this document will serve to secure support for the skills, incentives and resources necessary to develop a sustained Digital Scholarship and Pedagogy program for faculty, students and staff.
by Amanda Hagood, Director of Blended Learning, Associated Colleges of the South, and Grace Pang, Program Officer, National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education
This primer was developed from a study of sixteen case studies in digitally-mediated collaboration and the liberal arts published by the Associated Colleges of the South (ACS) and the National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education (NITLE) in the summer of 2014. Though the case studies covered topics as diverse as designing and implementing a hybrid course in Asian Studies or launching a program in digital humanities, each provided a fascinating example of how small institutions can marshal their oftentimes limited resources and personnel to achieve extraordinary things. The key to each project’s success lies in the strategy of collaboration—though, as we will demonstrate, collaboration exists along a continuum consisting of many different modalities for working together. This primer, drawn from a thoroughgoing analysis of these projects, will present four exemplary projects and will ask you to consider how their goals, strategies, and tactics reflect upon the goals, strategies, and tactics that should appear in the ACS’s 2020 Vision.
The aims of this primer are threefold:
To report why and how faculty and staff within and across ACS institutions are collaborating
To explore how the goals, strategies, and tactics used by these practitioners align with the ACS’s mission to support the liberal arts by creating collaborative opportunities that improve the quality, while reducing the cost, of liberal arts education.
To stimulate the Strategic Planning Committee’s thinking about why and how our member institutions could collaborate.
“Everybody wants to collaborate, everybody can see the value in collaboration, but when it comes right down to the nitty-gritty of having to do it, it often means changing what you’re doing in the present to do something different in the future.”
~ R. Richard Ray Jr., provost of Hope College in a recent article in Inside Higher Ed. (“Our Powers Combined.” Carl Straumsheim. Inside Higher Ed. March 19, 2014)
But collaboration is not easy. And most who are attempting what they term collaboration fail to acknowledge the attributes of effective – and sustainable – collaboration. Further, they put their hopes in external influences rather than disciplined internal organizational development.
Collaboration itself is not the objective but rather identifying and developing innovative approaches and solutions to shared problems and opportunities. Collaboration is a tool to be mastered. What are needed are practical guidance, concrete tools, and a structured process to operationalize strategic collaborations. Check out our observations of attributes of successful, sustained collaborations:
2012, according to the media, was The Year of the MOOC. Massive Open Online Courses were declared to be a revolution in college education. The flow of media coverage hyped MOOCs as either the salvation of a beleaguered educational system or the corrosive agent that would dilute it beyond recognition and value.At the same time, venture funding poured into the coffers of education technology companies intent on cashing in on the newly disrupted higher education market. That investment is reshaping the development of learning and content delivery platforms being marketed to your campus, your faculty, and your students. And rapidly forming partnerships between for-profit firms and universities are providing technology vendors with a powerful vehicle for selling to higher education and inserting themselves into the dialogue about the future of educational content and delivery.But college and university administrators do not have to sit passively by, waiting for the MOOC wave to wash over them. There are still seats at the table for those intent on guiding higher education into the future. Campus leaders would do well to shoulder their way in now, rather than wait for an invitation to help shape that future.
MOOCs: Opportunities, Impacts, and Challenges, being a survey of the issues and opportunities associated with Massive Open Online Courses, is an invaluable guide to those responsible for their institution’s mission. Armed with the information in this book, you will be able to sort out the substance from the hype in the roiling MOOC debate, and effectively fold the future into the strategic mission of your campus.
The chapters to this book will be live on this blog again in April, 2014. The book is available in Kindle and print formats from Amazon. It is currently part of the Amazon KDP Select program and, as a result, it is not permitted to be published in any digital format, anywhere for the 90 day duration of the program. Once that time is up, I will make the chapters available here once again. Given that MOOCs are such a moving target, I will also be updating the content here, and in the Amazon Kindle version. Thanks for your patience!
Get the complete book Thinking Strategically about MOOCs: The Role of Massive Open Online Courses in the College and University at Amazon in print or kindle version. Practically speaking, MOOCs are a platform of bundled technologies. If you sign with Coursera, Udacity, … Continue reading →
Get the complete book Thinking Strategically about MOOCs: The Role of Massive Open Online Courses in the College and University at Amazon in print or kindle version. This chapter is broken into three sections that explore three closely related topics that are … Continue reading →
Get the complete book Thinking Strategically about MOOCs: The Role of Massive Open Online Courses in the College and University at Amazon in print or kindle version. NOTE: Georgianne Hewett, Director for Shared Academics at the National Institute for Technology in Liberal … Continue reading →