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.