Published on 2015/07/09
—With Kevin Mitchell | Professor, College of Southern Nevada—

The EvoLLLution | Using Technology to Improve Time-to-Market
Moving from pen-and-paper organizational systems to technological tools can significantly accelerate the approvals process and time-to-market for new courses and programs.

Increasing the time-to-market for a new course or program is a challenge, especially at the community college level. Community colleges are expected to be highly responsive to changes in the labor market and immediately able to fill needs, but this is tempered against the need to gain approvals for new offerings. There are numerous levels a new course or program needs to gain approval from before being offered to the general public, and speeding the time it takes to get in front of the right people can be a major boon for community college responsiveness. In this Q&A, Rick Marks and Kevin Mitchell reflect on the approvals process at their own college and share their thoughts on how deploying a technology solution has helped improve the college’s responsiveness.

Click here to read key takeaways.

The EvoLLLution (Evo): What are the most challenging aspects to the approval process for new, credit-bearing online courses and programs?

Rick Marks and Kevin Mitchell (RM/KM): For clarification, when curriculum is proposed at our institution, it is not asked if the course will be taught in the classroom or online. It is mainly up to the instructor and department chair, and sometimes the dean, as to whether a class is offered online or not.

We essentially erased our challenges when we moved to an online curriculum program from paper forms. We also moved to a calendar year-to-year workflow for curriculum changes in our catalog, which helped remove challenges. We are in the process of training everyone on how the system works and removing the few bugs. Once that is done, we really won’t have any challenges.

Evo: How can these roadblocks impede a college’s ability to be responsive and fast moving?

RM/KM: We have always been responsive regarding curriculum. No one wants to hold anyone or any curriculum back because we want to make sure our students get the best education they can. By moving to a calendar year-to-year workflow for curriculum changes, we added to how fast the college can respond to changes in curriculum.

Evo: Conversely, what are the benefits to having a robust approvals process for new online courses and programs?

RM/KM: We are efficient in simultaneously approving a course or program for a variety of presentation modalities. We better serve our students by how fast and efficient we can move curriculum changes from departmental/school program review to implementation.

Evo: Reflecting on your own experience, how have you overcome these obstacles in the past?

RM/KM: For the overall process, personal mentorship with individuals and a variety of training and resources have helped eliminate any obstacles. Our online curriculum system allows the individual to see the actual workflow and approval process so that they are always in the know.

Departments and schools having well-designed programs that directly address the needs of Nevada is a fantastic asset. Finally, quality customer service also helps.

Adjusting our curriculum cycle and moving to a yearly catalog instead of working ahead will also allow us to be more responsive to change and have that robust/fast moving curriculum process.

Evo: How do you think course and program approvals could be made more efficient?

RM/KM: The new online curriculum program we recently deployed enhanced our efficiency. It has reduced the time it takes to get approvals at different levels of CSN. It also allows the user to track where the proposal is in the process. The software also allows for much easier and accessible approval history of curriculum proposals. We now have the ability to access reports that let us assess the impact of approval decisions.

This interview has been edited for length.


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Key Takeaways

  • Moving from pen-and-paper organizational systems to a technological system can create significant efficiencies in new course development and approval processes.

  • Providing adequate training to all staff and faculty who need to use the tool is supporting internal change management to the new system.
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