Published on 2017/10/11
The EvoLLLution | Launching a New CE Unit: Progress Report
With the new CE division off the ground, stakeholders across PLU are finding new ways to collaborate with CE to further the university mission and make continuing education a part of the university’s DNA.

In the April 16, 2015 publication of The EvoLLLution, I delineated a few key steps that Pacific Lutheran University (PLU) was in the process of implementing in order to establish a new Continuing Education (CE) unit on campus. There has been measured progress concerning these steps since that report. I provide updates here and also mention several promising developments in the areas of program proposals and program offerings.

Organizational Structure

The hybrid organizational model of decentralized and centralized management that was implemented to support existing and new CE programs has been stable. A monthly meeting of the administrative and support staff who work in the three CE offices has proven invaluable for learning about each other’s programs, developing standard policies and procedures, and collaborating on strategic planning. It has taken time to build trust and synergy among the members of this “CE Team,” but persistence, cooperation, and a common vision has made it possible. The plan is to form a CE advisory committee from this core team and to include PLU faculty, staff and students as well as constituents from local organizations and companies.

Online Registration and Course Management

The first online registration and course management system PLU employed was Enrollware, which served our purposes well. It was a simple platform for both customers and back-end users. We recently switched to a new system, which has given us more possibilities for designing the customer interface and creating robust reporting tools. We still need to address the transferability of data between our registration and course management system and PLU’s main campus Banner system, but for now we are in a better position to scale up on the number of CE offerings that we can offer and to ensure that the data we collect are displayed in customizable reports.

Financial Model

Self-support budgeting with revenue share is still in development at PLU. It is a key tool that our new CE unit needs in order to incentivize partnerships across academic departments and with external constituents. Institutional budget challenges have made it difficult to transition to a self-support budget model. However, PLU is making concrete steps in the right direction with the implementation of a program evaluation model based on Responsibility Centered Management (RCM). PLU is in the early stages of establishing RCM (or LCM – Lute Centered Management, as our Acting President Allan Belton has phrased it), but we are getting close to piloting the new model in CE.

My CE colleagues and I are arguing that if we exceed our revenue goal for the year we should be allowed to share some of the profits with our partners on campus. The end of the fiscal year, which is the month of May for PLU, will be telling.

New Developments

Our CE unit has improved the Call for Proposals webpage by adding a clearer description of the submission process and making available a more user-friendly proposal form. The Call for Proposals website allows subject matter experts from within PLU and outside the university to propose collaborations with CE on new offerings, courses and programs. Our new website has made it easier to both solicit and evaluate proposals. Early, reliable vetting saves time, which is crucial for an office with a small staff.

Another development relates to a policy change. After much discussion and debate, PLU has supported the idea of making it easier for qualified staff to teach CE classes for compensation in addition to their regular pay. The new Staff Teaching Policy has opened the door to recruiting instructors who take less time to vet and bring with them a specialized knowledge and skill set that fits our programming goals. We are anticipating a significant growth in proposals and offerings because of this policy change.

New Programs – three examples

Principal Preparation Program – earlier this year PLU approved an educational leadership program that focuses on preparing leaders in the Pre-K-12 system for advancement in their administrative roles. The program was previously offered as a concentration in PLU’s Master of Arts in Education degree program. However, the price point was too high and, consequently, the enrollments were too low to make the program financially viable. The decision was made to move the program to the CE unit in the School of Education and Kinesiology in order to incubate the program toward larger enrollments and increased notoriety. With a new curricular structure, lower price point, and dedicated coordinator with years of administrative experience in the field, the program began this summer with a cohort of 15 amazing students.

Certificate in Maritime Management – in partnership with Northwest Seaport Alliance and the Port of Tacoma, PLU’s CE unit has established a certificate program targeting the mid-management level of the maritime industry. The program consists of a series of workshops taught by industry professionals and PLU Business faculty. The goal is to provide people working in and outside the industry with a broad, but in-depth, look at the maritime sector in several key areas: maritime history, maritime business models, and vessel and terminal operations. The need to provide more education to these mid-level managers was originally identified by executive leadership at the Port of Tacoma. The program is a good example of how a CE unit can reach out to community partners to help meet a workforce need.

American Business Culture – here is an example of an international partnership. PLU recently signed a Memorandum of Agreement with Shandong Foreign Trade Vocational College (SFTVC) in Qingdao, China to deliver a nine-month non-credit certificate of completion program focusing on American business culture. The curriculum consists of modified catalog courses from the PLU’s School of Business and regular English language training courses. Monthly field trips to local and regional companies (e.g., Amazon, Boeing, Microsoft, Starbucks, etc.) for tours and presentations round out the classroom content. PLU faculty will be used to teach the business courses and a third-party provider will deliver the intensive English language classes. SFTVC will award students credit for completing the program, which they will be able to use to complete their diploma requirements back home. SFTVC is viewing the partnership as a way to establish a “branch campus” in the U.S. PLU, for our part, considers this program a way to build good relations with a good international partner and to lay the groundwork for establishing a pipeline for matriculating international students. The university also welcomes the increased revenue for a burgeoning CE unit.

All the above represents meaningful progress for a very modest CE unit. There is a long road ahead to reach a level that can compare to other well established CE divisions at universities in the Puget Sound region. Yet, it is a road worth traveling because of the diversity of programming that is possible and the value that such CE programs can add to a university’s mission. PLU understands the value of CE and has the growth of CE imbedded in its institutional vision and strategic plan. The question to ask now is, “What will PLU’s CE unit look like in a year from now?”

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