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Inter-Institutional Collaborations Critical to Compete

Inter-Institutional Collaborations Critical to Compete
By collaborating on major ventures, institutions can expand their offerings and programs beyond any internal limitations in expertise without having to break the bank.

As we have been discussing the commoditization of higher education, the topic of how inter-institutional collaborations can help institutions compete in this ever-changing marketplace must be addressed. The two key areas of collaboration that help institutions boil down to increased opportunity and reduced costs.

In the often protected and territorial confines of a higher education institution, referred to as silos within the industry, cross-departmental cooperation is as rare as collaboration with another institution. We know the reasons: perception that no one can do it as well as me; concerns they will steal my ideas and get the credit; and that would involve me getting out of my comfort zone. However, working together allows for better ideas, shared risk and increased exposure (the good kind). It is not difficult, and quite often simply requires someone reaching out to involve others in an honest conversation to break down these negative misperceptions.

Allow me to give several examples of the types of activities eduKan is doing to increase opportunity for our member institutions and the ways we are assisting with controlling costs. Two of our eduKan member institutions are working to transition an in-seat program into an online format because the enrollments in the traditional programs are no longer enough to support the program from their small community. By combining their two programs into an online format, not only do they get the benefit of increased enrollments from the two schools, but this program will now be opened up to students from across the country. Additionally, we have contracted with a social media consultant at the consortium level and are able to provide cutting-edge social media strategies and tactics to our institutions, who would otherwise not be able to afford this type of expertise.

We are working on many cost containment activities, including shared grant writing services, a shared learning management system, a centralized faculty and staff training institute and joint purchasing of educational support software. These activities save our member institutions thousands of dollars each year.

One of the key changes we have made in our consortial agreement among our member institutions relates to the “all for one and one for all” mentality that existed when I became the chief executive officer of eduKan. While this approach was vital as the young consortium was developing in the late 1990s, it was starting to hold back some of the initiatives and opportunities we saw for our member institutions. eduKan now allows its members to choose whether they wish to participate in new initiatives based on their institutional mission and the resources they are willing to bring to the table. Additionally, our fee-for-services model allows institutions that want to participate in a product or service to realize the cost savings while other institutions that do not want to participate are not required to do so.

While collaboration is becoming a hot topic among institutions, many consortia have been in existence for years. The Association for Collaborative Leadership (formerly the National Association for Consortium Leadership) has many examples of ways institutions can participate together in an effective and beneficial partnership.

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