From a Horse and Buggy to a High-Speed Train: Leveraging Technology to Increase Profitability and Enhance ServicesGeoff Wilmshurst | Vice President of Partnerships, Camosun College
With a mandate to lead entrepreneurial initiatives for the institution and help reduce its dependency on domestic tuition and government grants, the Partnerships Division is the revenue-generating arm of Camosun College. The division is charged with building inroads with community members, local industry, and national and local government to bring strategic business opportunities and alternative sources of funding to the Victoria-based institution.
To grow their Continuing Education and Contract Training portfolios, Camosun’s Partnerships Division elected to implement Destiny One, the Customer Lifecycle Management (CLM) platform designed for non-traditional higher education. In this interview, Geoff Wilmshurst shares his thoughts on how Camosun College will leverage the new system to increase profitability, streamline services, and improve the customer experience for continuing education students and corporate partners alike.
The EvoLLLution (Evo): What are some of the central priorities of the Partnerships Division at Camosun College?
Geoff Wilmshurst (GW): The Partnerships Division at Camosun College is made up of a number of different areas. It includes Camosun International, the Camosun College Foundation, External Relations, and Continuing Education and Contract Training. We partnered with Destiny Solutions on Continuing Education and Contract Training specifically.
Across the entire Partnership portfolio, we focus on the areas of Camosun College that are not government-funded. Our mission is to support financial sustainability and help lessen the College’s reliance on grant money and domestic tuition fees. The best way for us to accomplish that is to make the Partnerships Division profitable as a whole.
When we looked specifically at Continuing Education and Contract Training, we felt that we could maximize our impact by moving to a new CLM system on both fronts.
While we’ve had many successful courses and programs with Continuing Education, we’ve only touched the surface of what’s possible. We’re competing against two other postsecondary institutions who, in some cases, are offering very similar courses. We’d like to do a better job of distinguishing ourselves from them.
On the Contract Training side, we’ve been marginally successful in negotiating long-term government contracts, but there’s an opportunity for us to work much more closely with local and national industry to provide educational services that meet the needs of our workforce. Last year, we launched the Camosun Coastal Centre, a facility near Victoria’s naval base, where we provide workforce development courses for the industrial marine sector. In its first year the Centre has already been highly successful, which demonstrates to us that there’s a larger appetite for these local industry partnerships. Evo: What were some of the roadblocks that were getting in the way of achieving Camosun College’s vision for Corporate Training and Continuing Education?
GW: The biggest roadblock we faced was the fact that the existing model for Continuing Education was decentralized. CE courses were based within the individual schools, with a limited oversight structure for CE as a whole.
By centralizing the administrative functions of Continuing Education within Destiny One while retaining the programming within individual schools, we’re going to be able to streamline services. Our hope is that this will enable us to focus on the things that are most important to the division moving forward.
In terms of Contract Training, we are developing a strategy to build out partnerships that will help us enhance what we’re already doing.
Evo: One of the challenges I’ve heard other leaders talk about when they shift into a centralized administrative model for CE is gaining faculty buy-in for the new model. How do you plan to go about that?
GW: Making that cultural shift is an ongoing process. The key lies in demonstrating that we can continue to work collaboratively with the schools. The schools will continue to provide programming for continuing education, so they need to know that we’re still connected to them in our broader mission. Working with the deans in particular will be essential to our success; however, I am confident that once the new model is up and running successfully, we will have everyone working together. Communication will be key.
Evo: You’ve partnered with Destiny Solutions to help you accomplish these goals. Why did Destiny One stand out as the right solution for Camosun College’s Partnership Division?
GW: One thing that we really liked about Destiny One is that it’s a Canadian product. The data resides locally. From a freedom of information perspective, that’s really important to us.
Secondly, when we looked at the other offerings out there, Destiny One stood out as the product that would meet all of our needs. Other products had similar attributes, but Destiny One had the edge.
The fact that Destiny One already has a stable of very reputable postsecondary clients was another distinguishing factor. We had an opportunity to talk to some of Destiny Solutions’ clients–major institutions in Canada and the United States–and their feedback on the Destiny experience was really positive.
Evo: You mentioned that Contract Training is an important part of the Partnership Division. How are you hoping to see the experience that you’re delivering to corporate partners evolve with Destiny One?
GW: Our clients, particularly those on the marine industry side, want a very simple way to reach us. For example, we’re going to have to make sure that we don’t make it difficult for them to register for a program. It’s early days, but we’re hopeful that Destiny One will make registration quicker and easier for our corporate partners.
Evo: I’d imagine that’s a similar motivation for your students in Continuing Education as well.
GW: Absolutely. We expect that Destiny One will give our continuing education learners a new, more positive way to interact with us.
Evo: For a division focused on maintaining profitability, do you expect to see a growth in converted prospects and retained students over time as a result of bringing on the new system?
GW: Growing our numbers of converted prospects and increasing our student retention are certainly a few of the motivations behind implementing a new system for Continuing Education and Contract Training. We’ve been working with quite an antiquated system, and while that system is in the process of being revamped for the broader College, it’s not meeting the unique needs of our Continuing Education and Contract Training clients. Degree and diploma programming at Camosun are very different from Continuing Education, and we need a dedicated system that can enable us to react more quickly. Destiny One is going to allow us to do that.
Evo: Let’s talk about consistency of experience. With your previous CLM, how easy was it for a continuing ed student to take courses offered by different divisions on campus?
GW: The student experience has been quite varied, depending on where in the College students enrolled and what they were trying to do. I don’t think it has been terrible, but I think it could be enhanced by offering a consistent enrollment experience.
Evo: From a strategic perspective, what are some of the goals that the Partnerships Division is looking to achieve over the next few years, and how do you expect Destiny One to play a part in achieving those goals?
GW: The goals for the Partnerships Division are to enhance profitability and improve the overall student experience, and Destiny One is going to help us meet those goals. I also think our ability to extract data from Destiny One will help us evaluate our future priorities: We’ll be able to see which programs are effective, and identify those areas where we have ongoing profitability compared to those we may want to cut. Destiny One is going to be very useful in building future roadmaps for the Partnerships Division, and for Continuing Education and Contract Training in particular.
Evo: Camosun is rolling out Destiny One to Corporate Training and Continuing Education within the Partnerships Division. Do you expect to see the system rolled out to other elements of the Partnerships Division in the future?
GW: I can see potential for us to leverage Destiny One for Camosun International down the road. We do quite a bit of offshore training, and I could see Destiny One being instrumental in helping our International Contract Training Division streamline their services.
Evo: Is there anything you’d like to add about the decision to implement Destiny One at Camosun’s Partnerships Division?
GW: We’re really excited to be implementing Destiny One. As I mentioned, we’ve been working with very old systems at Camosun, so it feels like we’re moving from the horse and buggy to high-speed trains.
In the past, a lot of our staff hours were taken up in operational tasks—simply supporting the proper functioning of our old system. By moving to the modern Destiny One system, we’re going to be able to free up our staff to focus on other things such as client interfacing and business development. We’re really looking forward to that.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
To learn more about how Destiny One is helping Camosun College’s Partnerships Division improve the experience for continuing education students and corporate training partners, click here.