In Focus | Leadership in Higher Education

October 10, 2019 0 By Ronny Jaskolski

– Hello. I’m Stephanie Kim. Coming to you from the LG Digital Studio at Georgetown University
School of Continuing Studies. In focus today, leadership in higher education. I’m joined by Dr. Kelly Otter, Dean of the Georgetown University School of Continuing Studies. Welcome Dr. Otter. – Thank you Stephanie. – Great. It’s a pleasure to have you with us. So, Dr. Otter, you’ve
spent nearly two decades leading higher education institutions. What would you say are the
most significant trends that you’ve seen happen over the years? – Well I think one of the first
areas we have to talk about is the advent of technology
in higher education. First, from the perspective of
the change in infrastructure across all kinds of organizations. So in the 90s, with the advent of the Internet, all kinds of organizations
including colleges and universities had to
introduce the Internet. They had to rewire the
entire institution. Some people started using
computers on the Internet to communicate in completely new ways. And at the same time, we were experimenting with technology mediated education. And we’re continuing to grow our knowledge every year in this space. So, what we’re learning
is that the technology is a tool that we can use not only to provide people new
kinds of access to education and reduce those barriers
of time and space, but we’re also learning what the the true value of using the same time and spaces and how interaction works to facilitate the process of learning. So we’re learning a tremendous amount. It’s still the tip of the iceberg. But we’re realizing that the
adult working population, which is a growing population in the United States, is served very well by
technology mediated programs. As evidenced by the huge
percentages of growth in these kinds of programs. But also we’re learning
how people learn better. And we learn that people learn by doing. Not by being passive learners. And with the technology and with strong interactive design, and excellent pedagogical
design practices, we’re improving the way people learn. And we’re improving learning outcomes. We’re improving how we assess the value of those interactions. And we’re increasing the number of people who can participate in higher education who otherwise would not have
been able to participate it. – Right. And could you speak to who
are the new participants of higher education? – The new participants? – Yes. – I would say largely
the people who otherwise had to work full time, people whose lives were very structured, and they had to be very disciplined. And could not afford to
take two or three evenings to go to school. People can now learn
when they have the time. They can fit the education
into their lives. So evenings or weekends or mornings. Whatever works best around
their work schedules. So, it’s primarily that adult learner is getting access to
baccalaureate degree completion as well as graduate
professional education. And certificates and
other kinds of credentials to allow them to improve
their own professions, to increase their salaries, to get access to raises, to promotions, to new careers. – Great. That’s really great to hear. – Yeah. – So you know, we’ve talked
a bit about the past. But looking to the future, what trends do you see shaping the future of higher education? And especially as they
relate to leadership and changed management. – Well I think even
continuing the conversation about technology and how
technology is causing so many shifts. That along with that the demands of a knowledge economy are forcing institutions
of higher education to think about innovation in new ways. So not only are we thinking
about teaching practices and thinking about how we design
those learning experiences, but we have to think about our, the models in which
we’re providing education and what that content is. And in a knowledge economy, it is just simply not possible to compress everything
the students need to know in the traditional structures of a course or a particular semester of learning. We have to think about instead how to help learners learn how to learn. How to evaluate sources of information. And how to assess the validity of certain kinds of information. To be the people who are engaging in the learning process in a critical way. And who are learning how to
learn throughout their entire academic and professional life cycles. So our institutions have to think about how do we do that research? How are we at once paying attention to the traditional structures
and the roots of our mission as well as looking outward at the changes of a knowledge economy? And looking at the changes and needs of all kinds of different work forces. And remaining true to that. And then what kinds of staff and faculty are part of that enterprise? How do we support them? And what kinds of tools do they need? What about the organizational psychology and the organizational dynamics? What will comprise this very innovative kind of teaching and learning environment? – Wow. It’s truly fascinating. So, a bit of a personal question. What do you think makes
a successful leader in higher education? – That’s a great question. I think also, referring
to the conversation that we were just having about innovation. In my opinion, it’s critically important for any leader in any
kind of an organization to understand the history, the roots, the culture, the context of that organization. And in higher education, we’re hearing the phrase now that schools have to
be run like a business. And that is a rather
controversial statement because some people feel like the missions of higher
education institutions are around the public good. The social good. And at the same time, there are so many pressures
on us financially now because of the reduction
in federal funding and state funding for higher education. So we’re necessarily
becoming more entrepreneurial in thinking about new ways that we can produce our own revenues and be more financially sustainable and independent. So as we are thinking about
this kind of new level of responsibility for that independence, the leaders have to at once understand the business practices that will lead to
financial sustainability. But also be able to manage
and support and nurture the culture of shared governance. The mission in higher education is around teaching and learning. It’s around the production
and dissemination of new knowledge. Whereas in a business, there’s the ethos of the short term goal, which is to produce revenue, to make money. So those are two very
different kinds of enterprises that require very different
kinds of leadership. Different leadership and
different kinds of management. So, I would argue that to be a successful
higher education leader, one has to appreciate and want
to preserve those cultures but also understand and be able to manage certain kinds of business practices that lead to that kind
of financial independence that is a reality for
us in the 21st century. – I see. Great. That was very insightful. Thank you. So Dean Otter, thank you for sharing your insights today. – Thank you Stephanie. – It’s been a pleasure. And thank you everyone
out there for watching. Stay tuned for more from
the LG Digital Studio and Georgetown SCS.