Value Proposition for Distributed Learning
Many of Penn's counterparts have made institutional commitments to distributed learning, some even going so far as to establish for-profit entities. Imagine that Penn was considering explicitly whether to invest in distributed learning as a university or simply allow schools and departments to make individual entrepreneurial efforts.
Senior leaders of the University have asked you to create a process that would help them assess the value of an investment in distributed learning to Penn as an institution. As a group, work through the following questions. Summarize highlights of your work on a flip chart legibly enough for others to read.
1. Sources of Value--Brainstorm a list of sources of value, using the following questions as guidelines:
- What sources of revenue might be created or enhanced if Penn moved forward with distributed learning?
- What risks might be avoided or decreased?
- Which external relationships might be enhanced?
- What other sources of value can you imagine? Consider the links to the world outside Penn. (For example, if faculty benefit from support for distributed learning, a value would be the ability to attract faculty.)
2. Prioritize--Take the list and set priorities for exploration by "voting" those sources you think are most likely to yield significant value.
3. Flesh Out--Using the top three (or five if you have enough time) sources of value, identify:
- Whose input you would need to estimate value. Think concretely about individual people or sources of information.
- Those units within Penn to which value would accrue. Again, be as specific as possible.
- To what extent could you quantify the measures of value so that cost and value could be compared? What metrics could you use?
4. Applies Elsewhere?--Step back for a moment from distributed learning.
- Which of these strategies and metrics for assessing value are also useful when considering whether to replace a large current application with a new one? What additional strategies and metrics would you see?
- Is that a more--or less--complicated value proposition? Why?
5. Handoff--Today's retreat won't answer all the questions, much less figure out all the answers. Is there a natural "home" for the issue of developing a process for assessing the value of major investments at Penn: a group or role whose responsibility is to explore the issue and begin working on possible solutions? If not, identify the kinds of people who need to be involved.
6. Advice--All in all, what two or three pieces of early advice would you give to the people to whom you would hand this issue?
Exercise Results: Value from Large Change Processes
- Influence the Provost and Deans to add distributed learning to their agenda
- Encourage local product development; Central infrastructure and support of innovation is highly desirable (distributed learning, administrative processes, etc.)
- Create a distributed learning committee to be convened by the Provost
- Reinvest distributed learning profits back into the schools that develop successful programs; Feed innovation as an incentive to grow distributed learning on campus
- Value faculty participation early in the process
- Value curricular mechanism of each school when developing distributed learning processes University-wide
- Examine the College of General Studies' distributed learning program and others for how to increase Penn's distributed learning offerings
- Determine the level of grant funding that may exist
- How do new distributed learning initiatives get off the ground?
- Some Schools may be duplicating distributed learning efforts; some intra-Penn competition might already exist
- Penn needs to do distributed learning for the following reasons (in order of importance as determined by the Work Group):
- Distributed learning enhances traditional classroom learning;
- Distributed learning enables greater attachment to Penn for students (Life-long learning, pre & post-Penn);
- Distributed learning provides Penn with additional revenue streams and opens Penn up to new markets;
- Distributed learning gives Penn a chance to reach those that reside outside of the Philadelphia metropolitan area; and,
- If Penn does NOT establish a cohesive distributed learning program menu, then the external market may fill the void; if we do nothing, we may lose prestige and credibility
- Develop a process for creating new programs at Penn for distributed learning
- Write a business plan; Find a suitable business model
- Launch a group that addresses steering for distributed learning that involves the Deputy Provost, associate deans, and the consortium of schools
- Build bridges between and among schools on distributed learning over 1999-2000
A decision-making body that involves the Provost's leadership, as determined by the Work Group; The Executive Vice President's role is also essential for distributed learning's success University-wide.
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