The Information Gathering Process

Module 1 starts the process of gathering information to make effective program decisions. What information do you already have? How will you gather the additional information?

It's very important to have proper information before offering new programs. If we fail to gather proper information, we will not be able to make correct decision and end up offering wrong programs.

Most important component is to know about the employment opportunities. The success of a new program depends on current and future job openings in the community.

By browsing the local job market, company websites, and publicly available information (print media and online resources) it is possible to gather information.

By talking to people and organizations (actual and potentials employers) we can gather additional information.

An advisory board is a perfect resource to provide required and additional information that can help us to come up with new program ideas.

S. I. Nusrat,

I can relate to this question -- an your answer -- from a personal level, as I have written many new degree programs and certificates for accreditation. Here's a point often overlooked by administration - You have to market those programs as well!

When I taught at a midsize midwestern university, our existing art department constantly suffered simply because the university did not know how to market it, and finally failed to market it at all. They were focused on building the university brand, but they did not understand that a new program needs careful nurturing to get off to a good start. When creating a new program, in my experience, you must have a discussion at the highest levels (VP of Marketing, University Provost, Board of Trustees, President) to discuss marketing strategy. All the demographic information in the world won't help you if you do not market your program in the right channels.

Lisa Sharpe

Information gathering is vital to an effective program decisions and it is even more crucial to have the right employees that are willing to go that extra mile to gather all the necessary information. Many steps can be taken to gather information; from taking a survey from the community to speaking to potential employers. We need sufficient information about community's needs/demands as well as employers from the community to begin the process of establishing a program.

Hameed,

Well spoken. I also firmly believe that the people your hire make all the difference. When researching new programs I find it is often helpful to go to industry professionals outside your market area, or subject matter experts who have no vested interest in your organization -- -for the purpose of friangulation.

Lisa Sharpe

Information our institution already has are the capacity we have to offer new programs. The capacity includes variables such as space, manpower and existing opportunities of employment. Additional information we may need can consist of the number of future job openings, demographic changes that may be occurring or forecasted to occur. The bottom line is to ensure that we have all the information or as much that we can gather before starting a new program.

George,

You are very much on track. Do you also implement advisory boards?

Dr. Lisa Sharpe

We begin our new program research with a very brief report that we call the "fact sheet." This contains information about the career, including the nature of the work, typical pay, career demand and projected growth, and training/licensing requirements. We also include potential marketing opportunities in this fact sheet, to help us determine whether or not the potential program warrants further research.

If the executive team (our "program committee") wants to pursue further work, we assign the task of a white paper to the potential project manager for this course.

White papers include the same information as fact sheets, in much more depth. In addition, interviews with at least three practitioners are required to confirm the career information, especially training/licensing requirements and desirable qualities in a potential employee. If the career is regulated, programmatic accreditation is an option, or other types of partnerships are desirable, this information is also included in the white paper. Finally, a proposed outline for the course, with references to at least three similar programs offered by other institutions is included with learning objectives.

Kimberly,

How well I know that process! When I worked in an HLC environment, this was a critical part of the application, too. Once the white paper was approved, we started to move ahead on the degree or certificate, and thus got a jump start. Assuming you are now in a different accreditation system, as I am, I would be interested in knowing how the white paper affects the application process.

Dr. Lisa Sharpe