During a recent conversation with the President of another seminary, we discussed which strategy is the better choice during this unique moment in higher education: expand/revise curricular offerings or expand the pool of prospective students. My conversation partner’s school is expanding the curricular offerings by introducing a new graduate program focused on “faith and leadership formation.” As an alternative approach, Winebrenner has invested considerable time in exploring how we can expand the potential pool of students who enroll at Winebrenner, specifically through what is known as “bachelor’s equivalency.”
About a year ago, one of my Winebrenner colleagues introduced me to the book Blue Ocean Strategy. The basic premise is that most organizations compete in the same space for customers; this space is termed “red oceans” signifying the blood let in competition. A “blue ocean,” on the other hand, is wide open space where few are seeking engagement. Prospective students who could qualify for bachelor’s equivalency are mostly found in blue oceans. However, as more and more schools move toward degree completion programs, eventually the waters could turn red.
How does the shift from pipelines to platforms inform Winebrenner’s discussions about bachelor’s equivalency?
As discussed in the previous post, Winebrenner’s activities are guided by a commitment to collaboration (along with the other two strategic priorities of contextual education and building communities of learners). To this end, we are working to develop a system of evaluating portfolios for bachelor equivalency that can be expanded for use by collaborative partners. The primary internal responsibility rests with our Director of Enrollment Management to evaluate each student we encounter who could qualify.
Platforms–such as IOS and Android–provide clear protocols to encourage others to build applications (“apps”) for their system. This eliminates many of the gatekeepers who discourage people from using their products. While there is criteria, it is minimalistic and promotes engagement.
The effort to create a simple, non-complex, way to engage these students raises the question who is responsible for engaging external collaborative partners? The most visible public face of Winebrenner is the President, although anyone is welcome to engage partners. Once a relationship is secured, the conversation shifts to the Academic Dean, if something unique needs to be developed for the partner, or directly to the Director of Enrollment Management for further engagement, promotion, and processing.
Winebrenner has made a public commitment to providing education that is affordable, accessible, with a high degree of quality. The accessibility and affordability provided through bachelor’s equivalency further demonstrates the value of collaboration and platform thinking.
In our final post we’ll explore some “next steps” in Winebrenner’s growing understanding of shifting from pipelines to platforms.
– Dr. Brent Sleasman, President
– Image by Levi Jones, accessed via AdobeSpark