Tuesday, October 26, 2010

When Can We Get Anything Done?

Things are about to stop in higher education for the next three months. In a couple of days, the entire tempo and flow of college shifts from doing to maintaining. This came to me very clearly yesterday while making a presentation for a campus-wide customer service audit to a large university.

The president asked when we would begin the audit should the university decide to go ahead with it. I thought about it and realized that if we did not get a decision in the next few days so we could get started in the first two weeks of November, we might have to wait until the last two weeks of January or March.
What? What about November, December January and February? Well, yes we could do some of the work then but American higher education goes into standby mode for much of that time, and perhaps for much of the year anyhow considering the way we lay the schedule out.

By the third week of November, we are all into that Thanksgiving state of mind. A blissful euphoria of a future tryptophane buzz in front of a football game from the bird and seeing friends we have not seen in a while. (But also a dangerous one retention terms. This is the first period that students are going to be away from the school for any continuous period of time. It is a period during which they can reflect on the accumulation of questionable service, one whether or not the school does care and if attending the college is worth it? This is when many students have the space to decide, “NO”.)

In the third week of the eleventh month, the academic world begins to slow down and prepare for finals in December followed by Christmas break. Since finals are coming up, the first two weeks of December are a tough time to talk with students about their experience at the school since they are getting into that stressed out mode to prepare to finally read the books they didn’t get to during the semester. Faculty are gearing up to the last push to get the information and knowledge they didn’t get out there out so it might be on the test.

Then finals hit followed by Holiday break – a period that will likely stretch even further this year as schools look to keep buildings shuttered to save on heating and electricity. Finally, sometime into the first, second or third week of January school starts up again but the rhythm of the college is not set again until later in the month.

Now we can get some work done in the end of January and into February with interruptions for President’s Day and then all shuts again for Spring break and…

Well, you get the idea. It seems to me that we give students too much time off for no good reason. The real reason why students go to college is to get a job. Education and learning are what happen as a by-product along the way. So it seems to me that a primary role we should be playing is to teach and acculturate students for the world after college – the world of work. With that in mind, we should realize that the students’ job while in school is school. This is their job – going to school and learning what they must to be successful.

Considering that employers report that one of the major problems with college graduates is that they do not know how to be responsible for work it seems counterproductive to not just stop the workplace of college for every reason we can come up with. There is no spring break in work! No semester break after a big report is completed; just another work day and more to do.

A customer service that we should be providing to students is teaching them what work is really like and that starts with the basic reality that it is an everyday thing broken by a week, maybe two of vacation.  Summer off? Yuh right. Just if you work at a college!

Is it that there is just not enough to learn? Not when we are dropping further behind ion most every learning category in the world. We are not doing our students any favor when we are allowing them to leave college having learned less science for example than forty-seven other countries. We are cheating our customers.

Sure it would allow us to do more college customer service audits but that is not the point really. The point is that we need to examine some of our traditional assumptions about college starting with simple stuff like scheduling and adjust to meet the real needs of students. 

If this made sense to you, consider obtaining a copy of my best selling new book on retention and academic customer service

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