Understanding Strategic Program Development: 5 Essential Questions for University Leaders

Expanding program offerings is essential for colleges and universities to leverage new opportunities. The programmatic analysis process empowers leaders to make informed decisions during portfolio planning. Learn how your institution can execute strategic program development for continued success.

March 8, 2020
 

By David Capranos, Wiley Education Services

One of the most critical parts of determining your program catalog is researching the marketplace to make strategic, informed decisions about portfolio development. In the competitive higher education market, institutions must understand how to leverage elements like differentiators, graduate outcomes, and student needs when planning new offerings.

In this article, David Capranos, director of market strategy and research for Wiley Education Services, discusses the five programmatic analysis questions that are essential for developing new programs. Each question presents an opportunity for college and university leaders to gain valuable insights and successfully execute program planning.

1. Why Are We Offering This Program?

First and perhaps most importantly, understand the strategic plan for the new program. What is your institution’s mission? Of course, growth is a primary factor, but what else are you trying to achieve? Goals might include reaching underserved audiences, increasing diversity, or meeting community needs. Complete a portfolio review and assessment of your existing programs to identify your strategy.

You may be interested in developing one new program, but don’t be afraid to think bigger. Consider your overall plan for portfolio development. Does this new offering fit into a larger suite of programs? Will you be using course content and resources from other programs efficiently?

Then, identify opportunities to create anchor programs that can be built out into multiple offerings. For example, an MBA program can be a platform for several concentrations. Explore how these concentrations might connect with other new programs or interdisciplinary opportunities, such as dual degrees.

If you begin with a degree that has the potential to draw a large number of students (the MBA in this example), you can create multiple ways for learners to engage with your institution. The result is strategic portfolio development that maximizes marketplace success and benefits students.

2. Who Are We Teaching?

The next part of the process is understanding today’s learner so you can connect what students are looking for with your program content. It is important to monitor industry trends and understand student needs and expectations. By doing this, you can gain valuable insight into how they are making decisions about their degrees and programs of choice.

Think through how your university can engage with a student over their career, such as by offering certificates or endorsements rather than solely focusing on degrees. As an increasing number of students pursue continuing education and re-engage with universities at different stages in their professional lives, these smaller credentials are vital to the future of most universities’ catalogs.

Industry research reflects that students also value customization to prepare for the hybrid jobs of the future. The ability to design an education that fits their unique career goals is attractive to learners. You can use that insight during this stage of the programmatic analysis process to deliver the kinds of credentials students are interested in earning.

Consider stackable credentials as a smart strategy to address both re-engagement and customization needs. They allow students to build a resume of degrees, certificates, endorsements, licenses, and other credentials for ongoing career success.

3. Where is the Market?

This question involves pinpointing existing market benchmarks, what competitors are doing well, and where gaps exist that you could fill with the strategic development of new programs. Exploring how to differentiate against the norms of the market is important here.

When you understand the education market and current labor trends, you have the knowledge to analyze institutional opportunities. This research involves combining relevant data with your reasons for bringing a program to the market.

Look at investing in high-growth areas, determining where the market is growing both in terms of job outlook and how students are investing in their education. What are the in-demand degrees today, and what will they be tomorrow? When you know the answers to these questions, you can align that data with your institution’s strengths and bring real benefits to the market.

4. What Type of Program Makes Sense?

Once you identify a program for development, the next step is determining the details. Should the new program be a degree or certificate? Is it right for an online learning format, or should it be delivered on campus? You should also evaluate program name options, courses, and other curriculum elements.

Leverage your current offerings when making this decision. If your university already has a data analytics degree, for example, you can use it as a baseline for a business intelligence or health care informatics program. Considering these intersections is another way for your institution to incorporate strategic portfolio development into your planning process and build an effective range of offerings.

5. What Are Your Next Steps?

Having an implementation strategy in place takes all this analysis from planning to execution. While it’s important to think about the program as a distinct unit, it’s essential to think about its fit within the larger context of your university’s overall plan. How will this new program help you meet your goals and benefit your students?

If you are unsure where to begin, Wiley Education Services is here to help. We can guide you through this five-step programmatic analysis process and identify areas for growth within your university. Our team will personally meet with provosts, deans, or department chairs for in-depth discussions around strategies, needs, and priorities as we take next steps. This industry-tested approach is based on data from our partners and other universities to ensure we’re gaining a complete perspective of both existing research and student needs.

As an industry leader for more than 20 years, Wiley has a unique understanding of the higher education market. Our team has the expertise to apply that knowledge and drive success for institutions like yours. To learn more about program planning and how you can incorporate it into your strategy, visit our Resources page.

 

 

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