Higher Education: Maintaining Business Continuity During COVID-19

Posted by Sabrina Balmick on Apr 14, 2020 11:42:13 AM

The COVID-19 pandemic has palpably reshaped lives and businesses. Higher education, in particular, has found itself pivoting rapidly to ensure safety, adjust myriad processes, maintain academic rigor, drive administrative productivity, and keep institutions on mission.

One of the keys to ensuring business continuity is to embrace online tools for planning. Today, planning involves not only long-term goals, such as creating new academic programs, but short-term goals, such as shifting students and faculty to online learning. This in itself can be challenging without an integrated approach, but coupled with all constituents working remotely, comprehensive planning becomes paramount. For that reason, institutions are starting to embrace online platforms for planning and productivity.

Below, we share how online platforms can boost productivity while keeping institutional effectiveness at the forefront.

  1. Continuity: Working at home doesn’t have to mean disconnection. Although COVID-19 has created a situation demanding immediate response, certain priorities remain, such as accreditation. Even though those accreditation deadlines may shift as the situation develops, accreditation remains a priority. By using an integrated platform that allows your team to work and collaborate from anywhere, your institution can continue to create narratives, respond to standards, generate reports, so you’re always be ready for on-site visits. This puts your institution ahead of the curve on reaffirmation. A platform that integrates planning with budgeting ensures your students receive the resources they need in a post-COVID world.
  2. Collaboration: Online tools bring your team together, even while everyone is practicing social distancing. Higher education is an incredibly collaborative world, which is why online solutions to essential functions, such as planning, budgeting, and accreditation, can help your institution pivot to address challenges while staying on course with your mission. Speaking about this issue, Lorie A. Dalola, Director of Institutional Research at Barton College, says, “I'm very appreciative of the fact that SPOL is completely cloud-based, so that I don't have to worry about whether or not my colleagues and I will be able to access the software to continue our planning, budgeting and assessment efforts. One less thing for me to worry about and one thing that I know will continue to be operational, even if we are dispersed.” Instead of relying on paper documents housed within the office, administrators can use online tools to gain instant visibility into approval processes, departmental goals and objectives, and resource allocation.
  3. Centralization: Although your team may have dispersed, your data should live in a centralized hub. For many institutions this can mean your institution’s network, but you could take that a step beyond with a shared, permission-based, document repository. Solutions such as SPOL allow institutions to streamline self-study activities by quickly gathering and expanding on previous responses, as well as collecting new evidence. Because everyone is now working from the same playbook and operating with consistency, reaffirmation activities can continue with little business interruption. Critical budgeting and funding activities can also continue seamlessly. Dr. Karla Moore, Institutional Effectiveness and Assessment Dean at Daytona State College, notes that, “We are also doing our annual budget request through SPOL. Our deadline was extended to April 6. Unit plans for next fiscal year are also being completed. SPOL, as a web application, is helping DSC to continue operations working from home while staying safe and taking care of our families.”
  4. Customization: Higher education is a spectrum, not a monolith, so no two institutions are the same. The needs of a small liberal arts college can greatly differ from a university operating across multiple campuses. As your institution evolves, you’ll want a solution that evolves with you. This could mean anything from capturing assessment results from distance learning and creating rubrics that accurately measure outcomes to creating budgets across multiple units. Your platform should be a catalyst for institutional effectiveness and shape itself around your needs.

As the world continues to evolve in the wake of COVID-19, it’s clear that for higher education, paper-based processes are an artifact of the past. And it isn’t too late to embrace an online platform. Partners such as SPOL specialize in providing customizable platforms that meet your institution where you are. If you’d like to learn how SPOL can pivot your institution’s planning and budgeting efforts, reach out to us today for a consultation.

Topics: Accreditation, Institutional Effectiveness, Budgeting, Assessment, Strategic Planning