According to Ryan Jockers, institutional and strategic analytics coordinator at the NDUS system office, the cloud-based planning SPOL software was purchased after the launch of the State Board of Higher Education’s strategic plan. SPOL was determined to be the best fit to further SBHE goals for the system, as well as track metrics of success. Additionally, the SPOL platform helps address prior concerns on documenting evidence related to increased performance of operations.
At its core, SPOL aids collaboration and sharing of certain services.
Jockers said that each campus has equal access to SPOL and its many applications due to the system-level investment. At the local level, access is designated by departmental responsibility.
“The actual positions may look different from institution to institution, but typically it would be individuals already involved with Strategic Planning, Assessment, Budget, or Accreditation,” Jockers said. “SPOL doesn’t generate the content, it provides a framework for continuous improvement and seamlessly links all facets of planning. Campus level individuals already working on these four categories now have a comprehensive solution to do it all in one place.”
The type of data entered might differ from position to position, but it all remains relevant to long-term needs. Institutional strategic plans, president’s goals, course and program assessment and accreditation standards were examples provided that give campuses and the system a “big picture view” from which to discern local or statewide trends and improvements. Jockers noted that it also allowed for “a comprehensive view of planning and alignment within the entire NDUS at the click of a button.”
So far, the initial reception to the software has been good, although Jockers stated that any software package of this scope could be overwhelming at first.
“Many institutions are beginning to see the value for their internal use,” he said. “More specifically, our team has been able to show the value of the product within the NDUS context which has attracted the attention of specific disciplines for program level work.”
He added that one early success was that of the University of North Dakota’s School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS), which is already making an effort to place its M.D. accreditation process in SPOL. He noted that representatives there are considering expanding their use to the accreditation processes of their health science programs as well.
Kenneth Ruit, Ph.D., associate dean of educational administration and faculty affairs at UND SMHS, is working closely with the SPOL implementation there.
Ruit said that SPOL implementation at SMHS was prompted to help the school monitor and maintain accreditation standards. After steps were taken to reach compliance with certain standards, it became clear to SMHS representatives that a system of continuous quality improvement would benefit the school for the future. He noted that such a process would need to allow for the continual addressing of key questions on meeting accreditation standards, as well as building an ongoing “evidence file” that would provide proof of compliance to the accrediting agency, the Liaison Committee on Medical Education.
“As we investigated the Accreditation module of SPOL, we realized it was structured in a way that would allow us to be able to do exactly that…and by doing so, establish content templates, timelines and workflows that would facilitate ongoing attention to all accreditation standards,” Ruit said. He noted that of all aspects of SPOL, the Accreditation module would likely be the most useful early on. “Prioritizing goals that emerge from that process and establishing action steps to be taken to reach those goals can certainly inform strategic goals for the school. In addition, other health sciences programs at the school have begun to investigate the utility of SPOL for similar purposes, which could also inform future strategic paths forward for the educational mission of the school.”
Ruit said he expected the implementation to offer advantages into the future, as SPOL would serve as a repository for all documents associated with accreditation and planning. He noted that beyond the Accreditation module, the school could find use in the Assessment module as it related to curriculum.
“Exploiting the ability of the Assessment and Accreditation modules to establish meaningful linkages between assessment outcomes and curricular improvement efforts would be of great advantage,” he added.
The software has found many uses elsewhere. According to Jockers, other colleges and systems that employ the strategic planning software include Maricopa Community College District (265,000 students and 11,000 employees), Florida State University, Spokane Community College System, Florida Community Colleges System, and Dallas Community College System.
Jockers concluded that the NDUS was ready to help facilitate local campus success, training opportunities were available, and that he was personally available for questions, concerns, or demonstrations.
Ultimately, NDUS hopes that SPOL implementation will help create a comprehensive strategic planning portrait of the entire system for the SBHE, act as a vehicle for dynamic decision making, and provide institutions with a mechanism for continuous improvement and strategic planning that can assist with institutional alignment and efficient resource allocation.