CALL TO ACTION
We stand at a crossroads. The global economy is rapidly evolving. Our national challenges are more daunting than any we have faced since the Depression and World War II. Our institutions have no choice but to develop effective strategies to lead us through these social and economic changes. If ever there was a time for UPCEA to reach its full potential as the nation’s leading association dedicated to preparing working adults for the new economy . . . that time is now.
UPCEA should be a dynamic force for positive change within both higher education and the larger social context in which we operate. This Strategic Plan charts a bold new course for UPCEA by calling for fundamental changes. Most of the goals and strategies proposed in this Plan are designed specifically to meet the stated needs and desires of membership; others are necessary to modernize the Association.
Fundamental change is never easy. But it can also be a source of renewal and vitality. Working together, we can create a new UPCEA that helps transform higher education by building on the vision, expertise, creativity, and values of our members.
MISSION AND GUIDING PRINCIPLES
UPCEA meets the needs of professional members and the institutions they serve by advancing leadership in professional, continuing, and online education.
UPCEA will be recognized as an indispensible resource for higher education professionals and institutions offering degree and noncredit programs for adult learners.
GUIDING PRINCIPLES FOR STRATEGIC PLAN
Building more value for members is the central touchstone of the Strategic Plan.
UPCEA depends on the investment of time, energy, creativity, and other resources of its members and volunteer leaders. This investment in the work of the Association should foster a sense of ownership on the part of members and create a sense of community among colleagues.
The UPCEA organizational structure is not an end in itself, but a means to accomplishing the work of the Association and meeting the needs and interests of its members.
Programs and services that are fiscally unsustainable or that cease to be valued should be discontinued in order to redirect limited resources and the energy of volunteers toward more valued and useful ones. Barriers should be kept low for creating new programs and services to address the needs of members, but care should be taken to avoid duplication and unnecessary complexity.
The financial sustainability of the Association is imperative; thus, the fiscal impact of all aspects of the Strategic Plan must be taken carefully into consideration.
At all organizational levels, transparency, inclusiveness and accountability must be asserted as core values of the Association.
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STRENGTHEN THE VALUE PROPOSITION FOR MEMBERSHIP
UPCEA needs a strong and clear value proposition that members recognize and understand, with programs and services that are indispensible resources to members and their institutions. Each of the strategies below is developed in greater detail in the Goals that follow.
A. Develop more innovative conferences with timely programming relevant to a broad range of professional functions often found in CE units.
B. Make professional networking a valuable element of professional development.
C. Provide more research and benchmarking information.
D. Use technology to expand access to professional development, networking, research and information.
E. Design, develop and support meaningful and rewarding volunteer leadership opportunities.
F. Be more visible and effective in advocating for the profession.
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BUILD A COMPREHENSIVE PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT AGENDA THAT ANTICIPATES AND RESPONDS TO THE EVOLVING NEEDS OF MEMBERS AND THEIR INSTITUTIONS
UPCEA’s professional development model still relies almost entirely upon traditional face-to-face conferences. Content is largely developed through a relatively passive call-for-proposal approach, and there is no rigorous assessment program in place to provide a feedback loop for continuous improvement. UPCEA must develop a comprehensive professional development agenda that elevates the profession of continuing education, encourages innovation, expands access, addresses key areas of professional activity within continuing education units, aligns programming across organizational boundaries, and assesses effectiveness.
A. Make the Annual Conference a showcase of innovation and leading edge programming.
As the most visible expression of the Association’s identity, the Annual Conference must be innovative, inclusive, and vibrant. Conference planners must be proactive in shaping high quality professional development content to remain a vital asset for membership.
B. Develop content aligned with professional areas of expertise, with more focus on growth areas.
Beginning with the Annual Conference in Portland, conference tracks will be aligned with specific areas of expertise within the continuing education profession. This strategy should be expanded to include UPCEA’s general approach to professional development. For example, UPCEA has a special opportunity to expand its programming in two key growth areas, online learning and international education.
C. Align programming to address multiple levels of experience, and develop a CE career laddering strategy.
UPCEA has invested in leadership development programs in recent years, first with the Leadership Academy and more recently with the New and Aspiring Leaders Certificate program at Toronto. The latter program will be repeated in Portland. Given the strategic importance of nurturing tomorrow’s leaders, more work must be done to identify career ladder patterns for our profession, and to align programming accordingly.
D. Maximize the potential of both the Annual and Regional Conferences by integrating them within a more intentional, comprehensive professional development framework.
While there are strengths in both the Annual and Regional conferences, the relationship between the events remains largely unexamined. There is a general assumption that the Annual Conference attracts more experienced CE leaders whereas less experienced members attend the Regional Conferences. There may be some truth to that assumption, but there is also some overlap. For example, the Annual Conference has begun offering more programming for less experienced professionals, and Regional conferences have long served as a hub for experienced leaders to network and collaborate on ideas that are often more innovative and experimental than programming at the Annual Conference. We must be more intentional and comprehensive about our approach without stifling the more organic and local dimension of Regional conferences.
E. Build a rigorous assessment agenda for all professional development programs and ensure that feedback informs the development of future offerings.
While conference evaluations are the norm, there is often insufficient analysis of the results and even less attention given to how the feedback will shape the next conference. That must change. The new Chief Learning Officer and expertise within the Center for Research and Consulting have expanded our capacity for a more effective assessment agenda.
F. Use technology to expand access.
UPCEA must use technology to expand access to its professional programming without jeopardizing the value of face-to-face meetings that are so valuable to building community. An online “pass” to the Annual Conference was successfully piloted in Toronto. This will become a regular feature of the Annual Conference and other conferences as appropriate. The effective use of technology is also crucial to professional networking and to the development of webinars and online workshops.
G. Establish networking as a key element of professional development.
The McKinley Advisors study found that professional networking is one of the most valuable aspects of membership in UPCEA. Yet networking is often an afterthought or an incidental byproduct of community building in face-to-face meetings. Professional networking is too important to be incidental; we need a comprehensive strategy to maximize opportunities to learn from each other, especially between meetings. The cultivation of professional networks will provide the necessary framework for this activity to be maximized, with appropriate support from the new Chief Learning Officer.
Transition “UPCEA Connect” to an appropriate social/professional media platform that provides for effective member interaction.
Recognize that networking at conferences is valued by membership. Determine how planners should maximize this value.
Establish a list of members with expertise in various areas of practice who are willing to serve as a resource or mentor to other members.
H. Investigate the possibility of a credentialing initiative for CE professionals.
It is ironic that many continuing education units offer CEUs, yet there is no single recognized source for credentialing of university-based professional and continuing educators. This is both an enormous opportunity and challenge for UPCEA. Clearly, as the leading association for the field of continuing education, UPCEA is best positioned to serve as the leading credentialing authority. Such an initiative, however, is extremely complex and would require due diligence before any decision is made about whether to proceed.
Review past attempts to credential or provide certification and identify lessons learned.
Determine value to members.
Evaluate potential perception to others in higher education.
Compare/assess other such certificates.
Identify types of ‘certification’ (e.g., marketing, finance, programming, leadership, general).
Explore possible collaborations with member institutions, industry partners, other
Develop cost/benefit analysis.
I. Explore programming opportunities for faculty and professional school personnel.
Changing the name of the association to include “professional” was in part designed to attract members in decentralized models where continuing education is practiced within the context of traditional professional schools. UPCEA must leverage this opportunity. In addition, while faculty members are a primary audience for other organizations focused on online learning, they have not been generally engaged by UPCEA. UPCEA must determine whether faculty should be an audience, and if so, how best to engage them.
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MEET MEMBER NEEDS FOR RESEARCH AND INFORMATION
UPCEA’s Continuing Higher Education Review (CHER) is a leading journal in the field. More must be done to optimize this resource for the benefit of members and the profession. There is also a strong consensus among Association members—reflected in the McKinley survey and at the Leadership Summit in Toronto—that UPCEA needs to provide greater service to member institutions in the area of actionable research and benchmarking information. This service would benefit all members as well as provide customized services that would serve as a new and important revenue stream for the Association.
A. Build the Center for Research and Consulting to provide research and information to all UPCEA members and premium services for paid members and other clients.
The CRC was created in April of 2011 to meet member needs for research and benchmarking information. In its first few months, the CRC has focused on national research studies for general membership (on the issue of new state regulations governing online learning issue and the annual Management and Marketing Surveys), in building a group of founding members of the CRC, and in providing custom research for other clients. It is staffed by a founding director, an associate director, and professional contractors as needed.
B. Develop a repository of research and information for general membership.
UPCEA members have repeatedly expressed a strong desire for a repository of research and benchmarking information that can be accessed easily via the web. The CRC must build this repository.
C. The CRC should develop and refine its revenue generating strategies.
The CRC currently has two main sources of revenue: a paid membership program and individual clients contracting for custom studies. As the CRC matures, UPCEA needs to ensure that its revenue generating model is strategically positioned within the sector of organizations providing market research in professional, continuing, and online education.
D. Build a cadre of member consultants for organizational or program reviews and other targeted areas of expertise.
Some institutions have asked UPCEA to serve as a resource for program review teams or organizational consultations. UPCEA piloted this service in the summer of 2011. This capacity should be developed and offered through the CRC.
E. Articulate a corporate partner strategy to extend the capacity and scope of CRC.
The CRC is currently recruiting a small number of strategic alliance partners to complement and extend the capacity of, and areas of expertise within, the Center’s staff. These partners will strengthen the CRC and provide additional revenue streams, which will in turn help UPCEA meet member needs in other areas.
F. Create an advisory council to guide future development of the CRC and ensure responsiveness to member needs.
The CRC will benefit from the expertise of an advisory council. The council should consist primarily of CRC members but also include representation from general UPCEA leadership. The Council shall advise the Director and the UPCEA CEO.
G. Make more strategic use of the Continuing Higher Education Review.
CHER has been successfully managed by Harvard University for many years. It is time to maximize this asset by integrating its important work with the themes and strategic direction of the Association so that each helps inform the other.
H. Promote the Continuing Higher Education Review and the work of the CRC to the public, heightening UPCEA’s recognition as the leader in professional, continuing and online education.
The widespread media coverage of the UPCEA-WCET survey on institutional responses to the new federal requirements for online learning is a prime example of the CRC’s potential in this area.
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ADVOCATE FOR OUR PROFESSION AND THE STUDENTS WE SERVE
Members have called upon UPCEA to advance the agenda of adult learning and of our profession, both within our institutions and with public policy makers. Few higher education associations have sufficient internal resources to track a wide range of policy issues and legislation. UPCEA must therefore develop a more focused approach to advocacy. UPCEA’s recent partnership with WCET on the state regulation of online learning is a clear example of collaborating with other organizations to leverage our respective capacities on a key policy issue. And the daily Online, Continuing, and Professional Education Update by UPCEA is a cost-effective means of keeping members informed of news related to the field. UPCEA must identify and develop other cost-effective ways to advance our profession and the students we serve.
A. Engage vigorously on a select number of key issues where UPCEA’s leadership is valuable, and collaborate with other organizations to amplify our impact on federal and state policy.
B. Develop a Speakers Bureau of member experts to serve as a media resource and to facilitate speaking opportunities beyond UPCEA events.
C. Advocate for access to higher education opportunities for adult and non-traditional students.
D. Leverage the Continuing Higher Education Review and the work of the Center for Research and Consulting to “tell our story,” both internally within member institutions and externally in the arena of public policy.
E. Appoint short-term task forces to address specific policy issues that arise which require member expertise to engage.
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ALIGN UPCEA’S ORGANIZATIONAL STRUCTURE WITH NEW STRATEGIC GOALS AND PRIORITIES
A. Unify the Communities of Practice, Commissions, and Knowledge Networks in a single new structural unit, streamlining the organization’s complex structure and making it easier for members to access programs and information about their core areas of professional practice.
The McKinley Marketing study and the Special Leadership Summit in Toronto revealed that membership believes the Association’s organizational structure is overly complex and should be simplified. In particular, the discrete purposes of Commissions, Communities of Practice, and Knowledge Networks have become convoluted, contributing to confusion and duplication of functions. The three structures should be merged into a unified structure for addressing core areas of practice within modern CE units. This re-alignment will eliminate duplication of efforts and extend the value of the Commissions, Communities of Practice, and Knowledge Networks to all members. We should signal a fresh start by creating a new name for the unified organizational unit. The choice of the name should be carefully considered, but the term of “Network” captures the spirit of professional networking and community building we wish to foster with this key organizational change.
Networks will likely include combinations of the following areas of practice:
Leadership and Strategy
Program Development and Management
Enrollment management and Student Services
Outreach and Engagement/Career and Economic Development
Non-Credit Programs and Conferences
The mission of the Networks will integrate vital functions currently associated with Commissions, Communities of Practice and Knowledge Networks, including but not limited to:
Professional development programming
Research and benchmarking agenda
Identification of new and emerging trends
Recognition of achievement
B. Clarify and strengthen the relationship between the National Office and the Regions.
The Regional Cabinet recently conducted an assessment of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats associated with the current relationship between the Regions and the National Office. The Regional Cabinet found considerable strategic advantages at the Regional level, especially in the areas of member engagement, professional development content, knowledge of unique regional issues, and accessibility in terms of cost and geographic proximity. Challenges at the Regional level include many aspects related to business functions such as hotel sourcing and contract negotiation, assumption of financial liability, marketing functions, registration and website management, meeting planning and onsite event logistics, and vendor outreach and management. Simultaneously, the Association’s financial audit revealed significant vulnerabilities in the current structure. That finding was reinforced by the Association’s legal counsel and insurance advisor. The Association’s professional advisors have strongly urged the National Office to minimize overall financial exposure by signing regional conference contracts, thereby assuming both financial and legal responsibility for regional events.
The global restructuring of the National Office makes a new National-Regional partnership model possible. The hiring of a Chief Learning Officer will dramatically enhance National Office support for Regional leadership and volunteer conference planning committees. A new contract with Conference Direct, a national leader in conference management, has expanded the capacity of the National Office to partner with Regions on conferencing functions. And the new Director of Institutional and Corporate Relations allows UPCEA to support a “one-stop shop” for UPCEA sponsorships and exhibits for the mutual benefit of members and vendors, a strong preference of the vendor community expressed during a town hall meeting in Toronto. The result of these and other changes will help Regions optimize their potential, control costs for Regional conference participants, and expand participation in Regional community building events at the Annual Conference by including them in the basic registration price.
C. Streamline the Committee Structure.
Over time, the ad hoc proliferation of committees and task forces has led to confusion and inefficiencies. Some committees have identical or almost identical membership. For example, three standing Board committees consist of the same group of individuals: the Executive Committee, the Finance Committee, and the Strategic Planning Committee. Other committees and task forces have not met in more than a year. It is time to prune the garden—to eliminate inactive committees and redundancies among standing committees and to make more strategic use of short-term task forces. A task force of Board members will review the organizational chart of committees and task forces and propose a new, more streamlined structure.
D. Develop clear lines of support from the National Office for each element of the volunteer leadership structure.
The current volunteer leadership structure is not just overly complex; it also needs more effective support from the National Office. Although UPCEA staff are member-centered in orientation, the lines of support are not always clear and until recently there were no subject matter experts (professional, continuing, and online education) working directly with leadership units. Recent changes will allow Association to reach its full potential.
E. Develop more effective succession and orientation plans for volunteer leadership.
The identification and appointment of volunteer leaders is often insufficiently deliberative or strategic. A more proactive succession process would help identify new Association leaders and re-engage more experienced members. Also, since volunteer leaders and their organizational units often spend too much time re-orienting to the task at hand, developing a more streamlined organizational structure with effective orientation plans for volunteer leaders will result in more successful volunteer leadership experiences.
F. Review UPCEA’s Bylaws and Policies and Procedures and align with best practices in association governance.
The Strategic Plan will result in significant changes to the Association that will, in turn, require changes to the Bylaws and Policies and Procedures. UPCEA has initiated a review of all the Association’s legal documents. The review will include Board structure, membership qualifications and terms, and election protocol.
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STRENGTHEN UPCEA’S MARKET POSITION WITHIN HIGHER EDUCATION AND ALIGN ITS BUSINESS MODEL WITH BEST PRACTICES IN ASSOCIATION MANAGEMENT
UPCEA must have a clear vision of its place in the higher education marketplace. The Association is well positioned to be the leading professional organization for colleges and universities serving the burgeoning adult learner market. UPCEA must capitalize on this advantage, both to strengthen the Association and to advance the interests of the profession it serves.
To optimize this strategic opportunity, UPCEA must modernize the Association’s infrastructure and align its business model with best practices in association management. This need has been self-evident to leadership and has been reinforced by the market study by McKinley Marketing, the independent business audit of the Association by LarsonAllen, and the outcomes of the Leadership Summit in Toronto.
A. Become the recognized leader among higher education organizations serving adults through professional, continuing and online education.
The Association is already the recognized leader in continuing education. But UPCEA needs a more compelling identity and market position than continuing education alone. That recognition recently prompted the Association to add “professional” to its name. Still, UPCEA has been curiously reluctant to stake its territory in an area where CE deans and directors have been leaders at their institutions: the management, marketing, and support of online learning. Online learning continues to be the fastest growing sector of higher education. It is a strategic imperative for UPCEA to leverage the leadership and expertise of its members in this critical area to become a recognized leader in the larger space of professional, continuing, and online education.
B. Marshal UPCEA’s limited financial resources to meet the objectives of the Strategic Plan.
In accordance with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, the auditors have centralized all previously decentralized accounts under Board oversight and direction. To ensure that limited funds are invested wisely to meet member needs and advance strategic interests, a close partnership between the Board, the CEO, and volunteer leadership units is vital.
C. Reconfigure the National Office staffing structure to execute UPCEA’s new business model and strategic objectives.
The CEO has restructured the National Office staff to address new strategic priorities. The new UPCEA staffing structure is designed to: modernize the association’s financial and operational infrastructure; partner with volunteer leaders to ensure high quality professional development offerings; facilitate professional networking; bring a new level of support to leadership bodies; build a research and information center (CRC); and implement a corporate relations strategy.
D. Diversify revenue streams to achieve financial stability.
Successful associations diversify their revenue streams to reduce risk and create the resources necessary to reinvest in programs and services that their members value. UPCEA needs to do this. Indeed, UPCEA’s legacy business model is extremely vulnerable because it relies almost entirely upon membership dues and conference fees. The new Center for Research and Consulting is an important new effort to diversify UPCEA’s revenue streams. Although a good start, the Association must develop other new revenue-generating initiatives.
Develop a series of webinars and online workshops.
Develop an annual conference for the leadership, management, and marketing of Distance Learning programs to serve this growing field.
Develop and implement a comprehensive corporate relationship management strategy.
Consider developing a credentialing program.
F. Re-examine the membership and pricing structure.
UPCEA’s institutional membership model still enjoys widespread support. There is a consensus that UPCEA should remain an Association whose members are primarily universities and four-year colleges. But there are inequities in the dues structure that require attention, and many other aspects of the Association’s membership structure which deserve a fresh look in light of dramatic changes in the higher education landscape since the last time UPCEA made comprehensive changes.
Review pricing structure to ensure fairness.
Clarify the status of non-U.S. institutions, which are currently limited to “affiliate” membership.
Develop a clear, consistent policy regarding “system” memberships.
Provide an unlimited number of professional memberships allowed for each institutional member, which would add value to institutions and expand the audience for UPCEA programs and services beyond traditional CE units.
Add a corporate membership category, in keeping with best practices in higher education associations.
Examine barriers to community college membership and engagement, especially in light of the recent national focus on the common ground and potential collaboration between community colleges and four-year colleges and universities.
Consider professional membership for individuals without an institutional affiliation.
G. Build an effective vendor relationship management strategy for the mutual benefit of UPCEA, our members, and industry partners.
In today’s highly competitive and increasingly sophisticated higher education market, many UPCEA members cannot succeed without industry partners. Our corporate partners are colleagues operating in a common “ecosystem,” and we have much to learn from each other. A cultural change in the way UPCEA, our members, and our industry partners connect and collaborate is both necessary and overdue.
Create a corporate membership level, consistent with best practice in higher education associations, and allow corporate partners to participate in volunteer leadership committees.
Encourage an appropriate number of corporate partner presentations that contribute to the field, and manage audience expectations about the nature of these sessions.
Create a one-stop shop for corporate sponsorships to avoid multiple “asks,” which was the overwhelming preference of vendors attending a town hall meeting at the Annual Conference.
Consider appointing one or two corporate members to the Board—an emerging trend in higher education associations, which report very positive outcomes.
Appoint a Corporate Advisory Council.
Enhance the experience of exhibitors at conferences.
H. Explore strategic partnerships and mergers to enhance the value of UPCEA programs and services, and position UPCEA as a critical hub for the important issues emerging in professional, continuing, and online education.
Seek partnerships with other higher education organizations and corporations serving professional, continuing or online units that will likely extend the worldwide reach of UPCEA and provide greater service to members.
Engage in short-term collaborations for individual projects or programs, such as a jointly sponsored research report. Additional collaborations will be sought if initial efforts prove fruitful.
Explore relationships with related organizations outside of higher education such as training associations, marketing associations, workforce development agencies and organizations.
I. Invest in technology
UPCEA has begun investing in new technologies that are the central nervous system of modern associations. The Association is the process of converting its data infrastructure from an obsolete database system to Timberlake, an Association Management System (AMS). Financial systems have been outsourced, leveraging the technological capacity of firms that serve the association industry. And a partnership with Sonic Foundry has allowed UPCEA to provide webcasts of our Annual Conference and the Summit on the Future of Online Learning. More work must be done.
Replace UPCEAConnect with a professional/social networking tool that better meets member needs.
Dramatically improve the UPCEA website so it is easy to navigate, is updated with current information, and motivates users to explore.
Develop the capacity for an online repository of research, information, and other documents related to the field, and ensure that they are readily accessible to members.
Develop a more robust capacity (internally or by outsourcing) for supporting webinars, online workshops, and volunteer leadership meetings.
Increase the use of data and analytics so that UPCEA knows more about its members and how they access programs and services
J. Build an implementation plan to fulfill the Strategic Plan over a three-year time horizon, and develop corresponding metrics for goal setting and tracking of performance.
Build a project management matrix with metrics for each strategy and action. Metrics shall include goals, time frame, and responsible party or parties.
The Board shall work with responsible parties to successfully meet goals and metrics.
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