New Designs for the Two-Year Institution of Higher Education: Final Report
Change is not an option–it is an inevitability. The tremendous changes in the culture that surrounds and impacts higher education have created both crisis and opportunity. As presently organized and delivered, higher education is no longer sustainable pedagogically, technologically, or economically.
The consequence of culture change is most evident in our common lifeplaces–work, family, and community. Within higher education, the two-year institution is closest to these lifeplaces and therefore to the challenges and opportunities they hold. We must begin an earnest search for the synergies that will better connect our educational institutions to our culture in ways that free and create resources and multiply desired results. This is the challenge and the opportunity of New Designs for the Two-Year Institution of Higher Education (NDTYI).
- an educational institution that reawakens the potential of all learners, staff, and community.
- an educational institution that has a special spirit that gives coherence and meaning to all dimensions of the learning experience, as well as pride and joy in its results.
- an educational institution that levels the “playing field” for all learners, giving multiple pathways to learn what is most valuable to know and be able to do.
- an educational institution that works so closely with the community that borders are completely blurred and blended–so learning can occur any place and any time.
- an educational institution that is always vibrant, responsive, and on the “cutting edge” in what is learned and how it is learned.
- an educational institution that can confidently find the resources to do what it sets out to do.
This is the vision implicit in the NDTYI specifications.
NDTYI had three purposes. The first was to develop a design process that was sufficiently powerful to overcome traditional approaches and responses to designing two-year institutions of higher education. The second purpose was to develop a set of design specifications for an effective 21st century two-year institution of higher education. The third purpose was to develop and/or identify and describe new designs for two-year institutions that met the design specifications in order to make the specifications real and concrete for use in dissemination, training, and implementation.
NDTYI focuses on several target audiences: (1) administrative leaders responsible for designing entirely new institutions; (2) administrative leaders responsible for major restructuring through merger, re-engineering, or downsizing of institutions; and (3) policymakers at the local, state, and federal levels responsible for policy, regulations, and funding of two-year institutions of higher education. These target groups were involved in the project’s development and implementation, as well as in reporting and dissemination plans.
The design process consists of ten elements, executed in a particular order, referred to as “designing down.” The design elements are (1) learning context, (2) learning signature, (3) learning outcomes, (4) learning process, (5) learning organization, (6) learning partnerships, (7) learning staff and staff development, (8) learning environment, (9) learning finance, and (10) learning celebration. The elements of the design-down process follow this specified sequence so as to get careful alignment among the elements and to get “first questions first.” The idea is to ensure that the design fits the needs of the local situation and proceeds in a logical order from aims to actions to supporting structure, processes, and environment. The design process is envisioned as being like a seminar where knowledge and experiences are shared among a design group. The design group is made up of representatives of all major stakeholders in the institution.
In NDTYI, several sources of information served as ingredients to the design process. These sources of information were best professional practices in two-year institutions of higher education nationally and internationally; the latest research on higher education relating to each of the design elements; reports advocating revision and reform of higher education; focus group interviews with students, faculty, administrators, other staff, and external stakeholders; and a National Design Group selected to reflect broad representation of leadership and stakeholders in the future of the two-year institution of higher education.
This report is organized based on the design elements, each chapter discussing one element in the design process, with the exception of the beginning chapter, which provides the project’s purpose, focus, and process, and the ending chapter, which summarizes the report and provides future direction for transitions to new designs.
NDTYI must meet the needs of a particular context or situation. Chapter Two describes the context in terms of assets to be carried forward into the future, problems with the current institutional operation, opportunities to be taken advantage of in new designs, and aspirations to be accomplished by the institution. This chapter presents the design assumptions for NDTYI, the changing context of higher education in the United States with emphasis on the two-year institution, and the design criteria for NDTYI.
The focus of Chapter Three is on the learning signature. The learning signature is a powerful shorthand way to represent the institution to its staff, students, and the public. In NDTYI, the purpose of the learning signature element is to provide explicit and early focus on the identity of the two-year institution of higher education in relation to its learning context. The following is presented in Chapter Three: the purpose of the learning signature and the process used to develop design specifications and new designs for the learning signature in NDTYI; the connection of the learning signature to the design criteria presented in the section on learning context; the design specifications for an effective learning signature; and the learning signature themes developed by the National Design Group, the resulting NDTYI learning signature, and exemplary new designs for the learning signature.
Learning outcomes are the focus of Chapter Four. Learning outcomes refer to the added competence (value) developed by a learner through a learning experience. Because of the centrality of teaching and learning to the mission of two-year institutions of higher education, the learning outcomes become a powerful force or keystone in designing the institution and its way of operation. Chapter Four presents the purpose and process of developing new designs for learning outcomes, the connection of learning outcomes to the design criteria and the learning signature, a set of design specifications for guiding and reviewing the development of learning outcomes for a specific institutions, and a set of learning outcomes developed as part of the NDTYI project and exemplary new designs for learning outcomes.
Chapter Five provides a description of the learning process for new designs for the two-year institution of higher education. The learning process needs to be designed to respond to the learning context of a two-year institution and its learning signature and learning outcomes. The prior selection of learning outcomes plays a central role in designing the institution’s learning process. Chapter Five discusses the purpose and process of developing new designs for the learning process, the connection of the learning process to the previous elements in the design process, key concepts regarding the learning process, design specifications developed for learning processes for two-year institutions, and exemplary new designs for the learning process.
Chapter Six focuses on the learning organization for two-year institutions. For the learning process to be successful in reaching the learning outcomes in a manner called for by the learning signature, a learning infrastructure or organization must be put into place and continually improved upon. Chapter Six presents the purpose and process of developing new designs for the learning organization, the connection of the learning organization to the previous elements in the design process, key concepts regarding the learning organization, design specifications developed for the learning organization for two-year institutions, and exemplary new designs for the learning organization.
The purpose of Chapter Seven is to define and apply the construct, “partnership,” to NDTYI. The link between higher education institutions and their communities takes the form of learning partnerships or alliances with public and private sector organizations. Research and best practices relating to partnerships in education and other inter-organizational contexts are reviewed in this chapter. In addition, the meaning of being partners, the process of partnerships, and the links between two-year institutions of higher education and various categories of partners are explored. Design specifications for learning partnerships follow from this review and exploration. Finally, examples of new designs for learning partnerships are presented.
The purpose of Chapter Eight is to describe and rationalize a set of design specifications for the learning staff and staff development for NDTYI. The purpose of learning staff and staff development as an element of the design-down process is to underscore the importance of the staff to NDTYI. The attitude and competence of staff with regard to NDTYI are central to feasible implementation. The purpose and process of developing new designs for the learning staff and staff development are discussed in Chapter Eight.
Following this discussion, the connections between the learning staff and staff development and the previous elements in the design process are presented. Then the key concepts and the design specifications for staff and staff development resulting from focus group interviews and discussions of the National Design Group are described. Last, exemplary new designs for staff and staff development are recommended.
The focus of Chapter Nine, the learning environment, includes attention to both technology and facilities needed to support the design specifications recommended in the previous elements of the design process. Key questions addressed in this chapter concern the desired nature of the relationship between learning experiences and the learning environment, design specifications for the environment, and exemplary new designs for the learning environment of two-year institutions.
Chapter Ten centers on learning finance for NDTYI. Learning finance is critical to the implementation of NDTYI recommendations. Chapter Ten outlines an approach to financial management that links institutional resources to NDTYI and its work, identifies key concepts and design specifications for learning finance for NDTYI, and provides examples of exemplary practice regarding learning finance.
The final element in NDTYI, learning celebration, is presented in Chapter Eleven. Learning celebrations have to be designed in consideration of all of the processes and steps involved in the redesign of the whole institution. In addition to discussing the purpose and process of learning celebrations and connecting celebrations to the previous elements in the design process, Chapter Eleven also presents key concepts and design specifications for learning celebrations and exemplary new designs focused on learning celebrations.
The final chapter of the report offers a perspective on and strategies for organizational change that show how current practices and structures can be modified to move toward NDTYI. Putting new designs to work in the two-year institution is a major undertaking. Old paradigms and their associated practices must be challenged and, in many cases, fundamentally changed. As we look to the next century, it is clear that higher education will experience a host of new challenges and opportunities. These will result in pressures on institutions that cannot easily be countered by conventional organizations and educational practices. Instead, new designs will be required and institutional forms will need to be invented to enable institutions to adapt to their environments and to assist stakeholders in dealing with change.
Two-year institutions are at the center of change in higher education. They are the linking organization that helps people of all ages connect to our common lifeplaces in work, family, and the community. Furthermore, they are the pathway whereby access to opportunity is afforded to many otherwise excluded from higher education. The new designs envisioned in NDTYI “dance with change,” seek out and use interdependencies, and lead the way to higher education that is excellent and sustainably so–pedagogically, technologically, and economically.
Copa, G. H., & Ammentorp, W. (1998, April). New designs for the two-year institution of higher education: Final report. Berkeley, CA: National Center for Research in Vocational Education.