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The Benefits of Collaboration in Higher Education

Collaboration and innovation are the new buzzwords in higher education. However, what do they really mean to the faculty and staff on the ground at higher education institutions? There is more than a little fear associated with these words. These words often come with change and people are resistant to change. According to the Harvard Business Review, people see change through the lens of uncertainty, loss of control and potentially, more work.

The TIAA-CREF Institute paper Barriers to Innovation and Change in Higher Education, meanwhile, reported that individuals within higher education institutions are often the greatest barriers to change. The obstacles are based on human resistance to change but internal systems, organizational silos and structures, and decision-making processes all play major roles. In addition, external market forces, both political and economic, are placing significant pressure on colleges and universities to meet the competing needs of performance funding, an educated workforce and lower financial costs. Colleges and universities often centralize functions to create efficiencies but innovation can come from a more decentralized approach, encouraging faculty and staff to create effective practices and then share them across disciplines.

Overloaded by under-funded initiatives, strategic plans, satisfaction surveys and new data collection procedures, faculty and staff feel as though they are bearing the brunt of the challenges. So how can we convince them to take risks, be more responsive and innovate? Collaboration and interactivity for students are in the classroom are recognized as an integral part of learning, so why aren’t those same skills promoted to the internal stakeholders in institutions? A recent opinion piece in Inside Higher Ed reminded me of my own experiences as a Dean of Graduate and Professional Studies.

The duality of my responsibilities, assuring that the faculty felt supported and responding to the administration’s calls for increased enrollment, retention and graduation numbers, often left me feeling as though I was alone and moving from one crisis to another. During my tenure there, I worked to create a collaborative atmosphere and CAEL provided me with some of the tools and resources I needed.

CAEL recognizes that collaboration is a key skill set for faculty and staff. We support and celebrate the relationships that internal staff forge between themselves and other departments and roles. We have created new professional development workshops and our 2018 International Conference, scheduled for November 13-16 in Cleveland, Ohio, promises to offer new and interesting approaches to addressing the needs of adult students. Attendees will have the opportunity to strengthen their understanding of adult learner engagement, support and improve equity in educational outcomes and learn about the newest research and trends from experts in the higher education field.

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If your institution or organization is seeking guidance, solutions, or support from CAEL, or if you have an idea for a future collaboration initiative with us, please reach out. We'd love to connect.

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