3 ways registrars lead during times of change

June 29, 2020
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cartoon figure stands atop a purple arrow growing out of the ground as if it were a tree and looks out using a green telescope while other figures look up in marvel

by Matt Boulos, JD - Founder & CEO, Cognomos

These are, to say the least, interesting times.

Patterns are beginning to form, among them drops in international enrolments, the necessity of hybrid teaching models, and an ever-increasing emphasis on equity. To capitalize on this moment, schools will need to find ways to optimize schedules and improve how fairly they allocate resources.

Your perch as a registrar is unique – you see it all unfolding and are often the most important touchpoint for a student experiencing these dynamics. At the same time, it can feel like your hands are tied. Modern academic institutions are complex and sprawling, with broad interdependencies woven into legacy systems. Change, if it happens, can be slow or stuttering.

So, what can you do? It turns out that registrars and their offices can be dynamic engines for their organizations, and this pandemic has been no exception. It’s been our privilege to work with many of your colleagues as they have brought their course registration efforts into the future, and we have seen success follow a reliable structure.

Leadership lessons: Case study

For example, when the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto adopted our course registration platform, Course Match, in 2017, “everyone was a little stunned at how positive results seem[ed] to be.” The deployment was a success because of the remarkable leadership of Nicola Woods, who helmed the Program Office at the time. She was particularly thoughtful about who to involve and how to use key data points and events (surveys, metrics, simulations) to build momentum.

Let’s be clear: this isn’t easy. The details of these choices determine success, but your advantage is that you have visibility across functions that lets you uniquely guide these initiatives.  In times like these, that becomes a critical differentiator.

For Rotman, the school now faces an unprecedented season. Students will be living on and off campus – and some will be on opposite ends of the world. However, they’re able to experiment with optimizing scheduling for different delivery modes in a way that wouldn't be possible without the earned trust that their previous work afforded.

Here are our key takeaways:
Prove the case. Nothing beats numbers, but vision matters, too. When you can articulate the sense of the possible, it has a magnetic effect that aligns participants and accelerates conversations with stakeholders.
Build the minimal team with appropriate resources. Too many cooks in the kitchen can derail even the best efforts, but too few, and the work won't get done. However, communicating strategically with all stakeholders, particularly those not involved in implementation details, can protect momentum.
Constantly evaluate – even after the project is through. Use an objective fact base not only to bring the project to completion but also to justify the necessary evolutions that follow.

These days you have a front-row seat to some of the greatest shifts in higher education. It’s undoubtedly challenging, but the opportunity is also immense -– and your leadership will be one the differentiators in how your students fare. Are you up for it?

Break silos

Join the July 10th webinar "Breaking Silos to Create Strategic Change in the New Normal" to explore how registrars can collaborate across campus to support lasting, meaningful change.



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