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Propositions Concerning LESI Curriculum Management and Development

Issue #4 : Curriculum Management and Development

The Task Force has been requested to make recommendations on how to best manage and further develop the courses and curriculum.

Upfront, the Task Force emphasizes that it recognizes and appreciates the almost herculean effort that the Education Committee has put into both trying to teach the courses and strategically plan the Committee.  However, for the Task Force, the issue is not does the Education Committee do a good job.  The real issue is: can the structure be improved and, if so, how.

There are many ideas in this regard ranging from leaving the current structure in place to spinning the Education Programs out into a separate, independent entity like the CLP.  These include the concept of the creation of a quasi-independent “LESI Academy” run by a Board of Administrators.  Instead of trying to address all possibilities, the Task Force decided to concentrate its attention and present its views on these three different suggestions in order to receive comments and viewpoints.

Further, the Task Force identified two essential needs for whatever entity runs the LESI Educational Programs:

1.      Resources, both human and financial; and

2.      Good strategic direction (from the LESI Board or elsewhere).

Whatever entity that is charged with the task of developing and running the LESI Educational Programs should be the one best placed to address those two needs.

Resource Needs: Human Resources

The Education Committee has emphasized that its primary resource constraint are human resources for course development and content delivery. 

On the face of it, none of the three models would overtly appear to offer any advantage over the others.  If people are not going to work, they are not going to work, regardless if it is for the Educational Committee the LESI Academy or an independent spin-out.  Further, the Task Force has taken note of the fact that it is often difficult to find sufficient manpower to properly man the Education Committee as it exists today. 

However, the Task Force believes that there re may be one factor weighing in the advantage of the LESI Academy and Spin-Out models over the Educational Committee: prestige.  People are more likely to be motivated to work as a Board Member of the LESI Academy than as a “mere” Vice-Chair of the Education Committee.  The additional prestige that would come from being an Administrator or “Governor” of the LESI Academy may very well attract talent and expertise that would otherwise be unlikely to volunteer to serve.

It is to be noted that the Task Force was not unanimous in this view.  The opinion was expressed that the same result could be achieved with the present Committee structure by having more defined roles within the Committee.  Further, it was expressed that course development could be done with internal LESI human resources by, for example, increasing liaisons with other LESI IPR Committees to develop new content.  However, if that is the case, then why no Chair has done that to date is not clear.

Further, the Task Force believes that if Board Members are appointed for extended terms (of, for example 2 or 3 years) instead of the year-to-year tenure of Educational Committee Members, then they are more likely to invest themselves in the role.  In this regard, it is noted that, while traditionally, LESI Presidents have adhered to an unwritten rule that Education Members would serve two-year terms, this is not guaranteed.

Resource Needs: Financial Resources

The Education Committee has emphasized that it has never had a budget proposal rejected and so cannot say that it has financial restraints.  

However, the Task Force notes that further development of the Educational curriculum as recommended by external educational experts consulted by the Task Force, would require financial resources that would be difficult for LESI to provide and maintain, especially with present budgetary constraints.

Again, on the face of it, none of the three models would appear to offer any advantage over the others in generating additional revenue.  Indeed, the easiest way to obtain additional financial resources (permitting at least a part of the revenue generated through activities, such as DVD sales, on-line offerings, webinars, etc., to be retained by the entity for investment into the LESI Educational) is possible for all three models.  However, since such retention of finances is not mandated, it simply does not happen.

Where a spin-out or LESI Academy may have an advantage over the present Education Committee model may be in the area of budgeting.  Since LESI Budgets are made by the LESI Board for the upcoming year only, the Educational Committee cannot count on what budget it may have available to it for future years to maintain existing and develop new LESI Educational offerings.  This makes long-range planning difficult since it cannot count on having monies for capital investment that is needed to engage parties to provide services.  In contrast, an independent spin-out or a quasi-independent LESI Academy that can retain at least a part of the revenues it generates would be able to so plan. 

Again, the Task Force was not unanimous in this view with the belief being expressed that the Education Committee as presently structured could also do this.  While it is agreed that this may be the case, that approach could be easily changed by future LESI Boards.  This is something which would be more difficult with a stand-alone entity or an LESI Academy both of whom would, presumably, have their own charters.

 

Strategic Direction

Relative to the second point, the LESI Board appears to take a reactive, rather than a proactive, approach to the Educational Committee.  Further, a clear objective regarding the roles and responsibilities related to strategic goal of the Education Committee is often missing.  If the goals, broad and specific, are not clearly defined, one cannot expect specific actions to be pursued.  This diverts the Committee from its other tasks and gives it more of a short-term approach than a long-term one. 

Would either of the two alternative models (a “Spin-Out” or an LESI Academy) help in permitting those individuals running the LESI Educational programs to be more proactive and strategic in their approach? 

The Task Force believes it possible that they may.  Volunteers in a long-term position are more likely to invest themselves in the role and are more likely to be thinking ahead several years.  Thus, such a role would be more likely to attract committed individuals.  Further, it would give the organization a measure of independence from the LESI Board, so that it can develop a proper long-term strategic plan.

Will this definitively work?  The Task Force cannot say but it has noted the success of the CLP and believes that it would never have enjoyed such success if it had stayed within LES.  Further, it appears that individuals involved with the LES University from LES USA/C (who enjoy similar latitude) appear to believe that the USA/C Educational offerings are the better for it.

Education Committee, Independent Spin-Out or LESI Academy

Finally, the Task Force addressed the issue of whether the creation of an independent spin-out entity or a quasi-independent LESI Academy would be better suited for the task of managing the LESI Education Programs.

In this regard, the Task Force favored the LESI Academy concept.  While the approach of having a totally independent entity was successful for the CLP, in that case, it was also necessary due to the need for the CLP to remain and be independent of LES.  That logic is not applicable here.  Further, at this time, the financial viability of such an entity as an independent entity is not clear but would likely initially need substantial financial resources that are not available at this time.  Finally, LESI will need to retain a measure of control over its Education Programs due to the licenses it has and under which it operates those Programs.

This leaves the Task Force with the option of retaining the present structure or forming a quasi-independent entity along the lines of the “LESI Academy”.  In this regard, we can look to the success of the LES University (an initiative of LES USA/Canada) which has permitted USA/Canada to place the focus and resources on education that it was not able to do in the past.  And, while the LESI Academy would not be independent like the CLP is, it could be organized around program operational aspects that may serve as a useful start-up model.

The idea is to have the LESI Academy run by a Board of three Administrators having staggered terms, so that each year the term of one of the Administrators would expire.  The Board would be charged with: (1) strategic oversight, management and further development of the LESI educational programs and curriculum; (2) establishing and maintaining a program of instructor training and development; and (3) forming the Academy’s “Faculty”, responsible for delivering and helping to improve content. 

The Task Force is further considering recommending the establishment of an “Advisory Board” of (three to five) non-paid volunteers to serve as Advisors to LESI on Education.  The purpose of this Advisory Board would be as a resource of professional advice and assistance to the Board of Administrators and NOT oversight.  This Board could be composed solely of individuals external to LES but professionals in the education field but also cognizant of our profession and its co-mingling of legal commercial/business, and technology domains, or it could be a mix of such individuals and internal advisors dedicated to education.

Questions on which Consultation/Comments are sought

1.      What type of structure would be best for managing and developing an LESI Curriculum?  An independent body, a quasi-independent body or the present system using the Education Committee?

2.      Should LESI form a quasi-independent body to oversee its educational programs, curriculum and content?

3.      If so, what should scope of responsibility or powers should that body possess?  What about Budgets and fiscal management?

4.      If so, what should that body look like and be called?

5.      Should any special qualifications/requirements be required of persons who serve on such an Administrative Board?

6.      What should be the terms of persons serving on such a Board of Administrators?

7.      Would an Advisory Board be useful and, if so, what would its role be?

8.      Who should sit on such an Advisory Board and for what term?

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