Making Sure Your Institution Is Ready for Online Student Success With Archer’s Readiness Assessment

On the crowded highways of higher education, institutions are continually having to navigate through critical construction zones. The landscape is evolving at a breakneck pace, driven by technological advancements, changing student demographics, and shifts in educational demands. 

This nearly constant state of flux calls for adaptation, but also strategic foresight and strong leadership. Leaders in higher education are tasked with steering their institutions into the wide-open left lane, ensuring that they not only survive but thrive in the new environments. 

Your institution’s strategic planning process should begin with a change readiness assessment — an evaluation of your preparedness for the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. The readiness-to-change assessment tool is more than just a measuring stick; it’s a cornerstone of successful enrollment strategies, providing actionable insights and a clear direction for institutions. 

Archer Education’s Readiness Assessment empowers our higher ed partners’ leadership teams to make informed decisions, align their resources effectively, and engage in practices that foster student success. 

The Importance of a Strategic Road Map in Higher Education 

Change and growth are inevitable in any organization, and higher education institutions are no exception. You don’t have to be a Formula One driver to successfully weave through the traffic — you just need a road map that outlines the path to achieving your institution’s long-term goals and objectives. 

The Role of a Strategic Road Map               

A strategic road map in higher education encapsulates the vision, goals, and proactive steps that an institution can (and should) follow. It’s a blend of foresight, flexibility, and focused execution. The components of a strategic road map often include: 

  • A statement of the institution’s mission 
  • Measurable objectives 
  • Strategies to achieve these objectives 
  • A framework for monitoring progress 

The road map aids in decision-making and prioritization, ensuring that every choice aligns with the overarching goals of the institution. During times of uncertainty or rapid change, the road map helps leaders stay true to their institution’s core values and long-term vision while adapting to new challenges and opportunities. 

Navigating Change With a Road Map 

While you might be completely reliant on Google Maps in your personal life, in the world of higher education, you have to plan things out on your own to stay nimble. 

Whether you are responding to shifts in educational technology, students’ needs, or regulatory environments, your road map provides a structured approach that allows you to adapt quickly and efficiently.

For example, in the early 2000s, Arizona State University (ASU) recognized the increasing demand for online learning and flexible educational options. The institution was able to identify the shift, build a strategic road map focused on expanding its digital learning platforms, implement an ambitious array of online programs, and then reap the benefits of increased enrollment. Moving forward, ASU’s road map was not static — the institution continuously iterates and refines its online offerings to stay ahead of changing consumer demands.  

Inside the Archer Readiness Assessment

You may be thinking, all this talk about a strategic road map sounds great, but how do I know where to start? Or to back up even further, how do I even gauge whether or not my institution is ready to start? 

That’s where the Archer Readiness Assessment comes in. It’s the engine that propels your institution’s road map, the core of your strategic plan. 

Components of the Change Readiness Assessment

For every partner that Archer works with, we start the assessment process with a five-part questionnaire that builds our foundation for what’s to come, with each of the five parts including between 10 and 40 questions. The following are examples of these questions: 

1. University Admissions Questionnaire

  • Evaluate your admissions requirements and processes across involved teams. What is your desired service level?
  • How does your university handle financial aid?
  • What does course availability look like? 
  • Are applicants reviewed on a rolling basis or as a cumulative whole? 

2. Culture and Change Capacity Questionnaire

  • Do the executive leadership and the institution broadly have a culture of improving access to learning through technology? 
  • What number of courses and programs are currently offered online? 
  • Is there clear academic involvement in institutional planning and decision-making? 

3. Marketing and Public/Community Relations Questionnaire

  • Is there a clear path for online applications on the website? 
  • Is there a centralized marketing approval process with a single point of contact for timely approvals? 
  • Can you provide demographic or psychographic information on your online student population? 

4. Student Support Questionnaire

  • What forms of payment are allowed? Can payments be made online? 
  • How does the institution track students’ financial aid status? 
  • Are career planning/placement services available using electronic modalities? 

5. Technology and Instructional Technology Questionnaire

  • Is there 24/7 help desk support with a help desk ticket system and reporting? 
  • Are you using any retention software or systems? If so, which software or systems? 
  • How do you host your current websites? 

These example questions represent only a small portion of the questionnaires, and you may not have the answer to every question. Most of our partners don’t, and that’s okay — we work together to help your institution get the answers it needs. 

Implementing the Change Readiness Assessment 

A change readiness assessment is only as valuable as its application. At Archer, we work closely with your institution through these steps to make your responses matter: 

1. Understand Your Current State

Begin by thoroughly understanding where your institution currently stands in terms of enrollment and strategic planning. Gather relevant data and insights about your current operations and strategies.

2. Introduce the Assessment

Introduce the Archer Readiness Assessment tool to key stakeholders. Explain its purpose, its benefits, and how it will be integrated into the existing strategic planning process.

3. Gather a Cross-Functional Team

Assemble a team from various departments (such as admissions, academic affairs, and marketing) to ensure a holistic view during the assessment.

4. Conduct the Assessment

Use the Readiness Assessment tool to evaluate various aspects of your institution, such as its academic programs, marketing strategies, technology infrastructure, and administrative processes.

5. Analyze Results

Analyze the findings from the assessment to identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats in your current strategy and operations.

6. Develop a Strategic Plan

Use the insights gained from the assessment to develop or refine your strategic plan. This should include setting clear goals, determining necessary resources, and outlining a timeline for implementation.

7. Implement Changes

Start implementing the changes or improvements identified in your strategic plan. Ensure that these changes are aligned with the overall goals and objectives of your institution.

8. Monitor and Adapt

Regularly monitor the progress of the implemented strategies. Be prepared to make adjustments as needed to respond to new challenges or opportunities that arise.

The Change Readiness Assessment as a Guiding Light 

Archer’s Readiness Assessment isn’t a one-off email exchange between two parties. It’s the foundation that connects us to our partners for the long haul. The assessment helps us ensure that our partners aren’t reacting to changes but rather proactively preparing for them, equipped with a clear understanding of their capabilities and potential areas for growth. 

Consistent Framework

The Archer Readiness Assessment provides a consistent and reliable framework for institutions to evaluate their strategies and operations. It offers a structured approach to assessing various aspects of the institution, from its academic offerings to its administrative processes, ensuring that all its elements are aligned with the institution’s strategic goals. This consistency is vital for maintaining focus and direction, especially when external factors are in flux.

Benefits in Dynamic Environments 

In dynamic and unpredictable educational environments, the stability offered by the Readiness Assessment is invaluable. It allows institutions to develop and maintain a clear vision and stay grounded in their strategic objectives, even as they adapt to external changes. By providing a stable reference point, the assessment enables institutions to make informed strategic decisions, reducing the risk of responding with knee-jerk reactions to immediate challenges. This stability is key to institutions’ long-term success, helping them not only survive but thrive in a landscape of continual change.

Strategic Planning as the Beacon of Leadership in Higher Education 

A change readiness assessment is far more than just a procedural necessity in the modern higher ed market. It’s the beacon of leadership, guiding institutions through the ever-changing educational roadways. 

The enduring relevance of strategic planning in higher education is undeniable. As the sector continues to encounter new challenges and opportunities, from technological advancements to shifts in students’ expectations, strategic planning remains the constant that can secure an institution’s future. It empowers leaders to view change not as a hurdle but as a stepping stone toward innovation and growth.

Archer Education partners with dozens of institutions to help them evaluate their readiness and design strategic plans that usher them into the future with tech-enabled, personalized enrollment marketing and management solutions. Contact our experts to request more information about Archer’s Readiness Assessment and how it can help your institution ride with the top down in the years to come. 

Subscribe to the Higher Ed Marketing Journal: