On today’s episode of the Illumination by Modern Campus podcast, host Amrit Ahluwalia was joined by Frederick Wehrle to discuss the need for a consolidated administration to deliver a seamless lifelong learning experience that students demand.
Voiceover (00:04): Welcome to Illumination by Modern Campus, the leading podcast focus on transformation and change in the higher education space. On today's episode, we speak with Frederick Wehrle, who is Associate Dean of Academic Affairs at the University of California, Berkeley. Frederick and podcast host Amrit Ahluwalia discuss the need for a consolidated administration to deliver a seamless lifelong learning experience that's students demand.
Amrit Ahluwalia (00:29): Frederick, welcome to the Illumination Podcast. It's great to be chatting with you.
Frederick Wehrle (00:33): Thank you for having me. I'm excited to be here with you.
Amrit Ahluwalia (00:35): Absolutely. So we're live at the Sey A conference, uh, here in Washington, DC and, uh, Frederick actually wrote a piece for us, I'd say four months ago, three months ago now. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, uh, talking about sort of his, his perception of, of the importance of creating more streamlines between, uh, different parts of the institution when it comes to the delivery of continuing ed and lifelong learning. That's gonna be the focus of our conversation here today as a starting point. Why is there so much institution-wide interest in finding ways to do sort of continuing education, micro-credentialing, alternative credentialing, you know, why the fuss
Frederick Wehrle (01:10): Uh, I think it's been a, it's been a long time coming, but I, I would say general, generally two things that the first one, evidently there, there is some interest in, in the potential to generate excess revenue for a department that it's, it is kind of unmarked and you can use for innovation for new projects. Yeah. Um, and, and, and that's just something that is, is not necessarily a given, right. In, in many institutions, departments is you get grants and so on. You have to exactly spend everything for that specific research project and so on. So that is, is very attractive, but I would say more so than, than even that perspective, they're just faculty out there in, in, in almost any discipline who are just excited about the, the impact that they can have. The other thing that they could do that takes them out of their, their like standard if you want, uh, practice and day to day, uh, operations.
Frederick Wehrle (02:12): So not surprisingly, you have people that get engaged in, in building institutes Right. Or, or centers, um, that, that try to reach certain communities that, that try to create curriculum and content in a, in a format that makes it accessible. Um, that doesn't exist currently with the existing number of degrees that an institution offers. From the Berkeley perspective, it's very interesting because Berkeley traditionally really didn't have, for example, many master programs. Right. And self-supporting masters offer a very, I would say more maybe flexible and, and interesting way to explore different types of sub-disciplines fields Sure. That, that certain faculty really feel passionate about and, and feel they have and added value to the department, to the students, um, and themselves. Really.
Amrit Ahluwalia (03:09): That's really interesting. And, and you know, it's best of intentions sometimes, right? <laugh>, because the, the beauty of it is that whether it's for the revenue purpose, whether it's because there's a recognition that there's more that can happen, there's this really beautiful thing in having more and more people recognize that their expertise and their, their focus can appeal to and engage a much wider audience. Now, I, I'm curious to your take here, what are some of the drawbacks to the fact that this is happening kind of in isolation from at, at some institutions to the faculty member level, at some institutions at the unit level and, and at others at the col at the college level, but really creating multiple sort of silos of differentiated approaches to non-credit and alternative credentialing activity happening across the institution. What, what are some of the, the cons of, of taking that siloed approach?
Frederick Wehrle (03:59): I think the, the most obvious one is that everyone bounces into, eventually when they venture into creating new programming, new curriculum and, and wanting to build a certificate or even a degree, is if you are an expert in a subject matter, you're an academic, you're very smart, you're very competent, but you just really don't know. All it takes from the legislation, from the data privacy, right. Protection from the just mere operation mm-hmm. <affirmative>, um, to the creation of documentation for approval and so on and so forth. Um, so it's, it's if you have a lot of people that are excited in, in venturing into self-supporting programming, um, you, I think it's a good idea to provide them with the services and the experts Yes. That can support them. And it's quite interesting because just think about it, there's relatively few people in the United States, for example, or globally, who actually know how to design a successful self-supporting program. And so the idea that it's
Amrit Ahluwalia (05:19): A specific challenge.
Frederick Wehrle (05:20): Yeah. Yeah. And the idea that you could just literally have, I don't know, take somebody who works in your team, figure it out, <laugh>. Um, it's, it's, it's somewhat ridiculous and it's is particularly inefficient. Um, and to be honest, a campus can be consider themselves happy if they are able to get a few one, two Yeah. A few actual experts in continuing education, academic design, innovation, uh, for the entire campus who help architect and, and structure those so that they actually work.
Amrit Ahluwalia (05:59): Absolutely. You know, what's, what's kind of fascinating there is is it, there is a complexity to the management of this work and what, what actually throws me the most is that, you know, use the example of it would be really tough to just assign someone in your unit to do it
Amrit Ahluwalia (06:15): But I think what actually happens is it's not even assigned to any one person as their full-time focus's. Oh, no, it's generally speaking, it's off the side of someone's desk. And, you know, what, from a student perspective, I mean, what kind of impact does that have on their perception of the institution, their perception of the learning experience, if those kinds of factors and features of their interaction with the university are, are, you know, conducted off the side of Janet's desk, <laugh>,
Frederick Wehrle (06:41): Well, I mean the, there's a certain reality that in many institutions, faculty just have no access to gain deeper understanding of the entire administration of the, of the university as a whole. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, I can give a very easy example. Um, naturally I would say, and understandably, um, from a faculty perspective, the bulk of the work, uh, to create or deliver a course is the, the subject matter expert. Um, building the syllabus, building each session, slide deck, the assignments, the assessments, the grading. But actually, if you know the back end, the admin side, you know that most cases that represents about 20 to 30%, right. Of the, the work and also revenue. So while as, as a faculty person, if, if there's potential to generate revenue, you expect 99% <laugh>. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Um, you will maybe more likely get, uh, 20 to 30%. And the, the, it's, it's no one's fault other than maybe the institution that has not, um, that doesn't have the resources for the, the, the faculty to really understand the, the backend. And that I think can be and should be in more organizations and universities, uh, uh, serious role of the continuing education division or unit. Right. To, to like internally it just informed, by the way, this is how an education organization works.
Amrit Ahluwalia (08:28): Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Frederick Wehrle (08:29): These are all the things we need to consider. Here's the, the, the legal framework, here's the, all the check boxes that we have to, to go through and, and just lay it out. And for what it's worth, when, when we do this, um, with our division, we realize how much it takes to, to convey all of this. And, and we are therefore currently trying to figure out better ways to communicate that,
Amrit Ahluwalia (08:58): The value, the complexity, the, yeah. Well, and that's, you know, it kind of brings us into this, the, the, I guess the core, the, the, the discussion. Cuz I'm curious, you know, as you think about consolidating that ad administration, I mean, how does that process of consolidating administration of institution-wide continuing ed into a single unit really helped to overcome some of those obstacles? Especially around the inconsistency around the lack of expertise, uh, around the, the, the foundational challenges of trying to manage revenue at minimum revenue, neutral, self-sustaining at best revenue generating programming.
Frederick Wehrle (09:32): It's actually an interesting point that you're, you're just making at the very end of, of different revenue, revenue you're generating from, I am yet to see masters that really are considerably revenue generating once you get, like, really do the cost accounting. Yeah. <laugh>.
Amrit Ahluwalia (09:52): So if you see that the actual bottom line, it's more than just faculty costs.
Frederick Wehrle (10:00): And, and that is actually a thing where it makes sense, for example, to have a group of experts, um, on campus who, who centralize that if it, even if it's just for the capacity to properly budget and account for it and report back, for example, to the provost office. Right. Um, because, and to the division or department itself, because they something that might look relatively healthy, um, with a, uh, quick, uh, budget that you put together based on, on compensation. Um, if you figure factor in everything that you're putting in, um, and all the overhead you might be having extremely low, um, margins, if any. Right. Right. So that is one advantage if you, if you're able to, to, to create a centralized unit. And, um, again, this goes back to one thing I was saying earlier is you can be lucky if you have, if you are able to recruit the few, a few of the few experts in the field who are able to do that, and you won't find dozens of them for each individual apartment.
Frederick Wehrle (11:11): So there's just a reality that you probably need to be able to have this in one, um, one unit. Um, I've like looking around, uh, organizations, universities across, uh, the US and also in Canada for example. There is an issue though is that continuing education has been around for a while. Yeah. And I would say the, maybe the nineties and two thousands were really marked by a, in many, many cases by rapid growth, uh, focused a lot on, uh, on actual revenue generation Right. In in those, um, in those, uh, CE units. And one of the issues there is to be able to do that effectively is you need to really have a lot of independence, particularly in hiring your, your instructors Yes. In, in the oversight you have. And we are coming from therefore a, a tradition of basically having very, um, sound and very self-sufficient academic departments that really are in parallel to other departments and other colleges and schools across campus. Um, and, and there is now this, this question more lately with these wishes to integrate everything is how do we do that because they are academic departments in their own rights. Yep. Like, they're not a ugly duckling better version or, or like, I don't know the the <laugh> mass market version Yeah, yeah. Of the, the elite, uh, other department, they, they really do complimentary programming. They do different programming and they are absolute experts in what they do mm-hmm. <affirmative>, but they don't fit in the standard. Right. Because
Amrit Ahluwalia (13:06): It's a different focus. It's still Yeah.
Frederick Wehrle (13:09): Yeah. I mean it, it's, it's an, a huge expertise that, that for somebody who, who is fully in, in matriculated student world and college and grad world, it's naturally they, you can't understand what continuing education is if you haven't really like dug into it. And it is absolutely different. Like I've, I've myself, but I've seen many researchers faculty step into a classroom with professional learners and just like be shaken to the bones Yeah. <laugh>. Yeah. In that experience, different,
Amrit Ahluwalia (13:47): Different environment.
Frederick Wehrle (13:48): Some really are like never again, <laugh> and others are like, oh my gosh, this was the most amazing experience. Um, and those are the ones who actually like to oftentimes really be challenged and think on their feet. Yep. Because professionals will not sit there for an hour, an hour and a half just taking it, whatever you say, they will just immediately say like, it's interesting what you're saying, but here's how it works in my reality. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, so what do you say about that? And so it's, it's another dynamic. Um, but it's just radically different in many, many ways. Not just the administration. And you need somebody to administer something that is closer to an e-commerce business if you want. Right. You also need to understand Andra.
Amrit Ahluwalia (14:33): Yeah. The learning experience in and of itself, like every part of the product starts to become very unique. And that's, it's kind of fascinating cuz when we think about the, that decentralized model and you know, we think about, you know, you mentioned through the nineties and early two thousands, the incredible revenue generating of, of continuing ed that, that was realized in that period was followed by a great decentralization. So you had a number of faculties say, well, this is adjacent information to what we do, we should own that. Um, and then we saw a broad decline in the overall revenue generated the overall enrollment numbers in continuing ed because it was, it was shifted out of a unit where the adult learner was at the center and more towards one where the adult learner was a peripheral priority. Uh, and it, it is kind of fascinating to think how every single element of that product has to be oriented to the adult learner. It's not just the administration, it's not just that e-commerce experience, it's also what, what the program is on the other side.
Frederick Wehrle (15:34): Yeah. I mean that's really the, the, the fact that you, we talk about andragogy, not JI mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Yep. And it's, it is, it is very, very different. It's from the, the life course, um, to the asynchronous course. It, it is different than it needs to be different. Um, and it's beautiful. It's in its own way and it, it makes a big, big impact. I mean, look at the, like our, our university, uh, at Berkeley we have 30,000 roughly undergraduates, 15,000 graduates and 20,000 professional students. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, like that's huge.
Frederick Wehrle (16:14): Organization, which to be honest, is not on the radar of many, many people. Other institutions like, um, uc, San Diego for example, they have taken the step to really recognize extended education at the same level as graduate education and undergraduate league. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, they have undergrad division led by dean, graduate division led by dean and extended education led by Dean reporting directly to the provost Yes. And being part of the provost cabinet mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And that's very interesting as a step. And I think that's where many, many institutions will go towards. Um, because that recognition from leadership, the structural integration is something that will just make, I guess faculty also just more comfortable knowing that they mm-hmm. <affirmative>, well they have to work with them. So yes, it'll cost something, but at the end of the day, they're still still winning. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, and particularly one thing that I think the people that partner with continuing education successfully at the end of the day, really, really, really appreciate <laugh> is the de-risking and, and just being like, just doing what you like to do, the academics of it, the subject matter expertise, and not having to worry about the rest.
Frederick Wehrle (17:35): Like not having to worry about, oh, here is a case where a student has some issue or there's a complaint or there's a grievance, or there's something with a partner that doesn't go wrong mm-hmm. <affirmative>, there's an account that isn't paid. Um, creating the section, like everything that, all that backend that generates enormous risks and not just work. Yeah. And, and just being absolved of that.
Amrit Ahluwalia (18:02): Absolutely. So as, as you think about, you know, more and more institutions beginning to try to establish this model now, and let's, let's be honest, at every institution, this model will look differently depending on the circumstances of that institution, the focus of priorities. But what are some early stage steps that a continuing ed leader can take to begin to establish or begin to create a, a consolidated administration model at their own institutions? Environmental health?
Frederick Wehrle (18:29): Well, it's, to your point, it really depends on where they're coming from. Um, if they come from, oh, here's an existing continuing education unit that has been operating, uh, on a certain campus with a certain level of autonomy, then it's more a question of how do we now open our platform up to the rest of campus, even though they might be doing their own little things. That's a little bit the situation that we have at Berkeley. Um, where one step was, for example, we actually just created a larger extended education division that also includes summer session, study abroad, uh, osha, lifelong Learning Institute, uh, as well as extension. And then within the extension actually, um, how to say, formalize how to function as an academic department with the, the operational platform. Um, that is the student affairs, the, the registrar's office, the academic operations centralize those and, and, and just literally map out, formalize the processes and then how to say, document them and build systems, how you can train and, and engage, relay them to other academic departments.
Frederick Wehrle (19:46): At that point, you have extension academic departments functioning on the extension platform and any other academic department on campus can also, through the same processes function on that platform. Um, you have other, um, approaches that are also quite interesting where, uh, somewhat similar, um, but maybe more radical. Uh, for example, um, university of Chicago really just kept the gram school as like this integral, um, lifelong learning school. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> with a very specific mission. Its original mission of, uh, providing access to liberal arts education to people throughout their entire life. And then this function that I just described, which is like the support function really just became a support service, professional studies, professional education that then is, is doesn't have to deal with any internal issues. They, they're just like, we are a service period. They take that approach. Um, if you are in an institution where it's, it is currently completely decentralized and you get the mandate to centralize it, I, I think that is probably one of the, the most difficult perspectives. Yes. Um, on the other hand, you have the advantage that you don't have to consider. What are you doing with your own academic department? No. So it, it comes down to, um, working with the rest of campus leadership and campus people and engage people on campus to make them understand that you just have expertise that will allow them to be much more effective. That you can de-risk what they are doing, that you can, uh, make their lives better, easier and, and, uh, generate win-win situations all around.
Amrit Ahluwalia (21:37):Absolutely. Well, Frederick, I mean that pretty much does it on my end. Now, before we close, I, I'm always curious if, if someone was to find themselves in, in your town, so I mean, hell, the San, San Francisco, Berkeley specifically, what would, what, where, where should they go for dinner? What would be your recommendation?
Frederick Wehrle (21:53): I mean, a really quirky, typical Berkeley place is actually in a like square in a downtown of Berkeley, um, which is the Tupe bar. And it's, it's very typical because if you look at it from the outside, you're just like mm-hmm. <affirmative> okay. Not so inviting. But then you walk like through this little corridor into the back and you find yourself on this amazing, beautiful patio with like a fireplace in the middle and, and all this nice vegetation like the Californian Yeah. Vegetation. And they make the best like California pizzas and outta here. It's such a nice, nice little place and, and very typical. Uh, and so you get the quirkiness and, and, uh, the nice aspect of Berkeley
Amrit Ahluwalia (22:40): Oh, that's awesome. So the name one more time.
Frederick Wehrle (22:42): It's the Jupiter Bar.
Amrit Ahluwalia (22:43): Jupiter Bar. Beautiful. Frederick Man, it's been a pleasure. Thank you so much.
Frederick Wehrle (22:47): Thank you. I really appreciate it.
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