Tips for Success
Starting a faculty group is an exciting but incredibly demanding endeavor. The director should be an affable, patient, and courageous person. Above all, he or she must be completely dedicated to the project for the long term. The OpenLATCH Education Foundation is committed to helping the director with the start-up process, even at the point of the inception of the idea. Listed below are the top tips we have to facilitate the passage from idea to reality.
1) Contact the current Executive Director, even if you have not actually begun to contact potential faculty members. Talk to the director about your idea, your location, and your resources. He or she will either advise you personally or connect you with someone who has already successfully started a faculty group.
2) Determine the type of degree your faculty group would offer. Degree programs usually fall into two broad categories: those that are for success in a particular career and those that are for life-enrichment purposes. Is your degree program clearly one or the other? If is is clearly career-oriented, can it fully equip a student with what he or she needs in order to be competitive in the career hunt? If your program is mainly for life enrichment, is it really worth the cost of the tuition? Perhaps your degree program can be designed as a hybrid of the two broad types of degrees. Are there any advantages for your faculty group in taking this hybrid approach?
3) Make sure you can think of at least two other people qualified to teach with you in the degree program you wish to develop, and at least three people who are not your faculty and who can serve on the board. Can you trust these people completely? Can you get along with these people? In the past, have they consistently shown personality elements that are conducive to effective interpersonal relationships?
4) Do not expect to earn a living from your faculty group. Perhaps your group will eventually attract enough students to allow you to receive a substantial income, but if full-time income is your main reason for starting a faculty group, you may be disappointed. It is best to view a faculty group as a premier way give back to the student community as well as a possible way to establish a steady flow of supplemental income.
5) Make sure you do not invest money in buildings or land. Rent your spaces. If you decide to set your your legal identity as non-profit, very likely you will be able to use public space like a closed-in room at a public library as your meeting rooms.
6) Design your degree program so that there are no large expenses for equipment, experience-related activities, or licensing fees. Use as many public-resource portals as possible (e.g., public-library systems, online interactive tools, open-access online research material, etc.).
7) Contact the Executive Director for a list of faculty groups from whom you might have your future students transfer core credits. Many of the core credits can be administered via mediated classes, so you can have your students register for these classes online from other faculty groups already offering them. This will allow you to focus on the degree-specific subjects you may be more comfortable with.
8) Train all your faculty members to do administrative tasks for the group. Rotate these tasks so that everyone will eventually learn every administrative duty. Do not hire secretaries or ancillary personnel.
9) Do not overcomplicate the process. The essential jobs of your faculty group is to teach, to assess learning, and to record the degree credits in a transcript service.
10) Before you start building your faculty group, come up with at least two ways to effectively advertise on a small budget. Be creative. Come up with ways to get the word out that bypass the often exorbitant costs of mass-scale interruptive advertising techniques. No matter how much you may want to do so, don't make anything you cannot sell.
11) Do not take out loans. Figure out how to do it via affordable, periodic personal injections of capital.
12) De-compartmentalize. The faculty who teach the degree-specific courses should be academically qualified in that area. However, clear ratiocination does not stop at a discipline border. Apply a critical mindset of exploration and examination to the ancillary subjects and come to the point where you or your faculty are comfortable teaching those subjects, too. A chemistry teacher for this type of faculty group should be comfortable teaching propositional logic, leading a exploration into Shakespeare's tragedies, and guiding a student group in thinking through entrepreneurial techniques for small business.
13) Bundle coursework to one instructor by using different formats. For example, have one faculty member meet with a student group one time a week for four hours each time, for eight weeks. This will give you a total of 40 class hours. For each session, the instructor can teach for two hours and then spend the other two discussing and checking students' portfolios, projects, and logs. If the class is worth 3 credits, the portfolio 2 credits, the project 2 credits, and the log 1, then one instructor effectively administers the earning of 8 credits over 8 weeks for each student. This way the instructor can earn a substantial fee from the tuition of these 8 credits and can most effectively allocate his or her energies into those 4 hours of in-class per week (not counting time for preparation). Embracing the mindset of de-compartmentalized teaching will further facilitate the scheduling of coursework, as one faculty member can theoretically administer bundled coursework that meets a variegated selections of requirements.
14) Build and maintain your web site yourself, and keep it simple. If you lack experience in building web sites, ask your local librarian to help you find published resources and manuals that can demystify the process.
15) Expect to spend around 2 to 3 years getting the faculty group ready to go, and then expect it to take about 1 to 2 years more for you to find your first students.
Open Latch Education Foundation, a Non-Profit Organization
1242 North Wyngate Way, Maryville TN 37803