PACRAO Review Winter 2019 edition

Featured

open book

Volume 10 • Number 1 • January 2019

Download the entire issue: PACRAO Review January 2019

 


Registrar History Part I

Tom Watts
Oregon State University – Retired

 Perhaps the most interesting project that I worked on at the Office of the Registrar (OtR) at Oregon State University Office (OSU) was during my last year in the office. I was fortunate during my fifteen years at OSU to work on assignments that were interesting, important, and challenging. Each project had its demands, frustrations, and rewards; all were valuable learning experiences and opportunities to work closely with colleagues across the university.

Approaching my last year, the University Registrar, Rebecca Mathern, asked me to work on a particularly captivating project that we quickly dubbed the Registrar History.

Until we actually began, I couldn’t envision how exceptional the project would be or that I would end up fully immersed in documenting the history, in its broadest sense, of policies, procedures, regulations, initiatives, and collaborative efforts that impacted the work of the OtR. Personally, it was a challenging, educational, and gratifying way to end my work at OSU. For the University, the work has served as a great first step to a continually updated record of information and valuable institutional history.

This article – Part 1 of 2 – is a description of the project’s beginning: how we defined the scope, selected topics, and dealt with the expansion of the project. Stay tuned for Part 2 which will complete the explanation of the project, including our research methods, organizing our presentation, and reconciling the information overlap. Also included will be a discussion of our estimation of the value of the project and the circumstances that allowed us to make this undertaking a success.


The Role of the Academic Analyst in Shared Governance

Rebecca Mathern, PhD
Associate Provost and University Registrar
Oregon State University

This abstract is a summary of a Ph.D. dissertation as titled above. The next
publication will include a summary of the findings of the research and will include an opportunity to ask questions that can be answered by the researcher. This abstract is the warm-up for the research findings article in the following months.


The Role of the Academic Analyst in Shared Governance

Link

The Role of the Academic Analyst in Shared Governance

Rebecca Mathern, PhD
Associate Provost and University Registrar
Oregon State University

 

This abstract is a summary of a Ph.D. dissertation as titled above. The next
publication will include a summary of the findings of the research and will include an opportunity to ask questions that can be answered by the researcher. This abstract is the warm-up for the research findings article in the following months.

Abstract

This research explores the roles of academic professionals in higher education, specific to how they engage in decision-making processes. Academic professionals provide important functions in higher education work but there is little in the literature about these actors and their contributions to leadership and governance. A literature review triangulated role theory, organization theory, and the shared-governance field of study to bring together actors within higher education and compare their involvement based on the shared-governance model in operation at different institutions. The researcher introduced the hypothesis that when registrars are not involved in curriculum management, there may be negative effects on student success. In the study, a survey was administered to registrars and faculty members representing nearly 200 institutions to ask about the role of the registrar in specific policies and curriculum practices. Results were measured using Fisher’s Exact Test and were interpreted through multiple qualitative approaches, including inductive analysis. Outcomes were not significant in the quantitative test results, but respondents overwhelmingly indicated that the role of the registrar in shared governance affected student success. Themes were recorded to articulate the most common reasons respondents offered for how the registrar was involved in academic policy, curriculum management, and supporting student success. Results of the inductive analysis provided several themes that pointed to unique roles for the registrar, such as leading from behind and acting as a compliance authority, even when partners do not appreciate being held to compliance standards. Implications for practice focused on the qualitative outcomes of the survey. Suggestions for future research included further review of quantitative data outcomes and exploring ideas from inductive analysis around leading from behind and acting as a compliance authority.

Rebecca Mathern, Ph. D.
Associate Provost and University Registrar at Oregon State University

Rebecca MathernRebecca Mathern has been involved in higher education for over twenty years and currently serves as the Associate Provost and University Registrar at Oregon State University in Corvallis, OR where she resides with her family. Rebecca has a background at both two year and four year institutions and enjoys contributing to the Registrar community through service to AACRAO and PACRAO.

 

Registrar History Part 1

Link

Registrar History Part I

Tom Watts
Oregon State University – Retired

 Perhaps the most interesting project that I worked on at the Office of the Registrar (OtR) at Oregon State University Office (OSU) was during my last year in the office. I was fortunate during my fifteen years at OSU to work on assignments that were interesting, important, and challenging. Each project had its demands, frustrations, and rewards; all were valuable learning experiences and opportunities to work closely with colleagues across the university.

Approaching my last year, the University Registrar, Rebecca Mathern, asked me to work on a particularly captivating project that we quickly dubbed the Registrar History.

Until we actually began, I couldn’t envision how exceptional the project would be or that I would end up fully immersed in documenting the history, in its broadest sense, of policies, procedures, regulations, initiatives, and collaborative efforts that impacted the work of the OtR. Personally, it was a challenging, educational, and gratifying way to end my work at OSU. For the University, the work has served as a great first step to a continually updated record of information and valuable institutional history.

This article – Part 1 of 2 – is a description of the project’s beginning: how we defined the scope, selected topics, and dealt with the expansion of the project. Stay tuned for Part 2 which will complete the explanation of the project, including our research methods, organizing our presentation, and reconciling the information overlap. Also included will be a discussion of our estimation of the value of the project and the circumstances that allowed us to make this undertaking a success.

Documenting Daily History

The Registrar History was an outgrowth of Rebecca’s interest and determination to fully document registrar procedures. While informal written directions have always been maintained, the goal of the most recent effort was to create formal and comprehensive documentation for all office processes.

The focus of the documentation was to ensure that written instructions were available and deadlines recorded for all term-based operations.  Examples included term setup and priority registration schedules; scheduling processes and deadlines; classroom assignments; NCAA certification; Veterans certification; and degree verification. Additionally, documentation was completed for activities for the annual commencement ceremony. Related tasks included the task calendar, the coordination required with colleges and other departments, and the complementary grading and degree verification.

The entire office participated in the Registrar History project. Everyone was asked to pay particular attention to the points where tasks overlapped or where coordination and collaboration were required. The OtR Information Technology section assisted in all areas by detailing the deadlines and job requirements for all computer program submissions and web-based updates that have become integral to every facet of office operations.

Who cares about the Registrar’s History?

The purpose of the Registrar History project was to capture the registrar’s office institutional memory; to provide continuity; and to establish a reliable and relatively authoritative account of issues and topics over time.  Not to mention it’s a widely recognized best practice.

This endeavor seemed to me, at first, a compact and relatively straightforward endeavor and it certainly proved to illustrate how naïve I was after fifteen years in the office. It began innocently enough, when on an otherwise mildly eventful day, Rebecca suggested that a compendium of issues, policies, and regulations relevant to the OtR, and their evolution, would be useful. She was looking directly at me when she made her observation. I suppose I could have been more cautious, when I agreed with her. And in all honesty, in answering student questions, or discussing a policy or regulation with faculty or other administrators, I had often felt that if I knew the original purpose for that policy or regulation, or at least some history of how it had evolved and why, that would have been extremely helpful in those conversations.

In general, the information we had concerning the rationale for the current version of a policy or regulation extended as far back as the memory and experience of the longest-serving member of the staff. Beyond that, everything else was conjecture- sometimes reasonable and helpful, and sometimes only conjecture. The office staff agreed that a more thorough history would be valuable, while also acknowledging that the demands of day-to-day operations and deadlines pressure made it very difficult, and at times impossible, to devote time and energy to documenting those issues.

We began with the topics we thought would be useful to trace historically, specifically the academic regulations, such as academic residency, grading systems, repeated courses, degree requirements, etc., and certain General Catalog issues.

OtR managers and staff agreed that our history document would benefit not just our office, but also others in the university. The explanation of the evolution of the policies and procedures would be useful as a means of more consistently answering questions from students, faculty, and colleagues of why things were done in the current way. And more broadly, the history would provide some context, framework, and depth to the ongoing discussions between our office and other departments of policies and procedures.

In short, the project originated with the general idea that a more comprehensive and certain account than we currently had of policies and regulations would have great benefits for all.

The Beginning of History: Identifying Topics

The process of deciding what to include was in part haphazard and in part based on shared experiences in the office.

On more days than not, questions arose about why we did things the way we did, and why policies were in force in their current fashion. Generally, the OtR was held to account for the implicit accusations in the line of questioning – first, that the way things were being done was wrong, confusing, and/or not well thought out, and, second, it was our fault.

Most of the time the questions were reasonable; for example:

Why can’t I register sooner?

Why can’t I register for more than 19 credits?

Why are there pluses and minuses in the grading system?

Why do I have an F in this class if I never attended?

I thought I dropped this course; why am I being charged tuition?

Why doesn’t my repeated course improve my GPA?

Why am I on academic warning (or probation, or suspended), and what does that mean?

Why can’t you tell my child’s grades? I pay the tuition.

Why are exam policies so restrictive?

Why do I have teach courses according the day/times defined in scheduling protocols?

Why is grade submission so detailed and immediate?

How should I deal with a disruptive student?

Why are parking fees so high, especially since I have to park so far away                          (we had to refer that one)?

…You get the picture…

Some topics were identified because they prompted the most frequent, consistent, and adamant questions, or calls for clarification.

Sometimes, questions were recurring, predictable even, and some stemmed from gray areas in the regulations. Those topics were often the basis of continuing, often extended, discussions in managers meetings, or in meetings with colleagues. Sometimes a topic was included because it simply had to be; for instance, which instructor “owns” the ten minutes between classes, the instructor of the class that just ended or the instructor of the next class? That was not an inconsequential discussion to the instructors involved.

We experienced questions regarding academic regulations that were sometimes plaintive and sometimes angry. Though some of the confusion and frustration was intentional, certainly some of it was a result of genuine belief that a regulation or policy was outdated and/or unneeded, obtuse, arbitrary, or not useful. Faculty were unsure and vexed by other issues, including scheduling protocols, examination policies, audit policies, grade submission, and others. Their views were not dissimilar from the students.

Though we were able to answer the questions, and provide the information or steps that were required to comply with a policy, procedure, or regulation, I know, at least for myself, that discussions would have been more complete and confident with more background of the issue. It was often difficult, to know how a policy had emerged or changed over time.

At OSU, the Faculty Senate is, almost universally, the source of academic regulations, catalog policies, and other regulations and procedures. The Faculty Senate or its committees are the primary initiators of changes and adaptations to those policies and procedures over the years. Changing technology and instructional methods, student inquiries, and many other influences and forces have also prompted changes. The evolution has always been intended to improve the learning and teaching environment, with an emphasis recently on improving equity and access.

We found that answering two particulars about each issue provided a good basis for discussion of almost all topics:

  • What was the rationale for the current version of a policy or regulation?
  • What were the points of contention and/or confusion in the policy or regulation?

Unfortunately, the background for policies and regulations was, in many instances, speculative or not available immediately.

That was where the research into Faculty Senate minutes and reports, Committee annual reports, other OSU website sources, discussion with colleagues, and our own internal discussion helped provide useful background.

Broadening the Historical Scope

The process of identifying topics to include was relatively straightforward, and never-ending.

After the identification of initial topics, the project almost immediately mushroomed. We decided on a bolder answer to the questions of what should be included in the history and how far back should it go: everything, and forever.

We expanded the list of topics from policies and academic regulations to:

  • University programs, e.g. orientation, degree partnerships, exchanges, etc.;
  • Initiatives, g. zone scheduling, scheduling protocols, course forecasting and course access, advisor support, student success, etc.;
  • University partners with whom we collaborated on a regular basis, e.g. Vice Provost for Student Success and Undergraduate Dean, advisors, Honors College, OSU Cascades, Athletics, ECampus, Student Conduct, International Education and INTO, etc.;
  • Other projects, e.g. software implementation for degree progress, Catalog maintenance, student evaluation, room scheduling, hybrid and innovative courses; registration PINs and holds, pre-req enforcement, etc.

Fortunately for me, I had a year before I would retire, so – again naively – I thought I would have no trouble in meeting the goals and timeline.

The History Digest…ahem, Folder

I began collecting in my topics folder what we would include in the Registrar History document. That precious folder, a lone but never lonely manila folder, accompanied me to every meeting and presentation I attended. I would studiously make notes at the suggestion of others or insert information I felt to be pertinent.

As I added folders topics, information- and folders to hold them- I gave little thought at that point to organization or details of the explanations. I simply wanted to capture all the topics and issues that ought to be in the history.

It was a haphazard data collection effort, but it was effective in one important way: it was comprehensive. I had after a short while folders bulging with notes about issues that needed additional research and explanation.

Segue to Researching and Re-Writing History

As with any research project, a clear demarcation between start, middle, and end never existed. There was no point when I could say the compilation of topics was complete, or research was sufficient.

There was, though, a very real time constraint, namely, I was going to retire. The project had begun about a year before my retirement. Six months later, I had accumulated a reasonably exhaustive list of topics, begun some initial research, and could call the identification of topics for inclusion in the History reasonably complete. At this point, my terror waned while the daunting cloud of the scope of this project loomed ahead.

As Part 2 will describe, beginning the process for organizing and drafting procedures helped solidify the end result, and plugged in gaps where information was missing. I had six months to finish, and I asked myself, confidently: how long could it take to organize, draft, and revise several fat folders of information, anyway?  Naiveté at its zenith.

 

Photo of Tom WattsTom Watts worked in the Office of the Registrar at Oregon State University from 2001 to 2016. He began as Special Programs Manager, and worked also as Assistant and Associate Registrar, before his retirement in 2016. He lives in Seattle, where he cheers for his wife’s bagpiping endeavors, roots for the Mariners, and takes instructions cheerfully from his granddaughters. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PACRAO Review July 2018 edition

Volume 9 • Number 1 • July 2018

Download the entire issue: PACRAO Review July 2018


Accidental Registrar: A Look Back

-Tom Watts

Even before my retirement a little over a year ago, I had been thinking of writing something about my fifteen years in the registrar’s office at Oregon State University. Many things came to mind as I neared my last day, but perhaps the most persistent thought was how accidental it had been that I ever became a registrar in the first place.


The Regulatory Triad and United States Higher Education

-Marc Booker

U.S. higher education has a design that is unique in the world, and a primary reason for this unique design is the mixture of governmental and non-governmental agencies providing oversight that form the regulatory triad.  The so-called “regulatory triad” in U.S. higher education consists of oversight by accrediting agencies, state governments, and the federal government (Field, 2013),  As higher education professionals, a review of the historical development of the triad within U.S. higher education, the factors that have led to the creation of the regulatory triad, the role the regulatory triad currently plays in U.S. higher education, and current ways the triad affects U.S. higher education today is helpful in understanding the influence of the triad on our daily jobs and why we are required to balance competing priorities based on the relationship among these three entities.  This brief review provides awareness on how the triad has evolved and changed through the years of development in U.S. higher education to meet the needs of the public, and how the triad has been a driver in the evolution on how colleges and schools conduct themselves and operate, to provide clarity on the complex environment we operate in and why we carry out our roles in the manner which we do.

 


PACRAO’s Paperless Future

-Stephen Shirreffs

PACRAO took a step into the paperless future by using a mobile-friendly app called Guidebook as our primary communication device during the recent PACRAO 2017 Conference is beautiful Spokane, Washington. Guidebook entirely replaced the Schedule at a Glance as well as the paper forms for session evaluation. For those of you who did not attend the conference, but would like to have a look around, the app is still downloadable at https://guidebook.com/g/pacrao2017/. This article is a reflection on our experience in creating our Guidebook, some data on how the Guidebook was used during the conference, and reflections on how we might get even more value from this app.

PACRAO’s Paperless Future

PACRAO took a step into the paperless future by using a mobile-friendly app called Guidebook as our primary communication device during the recent PACRAO 2017 Conference is beautiful Spokane, Washington. Guidebook entirely replaced the Schedule at a Glance as well as the paper forms for session evaluation.

For those of you who did not attend the conference, but would like to have a look around, the app is still downloadable at https://guidebook.com/g/pacrao2017/.

This article is a reflection on our experience in creating our Guidebook, some data on how the Guidebook was used during the conference, and reflections on how we might get even more value from this app.

Overall, Guidebook was a great success. Anecdotally, I saw conferees using it all the time, and almost all the feedback I personally received was positive. The negative feedback occurred when something was broken, and we were able to fix the broken stuff very rapidly. An example is when we discovered that we had erroneously set the survey system so that a user could only fill out one session survey and was then blocked from any further feedback at other sessions. Once we identified the problem, a quick check-in with the online chat help from the Guidebook team was all we needed to find the box we needed to uncheck to fix the problem.

That points to the fact the one of the biggest positives was the exceptional support from the Guidebook team. The user interface for preparing the Guidebook was certainly intuitive, and once I’d done a number of work sessions, I was flying around inside the app like a swallow on spring morning ;-} For an all-volunteer organization like PACRAO, it’s important to provide member volunteers with responsive tools so that we can make a contribution without tearing our hair out. I think next year’s program committee is going to appreciate this ease-of-use.

The app has many features, and we ended up choosing those features through discussion and experimentation. Some of the features we included were pretty obvious: the schedule, creating your own schedule, speakers and facilitators, and session surveys. We also enabled the attendees functionality, but this required that users check in. Some users did not check in, so they did not have the benefit of being able to message other attendees (see below).

We also created a list of all our vendor sponsors. It is always an important consideration for PACRAO to honor and recognize our sponsors because without them we simply would not be able to put on a conference or perform the many functions that make ours a viable organization. I think this is an area we should focus on next year. If I had it to do over, I would start earlier on this functionality so we could readily include links, a brief description, images and logos, and contact information. Perhaps we might find ways to use the app to increase vendor/particpant contact. I’m sure our vendors would appreciate it.

It took a little bit of time to master the maps functionality, but once I figured it out, I was able to map sessions to rooms. I’m not sure how useful that was, but when you’re trying to figure something out quickly, it’s nice to have a place to go! The maps functionality also facilitated creating an Eateries, Bars, and Attractions feature. That was a lot of fun to create and I hope that it was useful to participants. Spokane is actually a pretty fascinating smaller city, and its downtown is filled with excellent eating and drinking options. And if I succeeded in guiding a few people to the magnificent Monroe Street Bridge and its view of the spectacular Spokane Falls, then my work was a success!

But the devil is in the details. How about some stats?

The Guidebook was downloaded by a total of 267 users which is only slightly smaller than our total attendance. Of those, 104 users checked-in to the app so that they would be able to use all its functions; that’s a number we should try to increase next year. (Anyone can use the app, but check-in users could use in-app functionality to connect with other attendees.)

There were a total of 18,232 unique sessions, and the maximum number of unique active users was 252 at 8:00 a.m. on Tuesday, November 7. Everybody was having breakfast and checking their app!

As you might expect, most of the downloads were physically done in people’s home location, but 44 downloads were done in the Spokane area, and another 46 were done in the Seattle/Tacoma area. I suspect that a significant number of folks downloaded the app on their changeover in SeaTac!

Following is a chart of when downloads were done. There was a spike after President James Miller sent a reminder email, but the majority of downloads were at or immediately before the conference itself. This was our first year, so we were experimenting a lot. But next year, I think we should aim to have the app ready earlier, and try to get folks to download it earlier. This may help in building enthusiasm, increasing check-ins (see above), and facilitating communication among conference goers both before and during the conference.

Users posted 104 photos that are still available on the app. That is a lot of fun, but we should aim to double that number next year! We had a Twitter function available, but I do not have stats on how many folks used the app for that purpose.

Digging down a little deeper, as you would expect the top menu item was the schedule.

Again, I strongly suspect that some of the other functions would get better numbers if we had earlier adoption; conferees might want to check out the attractions or the vendors before they arrive if they have the app already in use. We had only ca 200 messages from one user to another, and of course people have lots of ways of communicating, but focusing on this might help make an even more friendly conference.

The top viewed custom list items is intriguing; the custom list includes any items that are not sessions.

Workout with Rebecca tops the list! I’m glad to see the Monroe Street Bridge up there, and the Saranac Public House was definitely a highlight of one of my evenings. Not sure how Jim, Mike, Kristen, and I ended up  in the list, but thanks folks for having a look/see! (Next year we might consider finding a way for speakers to add some personal details to their profiles, although that could end up being a lot of work.)

Perhaps the most important function of the Guidebook after scheduling, however, is session review, carried out this year for the first time entirely through the app. In 2016, we received 824 session reviews from combined online and paper sources. In 2017, using Guidebook alone, we received only 483 survey responses as of November 13, 2017; a few surveys trickled in after that. A total of 154 participants submitted at least one survey in 2017; we do not have numbers of participants for 2016 because of the method used to collect surveys. The results of 2017 represent a significant drop in participation in surveys. In 2018, it might be useful to figure out how to increase this number. Perhaps a reminder message could be sent based on session participation, or perhaps we could partially tie the swag table to participation: fill in a survey, get a prioritized chance to pick up some cool swag.

Some final recommendations that struck this writer: I think we should make more use of messaging to everyone, especially before the conference, to direct people to features of the app and hopefully to engage attendees even before the conference begins. Given the success of the workout and recreation possibilities, we should look at ways to increase these as well; perhaps we could solve the old problem of finding new people to have lunch or dinner with through the app! Lastly, attendees asked whether the sessions selected during enrollment could be pre-loaded to Guidebook. We did not see an obvious way to do this, but we might work with Guidebook to solve this. Or, perhaps, we should just collect these selections in Guidebook upfront to promote the app.

There is a lot more data available that our Board may want to review, but I think this gives you a pretty good picture of the success of Guidebook in our first year.

Comments and thoughts are always welcome. Feel free to contact Colm Joyce, PACRAO VP for Professional Development at cjoyce@uws.edu if you have some perspectives or feedback.

BIO

Stephen is Associate University Registrar at Stanford, responsible for Registrar communications including web sites, the online course catalog, and the monthly Student Services Meeting of student services officers from across the University. Stephen has presented at PACRAO and AACRAO on topics ranging from Diffusion of Innovation to Credentialing, the Registrar, and the Future of Higher Education. He is an inaugural faculty member of PACRAO’s Leadership Development Institute (LDI). He holds a doctorate (Berkeley, ’98) in South and Southeast Asian Studies. In his free time, Stephen is an avid road cyclist who has recently completed his fifth AIDS/LifeCycle, an annual bicycle ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles dedicated to ending the AIDS epidemic and raising funds for HIV services..

See you all in Sacramento!