donderdag 11 februari 2010
One of the projects I am managing is the cooperation between the three technical universities in the Netherlands (Twente, Eindhoven and Delft) for non-formal education for 4-15 year old children (and their teachers and parents). The idea behind this cooperation is - in a nutshell - that we can organise one front office for clients whereas in the backoffice we can organize structured mutual learning and sharing of ideas, dreams and development processes. One of the first joint products that we have started to work on is the joint presentation of the educational projects, products, programmes and what have you. It sounds almost ridiculously simple, a natural start....As ever reality bites. How do we describe our products, programmes and projects? In The Netherlands we have so called learning targets (determined by government) of what should be covered at the end of primary school and per year in secondary school. These targets are what schools have to teach, and achieving these targets takes up nearly all the available time in a school year. For clarity: the targets describe the content of what should be taught and learned, but not the method. One can thus choose to use non-formal education as a means to teach certain topics. Thus at first sight making it a rather logical choice to indicate exactly which specific targets our individual programmes/products cover. But, how would that reflect on the vision that the non-formal education offered wants to offer a learning experience that goes beyond these targets? Beyond the thought of the tool box learning that seems to govern the entire educational system? The dilemma: not mentioning the targets covered makes potential clients skip further to other sites, mentioning them would potentially contradict the vision behind the activities offered. Mentioning the price is another question mark. We all know that for our (potential) clients the price is a (important) selection criterium. But none of the universities wants the price to be an obstacle for delivering the education.... The dilemma: not mentioning the price can scare (potential) customers away as they may go to others who have clear pricing, but mentioning the price might scare (potential) customers away as they cannot afford the price mentioned and do not feel room for negotiation. In addition the universitied do not wish to come across as a commerical supplier of non-formal educational programmes. They are universities for whom education is central, not the financial profit. For whom the content related contact with the other links in the educational chain is what counts. How will we harness that properly? How can we make it attractive and valuable for (potential) customers and remain true to the roots, aims, objectives, intentions and dreams of the founding fathers? Not to mention the questions and dillemma's that pop up regarding how to describe the products, how to define a limited yet clear list of topics to classify the large number of projects, programmes, events, workshops etc on offer. And the possibilty for taylor made programmes. In short: a good and seemingly operational first step leads to all sorts of dicussions with strategic, political and tactical dimensions. And so step by step we now find ourselves in an iterative and interactive process in which increasingly more layers of the universities become involved. And yet we are still aiming to have the joint website up and running by the end of March. 2010 that is. The operative consultants word being "challenge" I believe:-) I'll keep you posted.