Elizabeth Fogle’s 4 Cs of Career School On-Boarding

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The Higher Ed Podcast team recently had the opportunity to sit down with our first repeat guest, Dr. Elizabeth Fogle, PhD., Corporate Director of Academic Affairs at Education Evolve. With over 12 years in the industry, she’s served in various roles across higher education, from adjunct professor to Vice President of Academics, and she had tons of great insight on the career college industry to share with us.

The topic of faculty on-boarding has been a central theme throughout her career. In fact, she wrote her dissertation on the subject. In Dr. Fogle’s eyes, proprietary trade schools, for all their strengths, are faced with incredible opportunity when it comes to faculty on-boarding. It’s been her primary goal to get a body of literature and best practices published for public consumption.

“When I was first hired as an adjunct, I was handed a textbook and told to go teach class. We’ll see you tomorrow. But instructors are the biggest factor in student retention; it’s their touch that matters.” That’s why on-boarding is so essential for the health of your institution. “You can’t go into on-boarding with a blank slate. You have to have a solid idea of the outcomes that you’re driving for.” To that effect, Dr. Fogle’s work identifies four major areas necessary in order to build a thorough on-boarding process. They are:

  • Compliance

  • Clarity

  • Connection

  • Culture

Dr. Fogle shared a story from her first leadership role. She was observing a lecture when a student raised their hand to ask a question. The professor froze, unprepared to deviate from their carefully-prepared material, and said, “I don’t really know; this is my first time teaching.”

That was a watershed moment for Dr. Fogle. She realized that the professor hadn’t been given the proper on-boarding to prepare for the role. A new professor can be the greatest content specialist in the world, but if they don’t understand the four Cs —compliance, clarity, connection, and culture —they won’t be able to relate that information to their students in an understandable way. “You have to equip your teachers with the tools and background necessary to walk confidently into that classroom and maintain their credibility.”

Compliance

Compliance consists of all the crucial pieces of information that instructors need to know in order to maintain the accreditation and reputation, of the institution. According to Dr. Fogle, this is the portion of on-boarding that most schools do well because it is directly tied to their continued solvency and operations.

Clarity

The topic of clarity deals with all the essential questions instructors ask about the day-to-day minutiae of their job. What is expected of them as an instructor? What timelines must they adhere to? How does grading work? How do they create and disseminate a syllabus to their students? Dr. Fogle believes that institutions do equally well with the clarity aspect of on-boarding. These are topics most germane to new instructors. If insinuations don’t take the time to answer them up front, they would waste a disproportionate amount of time answering these questions on a case-by-case basis.

Connection

Connection centers on the idea that new faculty need to connect with a senior staff member to “learn the ropes.” Most new instructors are focused on the content aspect of their jobs —and rightfully so— but they lack a greater awareness of the programmatic factors involved with higher education. That’s why they need a mentor involved, someone that can help them acclimate better to the academic environment. It is also essential for new staff members to connect with their students. Connection can mean the difference between becoming a great instructor rather than a mediocre one.

Culture

Every school has a different atmosphere. Culture is built from the values of both the student body and the institution as a whole. Most proprietary schools, like Education Evolve, are customer service oriented programs. That’s an important aspect when it comes to the campus culture. A newly-tenured professor must understand where they fit into the environment, as well as what’s expected out of them from both their students and the administration. Often, the culture piece is felt rather than explained, but it is important to tacitly communicate it to new staff nonetheless.

Logistics

We had a few follow-up questions to better understand the impact that a well-developed on-boarding program has on an institution. We wanted to know what Dr. Fogle’s experience has been industry wide and whether time is a significant factor in derailing on-boarding efforts.

“You’ve got to build your bench,” she answered. “Few classroom teachers in the higher education arena come prepared day one, at least from a programmatic standpoint.” Lack of on-boarding, in her opinion, is a global problem.

Regarding our second question, “In a perfect world, we’d have all the on-boarding done 30 days before they ever set foot in a classroom. But practically speaking, we’ve found that as long as new faculty are continuously engaged with on-boarding and career development, they’ll still benefit in the long run. That’s one reason the online on-boarding model works so well, especially in the age of COVID.”

One thing we’ve noticed is that COVID has brought a push for institutions of higher education to cut costs. One of the first places that they look to cut is employee training. “Retention, retention, retention,” Dr. Fogle responded. In her experience, retaining good employees is far more cost-efficient than cutting training employees. Getting that retention requires investment in employee training though, especially upfront. This promotes student retention which is even more crucial given current enrollment levels.

A Rising Tide Lifts All Ships

Dr. Fogle has an end goal in mind. In her opinion, the industry has issues with sharing best practices, but sharing elements of your institution’s on-boarding process isn’t necessarily sharing secrets or giving away an advantage to your competitors. Establishing best practices has the opposite effect. It helps lend credibility to the industry as a whole.

It’s important to share your practices across borders and collaborate on better methods. It’s also essential to revisit your on-boarding program regularly in order to stay up-to-date on accreditation standards. In order to gauge the success of an on-boarding program, you must develop a system of evaluation. Dr. Fogle has found that a two-step approach works best. “After each semester we survey both staff and students. We ask the students how prepared their teacher was, and then we circle back to the professor and ask what elements of the onboarding process best prepared them for their job role.”

We ended the interview on an optimistic note. Dr. Fogle still thinks there’s a gap in thorough and effective on-boarding industry wide, but it is improving. “This is one area that competing institutions can collaborate on without impacting their competitiveness. The call to action is not just for collaboration, but the willingness to make these programs better for all instructors. The goal is to make all faculty members great instructional delivery experts. Confidence is the bottom line.”

To hear more from our interview with Dr. Fogle please listen to our podcast, and don’t forget to subscribe for more great content.

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