So you’ve decided to start a new program here at GSU. Congratulations – that’s super exciting! Except: You soon realize that starting a program is a multi-pronged process starring a smorgasbord of people, policies, contexts, concerns, and excitements.
This is where we come in.
We’ve found that there are several major planning areas that you’ll want to address before you begin designing your program. We believe that all of these areas inform and impact all of your programmatic design efforts. Check out the short animation below to begin thinking about these areas (transcript available at the bottom of this post). Then, read on for more details and helpful links.
Approval Processes: What do you have to do to get this program approved?
In general, there are 3 levels of approval for most programmatic projects including requirements of 1) your department/college, 2) GSU, and 3) the USG. In addition, your particular discipline might have national program approval requirements. Keep these guidelines in mind as they frame everything that you do.
Local Flavor: Why would students choose this program over others?
Where your program is located can be as important of a consideration for some students as who you hire. For online programs, student considerations of which program to choose involve looking for the cheapest option or a unique option, specific to the student’s goals. This can include renowned scholars and their inspiring research and story; professional networking; the prestige of your institution name in their CV; or many other levels of distinction. We look at all of these items as your local flavor.
Start with GSU’s strategic plan, the University identity, your college and departmental missions, and your own experiences working here at GSU and living in Atlanta. The University has done plenty of the heavy lifting in this area, but it’s important for you to consider these items when you think about how the State Way expresses itself through your potential program.
Beyond your experience in the University, talk to current students and alumni. Why did they choose your department? What will they do with their degree? What inspires and frustrates them with education and learning?
Last, consider the embeddedness of your program with the city and its resources, culture, and history. This thinking applies to all programs. After all, even a GSU program delivered to students overseas brings with it our unique perspective just as all students bring their own lived experiences into the classroom.
Through these lenses you need to ultimately arrive on an answer to the question: What makes your program unique? Why should potential students care? These considerations help you craft a curriculum embracing your students’ needs, our research aims, and the situated nature of an Atlanta-based program. As a bonus, you can also use this local flavor in thinking about how to market your new program to potential students, faculty, and local partners.
Student Identity: Who are your students?
Speaking of marketing, you’ll need to think about future students and how to reach them. For this, CETL may not be the best place for you to start your conversations, but we can say that there are a few resources and lines of thinking that can help.
Before reaching out to administrators or market research firms, refer to GSU’s reports on our student population like the Fact Book. Talk to current and past students again. And faculty and staff perspectives are definitely valuable.
Beyond this, start developing program specific student personas to describe who you’d like to attract to your program. Developing student personas helps personalize and humanize the recruitment process into your program and ensures alignment between your program goals and students’ needs.
Building A Passionate Team: Why do you (all) care about creating this program at this time?
All design projects require a group of passionate team members committed to building and sticking with your program. Ideally, your team should consist of your colleagues, academic and non-academic departments, and local organization partners. The goal is to create a unique experience for students that shows a level of care about their current lives and their future careers in a distinctly Georgia State way.
Educational Climate: How might this program fit into the national and local educational landscapes?
The main question is Who else is offering this degree in this format? Investigate this area using a variety of data sources:
- Reports created by your disciplinary organizations
- The U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard database
- The Council for Higher Education Accreditation’s searchable resource
- GSU’s list of peer institutions.
- Documents authored by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commision on Colleges (SACSCOC)
- The USG’s Disciplinary Accreditation list
At the local level, reach out to community organizations as well as other colleges. In particular, reaching out to potential future employers will help you reflect on how your program might meet the philosophical and professional needs of potential students.
If you’re interested in beginning the new program process, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.