Academic institutions are made up of many programs and colleges that often have little to no interaction with each other. Bridging the gap between different academic programs can create collaboration, relationship building, and even new curriculum opportunities. When programs become more integrated, faculty, students, and staff can have a more robust experience at their institutions.
A collaborative environment at academic institutions is difficult to achieve for a few reasons: Individual programs are accustomed to being autonomous and may be resistant to sharing resources or time; Programs may not realize the similarities they have with other areas of their institutions, or how other programs might be beneficial to collaborate with; among other issues.
How to Begin?
Even though it may be a challenge, fostering collaboration in your institution is valuable to everyone on campus. A good place to start is to make sure everyone involved is thinking about collaboration in a similar way. Collaboration is a chance to expand an institution’s definition of learning. Teams should help each other understand the legitimacy and value of cross-program collaboration.
Spread the Word
Speaking to deans or department chairs about ideas for collaboration is another significant first step. This solidifies the legitimacy of a collaboration and may gain your efforts additional resources in the process. Leadership support is often key to faculty and staff buy-in. Transparency about events or collaborative efforts around an institution also creates excitement and may lead to other cross-departmental opportunities.
Get the Conversation Started
It is important to engage with your collegues and determine what similarities your program might have with others in the university. This can include similarities in content, thought processes, or shared interests. For example, it may seem like STEM programs do not have much in common with humanities programs, but projects often require many different ways of thinking. A more analytical approach may be needed at some points and a more creative approach at other times. Besides completing a project, a group may find topics or theories that people from many departments want to learn or discuss more.
Remembering that collaboration between programs is meant to be mutually beneficial can make a transition to collaborative programs easier.
Host Events, Lectures and Projects
Another great way to engage students in a new-found collaboration is to host events and lectures that highlight shared interests and research that can be informative to multiple programs. Creating team projects, committees, or clubs is another way to increase participation across departments. Making an enjoyable environment is the main focus, so make sure to have fun and be creative with ways to collaborate.
Make Students Aware of Outside Resources
Students might not be aware that collaboration with other programs is possible in early stages of integration. When they do know, it becomes easier to make a long-lasting relationship or collaboration with other programs. Instructors can bring up lectures, events, or projects that are happening in other departments as they come up in class discussion or as individual students express interest. When students know that there are already resources in place for collaboration, it is easier for them to access existing cross-departmental relationships or create new ones.
It can be difficult to know what areas other programs’ faculty are knowledgeable in or have studied. Additionally, keeping track of what courses are being taught across an institution is challenging when there are many courses or if an instructor is unfamiliar with other programs’ course offerings. Using an integrated academic operations platform (AOP) like APL nextED allows access to course and faculty information across an institution. Collaboration between program chairs becomes easier when information about other programs is available in one digital space. The faculty and courses modules in APL nextED’s platform can help facilitate meaningful, lasting relationships between programs. Schedule a demo to see if APL is the right fit to foster collaboration at your institution.