Institutions have been speaking about the importance of teamwork since their conception. This idea of an academic team has usually referred to individual programs, where faculty and staff of one department practice teamwork to reach program specific goals. Most members of an institution understand the value of teamwork, and put this into practice in their respective college or unit within a university. However, breaking down silos and bringing together the entire institution, including faculty, staff, and administration, is vital to the success of the institution.
With the onset of COVID-19, institutions have been forced to adapt and adopt new processes and the need to bring academic teams together has become more and more apparent and imperative. Institutions have suddenly been faced head on with this challenging task, and have had to address it in a virtual or hybrid environment.
The face of higher education is changing rapidly, and most likely for the long term, as institutions seek to deal with financial struggles and campus safety. Institutions have focused the majority of their efforts into surviving the changes the pandemic has forced them into. Therefore, communication and conversation about large-scale shifts to working as an academic team have not been prioritized. However, it has never been more important to bring your academic team together, and it has never been more important to remember and adhere to your institution’s mission.
Not an Easy Task
It is easy to speak about the importance of working as a team and much harder to implement and make change towards true teamwork. There are existing relationships and feelings that need to be carefully considered, and respected. Karen Spierling and Jane Palmer mention the importance of respecting the different experiences each team member brings to the table. They write in their post titled “The Time for Teamwork is Now” for Inside Higher Ed:
“Addressing this problem as a rational issue that simply requires administrators to impose the right structure on their institution disregards the deeper issues and traditional academic hierarchies that feed into the situation.”
Bringing your academic team together requires constant acknowledgement of the hierarchies in higher ed. Respect and patience with all team members can help ensure lasting change and a real community among your team. This is important to keep in mind given the rest of the information in this text.
The following are three reasons why bringing your academic team together is necessary and vital
1. Working Effectively
Faculty and programs are used to operating as individual entities. In many instances it’s the IT department on campus that notices duplicated efforts in various departments when IT staff are asked to install new software licenses or point solutions. Yet, when faculty, staff, and administration collaborate on a regular basis they typically begin to find mutually beneficial processes or systems that help all departments reach their program’s goals and objectives.
The event of accreditation, for example, requires massive amounts of data that have been collected over a few years. It would be best to consolidate systems, and work efforts so that no operations need to be repeated. If departments are working independently and not communicating with other members of the institution, tasks may be repeated or important data may be lost. Collaboration in this instance, makes a daunting task like accreditation easier for all involved. (You can read more about accreditation and how to prepare for it here.)
A united academic team benefits the whole institution, including faculty and departments that are used to operating alone.
2. Supporting Students
When working more efficiently as a team, faculty members’ resources are optimized and they can spend valuable time teaching and preparing students for post-graduation life.
Within higher ed, faculty have the most direct contact with students. When institutions are united as a team and are united in their mission, students directly benefit. Having resources in place to aid faculty allows them to directly support students. A well-functioning academic team is useful to all levels of an institution, and ultimately provides a more positive experience for students.
3. Achieving your Mission
Optimizing time and creating a team-based environment to help students gets your institution one step closer to achieving and sustaining your mission.
When academic teams are formed, it is important to establish and maintain your academic mission. Katherine Wehling writing for Simpson Scarborough says this about mission:
“Mission enables us to identify our core capabilities and anticipate changes to the environment. Further, clarity of direction prevents us from simply adopting what others do or what seems to be trending. Mission guides us through urgent pressures and unforeseeable consequences with the discipline to rethink and reassess our direction.”
Read more of Wheling’s article, “Mission in Control”, here. Sustaining this set mission is easier with the backing of a whole team and an environment that supports it.
Your institution’s main goal is to achieve your academic mission, and it’s our goal too! Our mission at APL nextED is to help your academic team achieve your academic mission. Schedule a demo today to see how APL can streamline communication for your academic team with a comprehensive academic operations software.