Continuous Flow University

Chapter 11 of my book We Can Do It! describes the concept of Continuous Flow University, in which all administrative and academic processes are converted from batch-and-queue to flow. The reason for doing this is two-fold:

  • First, to eliminate expensive queues that both create and hide problems
  • Second, to balance cycle times to eliminate bottlenecks and improve flow

Doing this will reduce and eliminate dissatisfaction among stakeholders: students, parents, payers, employers, etc.

Improving flow will have many other benefits, including reducing the average time needed to obtain a degree (which would require, among other things, students willing to take courses year-round, and professors willing to distribute their fall/spring 9 month teaching load across 12 months). Coupled with judicious use of technology, it can allow students who must be mobile in their efforts to maintain employment to remain attached to their university – possibly for their entire career.

Time, however, is the critical factor. Can people afford to spend four years obtaining a degree for which there was strong demand freshman year but then low demand senior year? Or, can people who have obtained a degree and worked for years, but whose knowledge and skills have become obsolete (due to robots, for example), afford to spend two to four more years gaining a new higher education credential?

As technology advances, people may need to obtain (possibly several) meaningful higher education credentials rapidly throughout their career (versus less meaningful MOOC certificates). The only way to do that is to eliminate queue time, especially that which does not contribute to learning, while improving quality and academic rigor. And it must be more affordable than today’s cost of obtaining a degree.

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