I have spent the last two days apologising to students. Why’s that Wendy I hear you ask with great interest in your voice? (or not…your choice).
The story goes something like this.
Once upon a time there was a regional tertiary institution that ran a very successful bridging program. It ran for 20 years as an internal program on the tertiary institution’s domestic campuses in Central Queensland. Then in 2006 it decided it would offer the very successful bridging program by distance education. It gave the job of Program Coordinator (a fancy schmancy title for one who answers the phone a lot) to a young woman with stars in her eyes and a song in her heart, passionate about giving adult learners a second chance at education. The first year of the distance education program all ran quite smoothly with just over 100 students. As the years went by the tertiary institution thought to itself “Hey, I know what would be a fab idea….distance education is easily staffed and resourced let’s take more and more of them into our very successful bridging program”. This continued until 2009 when the Program Coordinator was looking after a program of close to 300 students from all over Australia. She didn’t mind too much, because the students were nice, the uni managed to have its IT systems working most of the time, and best of all (and I urge you to take careful notice here) it had its own print and despatch unit which printed and packed all the course resources, shrink wrapped them and sent them out to students in a fairly timely fashion. (By a timely fashion I mean before the term started)
In 2010 however, someone, we can’t be exactly sure who, but they would have been in the upper echelons of senior management at aforementioned tertiary institution, said to themselves “I know! Here’s a great idea..what if we disbanded our mostly reliable and efficient print unit and outsourced all this work to some firm in Brisbane who we’ve never ever had much to do with, but you know they’re cheap and outsourcing is all the rage budgetary wise, so you know, what could possibly go wrong?”. (It’s great ideas like that that aid you in rising to the top of the tertiary education tree, take particular note).
The people involved in the very successful bridging program were a little bit skeptical about this but they soldiered on and from November through to today met all the required deadlines for delivery of material for printing, and continually checked on how things were going. For they realised, from their years of experience that students who are returning to tertiary study might get a little bit stressed if they didn’t receive their books in time for the start date of the program. They also realised that something like this would be considered a major stuff up. However, they crossed their fingers and believed the outsourcing people when they told them with a week to go before the term was starting that everything was in hand and books were being despatched. The Program Coordinator even told some of the keen students who had rung her in the week before the term started to keep their eyes on the letterbox because any minute now their exciting study package would be arriving.
Now for those of you who don’t like sad endings to stories perhaps you should stop reading. On Friday (the last working day before the Term began) the staff in the bridging program discovered that in fact no students had been sent anything. Neither were they sent anything on Monday the day the program began, and it is doubtful if anything was sent today. At times, they were unsure just what might have been printed, where it might be going, and indeed if there was anyone in the whole university who was able to shed any light on the situation at all. Meanwhile the Program Coordinator, her wonderful administration officer and the lecturers on the program have spent two days apologising (approximately every five minutes) as students ring panicking because they haven’t received any books. Not only that they have had to apologise for the tertiary institution’s wonderful new online course system Moodle being in “Unplanned Downtime” for most of Day 1 of the Term.
All apologies all the time.
That’s going to be the new branding of our fine institution I think.6 Comments »