Business Essays - Trumpton College Course

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Trumpton College Course.

Executive Summary

Trumpton College is only a small local college, serving the tertiary education needs of a medium sized town, as such it needs to try to focus on creating a new, or exploiting an existing niche market, rather than competing with major universities. It's 100 staff are in a ratio of 1:15 with the students, however without data on teaching versus support staff it is hard to estimate class sizes, and thus potential teaching quality. Despite the college catering to students from age 16, the average age of the students is ten years higher, thus indicating that the college's strengths may lie in teaching a more mature audience. Indeed, with the Business Administration Course currently satisfying the training needs of junior staff in small local businesses, the new Business Management Course seems an ideal new course for the school to launch. However, the success of the course relies mostly, in my opinion, on three key aspects.

Firstly, the course is aimed at trainee managers, who are often expected to do the vast majority of their learning on site. Indeed, with many businesses relying on bringing their trainee managers up to speed on the individual aspects of the specific industry in which they are involved, and the business for which they work, it will be more difficult to successfully market this course, compared to the Business Administration Course, which targets more junior and thus numerous and less essential staff.

Secondly, the college currently has only one academic and one administrative staff member with experience of running a course at this level. Although administration problems should be easy to rectify, any academic problems in the early stages of the course, such as inexperienced and confused staff, could potentially reflect badly upon the course and the college as a whole, and thus discourage businesses from helping employees participate and, in extreme cases, could potentially damage the Business Administration Course.

Finally, it is important to continually assess the course from a range of perspectives, making changes and improvements as required, depending on the popularity and scope of the course. The Balanced Scorecard model will be used for this, as it is viewed as it will enable the college to manage this course by objective, over a range of performance indicators.

Basic marketing plan

Influential marketing academics have all argued that the marketing of educational services needs to be made more relevant to business and marketing practices, an argument which is especially relevant for small businesses, which are often in delicate financial situations. An important aspect of relevance is the acquisition of work related skills, including group working, leadership and administrative skills. Traditional teaching methods are inappropriate for the development of such skills, and thus in order to be truly successful, this course needs to ensure that its 'product' utilises more practical and up to date teaching methods in order to correctly teach and develop these skills. Action learning is proposed as an alternative, more effective teaching approach by Harker and Brennan (2003), who describe, in depth, the principles of action learning, and provide a detailed case study of the implementation of an action learning module in e-marketing which simply and effectively illustrates those principles in practice.

Obviously, this course must ensure that it fully exploits all available marketing channels, recognizing the advantages and disadvantages of each, in order to best reach the managers and owners of the target, local, small businesses, and to convince them that this course will benefit them and their employees. As the town is only medium sized, it is fair to assume that these small businesses still have dominance over the high street and thus word of mouth will be of vital importance. One possible way of exploiting this would be to attempt to use the existing popularity of the Business Administration Course to spread the word about the new course, and give the impression that the new course will offer similar benefits to productivity, albeit at a higher level.

Unfortunately, although this method would be cheap, effective, and have a broad reach, it is difficult to control. One of th main impacts of this could be that managers simply see it as a slightly more advanced version of the Business Administration Course, and thus believe that it is not relevant to junior managers, another possible problem would be if they saw it as a replacement, thus the two courses would be in competition. Finally, bad images can spread as fast as good, especially if there are any teething problems in launching the new course. For these reasons, although word of mouth will be useful to the course, it should be combined with other marketing methods to ensure that the message is put across clearly and consistently on all media.

Advertising, through local television, radio stations and newspapers, will provide the course with a reach beyond mere word of mouth, and may enable the course to attract students from neighbouring towns. However, without a solid reputation to back up these advertised claims, people may well be sceptical of the offerings of such a new course, especially when compared to the courses offered at major universities and other tertiary education centres. To help develop the reputation of the course, a form of sales promotion could be used, whereby the first one hundred people to enrol gain reduced rates, or possibly any business with a certain number of employees in the Business Administration Course gains a number of reduced or free places on the Business Management Course. A combination of these three channels should provide the best marketing, offering wide range, credibility and an immediate uptake from the local population. Direct sales and Internet marketing have been ignored as direct sales is unlikely to be successful with a business course, as both employee and business would need to be convinced, and the Internet is on too wide a scale, however if the school already has a website, the course should be listed on it as this will make it easier for potential students to investigate.

Human resource management implications

Obviously the main human resource management implication of launching the new course is the proposed recruitment of up to four part time staff to teach part of the course on line, and offer student support. Integrating these new staff members into the college's full time staff could prove difficult, assuming that these new staff members would be the first part time ones hired by the college. On the one hand, these new staff members could feel excluded from the other staff, or inferior to them, based upon their part time status, and on the other hand, existing staff could feel threatened by the college's ability to bring in staff from outside on a part time basis, and may feel that their own positions may soon be shifted to part time, distance teaching positions.

Equally, some full time staff may see this new employment policy as an opportunity to reduce their own hours to a part time, distance teaching basis, especially if they currently work quite long hours. These potential problems should be pro actively addressed as soon as possible, through the use of clear statements on the college's human resources policy, and the direction in which is s moving: will part time, distance learning courses become more of the norm, or are these two courses the exception, and these four part time staff the only ones required for the foreseeable future.

Another potential human resource management implication will be the need to give additional training and development to existing college staff in order to teach and administer another distance learning course. Again, these implications, including resentment or confusion over the changing nature of staff member's roles can be avoided by clearly stating what staff members will be expected to do in the foreseeable future: will there be more distance learning courses, and what impact will these have on roles and duties, or will these two courses be the only ones, and if so how will they fit into existing timetables and administration schedules.

Performance monitoring

Describe and explain how at least one performance indicator in each quadrant would be used by the Business Studies department.

The Balanced Scorecard model is about management by objective. The objective of this model is to achieve success in four critical dimensions, namely the financial, the customer, internal processes, and learning and growth. The reason why these four dimensions are to be emphasised has been reiterated in the Halifax Theory Z, which states: "(Financial perspective) We will keep and get more business; in other words, we will focus on company competitiveness, if (Customer perspective) our customers are delighted, if (Process perspective) we do the right things by such strategies as focus on operational and system efficiency and if (Learning and growth capability and capacity, leadership, communication, affinity, understanding, control, responsibility, knowledge, skills, attitude) We have the right people in the right jobs." (Tan, 2004)

As such, in this case it is more strategically sensible to reword the original perspectives of the BSC into Effectiveness, Efficiency and Efficacy. Effectiveness ensures our strategies and organisational priorities are translated into expected results. Efficiency ensures our internal or value chained process has utilised the resources to the fullest to meet the highest productivity expectation. Efficacy is about the capacity or power to produce a desired effect or result, which is about strategies of learning and growth. These three perspectives will provide easy methods for the college to monitor the performance of the course for its first three years. Once the marketing and human resource strategies have been formulated and prioritised, the effectiveness of these strategies can be measured and improved upon. Equally, the value chain process should be continually assessed, and continually improved upon, to ensure that the human and other teaching resources are being used as effectively as possible. Finally, the desired result for the course should be set by the members of the College Board, and once they have agreed on this, then the effectiveness and efficiency measures can be assessed to see if they can better contribute to the overall result.

In terms of the four quadrants: financial, customer, internal processes, and learning and growth, the college can take one or more straightforward performance indicators from each one, and use it as a quick measure of the effectiveness of the course over the first three years.

Financially, the initial indicator should be the costs of the course to run, as the course is unlikely to turn a profit in its first year or two. These first two years should be used to streamline the efficiency of the course, to ensure that it is utilising resources fully. Then, in the third year, the focus can be switched to the profitability, and potential surplus profit, that the course can generate once its reputation has spread and costs have been used most efficiently. In terms of the customer, the students' views on the course must be considered most important for the first year or so, and should be used as the baseline on which to judge performance. Once the course is viewed as good or excellent by the majority of students, then the consideration should switch to potential recommendations to friends or colleagues, as this will help spread good word of mouth.

Internal processes should focus almost wholly on the human resource aspects, namely the response of staff to the structure, content and administration of the course. This should be assessed by surveying the staff to discover if they are content with the running of the new course and its role in the college as a whole, particularly if the course and style of learning becomes very popular and there is the potential to launch other, similar courses. Finally, learning and growth is one of the most difficult to assess, and the only real way to do it is by measuring the growth of the college's teaching reputation, by surveying local businesses and students. The main benefit of this method of performance judgement is that it will provide an integrated overview of the performance of the college as a whole.

1. Harker, M. J. and Brennan, R. (2003) E-Marketing Action: An action learning approach to teaching e-marketing. Marketing Review; Vol. 3 Issue 4, p. 419.
2. Tan, C. C. (2004) Balanced Scorecard model for managers. The Nation, 21st Jan 2004