everything not real only a series of tapes being played for us

Philip K. Dick – I consider the universe shared CC by Muli Koppel

I read an excerpt of this Inside Higher Ed article nearly two weeks ago, and I still find myself thinking about it.

At the University of Dayton this fall, the numbers are looking great — 2,065 arrivals for the fall, about 300 more than the university has been seeking. And that followed an encouraging admissions cycle — with more students visiting, more students applying, heightened academic quality and so forth.

Why such strong numbers?

According to Sundar Kumarasamy, vice president for enrollment management, it’s all about pushing the envelope — and he means just that, the envelope. One of the most successful strategies employed by the university involves an unusual arrangement with UPS and DHL that has allowed the university to send its viewbooks and other materials in envelopes with the UPS and DHL logos. Dayton isn’t paying for express delivery of the tens of thousands of items it sends this way — they are mailed through the U.S. Postal Service. But the university is licensing the right to use the envelopes from the two express mail services.

“We’re sending a message that you are important” with the envelopes, Kumarasamy said. “We are saying that you are not going to be like bulk mail to us.”

You are not going to be like bulk mail to us. Instead, you will be like disguised bulk mail to us.

Bonus points for this passionately punctuated comment on the IHE site from Kumarasamy’s colleague at Dayton, Sister Angela Ann Zukowski:

Congratulations to UD’s Office for Enrollment and Management! This reflects quality team work to advance interest toward the qualities that UD has to offer young women and men today! As a Catholic Marianist University, there is no doubt that the qualities UD community strives to make it great, is because of the outstanding work of the Office for Enrollment and Management! You make all UD Alumni proud!

I was reminded of this story by another piece in the business section of today’s morning paper:

As a news conference was kicking off to announce Netflix’s service — which uses the Internet to stream unlimited access to thousands of movies and TV shows for $7.99 a month — extras were asked to spill into the street and encouraged to “play types, for example, mothers, film buffs, tech geeks, couch potatoes etc.”

“Extras are to behave as members of the public, out and about enjoying their day-to-day life, who happen upon a street event for Netflix and stop by to check it out,” reads an information sheet handed out to extras.

“Extras are to look really excited, particularly if asked by media to do any interviews about the prospect of Netflix in Canada.”

Netflix has me thinking we can take Dayton’s example far beyond enrollment marketing. Why not employ ‘student extras’ (we can probably hire failed students quite cheaply) to show up on campus and make a big show of how hard they are working, how pleased they are by campus services and amenities, and how mind-blowingly awesome they find their courses. With proper ‘preparation’, they could probably ace their exams as well, boosting the outcomes, and fostering an atmosphere of achievement and excellence. I can’t think of any better way to show how important students are to us.

About Brian

I am a Strategist and Discoordinator with UBC's Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology. My main blogging space is Abject Learning, and I sporadically update a short bio with publications and presentations over there as well...
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2 Responses to everything not real only a series of tapes being played for us

  1. dkernohan says:

    That UPS/DHL thing would be rather ruined if that article went viral with prospective Dayton U students, maybe via someone joining the relevent facebook group and posting the link and a few quotes. It would be a real shame for the school, and I hope that some embittered ex-edupunk doesn’t decide to do it on the basis of this blog comment.

    I expect commmercial service providers to lie to me, when seats of learning do it I find the idea of trusted authority rather diminished.

  2. blamb says:

    That first paragraph sounds close to a dare… maybe even a double-dog-dare.

    I wonder how this university would respond if students took such a free-and-easy approach to, say, documenting sources for their term papers.

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