Postsecondary Trending Now: Service Blueprinting

min read

Many of my colleagues and friends in higher ed—they are faculty, student affairs professionals, admins, and researchers—cringe at the business-speak and business mindset that’s creeping into our field. I do, too. There are fundamental differences between making a profit and enhancing a person’s life through education, knowledge and skills, and discovery. Thinking about “students as customers” causes us to cringe because it philosophically ignores our deeply held beliefs about the role of higher ed in our society and the purpose it serves for individual students.

The same colleagues who cringe at business-speak do believe that higher education serves students. And they are not blind to the costs and expenses of doing so.

The analogy of “students as customers” does sit right with me when it helps me focus on students at the center of their own educational experience, and when it helps me focus on how we can best help students reach their goals.

Learning is messy, uncomfortable, and rife with failure, iteration, challenge, and emotional ups and downs—customers wouldn’t tolerate that, yet students need to. But navigating the education system should never be messy or rife with failure and challenge.

That’s where service blueprinting comes in.

Participants in this month’s Breakthrough Models Academy were introduced to service blueprinting by Nancy J. Stephens, professor emeritus at Arizona State University, who led a two-part session at the week-long event in Chicago.

So what light can we shed on better serving students through service blueprinting?

Service blueprinting creates a visual depiction of the steps in the process of the service experience, such as the points of contact and the physical evidence of the service, all from a customer, or student, point of view. Applied to higher ed, students are at the center of their college experience and seen as co-creators of that experience. It looks cross-functionally at how an institution is delivering its service—whether it’s a single administrative transaction, like billing; a particular offering, like a course or degree program; or the full college experience from application to graduation. It examines how a student interacts with the service, and all of the “onstage” and “behind the curtain” actions and processes that are involved in those interactions. It can be used to improve an existing service or innovate to create a new one.

Here are some resources to learn more:

The 2015 Breakthrough Models Academy: Fresh Thinking for Higher Ed
Postsecondary Trending Now: What is Higher Education’s Role in Citizenship?
Postsecondary Trending Now: Unbundling