Editor's Note: Ron Morgan (above) is answering your questions this week at IT Martini on LinkedIn. 

Ron Morgan: Starting Up Academics
By Terreece Clarke, August 16th, 2012

Ron Morgan, recently appointed Director of the Center for Professional Training and Development at Franklin University, is not only drawing on his decades of IT and tech leadership experience, he's tapping into his time as the CIO of a tech start-up. Franklin University - a non-profit, private university has charged Morgan to help expand the college's non credit, professional development offerings.

"[The initiative] takes me back to my internet start-up days," Morgan said. "It's a fun, exciting challenge that doesn't happen overnight. It's a chance to see if we can start a business and grow it in this area."

Seven months into the project, Morgan said the initiative has the same issues as most start-ups including getting the technology up and running, setting up test pilot classes within the university and creating marketing and business development plans.

While most course offerings are still in the consideration and planning phase, Morgan said he expects there will be courses in human resources, six lean, six sigma and other popular professional development courses.

Innovating from a Distance

This new venture and position is the latest of Franklin University's forward thinking initiatives. In fact, Franklin University is one of the first universities in the the United States to receive government grants for its role in distance education Morgan said.

Morgan estimated 60 percent of Franklin University's tuition comes from distance learning students. The university's thriving distance environment is credited to the school's approach to distance and traditional classroom integration and Learning Management system.

"Franklin's technology is developed by its own IT staff," Morgan said. "It's fully customizable and interactive, just like in the classroom. Say you had a large class of 25 to 30 students [online], you can break them out into smaller groups, just like in a [traditional] classroom. They can raise their hand, ask questions...Every course is developed to the same standards for face-to-face. In-class activities are the same for online students. Franklin develops its courses with an instructor, structural designers and course expert to keep the experiences the same."

Centralized, university driven course development is what separates Franklin's distance learning from traditional universities that are still testing the distance education waters. Most online courses at traditional universities are offered by individual professors who have an interest in expanding student options.

The Meaning of CREDIBILITY

Morgan's technology career has spanned 30 years and a variety of industries including pharmaceuticals, healthcare, retail, ecommerce and finally higher education at Franklin where he has been a program chair, CIO and dean of Academic Services and Innovation.

When asked what factors are critical for success as a tech leader Morgan boiled it down to one essential that he uses as an acronym - credibility.

Communication - Up, down and sideways with all your users.
Results - Produce them.
Expectation Management and education.
Discipline in project management, fiscal matters and HR
Build relationships and partnerships with IT, users and stakeholders
Listening - the consolidative approach
Technology that fits with business objectives and goals
Yes. “CIO's always say 'No we can't do that...'” Morgan said. “Instead say 'Yes we can but...' and advise them what has to be given up and let them make the decision on what aligns best [with business goals]. If you have credibility...it is easier to get things done.”