Sim-Manager: A Modest Proposal for Institutional Redesign in the Community College
Delivered to Lane’s Board of Education, March 3, 2020

In light of the current financial difficulties at our fine institution, we would like to propose a simple, and, I must add in all humbleness, ingenious response. An out-sourcing solution to the unsustainable cost of administering the college has been found by our research team, and we are here recommending it in all seriousness to the Board.

Sim-Manager is a programmable, mobile unit capable of fulfilling many, if not all, of the needed functions, but at a significantly reduced cost in the long term. While there is a considerable investment initially, within a short time frame Sim-Manager begins to offer a significant ROI in comparison to the rising costs of human managers. This proposal does not suggest that all managers can at this time be replaced by Sim-Managers. But careful modularization of management functions could allow widespread use of Sim-Manager, saving the college money without harming student learning or, more importantly, reducing FTE.

Here are some of the features of this portal into the technology future of educational institutions—what we like to now call “ed-businesses” or even “e-biz” for short.

Sim-Manager has servo-motor functionality in both head and arms, allowing it to deliver a variety of facial expressions including smiles, frowns, head nodding as though listening carefully, and the patent-pending “Lost in Deep Thought” expression. And Sim-Manager can shake hands with an adjustable firmness allowing up to five pre-programmed settings. These capabilities satisfy most committee requirements, and the programmable vocal response function allows realistic and situationally-appropriate interaction.

These response phrases can always be changed via Bluetooth interface, so that, for example, an old-fashioned response like “We must enrich the teaching and learning environment.” can be updated to “We must facilitate content delivery and student/media interaction.” In fact, Sim-Manager updates its responses far more easily than human managers, and in some instances, Sim-Manager has even functioned in conference settings using this technology.

In terms of faculty evaluation, our tests have shown that the awkwardness in the classroom caused by Sim-Manager’s manikin-like presence is no greater than that caused by a human evaluator taking notes, while the recordings made by Sim-Manager of the class are much more accurate. The follow-up sessions also tend to go well — as faculty generally have no problems talking to themselves for the required time period.

Sim-Manager v3.3 comes in both male and female models; we recommend purchasing appropriate proportions to satisfy State and Federal guidelines.

Assessments show an increase in managerial efficiencies using a 67% distribution of Sim-Managers, and the cost savings can be in the millions per year. No drop in institutional effectiveness was recorded in our study.

Clearly, our success in replacing human-to-human instruction with computer-mediated content delivery has demonstrated the cost savings possible using technology. Just as students no longer need instructors to assist in their learning, the organization itself no longer needs human managers to function effectively. As we replace instructors with electronic instructional content delivery systems, we can also replace managers with simulated response robots. Such a move would facilitate the college’s necessary long-term shift to a more fully part-time administrative pool, and away from less cost efficient, full-time positions in administration. Some might object that these changes would be difficult for the people in those administrative positions partially or fully replaced by Sim-Managers. But such concerns are not really the issue of the institution. And part-time administrators will likely be able to find other part-time work at nearby colleges to reduce the impact on their lives and broaden their range of experience.

The possibilities for this new technology are literally endless, and the potential cost savings enormous. Perhaps we can even imagine, as the technology advances, the ultimate application: SIM-PRESIDENT, leading our college into a brilliant future.

This committee recommends wide adoption of this exciting new technology, Sim-Manager, and quickly, before the next one comes along.

Ken Zimmerman (2010) appeared in Community College Moment

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