Otis College of Art and Design

by pauljr
March 12, 2021
We applied our data-driven approach to help Otis College of Art and Design leverage its creative potential.

The Choices

To achieve the college goals and overcome the challenges, Otis chose a combination of a SpurCG Self Service and Consultant Guided solutions:

Current Program Assessment

Where are you succeeding? Where are you not? Get your program performance assessed and categorized
so you can figure out your next move.

Feasibility: Market, Programs, Etc.

Need a few quick wins? Data backed action plans? All of the above? In this engagement we will explore the feasibility of your idea and provide you with research and recommendations for your future to implement right away.

The Client

Otis College of Art and Design

Partner within the college in Otis Extension, led by the Dean of Extension: Mark Manrose

Who is Otis?

Otis College of Art and Design, a leader in art and design education, which offers a diverse range of professional and personal development programs for adults and youth students.

From their website:

“Otis College educates a diverse community of students to become highly skilled, well informed, and responsible professionals empowering them to shape the world. Ideally situated within Los Angeles, our distinguished programs and instructors transform students’ lives through rigorous practice that nurtures and propels their creativity, skill, vision, and critical thinking.

Otis College of Art and Design

The Challenges

Otis College of Art and Design had the ‘art’ part covered – no surprise there. But it needed a little help when it came to the science, or data driven approach.

The team was massively proud of many programs in its robust portfolio, which included
calligraphy, digital photography, interior design and even hat making. (!) But many of the classes in its extensive catalog were plagued by cancellations, unprofitability or lackluster community interest. With its programming strategy in flux, the Otis tea m needed a way to ensure its programs filled a genuine community need at a price point that was profitable without being prohibitive.

When a new dean was hired in summer of 2019, the ad hoc approach to developing classes would no longer cut it. Otis needed a north star to guide its programming strategy and help it build offerings that could keep classes full and their balance sheet, well, balanced.

The Engagement

In July or 2019, a change in Otis leadership made it the perfect time to tweak other operational processes at the same time.

“From the start, it was obvious that there were issues in how programs were identified and developed, so we knew we had to start there,” said Mark Manrose, Dean of Extension at Otis. “That one issue was having a number of secondary effectsa that ripples outward.

The biggest challenges for Otis were class cancellation rates and a lackluster profitability. Our team proposed an engagement to include a program assessment and market feasibility study to include a snapshot of Otis’ regional demographics and competitor landscape, which would guide future decision making.

“The Otis brand is strong, and we knew we could make more of an impact in the community by building unique programs that really serve our potential student populations,” said Manrose. “We also felt our brand could stand alone outside of the LA area to include a number of learning modalities like online learning and online synchronous programs as opposed to only face to face classes. The challenge was figuring our how.”

“Taking on this kind of project is like doing a puzzle. We find all of the pieces in our research of the organization, demographic, competition, etc., and when we put everything together, we get a clear picture. Then we can easily formulate program, market, and pricing direction for our clients.

Meni Sarris
Co-Founder, SpurCG

The Project

To start, our team looked at historical data about Otis’ past programs, including its current student demographics and competitors’ offerings. Everyone involved felt strongly that the focus should be on unique programming that was not currently being offered elsewhere. In short, for this engagement, we wanted to fill the gaps with white space instead of creating more noise.

The full historical audit went back several years, bringing into focus how programs were being conducted in regards to pricing, locations and modality, or format.

Using our proven program assessment method, we then sorted all of Otis’ programs into clusters – successful programs, those that needed help, and those that were, er, beyond help and should be phased out.

One of the biggest challenges for many of our clients is figuring our the “sweet spot” in terms of class costs. How do you right price your programs to maximize enrollments while also maximizing your own revenue

As part of the programming audit, we also looked very closely at how programs and classes were priced to figure what was working and what wasn’t.

Historical data points certainly have their place, but for this engagement we were most excited about looking toward the future. In addition, to demographic and pricing analysis, we
conducted a full market feasibility study where we explored potential new programs that would maximize revenue and fit a unique community need.

New program recommendations were then juxtaposed with competitors’ offerings and demographic information to determine the feasibility of curriculums, formats, and pricing
to ensure Otis could remain competitive in the market. The recommendations also included potential partners and third party vendors vetted by SpurCG

The Process

For this engagement, the actual process was fairly straightforward. Much of the research was done remotely. We had periodic check ins with the Otis team, and then provided a detailed, three part report with an in person presentation to the leadership team of Otis.

With this information, Otis could now answer three important questions:

  1. What classes should we offer?
  2. How should we price them?
  3. How do we prepare for the future in a strategic way that continually improves our unit?

We also uncovered some additional findings about challenges in Otis’ organizational structure. Yes, it was
technically outside of our project’s scope, but we felt it was critical to bring up, as it was creating sign if creating significant additionally challenges to developing right sized programs

“From the beginning we knew this project was going to be different. Spur took a great interest in making sure we understood each step of the process, why we were doing it, and that we will be able to replicate it after they are gone. I don’t usually see consultants teaching us how they do their work and it was refreshing .

Mark Manrose
Dean of Extension at Otis College