Accumulating new Cisco Academies ... an alternate model for a UK Cisco ASC ...

I have an exceptionally long memory, better than I may let you think. Long ago one was in the process of setting up our first Cisco Networking Academy. Very green and very inexperienced - our senior management on the advice of someone (no longer) within Cisco Systems. They directed us towards soliciting advice from another regional academy (as they were in those long lost times). Instead of helping us at our launch, they were more inclined to try and poach prospective academies as their own customers - something we have never forgotten.

Incorrectly assuming that it would be a localised model (as originally explained) - we discovered much to our amusement that it was very much a free for all with everyone out for themselves. We also discovered that Cisco at that time (at least in the UK) - had a view that you had to acquire at least ten academies otherwise you were not considered to be a viable regional.

Happily ticking along, we rapidly realised in the free for all - some academies were sporting an unsustainable model. Charging for support as well as training and not enabling growth. The idea was to charge around £3K for support, then anything up to £1K for training depending on the course. 

Eventually you were going to run out of prospective academies and prospective educators to train - making it unsustainable in the long term.

So, thinking laterally and understanding our small clutch of academies - we worked a different model. Here we charged £1.5K per instructor and had a support agreement for a minimum of 2, with some academies wanting up to four. We would then agree to train at least two per year every year at set times - every year.

This enabled the academies to grow their instructor base - as well as allow us to help them ensure that they had a minimum operational team for teaching Cisco Networking.

The result was that we could use a collective pot to develop the training model for multiple instructors. We fitted IT Essentials in as a option and covered updates, retooling and community events within the same budget. We always had a considerable surplus (profit) - and everyone was getting trained.

With this, we could expand and I had an additional set of academies I supported for free. All local community development projects - in receipt of development funding but not a great deal of cash for training at a technical level. The result was we could easily grow our reach to way beyond the notional ten and use the pot to train all our paying academies at a profit and infill our classes with other instructors without any loss.

Other academies were still interested in the bottom line and support fee - many have adapted, however are (in my opinion) stuck with their view of that model.

Eventually I left my old academy - eight years ago (next month) to join the current Cisco Academy that I helped set up. The model was eventually lost as the culture of the organisation was unable to understand the original purpose of the Cisco Academy.

Roll on today and you will see that we have reimagined the model with distinct similarities. 

At the time of updating this article, the Open University ASC has around 30 40 Cisco Networking Academies, all shapes, all sizes and again some that would not be able to sustain themselves if they had to pay a support fee. Our primary income is based around a large volume of fee based higher education students. Running an ASC (academy support centre) is of little comparable fiscal value and has a market model that is unsustainable in the current economic climate. 

Instead - we looked at support in terms of modes, if you are mode 1 or mode 3 it is free. If you are mode two, one of my two support consultants charge a nominal fee of £750 for three days worth of support per annum. If an academy does not use it, then that is their loss - it is available, being paid for and on offer.

Each soul charges their own ‘collective’ of academies directly - this is great, as the OU does not take a penny - keeping the costs low and sustainable (as the market is no longer able to tolerate the old free structure. As a bonus we (the OU) gain the benefit of two support experts who enable us to:
  • Reach out to very small academies who cannot afford the support fee
  • Support academies where we are able to acquire a quid pro quo relationship and in turn support the wider Cisco Academy community
  • Extend the reach of the Cisco Networking Academy programme into underserved communities 
  • Train instructors from a low cost base
  • Gain the benefit of being an ASC for our own students while helping others in the process
  • Support historically mature academies that need little support, who can fend for themselves with occasional reference to the OU ASC in a cost model for the current financial and educational climate
Do you like our new model, I think its cool. We are aware that there are some who view us with suspicion and maybe they should - we will support those that need help and will keep our costs as low as possible as well as offer our support for free.

I have already turned down academies and in many respects have no interest in having a dutch auction with anyone. For free, we have to like you and respect the educational opportunity you intend to offer Cisco Networking to. We know that some of our free academies may last for a short time, if this moves you do paid support. This is not a bad thing - they need the opportunity to try, without having to make an investment.

If you are interested do ask - however we do not take on everyone. But, if you are being supported by our friend from the first paragraph - I am willing to make exceptions.

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