Self-Service Enrollment Platforms for Post-Traditional Students

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Lesley Nichols, Executive Director of Professional Studies at Emerson College, returned to the show to talk about both the student and administrative friction removed from moving to a self-service enrollment platform for their continuing education programs.

And Higher and there's a reluctance toview students or perspective students as customers, but ultimately they are comparison shopping.You're listening to enrollment growth university from Helix Education, the best professional development podcastfor higher education leaders looking to grow enrollment at their college or university. Whetheryou're looking for fresh enrollment growth techniques and strategies or tools and resources, you'vecome to the right place. Let's get into the show. Welcome back toenrollment growth university, a proud member of the connect ETU podcast network. I'mEric Olson with Helix Education and we're here today with Leslie Nichols, Executive Directorof professional studies at Emerson College. Leslie, welcome back to the show. HiEric, thanks for having me. So excited for you to come backand talk with us today about developing a self service enrollment platform for your posttraditional students. Before we dig into that,...

...can you remind the listeners a littleabout Emerson College and your role there? Yes, absolutely. Emerson College isa Masters Granting Institution, a private college located in the City of Boston, and my department and Professional Studies focuses primarily on non traditional learners. Everythingfrom adult learners, working professionals, high school students and pre college programs,and then credit bearing and non credit certificate programs to help build skills or preparefor career change. And Boyd didn't kind of all of our students become nontraditional students this past year. Leslie, I'm so excited to talk about thatand more. Maybe to kick US off today. Can you give us justa high level overview on this project of creating a self service enrollment platform atEmerson? Sure, yeah, so this is actually been a project in themaking for a couple of years now, at least in the discussion stages,and then we started implementing in earnest in...

...the fall of two thousand and nineteen. serendipitously, it ended up launching to the public the same week that thecollege went remote this past spring due to covid. So we launched self serviceplatform literally one day before we all departed from the campus for an entire year. So good timing on our part and I think it is worked out wellfor the students we serve as well. Nostradamus Nichols, for sure. Leslie. Can you walk us through the student side friction that this self service platformremoves from the traditional student in Roman experience. Yeah, absolutely, I think youknow students face this and many institutions of higher education where you have multiplesystems, those systems don't always speak to one another and a specially if youhappen to be an external student, so...

...someone working on a professional program youmay not have the same access that a campus student would have, for instancefor registration, for payment, for billing for different services. So this effortwas really to try and create a more Amazon like shopping experience so someone who, for instance, you know, does not have previous experience working or studyingin Emmerson College would have access to the type of services they need in avery friendly format. So you were reducing that learning curve and making it resemblemuch more of a typical online retail shopping experience. Yeah, how about fromyour team's standpoint? Is there also an administrative lift removed from your staff?There is, and that was also a significant impetus for the project. Isreally kind of removing a lot of the manual tasks that we've had to accomplishdue to having multiple systems of record.

So the effort for this particular projectwas not only to launch the self service system for students, but also tointegrate with some of the back end systems that the college uses for record keeping, for paying bills, for grading, you know, everything that you seeas part of that student experience. So a big part of this project wasalso looking at the different business processes that we employ to handle the work wedo on a daily basis, getting rid of a lot of paperwork, manualdata entry and particularly having one point of entry for a curriculum and for studentinformation, which reduces errors and it also creates a more streamlined workflow for ourstaff. So I know many of our listeners listening are envious jealous of thisendgame that you're at right now, this time lift that the platform saves,but let's talk about the lift that was...

...required for your team to get there. What did that investment look like? So this was definitely a team effort. We collaborate with a lot of different departments across the college and one ofthe biggest portions of this implementation was figuring out how can we make this moreefficient, not only for my office but also for the partners that we workwith. So there were a lot of meetings up front to really take alook at how we do business, how we collect information and how we canmake sure that these systems are seamlessly talking to one another so that everyone canget access to the data points they need. Of course, you know the nutsand bolts of starting a project of this magnitude involves, you know,departments like her, purchasing, negotiating contracts, putting together and it team to determinehow long the project will last, and then pulling together all of thedifferent stakeholders and what was turned out to...

...be a very busy time kind ofleading up to moving remote for covid and how we pull everyone together in aroom, either in person or virtually, to work through the different aspects ofthis project and be sure it goes smoothly and on time. You talked aboutmoving to this more Amazonian like experience. Let's talk about the benefits of makingsure that our enroman experiences are more comparable to the commerce experiences that our adultstudents are utilizing when traversing the rest of the Internet. You've been live fora year now. Any initial numbers that you can cite regarding conversion or funnelimprovements because of your new platform? Yeah, it's kind of an interesting question because, you know, prior to the launch of this self service platform itwas hard actually getting the data to be able to make those types of identificationsof success. So, for instance, you know, one of the biggestthings we've consolidated is moving from a completely...

...separate content management system for posting thecourses on our website moving that together inside of a self service system so thatthe registration piece, the payment piece and the sort of web information pieces allcombined. So we didn't have really good data previously. For instance, ifa student came to our website they found a course they were interested in,they would then have to click a link that took them to a totally separatepayment site to process their credit card. So we had no way of gatheringdata to know beyond clicking that link, did they actually make a purchase?Did they add items to their shopping card and then give up, or didthey follow through and, you know, convert to a full time student?So we simply didn't have that data. But now that we've been live fora year, this is all really encompassed...

...into one system. So, forinstance, I can run a report to show me how many people put somethingin their shopping cart, no course or two that they were interested in.How many of them followed through and made that purchase? How many abandoned theircart? In the system can be programmed to actually send out automatic emails tostudents who have items in their cart, similar to what you would find onAmazon or other retailers, to remind that individual. Hey, did you forgetsomething in your cart? This class may sell out, so come on backand complete your purchase. And now we actually have real data that can tellus how successful we are in those efforts. Similarly, you know, in workingwith our digital ad agency, we can start to have real tracking datato see, you know, how effective are advertising campaigns are. Are theyresulting in clickthroughs, but also are they resulting in a return on our investmentfor those conversions? Leslie Love It.

Finally, any next steps? Advicefor institutions listening to this jealous considering self service enrollment platforms at their own institution? Where should they start first? You know, I say there's two majorthings. One is to really look at it from a customers standpoint and Ithink sometimes in higher and there's a reluctance to view students or perspective. Studentsas customers, but ultimately they are comparison shopping. They are looking not onlyat the curriculum, the price point, the reputation of the institution, butthey're also looking at that experience. You know, how easy is it tosign up for a class? How easy is it to find the information theyneed to make a decision? So you really have to put yourselves in theshoes of a perspective learner to build a system that's going to meet their needs. And then, on the back end of things, I think you haveto look at how you do your work, you know. So how do youmanage the registration process? How many...

...people are involved, how many differentdepartments are involved, and what kind of data do you collect and really takea hard look at how you do things and determine is there a better waythat we can do this? Is there a way we can streamline line it, and how can we use the software not simply to replicate the way we'redoing things now, but actually to improve our lives and make us more productiveand effective? Leslie, thanks so much for joining us today. What's thebest place for listeners to connect with you if they have any follow up questions? So listeners are welcome. To connect with me directly. My email addressis leslie underscore Nichols AD Emerson Dot Edu. Awesome. Thanks against so much forjoining us today, Leslie. Thank you, rick, I appreciate it. Attracting today's new post traditional learners means adopting new enrollment strategies. Helix educationsdata driven, enterprise wide approach to enrollment growth is uniquely helping colleges and universitiesthrive in this new education landscape, and...

Helix has just published the second editionof their enrollment growth playbook with fifty percent brand new content on how institutions cansolve today's most pressing enrollment growth challenges. Downloaded today for free at Helix Educationcom. Playbook. You've been listening to enrollment growth university from Helix Education. Toensure that you never miss an episode, subscribe to the shown itunes or yourfavorite podcast player. Thank you so much for listening. Until next time.

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