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 to view 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 podcast for higher education leaders looking to grow enrollment at their college or university. Whether you're looking for fresh enrollment growth techniques and strategies or tools and resources, you've come to the right place. Let's get into the show. Welcome back to enrollment growth university, a proud member of the connect ETU podcast network. I'm Eric Olson with Helix Education and we're here today with Leslie Nichols, Executive Director of professional studies at Emerson College. Leslie, welcome back to the show. Hi Eric, thanks for having me. So excited for you to come back and talk with us today about developing a self service enrollment platform for your post traditional students. Before we dig into that,...

...can you remind the listeners a little about Emerson College and your role there? Yes, absolutely. Emerson College is a Masters Granting Institution, a private college located in the City of Boston, and my department and Professional Studies focuses primarily on non traditional learners. Everything from 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 prepare for career change. And Boyd didn't kind of all of our students become non traditional students this past year. Leslie, I'm so excited to talk about that and more. Maybe to kick US off today. Can you give us just a high level overview on this project of creating a self service enrollment platform at Emerson? Sure, yeah, so this is actually been a project in the making 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 the college went remote this past spring due to covid. So we launched self service platform 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 well for the students we serve as well. Nostradamus Nichols, for sure. Leslie. Can you walk us through the student side friction that this self service platform removes from the traditional student in Roman experience. Yeah, absolutely, I think you know students face this and many institutions of higher education where you have multiple systems, those systems don't always speak to one another and a specially if you happen to be an external student, so...

...someone working on a professional program you may not have the same access that a campus student would have, for instance for registration, for payment, for billing for different services. So this effort was 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 studying in Emmerson College would have access to the type of services they need in a very friendly format. So you were reducing that learning curve and making it resemble much more of a typical online retail shopping experience. Yeah, how about from your 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. Is really kind of removing a lot of the manual tasks that we've had to accomplish due to having multiple systems of record.

So the effort for this particular project was not only to launch the self service system for students, but also to integrate with some of the back end systems that the college uses for record keeping, for paying bills, for grading, you know, everything that you see as part of that student experience. So a big part of this project was also looking at the different business processes that we employ to handle the work we do on a daily basis, getting rid of a lot of paperwork, manual data entry and particularly having one point of entry for a curriculum and for student information, which reduces errors and it also creates a more streamlined workflow for our staff. So I know many of our listeners listening are envious jealous of this endgame 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 of the biggest portions of this implementation was figuring out how can we make this more efficient, not only for my office but also for the partners that we work with. So there were a lot of meetings up front to really take a look at how we do business, how we collect information and how we can make sure that these systems are seamlessly talking to one another so that everyone can get access to the data points they need. Of course, you know the nuts and bolts of starting a project of this magnitude involves, you know, departments like her, purchasing, negotiating contracts, putting together and it team to determine how long the project will last, and then pulling together all of the different stakeholders and what was turned out to...

...be a very busy time kind of leading up to moving remote for covid and how we pull everyone together in a room, either in person or virtually, to work through the different aspects of this project and be sure it goes smoothly and on time. You talked about moving to this more Amazonian like experience. Let's talk about the benefits of making sure that our enroman experiences are more comparable to the commerce experiences that our adult students are utilizing when traversing the rest of the Internet. You've been live for a year now. Any initial numbers that you can cite regarding conversion or funnel improvements 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 it was hard actually getting the data to be able to make those types of identifications of success. So, for instance, you know, one of the biggest things we've consolidated is moving from a completely...

...separate content management system for posting the courses on our website moving that together inside of a self service system so that the registration piece, the payment piece and the sort of web information pieces all combined. So we didn't have really good data previously. For instance, if a 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 separate payment site to process their credit card. So we had no way of gathering data 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 did they 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 for a year, this is all really encompassed...

...into one system. So, for instance, I can run a report to show me how many people put something in 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 their cart? In the system can be programmed to actually send out automatic emails to students who have items in their cart, similar to what you would find on Amazon or other retailers, to remind that individual. Hey, did you forget something in your cart? This class may sell out, so come on back and complete your purchase. And now we actually have real data that can tell us how successful we are in those efforts. Similarly, you know, in working with our digital ad agency, we can start to have real tracking data to see, you know, how effective are advertising campaigns are. Are they resulting in clickthroughs, but also are they resulting in a return on our investment for those conversions? Leslie Love It.

Finally, any next steps? Advice for 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 major things. One is to really look at it from a customers standpoint and I think sometimes in higher and there's a reluctance to view students or perspective. Students as customers, but ultimately they are comparison shopping. They are looking not only at the curriculum, the price point, the reputation of the institution, but they're also looking at that experience. You know, how easy is it to sign up for a class? How easy is it to find the information they need to make a decision? So you really have to put yourselves in the shoes 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 have to look at how you do your work, you know. So how do you manage the registration process? How many...

...people are involved, how many different departments are involved, and what kind of data do you collect and really take a hard look at how you do things and determine is there a better way that 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're doing things now, but actually to improve our lives and make us more productive and effective? Leslie, thanks so much for joining us today. What's the best 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 address is leslie underscore Nichols AD Emerson Dot Edu. Awesome. Thanks against so much for joining us today, Leslie. Thank you, rick, I appreciate it. Attracting today's new post traditional learners means adopting new enrollment strategies. Helix educations data driven, enterprise wide approach to enrollment growth is uniquely helping colleges and universities thrive in this new education landscape, and...

Helix has just published the second edition of their enrollment growth playbook with fifty percent brand new content on how institutions can solve 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. To ensure that you never miss an episode, subscribe to the shown itunes or your favorite podcast player. Thank you so much for listening. Until next time.

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