The State of Continuing Education, 2021

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Amrit Ahluwalia, Editor in Chief of The EvoLLLution (an online publication founded by Modern Campus), joined the podcast to talk about the results from their State of CE survey addressing the gap between what modern learners want and what higher education actually offers.

Nearly fifty eight percent of students, when they're asked with their primary reason for enrolling in a degree program, they say to achieve career outcomes, of professional outcomes. 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 Edu podcast network. I'm Eric Olston with Helix Education and we're here today with Mr Allawalia, editor in chief of the evolution. I'm welcome to the show. Thank you so much for having me. I appreciate it. So excited to talk with you today about the results from your recent survey addressing the gaps between the modern adult learner and what higher education is actually offering them. Before we dig in, can you give our listeners a little bit of background on both the evolution and your role there? For sure. So the evolutions and online newspaper focused on call it non traditional higher education and transformation. We were founded by modern campus in two thousand and twelve basically focused on trying to share stories exploring how higher education is changing and how college is the universities are at that to keep pace. So what we do is focus exclusively on working with institutional leaders at the higher edstitutions in Canada and the US basically to talk about that and are our focus since we started was really on demographic changes and shifting student expectations and what that means to be, I guess, to the norms of our higher education industry. I'm grateful for the research work that you're doing because a lot of very, very interesting a has came out of this work. I'm or to kick US off. Can you give us just kind of that high level overview on the goals and methodology behind this specific recent survey? The State of...

Continuing Education Two thousand and twenty one, exposing the modern learner engagement gap absolutely well. This is our second year running this state of see survey and basically, I guess, the roots of the survey or in the lack of data. Living in the nondegree continuing ED space. There's a huge amount of data on on the traditional higher education side, but one of the things that we've noticed is as continuing education in nondegree learning in general becomes increasingly important, there's almost no data around what the standards of the industry are, what's happening in the space, what Challenges Higher Ed leaders are facing when they're working in the continuing at or nondegree space. So fundamentally that's what we wanted to solve. So we ran our first day to see you survey last year in public, which that last February, I believe, and then this year's survey. Again, it's basically a survey of our our subscriber base. Anyone who's in evolution subscriber with a Dott eve view or adopt see email address of capacity to answer answer our questions. And Yeah, what we're basically trying to do is is is get to the bottom of what's happening in the nondegree, non traditional higher ed space. You know, we found US hum alluded to and pretty amazing stuff. You know, the very fact of the matter is that more and more higher ed institutions are are really prioritizing nondegree or continuing education, but very few institutions are really resourcing those divisions to make substantive change. You know, we have higher ED leaders who recognize the importance of the digital experience to engaging the learners that they're serving, but also don't really believe in their own infrastructure to deliver the experience their students expect. So it's been interesting, with this year's survey, kind of seeing, I guess, the ideal state for what higher end couder should look like and then the you know, facing the reality of where we are. Yeah, and I'm grateful for the Longitudinal nature of your survey that nothing crazy happened in the past year. So I'm guessing these are just, you know, very same as old data. But I'm ready.

You actually teased out. I think that a couple of things that I was the most excited to to dig in with you. So let's start digging into some of these learnings or what you do with this data. So I admit that I was a bit surprised that sixty eight percent of adults considering going back to school would prefer a nondegree alternative program talk about this broader trend toward non degree programming and where you believe the learners are at with US demand versus where higher at is at, with offerings to match it. So to give appropriate credit to that specific that came from strata network and that was part of their public viewpoint surveys from from two thousand and twenty where basically what they were doing is surveying the American public on their higher a demand. So what we found particularly fascinating about that sixty eight percent sat and the reason why we wanted to integrate it, or at least highlight it as part of the state of thee is to give a sense of the fact that, you know, the interest in nondegree and continuing education isn't something that's happening in the vacuum, you know, in back room the colleges and universities. It's something that the market actually wants and it makes a ton of sense. Nearly fifty eight percent of students, when they're asked what their primary reason for enrolling in a degree program they say it's to achieve career outcomes or professional outcomes. I believe you cela recently did a survey of their incoming freshman class and something like eighty percent of students highlighted the value of their education to career outcomes. So a desire for career impact is nothing new for or any higher education student. The problem is that they're recognizing that, you know, the more traditional pathways to education that that we've sort of forged out aren't leading there a burning glass. Survey that was released towards the end of last year pointed out that nearly two and five bachelor's degree holders are underemployed in their first job. And when you consider the fact that the majority of students are enrolling because they want career outcomes, something, what is that? Forty percent of student seeing underemployed in their first role...

...is borderline unacceptable. So, you know, looking at that in conjunction with the expense of the traditional degree program and you know the promise of it, most nondegree programs being very specifically around career outcomes, it makes a ton of sense that students are starting to recognize that maybe there's another way. So that's yeah, like that's sixty eight percent stat on its face can be a little surprising, but I'll tell you I mean as someone who has who has managed a publication focused on nondegree education for the past decade. It was really almost abreast of fresh air. Yeah, to see that. You know, this thing that we've all been talking about in in sort of generalities is in fact very much of the case when the rubber hits the road. You know, at the end of the day, it's our recession playbook as an industry is vastly outdated. We're not meeting students where they are and it's the reason that there was a three percent enrollment dip in a pure aerod of massive unemployment, which generally leads to between a one point nine and two point five percent enrollment increase for degree programs. Yeah, I'm right. What did this survey tell us about internal concerns with our institutions abilities to add new programs to chase these trends at the pace of market demand? You know, it's really interesting. So one of the things that we found, obviously, when we asked about the biggest challenges to scaling or expanding nondegree add folks pointed to the things that you'd expect. So, you know, they were concerned around the market demand. So they wanted to make sure that programming actually needs labor market expectations, skills expectations, the administrative burden of simply developing and launching new programs, the cost of launching new programs, the time to market for new programs, like all these things that we understand is being a common road blocks, especially the nondegree program launches, because for the most part, you know, schools aren't really set up to do programming outside of a semester schedule. Schools aren't really set up to do programming that has to go to market extremely quickly and cannot,...

...you know, literally fall off the side of someone's desk in an approval process. So we certainly saw those but one of the really fascinating things that came out was, you know, that there were multiple choice options for that question. And then we also ask folks if there's anything else that they'd like to add in terms of school to Staling you dempanding nondegree and looking at that, doing a keyword analysis on the response, as we kind of lumped it into for buckets. So you know, acceptance and support of nondegree programming from from the main campus, yeah, is lacking right the capacity for staff to actually do innovative work. They're challenged. There's a lack of budget and financial support. So, you know, really nondegree programs. Continuing at units are generally cost recovery, so being able to commit additional fight additional resources to innovative programming can be a challenge. And then at its court they don't, technology at the base being completely insufficient when it comes to actually delivering on these high expectations. These are all things that kind of stem from a lack of practical support from senior leadership when it comes to the role and capacity for continuing a divisions to help keep their respective institutions competitive. I'm right. How about digital gaps? What are our most common digital gaps? Preventing Easy enrollments? High, a Tane, high value learning experience, specifically for these see learners. Absolutely well, I mean continuing at Learner and frankly, every learner today is an experienced season consumer. You know, this is someone who shops on Amazon with incredible regularity. This is someone who consumes media through the Netflixer, Amazon prime or, you know, any of the other five hundred streaming services that are available. This is someone who's given up on taxis because Uber allows you to do it so much quicker and easier. Right. So these, regardless of your forty eight and looking for upskilling or sixteen and trying to find your...

...first school. Every learner today is basically a digital native. Every learner today is fundamentally a technological expert when it comes to how they want to engage with major service providers. Right, like why is the university behind the banks or the cable companies when it comes to delivering a customer experience? So I'd say that's fundamentally are our first and biggest gap is students have this expectation for an experience that's going to be foamless, for experience is going to be straightforward, for a website that's going to, you know, provide them some sense of what it is that they need, based on past browsing history, based on, you know, previous enrollments, based on any of the things that any other company takes them to account when someone lands on their home page. But we don't do that and higher you know, we very much have this expectation that, you know, the student is fortunate to even be considered by us. And and so you don't behave that way. And as a result, boot camps have done very, very well, right and and Moos, you know, despite the fact that people look at them and say, Oh, look at their completion rates. Have we ever considered that we're applying a traditional higher standard to a fundamentally non traditional education providing mechanisms? Maybe students don't want to take all twelve moots. Maybe they wanted a specific piece of information and they managed to log in, find that information and go right. So maybe the question isn't did they do the thing we wanted them to do? Maybe the question is did they do the thing they want to do? And I think fundamentally like if you look at well, what's what's the thing that higher ed institutions need to do to close the digital divide? I think that's basically what you're asking. I would say, first and foremost, why don't we think about students like people and then treat them that way? I'm right, there's so much good stuff in this survey. Any specifically additional Aha moments for you, things that surprised you and your colleagues? I would say that you...

...know. relatedly, it was a thing about the website. So you know not to give too much away. Obviously we want both to tell up the research, but here here two stats. Then if you're going to take anything away from the survey. Take these two stats away with you, all right. Stat one, seventy three percent of respondence say the institutions website, website, should play a leading role in deeply engaging students and facilitating their registration. Right. So the website itself should be high quality, it should be personalized, it should provide some clear sense of what the consumers looking for and what the what the service provider, in this case the institution, is able to do to address their expectations. We need seventy three percent. Only ten percent of respondence rate their website as very effective at driving student engagement, enrollment and retemption. M Yeah, right. So three quarters of folks look at the look at their website and say wow, you know what? What amazing thing is the website could do is an engagement engine and only one in ten stay. And our website does that. You know, it's a startling divide because, when push comes to shove, we recognize that every consumer is digital first. We recognize that the majority of folks find our institutions online. We recognize that people want to use the website as a way to facilitate their enrollment process. They want to pay online with a credit card, they want to, you know, go to the website and have an immediate sense of whether it's actually going to help them get to their endpoint. They want to find the website on their phone, start building a shopping cart and then go on the computer to finish the purchase like you would on Amazon or on wayfarer or any of these other services. But we just don't let them do it. So I would say if we're looking at well, what's what's the ideal student experience? Right, it's starts at the first impression and that's the website. So that's I say. That's the major takeaway for me, and I apologize because...

I know that's more tactical than I think folks might be looking for, but that's also the problem. We cannot think of the website as being this tactical thing that only ten percent of the the staff at an institution need to worry about. Yeah, right. The website should be first and foremost to our our way of communicating with every stakeholder coming to the institution. If you're an alumni and you want that individual to either enrolling continuing education or donate to the school, they should have a home page when they go to come first point. University, DOT eedu right. They should be able to see Pathley specifically designed for them to get to the outcome the institution knows they should be moving toward. Right, just like again, any other company with any other set of personas will have a clear sense of who the people are coming to their website and how they want that person to progress. Right and fundamentally, if that's not strategic and if it's not strategically designed around the outcomes that you, the institution, or trying to put into place for your learners, then we the institution. It failed because, again, we expect the student to feel fortunate that they're they're being considered by US, as opposed to be all the alternative, which is that, you know, fundamentally, we the institution, or fortunate that a student is considering US com ord such such great stuff. Finally, any next steps advice for institutions who are looking to shrink that gap that you've talked about today, that gap between post rational student trends and the institution's own offerings? Where should they start? First? Absolutely well, I mean again, and this is a shameless pee to the research, but but the last Phage does outline about ten action ising, but we feel are incredibly relevant for folks, given some of the staff that we bring out in some of the findings that we unearthed in the research. But I would say at its very core, senior institutional leaders need to, I guess need to shift the thinking in two ways right. One is the continuing education division and its role. So this is not a unit that you know, sits on the...

...periphery of the institution, does some interesting stuff and generates revenue. I mean they do do that, but we need to recognize the role of continuing education is more of a strategic comparative for the institution itself and we need to resource some appropriate right again. Now, one of the things that we found was that seventy six percent of respondence said that they had senior leadership buying to scale and expand non degree courses in programs. Seventy six percent of respondence say they have senior leadership by and to scale and expand on degree programs and courses. But if you'll recall, the obstacles that I are highlighted earlier kind of all route back to a lack of genuine senior leadership support when it comes to buying, when it comes to resource and when it comes to maybe a little bit of true support around the engagement between continuing education in the main campus. The fact that cannibalization is still a concern for folks when it comes to expanding online education programming is a major, major concern. We should all be worried about that. So I would say first and foremost, you know, senior institutional leaders need to recognize their role in strategically supporting and resourcing continuing education to do the great work that we expect continuing education units to do. Yeah, you know what, that's the major takeaway. I think that's that's the most important thing and again I'd highly recommend downloading the report. There's a lot of great information in there. We do lay out a number of other recommendations and and opportunities, especially around, you know, types of credentialing that that seems to be on the horizon and teaser. It looks like stackable credentials, micro credentials are are major areas of opportunities that folks are identifying. But you cannot achieve that outcome and less continuing education is supported and resource appropriately. And will, of course, put a link to that survey in the show notes or thank you again so much for joining us. What's the best place for listeners to connect with you if they have any follow up questions? For sure, I'm on Linkedin. You'll see how my name is Felton in the show notes and...

...you can certainly connect with me there. You can email us at info at evolution with three L's upcom. That's in again, info at evolution with three albumscom. Those ls, by the way, stand for lifelong learning. Just a fun facts for folks. And then, if you do want to download the research again, I know that the show notes will have this link, but just in case, you can visit modern campuscom flash see twenty one. That's again, modern campuscom flash twenty one. Awesome. Thanks so much for joining us today. I'm right. Thank you for having me for a lot of fun. 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 show in Itunes or your favorite podcast player. Thank you so much for listening. Until next time,.

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