In recent news, there was an article on how the University of Illinois is struggling with their online enrollment growth. I posted a recent article and talked on this exact subject matter in Las Vegas in September. With the latest news article on the University of Illinois challenges, I believe it also proves the point of my article that going online has it’s challenges for most schools. I can certainly feel for some of the pain that this university is feeling… having experienced to some degree similar pain. In fact, those challenges and pain are exactly what inspired me to write my article. In the article on the University of Illinois, President Joseph White said:
“I’m not mad at anybody about that. I think we’ve come to realize that we have a university faculty that is at capacity.”
With all due respect to President White’s observations, I would venture to say that, although his faculty might have some ‘capacity’ constraints, the more plausible reason for the lack of online enrollment at the University of Illinois is what I call “transitioning from tradition”. Many resident programs are driven and controlled by academic committees and deans that often embrace a “ground campus” type attitude. While not negating the great importance in offering a quality, student experience and assessing student learning outcomes, oftentimes a school can be governed by the mindset that believes that unless a student is sitting in front of a live faculty member, he or she is not learning.
I just wanted to follow up with those of you that have been following my blog. As I posted in an earlier blog, I was in Las Vegas from Sept 16th-19th at a TARGUSinfo lead scoring conference. I was able to host one of the breakout sessions and discussed the “challenges traditional schools face when going online”. I have written a more extensive version of this breakout session for your reading enjoyment if you click the link.
In addition, Shaun Redgate and myself published a new article that just hit eWeekly.com.
Overall, I think my session went very well. Attendance was not as high as I would have liked, but the content I delivered was certainly valuable to those looking to go online, those struggling with growth if they are already online and for lead providers who have clients that may be facing growth issues. The Mandalay Bay Resort was an awesome setting for a conference and I would not hesitate to go back there for another conference. TARGUSinfo was very hospitable to me and they really made the trip enjoyable. They added some valuable touches to our stay that certainly made the trip worth going.
I had never been to Las Vegas before so for me there was a lot to see. I would summarize Las Vegas like this: to those who don’t gamble (like myself) it was a great venue for a conference because there were plenty of restaurants and shows to take in during the evening hours after the conference. However, I don’t think I would take my personal vacation time to visit Las Vegas because I don’t think I would have enough to do without the gambling part.
Overall rating of the Las Vegas and TARGUSinfo Conference, 9 out of 10.
2. Execution…Online learning is a competitive business
Throughout the process of online enrollment, an aggressive edge is key
Pray, focus execute…many schools cannot execute. In a traditional (residential) undergraduate model, the sales cycle used to turn a prospective student into a matriculated student can range from three months up to even two or three years, and often starts at the point when an individual first expresses interest in a college or education program in their sophomore or junior year of high school. From this point, numerous months of work ensue to cultivate this lead and build a relationship with the individual for potential enrollment. High-level phone sales skills aren’t critical for admission counselors as campus visits, athletic programs, student life, and geography are usually the largest selling points for capturing an enrollment in the cycle.
1. Make-to-order vs. mass production
In the context of education, online learning is a “make-to-order” business whereas instruction through a traditional ground campus falls under the category of mass production. Applying this to business terms, online learning uses a “pull” strategy while traditional (residential) undergraduate education uses a “push” strategy.
With the realization that each unique customer has varying needs and desires for the purchase of a product or service, most businesses today operate under the “pull” strategy such as Dell or McDonalds. However, traditional education still operates under the “push” method. Statistics show that ninety percent of all incoming undergraduate resident students have the same needs, requirements, and educational expectations, lending to an academic institution’s use of systems of mass production to satisfy these similar needs. The familiarity and success with this type of education system has made it difficult for most traditional colleges and universities to successfully enter into the market of online learning.
Adult learners make up the largest segment in demand and utilization of online education. As adult learners come with a unique set of challenges, most traditional schools struggle with the implementation of the “make-to-order” model to accurately and successfully satisfy these unique educational needs.
Expectations of an adult learner include the ability to have their education tailored around their needs — courses they can take when and where they want, and at a pace that fits their lifestyle.