Published on 2015/04/21

Five Changes Higher Ed Institutions Need to Make to Better Serve Their Students

The EvoLLLution | Five Changes Higher Ed Institutions Need to Make to Better Serve Their Students
The first step to being responsive to customer demand is taking steps to actually understand what customers want. This is an area in which higher education has traditionally been weak.

The future of postsecondary continuing education is change. If we don’t like it, we’re going to like irrelevancy even less.

Keeping relevant in the digital age requires agility. CE units must be agile enough to innovate and evolve as the world quickly changes around them.

Here are five changes CE units should make to be more agile:

1. Just-in-Time Programming

Higher education is about enriching lives and learning critical thinking skills. It’s also about jobs. We have to be faster on our feet when it comes to identifying and developing just in time online and in class programs, courses and workshops. This means we must develop and offer job skills programs in a matter of months, courses in mere weeks and workshops or boot camps in mere days. Innovative offerings must also include competitive pricing. For example Simon Fraser University’s CE unit offers $159 one-day boot camps that can lead to a $695 course and then perhaps morph into a $7,125 certificate.

2. Get Out of the Office

How can CE units identify and develop innovative, future-facing courses and programs without knowing the world outside the academy? One of the best ways to conduct market research is to get off campus. Network with industry groups, form alliances, work in partnerships and sign agreements. You can’t do this stuck in your office.

Your best instructors and best programming ideas are out there, not in your cubicle or office. Colleges and universities focus on teaching and learning but we often forget that our customers are out there. Get out and find out what they want.

3. Embrace Technology

As universities struggle with technological changes our students’ technology expectations and expertise grow. They demand new teaching and learning technology but many instructors shun it.  Encourage the use of technology in the classroom. Expand your online offerings. Our CE unit has experienced a 24-percent increase in enrollment in some programs since offering them online. In the near future we will experiment with everything from online webcast information sessions to 50-minute “learn at lunch” mini workshops (“bring your lunch and leave smarter”).

CE units must constantly pivot and evolve their programming to meet the changing preferences of its customers.

4. Work With Experts

Too many higher education institutions offer too many of the same programs to the same shrinking market. Use local experts as subject matter experts (SMEs), guest speakers, program developers and external program advisors. Moreover, use the labor market experts and professionals out there to identify, develop and deliver relevant, current career and professional programming.

5. Customer Service

Our students are also our customers. They know what they want and they want to learn what is important to their career, interests and aspirations. The gap between higher education and the job market has never seemed wider.

CE units must focus on relevant, labour market skills. Universities are great at telling students what they should master, but we have to get better at listening to what our customers want to learn.

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