Published on 2017/05/08
The EvoLLLution | The Impact of Offering an Amazon-Like Experience in the Non-Credit Space
By leveraging software designed specifically for the continuing education space, it’s possible to deliver an experience that today’s students expect while still delivering high quality curriculum and engaging in effective marketing efforts—all critical to the long-term success of a division offering non-credit education.

Students today—both traditional and non-traditional—have extremely high expectations of their universities when it comes to the digital environment and experience. These expectations are shaped by the experience crafted and delivered by other organizations, be they banks or online retailers. For higher education leaders in the non-credit space, where the majority of enrollees are working professionals looking to advance their skills, it’s incredibly important to meet students’ high expectations to ensure they enroll and continue to come back to the institution for their ongoing education needs. In this interview, Brandon Gregory, David Kaplan, Charles McGinnis and Uyen Nguyen share their insights on how technology plays a central role in meeting the expectations of non-credit students.

The EvoLLLution (Evo): Why is delivering an Amazon-like experience particularly important to students on the non-credit side?

Brandon Gregory, David Kaplan, Charles McGinnis and Uyen Nguyen (BG/DK/CM/UN): Amazon has set the standard for eCommerce engines. Non-traditional, adult learners, expect an Amazon-like experience since they are searching for, and purchasing, courses online.

Amazon has successfully made their user interface easy-to-use, even for non-tech savvy users. Features such as recommended products based on user search intent, purchase history, and cart reminders make an Amazon-like experience very powerful for an organization. The ability to find what you want, choose it and get it (register, pay, etc.) with a few clicks (after you are in the system, of course), is the expected “customer” experience in today’s marketplace, no matter what you are selling.

The easier we make their experience to get into our classes, the better opportunity we have to obtain and retain those students. On the other hand, if we make the system onerous or cumbersome, they will simply choose to go elsewhere, as they have options in their continuing education.

Evo: What does it take to develop a lifelong learning retention strategy that brings non-credit students back?

BG/DK/CM/UN: The strategy to retain lifelong learners over the long-term is multi-faceted. There has to be a quality product available at your institution, whether that is built upon content, expertise, delivery methodology, high quality facilities and technology or all of those things (as it should be). There has to be an awareness of you and your product.

Through marketing and branding efforts, student should recognize your name, logo and offerings, and associates them with high quality, yet good value. You have to listen to them and solicit their input in order to ensure you are moving them forward along with your programming. This is important so you stay in the right lanes for your development of new or extended programming in the areas you are working in or on.

It is also important that you at least try to meet the students where they are. This means you need to have options and be flexible in your scheduling, programming, locations, delivery methods, etc. It also takes a strong, responsive and robust back-end system to assist the institution in supporting these things:

  • User experience
    • Website usability
    • Product recommendations
    • Customer Service
    • Flexible scheduling
  • Curriculum
    • Top-quality offerings
    • Diversity of offerings
    • Innovative offerings
    • Instructors
    • Multiple course formats
  • Marketing
    • Brand/product loyalty
    • Messaging
    • Top of mind awareness

Evo: What impact does market responsiveness with new offerings and certificates play when it comes to being competitive in the non-credit environment?

BG/DK/CM/UN: Without staying competitive and offering innovative and current curriculum, course formats, and more, we would lose market share and no longer be able to support continuing education programs. The impact can either put you ahead of the game or set you back. If you swing and miss too often with your programming, then you are consistently in the hole and have to work even harder to get back to square one.

However, if you listen to what the market is telling you, respond to that by offering the programs that are being requested, and have the right tools—including the right support system like we have with Destiny One and our personnel—then you can move ahead of the competition and solidify yourself as a respected leader in the continuing education arena.

Evo: What are some of the traditional challenges to getting new non-credit programs to market?

BG/DK/CM/UN: Inspiration and delivery are the biggest challenges to getting new non-credit programs to market!

Some of the challenges faced for new non-credit programs include (but are not limited to); development costs, subject matter expertise on the topic, marketing efforts (getting the right audience targeted, getting the right mix of mediums, cost of production, etc.), and making certain the “What’s In It For Me” question (WIIFM) is answered by the proper people.

Evo: How does your customer lifecycle management software help you and your team to meet its strategic goals on the non-credit side?

BG/DK/CM/UN: Destiny One has allowed for a consolidated user interface for both staff and students. It has also provided accurate financial and enrollment reporting to allow our team to measure results. As a hosted web-based system, Destiny One is an easily accessible platform across diverse program areas. It has provided a sense of security that the data we need is there, safe and secure and easily retrievable whenever we need it.

Since Destiny One was designed with continuing education in mind, we do not have to be concerned with trying to make the square peg of continuing education fit into the round hole of traditional postsecondary academia.

Continuing education is more like a business than traditional college and Destiny One helps us run our business more efficiently and effectively.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. To download a case study that goes into more depth on how implementing Destiny Solutions’ customer lifecycle management software, Destiny One, helps the University of San Diego Professional and Continuing Education deliver an Amazon-like experience, please click here.

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Key Takeaways

  • In the non-credit space, it’s valuable for leaders to make the registration experience as easy as possible to maximize enrollments and retention, as an onerous experience will lead to attrition.
  • A successful lifelong learning retention strategy requires equal attention paid to user experience, curriculum and marketing, all of which should be supported by a robust technology infrastructure.
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