Innovative Approaches to Graduate Education
Over the course of this Special Feature, we went beyond academics and published articles and interviews from contributors across the higher education world exploring innovation in program development, strategy, marketing, service and more.
Exploring Innovation in Graduate Education
As certificate programs gain popularity, accreditors are asking graduate programs to better demonstrate their student outcomes to keep up with the competition.
Changes need to be made to graduate-level programming to ensure students receive value for the price of admission.
Innovation in the graduate education space should be more focused on creating enriched student outcomes than on simply reducing the price and time to completion.
The commoditization of graduate education should not impact academic quality; through all of the innovation, the basic tenets of the transformative graduate experience remains paramount.
Assessing the Changing Nature of Graduate Education
Though more non-traditional graduate students are working full-time and paying for education with employer reimbursements than undergraduates, price is still a major factor in their decision-making process.
Flexibility and responsiveness to student needs — both academically and administratively — creates an environment where adults can succeed in their graduate studies.
Graduate credentials are critical for employees to keep pace with the changing and evolving labor market, but this requires institutions to stay on top of industry changes and provide programming to accomplish this goal.
Shifting student demographics and increased demand for immediately-relevant labor market skills is driving change in graduate education.
Entering a New Marketplace in the Graduate Education Space
Sometimes the best approach to launching a radically innovative program is to ensure all key stakeholders are represented among your supporters.
Before entering a new marketplace, higher education administrators must understand the lay of the land and whether they have a competitive edge in the space.
Roadblocks to Innovation in the Graduate Education Space
Stakeholder involvement from an early stage is vital for innovative graduate programs.
Roadblocks come in all shapes and sizes when it comes to developing innovative programming. It’s a leader’s responsibility to navigate the maze and find pathways to success.
Rethinking online programming to make their management systems more closely resemble those of the campus environment could help institutions bypass authentication concerns when developing innovative programming.
The Changing World of Graduate-Level Credentials
Due to their cost and time to completion, graduate certificates may be better suited to the needs of today’s working adults than master’s degrees.
In order for higher education to remain relevant in the future, a new system of credentials needs to be devised in concert with all necessary stakeholders, including employers and professional associations.
MBAs and other graduate-level certifications are valuable for individuals looking to advance in their careers, but as they become more generic, certificates and certifications may present a better option for differentiation.
The Role of Vendors in Graduate Education Innovation
Engaging in partnership with a service provider can help institutions develop and launch innovative graduate programs with minimal internal resource allocation.
When it comes to developing a new online graduate degree program, many institutions turn to vendors for support, but the schools themselves need to put in legwork to make sure the program is a success.
Budget constraints should not stop innovation, as innovation does not call for just acquisition, but can also refer to strategic repurposing.
Reaching Geographically Dispersed Graduate Students
The IBC helps to deliver a high-quality graduate learning experience to geographically-dispersed students.
With the advent of online education, branch campuses are no longer a necessary mechanism for graduate programs to attract an international student body.
Developing Relationships to Strengthen Graduate Education
Degree programs developed in collaboration between two or more units within a university provides students with an opportunity for interdisciplinary learning that will support their career advancement.
Strong relationships between graduate schools and employers are beneficial to the institution across a number of areas.
Experiential Learning and Online Graduate Education
Graduate education is being significantly enriched by the expansion of online learning tools, and ingenuity from faculty is taking online tools from good to great in this space.
Online graduate programming is beginning to emerge as a highly-rigorous and well-regarded mechanism for working professionals to continue their education and advance in their careers.
Brian Murphy Clinton | Assistant Vice President of Enrollment Management, Northeastern University, Kevin Bell | Executive Director of Online Curriculum Development and Deployment, Northeastern University and Sean Gallagher | Senior Strategist and Market Development Officer, Northeastern University
Experiential learning is critical for online graduate programs that aim to support students’ success in the labor market.
Experiential learning opportunities provide graduate students with labor-relevant knowledge, a competitive advantage universities have over emerging alternative options.
Different Approaches to Growing Graduate Education
Industry-focused post-baccalaureate certificates can help institutions further support their undergraduate students and can serve as a pipeline for enrollment to graduate degree programs.
Understanding and appropriately responding to student needs is a massive differentiator that can help institutions stand out above the crowd.
Institutions that can afford to diversify, and who do so with their mission close at hand, will be the most successful as the graduate education marketplace becomes more competitive.
The Role of CE in Graduate Innovation
Every level of an institution must contribute to its innovative culture; this cannot be left to a single department.
Beyond expanding accessibility, continuing education units can support significant growth and expansion for a university’s graduate program offerings.
Assessing the Opportunity for Small Universities
While smaller institutions have hurdles to jump when competing in the graduate education market, their nimbleness and willingness to partner differentiates them from larger competitors.
The depth of expertise and elite faculty offered by bigger universities makes them a more promising option for prospective graduate students choosing between schools.
The supportive nature of smaller colleges such as HBCUs provides them with a distinct advantage in the graduate education marketplace.
By modularizing content creation, service providers can provide critical support to smaller institutions trying to compete in the increasingly innovative graduate space.
Marketing Innovative Graduate Programming
Institutions must properly communicate the nature of their innovative programs to prospective graduate students so they can make informed decisions about where to pursue their advanced degrees.
As programs become increasingly innovative, institutions must find ways to bring in the best possible students without cutting themselves off from the larger pool of potential enrollees.
Differentiating Factors in the Competitive Graduate Market
Diversity is critical for an enriching and engaging educational environment, but can also serve as a differentiator for universities competing for graduate enrollments.
Offering interdisciplinary graduate programming is a great differentiator for institutions appealing to the modern generation of graduate students, but there are challenging roadblocks for administrators to overcome.
The status quo is no longer viable for graduate institution success; administrators must be more business-like to survive in the modern graduation education marketplace.
For institutions that focus largely on undergraduate education, graduate schools must focus on creating high-demand, innovative programming that differentiates them from the competition.
Providing a superior customer experience can be a major differentiator for institutions looking to stand out in the crowded graduate education marketplace.
Brand may bring people to the door, but innovation is what gets students to enroll and ensures that they graduate and succeed in the workforce.