Stop Calling Them Students!
The modern learner, in truth, behaves like a customer. It’s essential for colleges and universities broadly—and continuing, professional and workforce education divisions specifically—to evolve and adapt to thinking about and serving their learners like the customers they are.
Without making this fundamental change, it’s possible that students will find new pathways to achieving the educational outcomes they set out for.
The Student/Customer Experience
Back-end efficiency is critical for institutions that want to give their students a modern customer experience.
Today’s students behave more like customers than ever before, and rather than trying to ignore or reverse this trend, institutions that can adapt and create an Amazon-like experience for their learners will improve student satisfaction while at the same time reducing operating costs and staff efficiency.
Operational efficiency is central to providing a strong student experience for today’s postsecondary institutions, especially when it comes to serving non-traditional learners.
As students begin to behave more like customers when choosing programs, higher education marketing practices must adapt to capture the market.
Establishing and Managing a Brand
Higher education marketers today must be strategic about their efforts, using data to define positive and negative efforts and working to create an experience for students that matches what they have become used to outside the academy.
Even at institutions like Berkeley, creating a high-end customer experience has a massive impact on a student’s perception of value.
As traditional postsecondary education costs continue to rise, microcredentials and other alternative approaches to higher education are providing affordable and accessible solutions that likely won’t replace, but will complement traditional degrees.
The number of students earning multiple credentials is already rising—colleges and universities need to do more to formalize the non-conventional pathways students are already taking to earn their degrees.
Institutions can use microcredentials as a platform to stand out from the crowd, but their offerings must be verifiable and of the maximum quality possible in order to serve as an effective differentiator.
The focus on improving student outcomes starts with ensuring that institutions are directly meeting the needs and expectations of their students. In many cases, this means moving away from the bread-and-butter degrees towards high-demand non-degree certificate and certification programming.
Growing Influence and Role of Alternative Providers
Closing the Skills Gap One MOOC at a Time: How Google is Transforming the Lifelong Learning Environment
Creating opportunities for individuals to gain critical, labor-market relevant skills through a sub-degree credential program is one example of how corporations can make a difference in supporting lifelong learning.
Achieving career college status does more than broadly legitimize the work of bootcamps—it opens up new educational markets and broadens student access to existing programming while also allowing the bootcamp to bring their concerns about workforce preparedness directly to the government.
Though alternative credentials have yet to overtake traditional degrees in value—perceived or otherwise—their focus on short-term benefits and demand responsiveness could lead to a longer-term shift in the powers of each respective credential.
Evolving the Institution to the Reality of Lifelong Learning
Ultimately, creating value for students across the Spectrum of Access requires institutions to demolish silos that exist across the institution.
Sticking to the status quo will end in disaster for most postsecondary institutions. To stay relevant, institutions have to rethink all aspects of the higher education product, from programming to student support to organizational models.
By leveraging power data visualizations, institutions can make data-driven decision making a reality and move away from the anecdotal and tradition-steeped approach to organizational management that has dominated the postsecondary space for decades.
Efficiency and the Customer Experience
When higher education leaders begin thinking of themselves as executives managing organizations that serve thousands of customers, it becomes increasingly clear that investing in the student and staff experience should be immensely high priorities.
Institutions that rethink the educational experience by putting the student at the center of their decision-making processes will be better positioned to meet the modern demands of traditional and post-traditional learners.