Online education

Scaling Online Education: 5 Lessons for Colleges

As the COVID-19 pandemic surges, Across the country, colleges and universities are forced to adjust their plans on an almost daily basis. As of late August 2020, only one-fifth of U.S. colleges and universities are planning to return to campus either fully or primarily in-person, with the rest undecided or using hybrid, online, or other remote teaching I am planning a model. Already several universities have had to rapidly shift to 100% distance learning following his COVID-19 outbreak in the region.

As universities were forced to move to a remote model from one day to the next last spring, the focus has been on ensuring student engagement and access, and just-in-time training for faculty to finish the academic year. I was. With in-person learning restrictions extended through the fall, it’s imperative to build capabilities to provide robust remote service over the long term. This need for remote learning has increased interest in developing or scaling a suitable online education, leveraging best practices learned from a set of institutions that have successfully implemented this teaching model.

This article provides a brief overview of trends in online higher education over the past decade. Then review his five key lessons from leading online institutions. These lessons can help all universities improve and expand their online services. The market is changing rapidly and higher education institutions need to act now.

Going Online: First Gradually, Now Like a Flood

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, online education was a driver of growth in higher education. As traditional enrollment in post-secondary institutions continues to decline, distance learning has increased by about 40% in his five years, from 2.2 million in 2012 to his 310 in 2017. increased to millions. – person course. Before the pandemic, about a third of students had taken at least one online course.

However, this growth was unevenly distributed. Large institutions such as Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU), Western Governors University (WGU) and Arizona State University (ASU) accounted for about 10% of the growth, building national brands in online higher education, and others (Attachment 1).

Online education growth has been uneven across institutions, with the top 10 players accounting for 20% of the market.

A trend that lasted more than a decade was compressed into one semester. Many students are likely to return to face-to-face learning once it is safe to do so, while others are likely to remain separated for the long term, choosing sustainable products rather than ad hoc. Interest in building grows. In fact, his GSV Ventures, a venture capital fund focused on digital education, believes that “online-first pedagogy will be the norm for nearly all college students” and that all growth in higher education by 2030 will be online. I predict it will. The imperatives are clear. All universities need to build robust online services quickly.

Take the plunge and launch an online program

We interviewed leading online universities to understand what it takes to plan and implement quality online programs in higher education. We have identified five critical success factors.

Develop a student-centered approach

“A key part of our success is advising students,” says Paul LeBlanc, president of SNHU. Leading institutions agreed with this statement and developed their online strategies with one main objective in mind. It’s about helping students successfully complete their programs. Institutions have implemented three types of student support mechanisms to achieve this goal.

  • Individual counseling and guidance. ASU and SNHU use personal success coaches and academic advisors to help students navigate admissions, enrollment, degree selection, and course requirements. Counselors also use predictive analytics to identify students at risk of academic difficulties and provide necessary interventions.
  • Involvement in face-to-face and online communities. Part of a student’s success depends on building strong bonds with faculty and peers. To ensure student participation, Pennsylvania State University and SNHU will offer personalized feedback sessions between faculty and students, enhanced peer-to-peer interactions via video calls, access to face-to-face networking events, and development of an online community ( For example, honor student) was introduced. society).
  • 24/7 IT support to enhance your learning experience. The State University of New York and ASU have introduced a 24/7 IT concierge service to assist students with technical questions regarding course access, course materials, and software.

invest heavily in marketing

Large companies spend a lot of money on marketing (Figure 2). Institutions with the highest number of online enrollments have marketing budgets similar to those of fast-growing technology companies and digital retailers. We found a positive correlation between voice share and market share. In other words, the more money an institution spends on marketing, the higher its market share. This highlights the role of marketing in driving enrollment.

Institutions that spend more on marketing have a higher market share for online enrollment.

Two-thirds of students complete their first application within four weeks of starting their online program search. Leading institutions recognize that online students are moving faster in the decision-making process than their peers in face-to-face applicant pools, and are seamlessly integrating their marketing efforts with their enrollment departments. In addition to acting quickly during the application process, students expect to receive timely information regarding financial aid and credit transfers when finalizing admission. 71% of students expect to find a way to transfer previously earned credits within two weeks of applying, and 66% expect to receive a financial aid quote.

To enable a seamless application and registration process, SNHU established a team of 275 admissions officers to follow up with interested students within two minutes of inquiry. We also use a credit transfer team to help students track the required transcripts for a small fee. The university recognizes that time-sensitive adult learners are eligible for its programs and require a streamlined application and enrollment process.

Involve faculty early and empower them to lead the program to success

There are two areas of support to help faculty develop successful online programs:

  • Give faculty and staff the time they need to develop online services. In our interviews, faculty cited time constraints and a lack of awareness of remote education when asked to develop online services. Universities have added financial and non-financial incentives to address these issues. The University of Central Florida offers faculty scholarships and time to pursue the training instructors need to develop and launch quality online courses. Similarly, Penn State University gives faculty the same credits for developing and teaching distance courses as they do for teaching face-to-face programs. The latter aims to address the perception that online classes are inferior to face-to-face courses.
  • Develop standardized end-to-end processes to support faculty and staff. We’ve identified a set of best practices that some universities are implementing to support their faculty. This includes evaluating an idea to quality assurance when launching an offering.
    • Create a standardized course proposal and approval process. To launch viable online courses, the University of Florida created a central curriculum development team with two missions. First, we identify and then evaluate potential offerings that address both student needs and labor market demands while leveraging the university’s strengths. Ideas proposed by faculty using the same framework.
    • We provide instructional design and course production support to ensure that our offerings meet the needs of our students. The University of Florida’s Online Innovation and Production Center supports faculty training, instructional designers, and all production needs.
    • Develop a rigorous quality assurance process. ASU has a dedicated design and development team that manages quality assurance with detailed rubrics to measure course quality. This includes her 22 instructional designers, each supporting her 50 to her 75 faculty members.

Establish an online organization with clear accountability

In defining the organizational structure needed to run and grow their online programs, institutions reported three guiding principles (see sidebar, “Choosing the Right Operating Model”): .

  • have clearly specified units, Has budget responsibility and decision-making power and is responsible for executing the online program.
  • Enable faculty participation We ensure that the implementation meets the needs of the students and provides the necessary support for faculty to develop quality programs. Most of the public institutions interviewed reported having an online organization under the president as a mechanism to enable faculty to play a leadership role in shaping the organization’s value proposition.
  • set clear goals and ensure that standardized practices are put in place to achieve these goals. Examples of standardized practices include a review system to assess the economic viability of new programs, along with a clear resource allocation framework for course development.

Tailor standard operating procedures for frequent online start options and shorter duration needs

Fast-growing online programs typically offer 6-8 weeks of intensive study modules. Multiple staggered start options ranging from 4 to 6 in a given year (e.g. January, March, May, June, August, October), providing multiple flexible entry points for your target audience To do. August and January are the most popular months with the highest number of start option registrations. Most conventional college programs only offer fall, spring and sometimes summer admission cycles.

Multiple initiation methods are important for multiple teams involved in operations and the student life cycle, including:

  • admission. Six application processing cycles reduces turnaround time compared to schools with traditional three cycles.
  • marketing. Digital and print advertising must be quickly recalibrated and restarted every six starts.
  • financial aid. Turnaround and application processing time are increased by a significant spike in activity five days before the admissions deadline, whereas in traditional admissions cycles, financial assistance processing is typically completed several months before the deposit deadline. increase.
  • student success. Advisors and counselors need to get used to digital readiness, wider availability and proactive outreach to address motivation and persistence.

Universities that successfully operate online programs also consider the following adjustments:

  • Appoint a dedicated person within each team to lead online operations
  • Instill a strong customer-centric perspective in colleagues who support online operations
  • Fine-tune the school calendar to be flexible enough to accommodate the variations needed for multiple starts (e.g. flexible work hours over the holidays to ensure support for January starts).
  • Create buffer capacity in teams to handle spikes in activity around the start of new classes compared to traditional enrollment cycle activity

The transition to all forms of online education is a major undertaking. Previously, universities could choose whether to invest in top-notch online offerings. They now have little choice and need to act quickly. The good news is we have a wealth of experience to draw from and build on. Universities that keep these lessons in mind can create or scale online offerings that not only weather the pandemic, but set them up for success in the post-COVID-19 world of higher education.

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