Even Before Pandemic - UNLV NewsCenter

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Even Before Pandemic - UNLV NewsCenter Even Before Pandemic - UNLV NewsCenter Posted: 05 Oct 2020 12:00 AM PDT Even before the coronavirus pandemic propelled UNLV into remote learning in the spring, online courses at UNLV were prevalent.  "There's been a steady decrease in the number of students that have never taken an online course," said Elizabeth Barrie, the director of the Office of Online Education . She recently presented during The State of Online Education webinar event. It highlighted some of the initiatives and cross-campus partnerships that contribute to student achievement and shared how faculty prepared for online learning through the summer. She noted that 95% of students who graduated in spring 2020 with an undergraduate degree had taken at least one online course. And, compared to past years, there has been an increase in the number of students who have taken more than 30 credits, or two semesters, online. 

How Universities Are Appealing To Grad Students In A Remote Learning Environment. - Forbes

How Universities Are Appealing To Grad Students In A Remote Learning Environment. - Forbes


How Universities Are Appealing To Grad Students In A Remote Learning Environment. - Forbes

Posted: 03 Feb 2021 07:00 AM PST

There's no question Covid-19 has turned the education industry on its head. While virtual learning has certainly had its perks (who doesn't want to attend class in their pajamas?), it has brought with it many challenges — especially in higher education — where students are accustomed to the on-campus environment and the many other advantages the in-person setting offers (from networking to collaborating on projects with their peers). Unfortunately for most traditional institutions, class courses weren't all ready for a smooth transition to being taught in the virtual environment. As a result, many students are left with a negative impression of online education — not great for higher education institutions looking to appeal to future students with their online programs in the years to come as the market for online education evolves.

Of nearly 8,000 US adults we surveyed at Prosper Insights & Analytics in January 2021, 17% are furthering their education through an undergraduate degree (6%), graduate degree (7%) or certificate program (5%) to further their careers due to the pandemic. I connected with online learning marketing expert, Andrea Maconachy, EVP of Marketing at All Campus, which advises traditional higher education institutions on how to grow their online enrollment and maximize market share. She and I discussed the major challenges for education institutions marketing online programs during a global pandemic. She explained what All Campus has advised its higher ed partners, such as UCLA and The University of Arizona College of Engineering, what to do to overcome the many obstacles brought on by the new learning and recruitment environment. We also covered what the industry can expect as higher ed moves into a new era of online-first grad programs.

Gary Drenik: How has the pandemic changed the state of higher education?

Andrea Maconachy: The pandemic has forced many faculties, who may have been reluctant to utilize technology in the classroom, to do just that. This exposure has led to a 25% increase in instructor confidence in online learning since May 2020. Another way the pandemic has affected higher education is through undergraduate enrollment. A 4% drop in enrollment has put pressure on institutions to find new revenue streams, and expanding online graduate-level offerings is one way to do that. We are seeing more rapid progress in our discussions with institutions who have been planning to launch online programs — both new partners and the expansion of existing partnerships. Even late adopters, like law schools, are beginning to shift their hardened opposition to online learning.

Furthermore, the pandemic has also had an interesting impact within the admissions test administrator market (GMAT, GRE, etc.). In the beginning of the pandemic, testing centers closed and administrators had to figure out how to rapidly bring their graduate school testing capabilities online. During the downtime, there was a lot of uncertainty. Many of All Campus' partner schools broadened their test waiver policies or dropped test scores as an admissions requirement completely. Consequently, our programs that did this have seen significant increases in interest, allowing our partner schools to select from a broader pool of applicants, with even greater diversity and no empirical evidence of reduced quality or likely success in the program. Whether institutions will reinstate the original exam requirements is still an open question. If they find this incoming class, many of whom, again, were not required to take the exam, prove to be just as high in quality as well as more diverse, this will no doubt have implications on the admissions testing industry. 

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Bringing courses online properly takes planning and a deep coordination between faculty, instructional designers, project managers, and course production specialists. The unfortunate consequence of rushing the conversion of on-ground undergraduate programs too rapidly is a sacrifice in quality. Students new to online could have less-than-stellar experiences, which could sour their perception of online learning moving forward.

Drenik: Prosper's January survey found US adults furthering their education due to the pandemic put emphasis on choosing a school that offers fully online learning options. What other changes has your team at All Campus observed that education institutions should consider as they strategize for 2021 and beyond?

Maconachy: The student's experience matters from the moment their research begins. College websites should make it easy for prospective students to do their research from the cost of the program to the student experience provided. Institutions need to provide transparency. In many cases, college websites leave it up to the student to figure out what they will be charged –– both in tuition and fees. The full cost of a program –– at least a ballpark –– should be easy to calculate and easy to understand. Online prospects should be treated just as well as those walking into an admissions office. Admissions representatives should be available to assist prospects in applying. Information sessions or other virtual events should mirror the quality of the online classroom and prospective students should have access to see what the online classroom is like before they enroll –– either through video examples or by sitting in on a virtual class.

Colleges should consider their cost of tuition relative to the online market. Many institutions think they can bring a graduate program online charging the same tuition as their on-ground version, which is normally set based on regional competition. Others have separate pricing for in state and out-of-state vs. offering one market rate, fees that don't make sense for online students, like charging online students a fee for campus facilities or health services. Still others list a high price for a program knowing that they'll provide significant discounts through scholarshipping. While an on-ground program may be competing regionally and their brand carries significant weight locally, if they want to capture share from other big-name competitors nationally, they need to ensure that they're priced competitively for the national market and that the cost of their program –– including fees –– is clearly stated. 

Another shift in the market is toward credentialing –– focusing graduate coursework on skills that employers need and even embedding certificates within graduate programs themselves so that students can reap the benefits of their education sooner.

Drenik: What are prospective students looking for from universities and online courses in the digital learning environment?

Maconachy: Students are looking for flexibility, knowing they are receiving the same quality of education as on-campus learning and connectedness with peers.

Drenik: What is the biggest challenge higher education marketers will face in 2021?

Maconachy: In 2021, higher education marketers will begin to see greater competition within the market. With an increase in programs being offered, we'll all be competing for the same pool of quality applicants. Online programmatic rankings, like those from U.S. News and World Report, will become even more important as a clear differentiator. As a result of the increased competition, marketing costs will rise, especially in the world of paid search. Universities will be tasked with diversifying their mix and getting creative about where they can drive awareness. Organic search is going to be even more important to drive down overall media costs, so universities should be thinking about all of this now in order to insulate themselves into 2022 and beyond.

Additionally, marketers must deal with continued uncertainty. Until the pandemic is over, we expect changes to happen often and rapidly. Many of our partner schools have short residency requirements for their online programs that have been put on hold. Others have changed admissions requirements. There is no playbook on what is going to revert and sustain after Covid-19 has subsided.

Drenik: What can universities and colleges be doing to better appeal to prospective students in 2021 as they likely maintain the need to educate remotely in some capacity?

Maconachy: Universities should ensure that they prioritize the online learning experience as much as they do on-ground. Students want to feel like they are a part of the learning community even though they might be 150 miles away. Establish a great relationship with prospective students early on: have a responsive representative in the admissions office they can turn to with questions; initiate a stronger connection with the school by mailing a welcome package at acceptance; host an online orientation and/or meet-and-greet with fellow students. Students want the same amount of course availability and internship, externship or clinical placement opportunities as available on campus. They want a level of career support, networking opportunities and guest lecturer access that's on-par with their on-ground counterparts –– especially if there is no tuition difference between modalities. Also offering office hours and support for online learners as they would with on campus students is critical.

Drenik: According to Prosper's January Survey, the top three priorities of those furthering their education due to the pandemic were flexibility in taking classes, affordability, and exclusively online learning. Does this align with what you're seeing from your seat at All Campus in advising universities and colleges on their recruitment strategies? What else can we note to this end?

Maconachy: Absolutely. Taking classes, affordability and exclusively pursuing online learning opportunities are some of the top priorities we're hearing from students that are furthering their education due to the pandemic as we work with institutions in their recruitment efforts for graduate degree and certificate programs.

Drenik: How will Covid-19 impact higher education long term? Will online learning become the new normal or will we return to in-person learning post-pandemic?

Maconachy: Covid-19 jump starting the adoption of online will have several long-term implications, such as students in undergrad will have greater comfort in online learning as they move on to pursue graduate education, broadening its appeal. Faculty's perception of online learning will continue to progress, and eventually, they will see it as an asset and another tool in their kit, instead of an obstacle or hindrance. Lastly, course availability will be such that overall program modality will become fluid and immaterial. Students will be able to enroll in a program and seamlessly transfer between online courses and even individual class sessions.

All Campus believes the adoption of online learning due to Covid-19 is a catalyst to lower the cost of tuition in this country. There will always be a place for on-ground instruction, especially at the undergraduate level, but without question, the growth of online will persist.

Drenik: Thanks, Andrea, for your insights on the quickly evolving higher ed landscape and your advice to university and college leaders on marketing effectively to prospective students in these unprecedented, highly virtual times. May individuals reading from these institutions be better positioned to attract students seeking an online education down the road as the trend becomes here to stay. Or, if they need more information, they know where to find you and your team at All Campus.

To see how a quality and accurate data set can be applied to target marketing models and time series forecasting Prosper has partnered with AWS to make their data available via the AWS DataExchange. Included in the data are a series of US signals, leading indicators, predictive analytics and advance privacy compliant marketing models for the US and China:

To read my previous Forbes articles on changing consumer behavior, predictive analytics, machine learning, data privacy and more, please click here.

FIU is No. 1 in the nation for Quality Matters certified online courses - FIU News

Posted: 03 Feb 2021 06:00 AM PST

FIU Online  is ranked No.1 in the nation for Quality Matters (QM) certified online courses, recognition of the high quality of the university's online offerings.
 
Quality Matters is a faculty-centered, peer-reviewed process that helps examine the design of an online course through a comprehensive evaluation process, helping to ensure that students can navigate the courses more easily and with more transparency. FIU has more than 500 QM-certified online courses and is on a path to ensure that most online courses achieve the distinguished certification by 2025.
 
FIU is one of more than 1,500 national and international institutions that partner with Quality Matters. Each institution subscribes to the non-profit's prestigious peer-review quality online course design certification process. Today, FIU leads the list, which includes some of the most reputable and well-known educational institutions around the globe from 26 countries and across six continents.
 
The Quality Matters designation joins recent U.S. News and World Report rankings that put FIU's online bachelor's programs in the top 50 among public universities in the nation. FIU also ranked in the top 10 among public universities for its online master's in business programs (non-MBA), and top 50 for its online master's criminal justice program, online master's engineering program, and online MBA program.
 
"Online is the campus of the future," said Kenneth G. Furton, FIU's Provost and Executive Vice President. "FIU has always been committed to quality online instruction and a Quality Matters certified course is the highest recognition of online course design. We made a commitment to support our faculty in designing and redesigning courses to meet Quality Matters standards. This ranking is the result of the hard work of our faculty and our strategic efforts to ensure that all of our students receive an exceptional education."

The key to success for FIU Online is the department's learning and design team, which is trained in best practices in building courses with interactive technology. The team works in close collaboration with university faculty to create dynamic virtual environments that combine innovative digital tools and high quality instruction. During the Covid-19 pandemic, when the university's courses had to suddenly go remote, the team shifted more than 4,600 courses—representing more than 2,400 faculty and 50,000 students—to the new modality.
 
"Our Learning Design and Innovation team has been an invaluable resource during this time, going above and beyond in partnership with our faculty," said Lia Prevolis, interim assistant vice president of FIU Online. "Beyond leading the charge to help maintain academic continuity during the university's emergency response to COVID, the team did not lose sight of quality and worked hard to take FIU to the No. 1 spot for QM-certified courses in the nation."
 
Courses undergo a review process with faculty from outside the institution who are trained and certified in the QM process and includes a content discipline expert. Reviewers perform a broad evaluation to gauge each course's features with 43 specific standards—from overview to usability. Courses that achieve an 85 percent level of compliance with the standards receive a "QM-Recognized" seal.
 
The university launched the FIU Online Panther Quality Course Design Initiative in support of the Florida Board of Governors' online course quality standards. This initiative advances the university vision of learning-centered, evidence-based, and culturally responsive teaching. At the same time, the QM process helps fulfill the FIU Online mission to connect FIU students and lifelong learners to the highest quality online educational experience—anytime, anywhere.

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