Throughout its history, Lebanese American University (LAU) has been an innovative leader in higher education. Founded in 1924 as a girls’ school when women did not have many opportunities in education, the university maintains a commitment to accessible education for all. Today, it ranks consistently among the top three universities in Lebanon and has more than ten international accreditations.
Led by their guiding principles of innovation and accessibility, LAU was already engaged in technology-enabled teaching when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. However, watching the whole world rapidly shift to online education encouraged leaders at LAU to jump at the opportunity to reach more students than ever before. It wasn’t enough for them to move their programs to a virtual environment; they wanted to establish an interactive, online format that would prepare students for the modern world, no matter where they studied.
LAU knew they needed an innovative partner with extensive expertise to help them develop an online format on par with their history of excellence and preserve their reputation for quality while expanding their footprint worldwide.
We have extensive experience bringing programs to an online environment and marketing those programs globally. LAU recognized that our highly creative teams could combine efforts to expand their audience and make their coursework more accessible than ever before.
Challenge: Designing Marketing and Technology to Meet Enrollment Goals
Despite being a leader in higher education for decades, LAU faced several challenges as they adjusted their programs to the sudden demand for online learning. To reach a new audience of prospective students around the world, they needed a strong marketing plan and unmatched, enhanced technology.
Marketing in multiple countries is a huge undertaking, and LAU hoped to do it quickly. When we looked at LAU’s existing technology and marketing strategies, we knew we needed to focus on their marketing processes and data to provide reliable insights that LAU could use to make informed decisions within a reasonable budget and a relatively short timeline.
It was also vital to LAU that applying to the program was focused and simple, no matter where a student was. “We knew we wanted to make the admissions process fast and easy for our students – that was crucial. I met with the Wiley team many times, and we started designing around that concept,” said Dr. Barbar Akle, Associate Provost for International Education and Programs.
We recognized that LAU could benefit from tighter integration across systems and improved data streamlining. We constructed an initial plan that met their immediate needs but didn’t tax their staff or disrupt the systems they had in place.
With clear opportunities and challenges, we assisted LAU in meeting its goals with a specialized strategy.
Strategy: Student-Focused Technology and an International Marketing Plan
We met with leaders at LAU extensively to figure out how to meet short-term needs while solving problems affecting long-term objectives. We needed a solution that would be flexible and expandable. Additionally, we wanted to put something together that could work on their internal system if they decided to take that route. Luckily, we had just the solution.
Student Journey: A Technology-Based, Student-Centric Solution
We knew immediately that our Student Journey Platform (SJP) would provide much of what LAU needed at launch. The SJP is an array of digital features, tools, content, and functionalities that provides a seamless, student-led experience. It also allows universities to engage with prospective students when and how they prefer, delivering the learner-focused care that LAU desired. Most importantly, it could be customized to align with LAU’s values and processes.
To personalize the SJP correctly, we worked closely with the LAU team to understand their programs and methods. Over the span of three months, we met with leadership, admissions, and technology teams to review each program and each type of student. LAU maintained complete control of their admissions requirements and enrollment choices but gained the technology they needed to ensure their prospective students had the best possible experience.
For each program, we considered internal processes and the students’ needs to determine how everything could be expressed in an online format. Understanding that every program is unique, we worked to ensure that our solutions met their distinctive requirements.
The primary goal was to make the SJP process work for students. We customized the platform internally into a personalized application process tool for LAU. Now, prospective students can save their work and complete their applications whenever they have time. Their applications are routed automatically to the right people at LAU so they receive responses quicker. Applicants also have ways to get their questions answered through various formats, such as live chat or phone.
Marketing Strategy: A Customized, Seamless Approach to Reaching Prospective Students
Technology couldn’t be the whole of our strategy, of course. We needed a flexible, evolving marketing plan that allowed LAU to continue to grow. Together, we worked to implement marketing and technology strategies based on an understanding of their students, wherever they were in the world. We ensured the plan could expand and adapt because learner behaviors change regularly and vary culturally.
We wanted to maintain an SEO-led approach but knew we had much to learn to succeed in LAU’s biggest markets. Since the Middle East was new to online learning opportunities, and this region was new to us, we partnered with a Middle East-based SEO agency. This changed our lead flow to a primarily social strategy.
We also tapped into the student-centric side of SJP to ensure LAU’s team had what they needed to succeed in reaching students. LAU’s new technology, based on our Student Journey Platform, not only works for students but also provides many benefits for administrators. The LAU team can easily tell what prospective students need. They can send them automated emails based on the stage of the application process they’re in or what’s missing from their application. At all stages, the students get an enhanced level of timely communication from LAU that doesn’t overwhelm the university’s team.
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Results: Wider Reach, a Simplified Process, and More Enrollments
We launched our new approach with LAU’s online Global MBA in the fall of 2021 and their MS in Computer Science in January of 2022. Due to the quick success of both programs, we’re working with LAU to expand further.
Our customized Student Journey Platform and marketing plan exceeded everyone’s expectations. LAU went from fewer than 100 leads per week to more than 1,000. Their inquiry-to-start rate is 8.3%, a percentage point higher than a university or college that doesn’t use the Student Journey Platform.
“The growth of our online MBA is impressive. It’s taken off much faster than we were expecting,“ said Dr. Jordan Srour, Assistant Provost for Educational Resources and Innovation. “Everybody wants to get into online education. But the partnership with Wiley set us apart and made us leaders in this domain. Speed to market is the name of the game in online education, and thanks to Wiley, we accomplished that.”
LAU’s international presence is also impressive. Eighty percent of their online learners reside in countries around the world. There are students in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Northern Africa, Iraq, Canada, Europe, and the United States.
The LAU team is excited to expand the number of programs they’re bringing online with Wiley to 12 in total. “It’s beautiful to watch. Wiley personnel know exactly what they’re doing. They are clearly experts, and they bring all that experience to the forefront and integrate systems efficiently,” said Dr. Srour.
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