With heightened reliance being placed on the online modality, your institution needs data-supported insights to leverage the strengths of formal online learning and understand the preferences and motivations of students studying in fully online formats. The ninth-annual edition of the Online College Students report delivers those insights.
Topics of Discussion
In this enlightening webinar, the authors of the report discussed key insights and recommendations surrounding the needs of online students, including:
- The growing importance of mobile devices in online learning.
- The focus on speed as it relates to career motivations for online students.
- Communicating institutional value and its relationship to affordability.
- Building connections to campus with online students and alumni.
Stream the Webinar
Welcome, and thank you for joining us today for our online College students 2020 webinar, presented by Wiley University Services, and Aslanian Market Research, a division of Education Dynamics.
My name is Shandi Thompson, and I’m the Corporate Brand Manager at Wiley University Services.
Before we get started today, I just want to review a few housekeeping items.
First, we welcome all your questions and comments.
Please type your questions and comments into the Q&A pane and be sure to send your messages to All Panelists, not just to those two presenters, so we make sure that they’ll get answered.
A moderator will respond to questions in the Q&A pane throughout the presentation, and our presenters will also take some time today in the presentation to answer your questions.
We encourage all attendees to follow us on Twitter @WileyEdServices , and continue the conversation using hashtag #OCSReport2020.
A recording of today’s presentation will be sent to all attendees.
And with that, I would like to introduce today’s presenters.
Moderating today’s discussion is Andrew J. Magda, Market Research Manager at Wiley University Services, where he has served the market research team for the past eight years.
He has aided in the creation or co-authored eight of the past nine Online College Students Report.
is the Director of Market Strategy and Research at Wiley University Services, where his team conducts extensive research to identify demand, market opportunities, and potential challenges to help universities determine the viability of educational programs in the online market. And stay ahead of industry and market trends.
Carol Aslanian is the President and Founder of Aslanian Market Research, a division of Education Dynamics.
Carol has national authority on adult and post-traditional higher education. And her market research studies have helped hundreds of colleges and educational consortia expand their programs to meet the educational needs of working adults through campus-based blended and online programs.
And with that, I will turn our presentation over to Andrew.
Thank you. And welcome toall of you are able to join us today for our ninth annual tradition of sharing the results of our survey, online college students. So today, we’re going to review the key findings from this 2020 version of the survey.
We’re going to go over some recommendations based upon these key findings and then take some time towards the end to answer the questions that you may have about the report and about general trends, and the online education market that we’re able to answer. As Shandi said, I will be serving as the moderator today, so please type your questions in the Q&A pane, and I’ll try to answer those directly to you, or even stop Carol and David at various points to get their insights around some pressing questions. And then we’ll also as I said have some time later on to specifically go over those reports, those questions. And now I’ll just turn it over to David and we’ll get started with some of our key findings.
Yeah, thanks for that injury. And I like to use the word ‘tradition’ there, it speaks to the length of time this report has been a market, So, we’ve done this now for nine—we’ve asked questions of something like 1,500+ students, every year, for the last 9 years to produce this document, which gets downloaded over a thousand times each year and regularly gets picked up in different media. You know, really served as the gold standard when it comes to understanding the different trends related to online learning in the marketplace. So today, we’re going to discuss some of the insights, some questions that we’ve asked a year over year and gotten new information about and then also some of new questions we’ve gotten as well.
So with that as well, Going through the report with you guys..
So let’s get Carol, let’s go ahead to the next slide, OK.
Waiting for it to come up.
Do y’all have it up? I don’t.
Methodology. For the ninth year, we’ve done this. And we’ve tried to do it systematically, so the results are not tainted by a different procedure. So, each year, we got to 1500 students. And, if , explaining market research, we, we bend over backwards to study demand and not need. And we have worked with a provider of those surveys who understands that we’re not asking for what people think or wish or might want to do, but actually what they have done in the past, currently doing or plan to do in the near future. And we label that is demand. So, we have 15 demand is in this study, as we have in the past studies.
And that is, they had to have studied full time full time, but we’ll have to have dissipated in a fully online post-secondary degree or certificate or licensure programs. So, our surveyors understand that the population they’re trying to get data from, have to be involved in fully online programs.
To do that, we took three categories of respondents, recent graduates, and that is, you were enrolled in a fully online program in the past three years or fewer. So, you can imagine, we can ask them what they did, how they did it, where they went, and so on, and so forth. The next eligible population were those who are currently enrolled in an online program and would ask them a similar set of questions. And finally, we go after a little bit of the future. And in terms of those who have firm, I mean, firm plans to enroll, And then next year, that is, we’ll take them into the survey if they can tell us what they want to study, where they want to study, and so forth. So they have a definition of their plans. All respondents in our surveys have to be 18 years or older and have had a high school degree or are there, it’s equivalent.
There are a whole range of demographics and so certainly we can bring them all to you today, but please get that full report and you’ll see them all. one question. there were also asked quite a bit is the number of children these people have under the age of 18 because we know that occupies amount of time and resources finances and so forth. So, I thought you’d be interested in this question, and where we can, we’ll show you the divisions between undergraduate and graduate And the report does that throughout, so that those of you who are interested in one sector or the other can find your data. But, it’s interesting to us that these online students, 64%, two thirds of them, have no children, OK.
So, they’re either older or they’re older participants whose their children are beyond that age.
or they have very, very young children, so we think it’s important for you to understand what their home responsibilities are, but it’s interesting to note, two-thirds had no children, OK, Next.
Are you the first in your family to attend college? And two thirds or better say no. So they do have a history of college going-ness at both and it’s equal if you can see that at 67 and 68% say, no, I’m not the first. So, that’s both at the undergraduate and graduate level. So, that is significant to know. They had a history of college going in their family.
Well, no news to many of you, as I’ve worked with many of you in the past, 60% of all the population undergrads and graduate are working full-time, OK, 16% are not working full-time or part-time positions. And the remaining are either retirees who want to go on for an undergraduate or graduate degree for some personal reason or avocational interests, but it’s important to know that the three fourths of the population are in the word field. And most of them are working full-time so that, that’s the big message about efficiency and getting this over with as quickly as I can and so on and so forth.
Half are looking to start a new career, OK? And look at that, we gave them 1, 6, 7, 8 reasons to start a new career to earn more money, 20% of the graduates, and 28% of the undergraduates, but until the one out of four of your online seekers, want to start a new career really for them motive and making more money. And you’ll see this trend of being interested in salary increases and promotions and get more income very prevalent throughout the data that will present you. So, it’s a new career, but primarily to earn more money. And second most important, is that a new career that is common with their interests.
So, what this means to do is get your marketing people in here and talk to them about messaging and what your school institution can do to help these people achieve those two primary goals.
I think we can move on.
So I’m going to jump in here, Carol. So one of the things that was really important for us to look at is we asked the students this question were when you’re deciding to go back to school, what was most important to you? And it’s interesting to see that about three quarters of them say the school and the format for the subject.
I think traditionally when we think about students coming out of high school being reviewed your senior year and are thinking about where they want to go to school, they’re really interested in either the brand or the place, right? I really want to go to NYU, or I really wanna go to school in New York, whereas, the online market a little bit more further in their career? Maybe a little bit more practical? Little bit more career centric like Carol just mentioned. They’re a lot more focused on the subject that they’re going to be studying moreso then they are the actual school., So, if we go to the next slide.
We continue the story a little bit. Let’s go to the next slide.
And what we find is we asked the students, if the school you were looking at, if that program wasn’t available online, what would you do? And over half the students tell us, I’m going to go somewhere else. So thinking about your strategies, you’re developing your online portfolio and thinking about the different programs that you offer. You have to be aware that if you’re not offering great program for the students, they’re going to look elsewhere. Beyond that, we’ve seen a lot of students who are also telling us that they might enroll in a different program online at the same school, if they really got that strong affinity. But that totals up to about three-quarters, you, know, folks saying that they would move on, if they don’t have the program that they’re looking for. Or, if you don’t have the program they’re looking for.
And so, ultimately,
What I was going to say is, ultimately, it’s really important to understand that you’ve got to offer the right mix of programs for the students. And it’s important to note that this isn’t just about the degree specifically, but more and more it’s becoming about the concentration that’s offered within the actual costs that are being taken the different program features that are within the program. So it’s really making sure that you’ve got, for example, maybe not just an MBA, but an MBA with the health care administration concentration, you get to data analytics concentration if they don’t see that program available, many of your students are going to go and find new competitor, especially with the ease of online going to a school the next state over the next, come the next city over is really easy.
So all this culminating in the next slides – go to the next slide— into our first recommendation. Essentially, the idea is to offer a strategically developed portfolio of online programs.
And what we mean by that is thinking about your online strategy to Carol’s point. One thatorients towards where students are actually showing interest, where that demand is, but also understanding that as you bring in those potential students on your series keywords, series of concepts, you’re really going to have to make sure that you have the right fit for them. So you might bring folks in on data analysis. But if you don’t have the health care administration concentration or whatever it is that they’re looking for in the market today, they may end up going somewhere else. Carol, did you have something to add to this slide?
I was gonna go back to that earlier slide before, and just to point out how important online is because if you look at the turquoise and the purple, and how’s the word online, so they are looking for online when they’re looking for online.
In other words, it’s important to understand what the demand is but to offer it online. Because if you add up the two percentages, the word “online” is very important.
So, thank you, Carol and David, for that. I just wanted to take a moment here to talk about the next set of findings that you two will go over what the audience. And this kinda, centers around the traditional iron triangle. The balancing of price, reputation, and speed. It’s not unique to higher education. We see it in many different businessesand industries dealing with consumers orstudents that they’re looking for speed to the degree. They’re looking for getting it from a reputable source, so they are looking around quality. But, also, they’re very price sensitive.
We’ve conducted this survey over the last nine years, reputation, was the number one issue that students were looking at, the number one factor that when considering an online program for the first two years of the survey, in 2012 and 2013. But price started to really come up that chain. That’s what we’ve been seeing over the last seven or so years, is that affordability, tuition fees, being the number one factor, looking at all of our reputation and speeds. So, these next few findings, I think David , you’ll start to cover
The theory that we’ve been seeing over the last few years of the survey, there’s really this balancing act that institutions have to have in order to attract these online college students.
Yeah, thanks for that, Andrew. And I think it’s really interesting to note, some of these core concepts remain so consistent, year over year, really just kind of speaks to the truth of that it’s sort of the buying behavior folks have out there. If we go to the next slide, we’ll talk a little bit about price, but within that for us, we talk about it in the context of affordability. For students, obviously, tuition and toward the time to degree and a number of other factors float through that. So I think a lot of us will really zoom in on something like the cost per credit hour. But the reality is, if your program, maybe is a little bit more on the cost per credit hour, but maybe use fewer credit hours to complete, you can be less expensive than other programs out there. I think the balancing act ,too, for us to think about is what about the return on investment? And so what’s
the net present value ofthe degree, as well as something that’s important to consider.
And as we think about affordability, you gotta kind of calculate reputation in there too, right? Then you get to a really good value story about the mixing of affordability versus your sort of reputation in the market and what ends up being most appropriate for school is really important.
Let’s go to the next slide. We wanted to think through some of the different ways that affordability can be managed. So again, it’s not all about the cost per credit hour. There’s a lot of other things to look at. And so we had about 25% of our students told us that one of the things that was most important to them was they were seeking the quickest path to a degree. Right, we see that out there. If you look at, for example, the MBA market, the average number of credits has been declining over the last few years. Which brings you a lot more of these 30 hour programs programs in the market that are becoming more and more common. As an example you see a lot of schools saying a 20-month MBA, an 18-month MBA, some really innovative ones out there have a year-long MBA. It’s getting quicker and quicker.
Another way that you can be affordable, or are, you can kind of pack that affordability. equation is your transfer credit policy. We asked undergrad students, how much prior credit they had as they were thinking about completing their Bachelor’s degree. And 87% of them said, I’ve already got credit to that, right? And what we’re finding is that there are certain institutions that have really restrictive transfer credit policies. And so for some students that might end up artificially inflating the number of total credits that they have to earn in a way that that’s where it ends up being a more expensive type of degree for them overall. One of the last things that that here in the hot pink on this graphic that you continually contributing one is that the students are moved by really small scholarships. And so this gets into sort of buying behavior and some of the cognitive science behind how people tend to look at things.
But we’re really surprised to see that students report, even with a small amount of scholarship, something like a bug scholarship, $500 or $1,000,hat a lot of people could swing their opinion about a program, even if the net cost is larger. It’s something that can really signal to them that they’ve won something, they’ve earned something that is something that can help move their decision. We’ve seen this play out with a lot of our partners. I just wanted to interject and reinforce what your’re saying on that scholarship. In our current regional surveys, we put up the sign for the local college we were working with about $500 annual scholarships. $500 does that make a difference? It was ahuge success. And I think it’s that these people who go back to their mothers, fathers, wives, husbands, and say look, that school really wants me. I could get a $500 scholarship. And it makes a difference, particularly now when so many are straining to pull the dollars together to support their education.
So, we have to give a little bit more. When one administrator said to me, but Carol, I can’t get my supervisor to agree about giving out any more money. And I say you probably can make it back in volume if you lower your price. You could make it back and volume because it’s such an important variable in making a decision on the part of these students.
Yeah, absolutely. That’s a great point, Carol. You get something like 50% of students said that affordability was their top concern. But we thought it was really important to match that with this other stat that two thirds of the people told us they’re willing to pay a little bit more for a better ROI. So obviously, cost is important and I feel like we’re kind of hammering that point here a little bit. But the reality is that it’s a balancing act for students. And we’re not really advocating for a race to the bottom, It’s thinking about what are creative ways that we can really communicate that value to students, and let them understand that our particular school is the best match for them in their career. Let’s the next slide.
one of the other points too,, to sort of reinforce this, is that we ask students how they feel about the return on their investments and the students that went through programs. You know, did the value exceed the cost of your degree? And we can see here, really huge satisfaction numbers. And this is something that we’ve seen a lot of our programs at Wiley University Services too—is that you get here, 42% strongly agree value exceeds the cost, 37% saying, really, only a fraction of students saying that they didn’t think their degree was worth it. And so that’s something that’s really important for us to see, that these programs, these online programs are definitely ones where students are still understanding that this has a real impact on their career trajectory and helps to achieve some of those calls that Carol mentioned earlier. Let’s go to the next slide.
So all of this culminating in our second recommendation here where we really want to encourage communicating your value. And as Carol mentioned, sometimes that can be something as simple as these teasers scholarships. You can see a lot in the market, maybe a trailblazer type of scholarship for a new, struggling program. Sometimes that’s a really great strategy. But generally speaking, over the long haul, it’s really helping students understand this is an appropriately priced program. You know, it’s, it’s an investment in the future, and it’s something that is manageable in terms of handling the tuition. We want to make sure the students are set up for success in their career over the long haul.
Was there anything you wanted to add here, Carol?
No. I think that sums it up well. Thank you.
Can I interject for a minute before we jump into the next one, guys?
Sure. I just wanted to address the audience. Just let them know if they do have any questions about anything we’ve covered thus far, to type them in that Q&A box for me and I’ll try to bring them up to David and Carol. But folks, both you, David and Carol, you’ve been talking a lot about scholarships. What has been your professional experience with marketing to online students with something other than a scholarship? Say like free textbooks or a free iPad or laptop? Are those as successful? Where would you say that kinda plays, in terms of scholarship versus something physical for the students.
Yeah, I’ll tell you, know, I think the Days of the free iPad with your degree might be a little bit behind us.
You know, that was something that was pretty big 5 or 7 years ago. We know we had some partners that, that use that as a strategy, and I think, like, as those devices were kind of new, and innovative and cutting-edge, I think that something like that was really important. I remember years prior to that, seeing programs that you’d get a laptop with your degree, or something like that for incoming freshmen – they all get the same laptop, gor example. I think nowadays, some of the costs of these consumer technologies have gotten so low a lot of these people already have them in their home.
So, the idea of getting something that you, maybe you already have doesn’t have the same amount of value that it would have. It’s an interesting question, too, because I think more and more, with these mobile technologies, we’re actually going to see this is a spoiler for the end of the presentation. It’s that a lot of these students are doing the work already on their cell phone too. The idea of giving you an iPad or a laptop or something might be a little bit dated. That being said, online educational resources, I think there is a value there for a lot of students. Depends on the program, though.
Some folks really want to get out that highlighter and you highlight their physiology textbook or that sort of thing, but then there are others that you couldn’t imagine, reading the business strategy book with a physical copy. And so for some schools, those digital, online educational resources are going to be a value add for the student, but again, it’s sort of a proceed with caution and understand your audience. Andrew, my answer to your question is simply money talks. And I think it’s more important now than ever before because it resonates on all our surveys that a reduced cost is highly, highly appealing, and I think David had it right on target when he said most of these other things they’re offering are things they have or are just not worth the same as the dollar.
Yeah, well said.
OK, moving on, let’s talk a little about the importance of reputation that came up earlier in our findings. When we asked this population, what were the most important factors in the decision about where to enroll for an online program? Of course you can see affordability raised. We were just mentioning that. So affordability comes out over and over again, and what I’ve seen in recent surveys, is that it’s even more true for graduate students than undergraduate. Maybe because the undergraduates have more channels of funding. So when you look at the report, and you look at the distinctions in the data between undergraduate and graduate, you’ll see the pricing issues much more prominent among the graduate students. But then again, it was mentioned earlier—the reputation of the school or program. Now, what do we mean by that?
Well, you’ll see shortly that these people are close to where you’re located, and so word of mouth is very important. Important among the employers that they are working with, with friends or relatives. So how do you build your reputation? How do you say you stand out among all the rest in this 100-mile radius? And the major point is today—more than ever—is, where are your graduates working?
What positions do they get? How well do they do in the open marketplace? It used to be a lot about the credentials or your faculty, but I think that’s not half as important as will this school’s reputation helped me get a good job or move on to get that increased salary that I want so much.
And the other two, the academic credit, of course, is much more, important to undergraduates. And the quickest pass my degree is very interesting at that fourth level there because I would think that come up higher, but there it is. So this gives you a good lay of the land, in terms of where your marketing messages should fall.
Which of the statements is closest about tuition to how you made a major decision, and it’s roughly the same for the school and program. I chose/will choose the best reputation. Again, emphasizing that point. And second, tuition for my preferred program is lowest. So there we go. Over and over again. Cost is important. Plus, will this school get me in the right position where I can make more money? That’s what we hear over and over again.
Distance to campus is shrinking. Ladies and gentlemen, as you know, we then prolific and talking about they’re only 100 miles from where you live. We kept saying that. And, half of them in 2012 were within 50 miles of the campus. In 2014, it basically was the same. But when we get to six years later, 75% study with a college within 50 miles or less from where they live.
Phenomenal. So what does that mean? My goodness it should certainly concern your marketing dollars because now you can say, let’s just take a 150- to 200-mile radius and that’s where you can concentrate your messages and your promotions and your billboards, and whatever. And also, it does something else. It tells you what your competition is, your competition is closer than farther away, OK? So number one, do the market analysis to find out what the market is demanding in your 100-mile radius, where they are going. Who is your competition? What are they doing that you’re not? What can you do that’s better than them?
Because this is called proximity, and this is a big gift to many of the colleges online listening to us today, because many of you are regional, local institutions. And your market is right behind the campus.
I’dd think hard about that and where you’re spending your dollars. However, there’s one exception and that is if you have sort of a boutique or niche topic that is probably relevant to the nation. Like, we did a study on sustainability – master’s degree or advanced degree. And there we went nationwide because we knew it’s more than New England. But on the whole marketing dollars within 150 miles are best spent.
I think that’s a really great point, Carol, you’re thinking more about that that proximity heldand the fact that these folks are pretty close to campus. It’s unsurprising that a lot of them are actually going to visit your campus. Seventy percent of students said, ‘I’ve been to campus in the last 12 months.’ You know, a lot of them are planning to come. We want to do a bit of a break down to understand what those folks are doing. Interestingly,about a quarter of them said that they were coming to see an instructor. Another quarter said, I’m attending classroom sessions.
Maybe it’s a lecture or a seminar or something along those lines. A handful of them unfortunately are solving an administrative issue. This is an interesting one for us, because a lot of what we push for is giving the students a lot of support. And, we understand that when you do get these online students, you’re going to have to get a lot of services that are maybe different that what was traditionally offered. Most of these online students can’t come and stand in line at your you’re registrar’s office and things along those lines. We want to make sure that we have that infrastructure available for them where they can solve these problems remotely.
That’s something that’s really critical. Interestingly, too, a lot of these folks end up using other student services, and then some obvious ones. Maybe attending a sporting event. Coming and buying something from the bookstore. It’s been interesting. I’ve heard a lot of anecdotes about online learning meeting up at campus for study sessions. So, like Carol mentioned, if half of your students are coming from a 10- to 15-mile radius, that’s essentially driving distance. And so for a group project or something like that, we might all be up in the library, as an example.
Let’s go onto the next slide. David, could I just stop you on that?
We just had a question come in.. You’re going over how they are coming to campus, and they’re meeting up in groups. How do you see this changing now with the present situation with COVID? Do you think students are still going to crave this campus activity? Or how should we think about the kind of supplementing this It’s a great question. Anecdotally, I just was talking to a professor and hesaw a group of his MBA students on campus. They all had their masks on, they were sitting on the quad, talking to each other, maintaining that 6-foot distance. So, it still is happening in pockets. But we are going to presume, obviously, we’re going to get a lot less of that in the near future. I think a lot of this is hopefully short-term. No one can imagine that there’s not a lot of sporting events and some of these are things you can strike those off the list. But, I still think we’re likely to have students attend campus, off and on.
I will say, one phenomenon that we’ve noticed—and even in this group we were talking about it earlier—is the sort of virtual meeting these Zoom sessions and things like that. I think a lot of us have gotten a lot more comfortable with our webcams over the last few months. I think that a lot of that face-to-face interaction with instructors, some students and some instructors themselves might be a lot more likely to get that face-to-face interaction over virtual media. So, it would be interesting to see how that impacts. Generally speaking, if people connect more through Zoom than they did last year.
Carol, any input on that?
Well, I’m thinking about it, and it could be that they don’t have to visit the campus to get these services, for example, make appointments with instructors online, classroom sessions. So, when we conceived of this survey years ago, of course, you know we thought they can come to campus.
But the idea is they can come to campus online as well. And with these things always as well, attended a sporting event I guess is a little bit different.
We could do these things online instructors could have online appointments, so the concept—the activity—may not change. It’s just the mode, but then they could do that with Arizona State University, or wherever, and the answer is, yes. However, you are nearby and you’re close, and their employers and their families know you, and their friends know you, so I still think you have the upper hand.
Yeah. I know sometimes our partner schools actually offer virtual office hours, right? They say “online available from 3 to 5pm or something on Wednesdays” and things along those lines. We, I think, I think you hit on a key point there around services a lot of these services online last few months, you know.
Thinking about functional things, like registration, or financial aid, or some of these other things. So, I think they’ve proven they can do it at a distance, and it will be true once things open up a little bit more.
Yeah, and they adapt our thinking on asking this question next year, a little bit.
So, let’s go ahead to the following slide, make sure we stay on time here a little bit. We also asked the students, what’s their connection is to the campus. So, we talked earlier about the reputation and how it was really important for the students, and we talked about the fact that the students are largely selecting programs that are in their communitythat are there, programs that are close to them and they’re looking for that. And because of all these things, it’s unsurprising that a lot of the students feel a connection to campus, right there and they’re telling us things like, they might be alumni donors for us, the students who are thinking about development likely. We also know that they’re going to utilize career services, some of these things that sometimes I think when we build an online program, we don’t always think about the impact of these services. And it’s something that’s really critical to understand.
Some of the things that are interesting to me to see here, too, is that, in some ways, they want to continue to be your client, right? So, a lot of the students who said, ‘maybe I’m eager to take more classes at a school in the future.’ ‘Maybe I want to follow up with a certificate,’ or ‘maybe I want to come back and attend learning seminars’ or something along those lines. Someone that’s already bought into your brand and your product, and like your instruction, like what they got there. This is from your most likely future students. So we have to think about: do we offer enrichment certificates? Do we have that60-year curriculum the professor at Harvard talks about, where we are engaging with these students over a truly a lifelong learning experience and not just the maybe two to five years, or more of a traditional degree. So it’s interesting there. Let’s go to the next slide.
Can I just mention one thing about the career services over and over again, and I think post-COVIDit’s even more important and colleges that can help, by acting like maybe a local LinkedIn, because the people you’re serving arecommunity bound and they’re going to retain jobs in the community.
And any way you can find to help them connect by gaining relationships with your area employers, or chamber of commerce, or, whatever. And that’s a great promotional topic for you to attract students.
Yeah, that’s great. Let’s go to the next slide, this all culminates in our third recommendation, is really under finding ways to connect students to campus, so it’s like Carol just mentioned. Maybe it’s re-imagining your career services, maybe it’s understanding that a lot of these services need to be, or the sort of mid-career professional, and not just the early career professionals with our undergrad students. It’s finding ways to welcome students to campus with an orientation session, Or a lot of schools are now talking about these hybrid models, where students might be able to come to campus for a lecture if we choose to do most of their work online. And we’re going to start seeing a lot of the lines start to blend between what a fully online student is, fully kind of place-based student might be if some of those walls come down. There are also really simple things that you can do to connect students to the place and the brand.
I’ve seen things out there where an introductory class that a student takes really connects and gives some history to the mission and values the schools. But maybe it’s something simple, like sending your student a t-shirt with your school’s logo on it. Or giving them access to getting their own student ID. Things like that can really help connect them to campus and complete dividends through better retention, through a kind of long-term engagement benefit. Development goes down the road. So, Carol, let’s go ahead and take us to the next.
OK, let’s go on.
Importance of speed—I think that’s no news to you. What does speed means: Academic credit, the more credit you give me, Particularly, for the undergraduate level, of course, that means cost and time. Very, very important. The quickest path to my degree. Very, very important, and we’ve already talked about affordability and after a reputation, that I hope your transfer credit policies are liberal more than ever, and you can find ways.
You know, the latest figures we have is that the preference for many of the students we survey is 12 months set, 6 to 8 week courses Over the course of the year, we may think everybody wants summer off, or January or May, but not true. They’d rather finish in 2.5 or 3 years, studying 12 months a year with short-term courses. And that gets them quickly to their degree, if you measure the opinions of those who enquire, or those who are out in your community, what they’ve been doing with other institutions, you’ll find that quite tricky. You know, courses after eight weeks or just should be non-existent almost in the minds of the user.
Where did you complete your most recent online learning? And, of course, 70% was at a college or university, 23% at a place of employment. That’s very interesting. Now, I remember that when we would talk about contract education when colleges and universities would approach area employers and say, what do you, what unmet a training needs do you have that we can help you with, and they would bring it to the place of employment. That decreased in appeal when we went primarily online in the nineties, and thereafter. At my high school – not very much, then somewhere else 5%. So they are online primarily at the college or university, but this does not underestimate number two, which is the place of employment. I think the idea of taking programs and courses to areas of employment may become more important now and then in the future than it has been in the recent past.
How many past credits did you earn—actually it says at the undergraduate level only. So when they re-entered an undergraduate study online, the median is something like 35 credits, right? Being very generous and accepting of those credits for look at 22% at more than 90! Many of you have stopped measures at 60, 70, 80, or 90. And you should reconsider that because they’ll go elsewhere if they get a better deal, and the acceptance of these credits.
A narrow decision window. While you all know that, if you talk to your recruiting team, how long did it take you from the time you started your search for an online program to completing your application?
Less than four weeks is one half of the population.
And to be able to respond to that.
You’ve got to have a staff that gets back within minutes, maybe an hour, and you have to give them the information they need so they can complete their application. Many of them wonder about their financial aid, qualifications, and things like that. So, you need a good individual on the phone that knows the operations of your campus and institution. These coaches that we’ve been hearing about who work with applicants and inquirers, have all the information at their fingertips so that these individuals, with the help of the staff, can processor applications quickly. In fact, we know the biggest stumbling block is probably transfers but there are companies today that for a handful of dollars will get those transfers for you, if you can’t do them within a week or two.
So you have to move fast to meet their decision window.
Anything else on that, Guys, is there something you want to say? No, the only other thing I would add is that that window of the schools that are actually engaging with is getting smaller and smaller. A lot of students, or for deciding through reading material itself.
Hurdles to remove, No. 1 – completing financial aid forms. Don’t force them to do it on their own. You need a helping hand there, and you’ll get it done faster, and you’ll be one of those earlier colleges to meet their expectations. Determining how to pay: money, money, and third one is money as well, OK. So look at that—46—almost half of them need services that will help them do those first three activities so that they can get those applications done. OK, completing financial aid forms we hear over and over again, so go back to your recruiting people. Find out how you’re doing these things so that you can speed up your process to be, well, certainly, well, shortly will tell you – the 1 or 2 colleges, they’re going to apply to anyway, and you want to be number one.
So, recommendation numberfour is speed, speed, speed all along the way. They’re not waiting to make decisions over the long term. They need to make their decision in a narrow window. And you saw what they’re considering. Your messaging. Your marketing, your brochures, your website, and the ability to help them fulfill their applications, and determine their financial aid will make a world of difference in having you as their number 1 choice.
OK, moving on, David. I think you’re on
Yes, we, we tend to ask some forward-looking questions in these reports every year. This year, we’re going to focus on talking a little bit about the mobile market. I mentioned this earlier. Let’s go to the next slide. We asked students, what you, your program are you competing using a mobile device. So, phone, tablet, but not a laptop. And it’s really amazing to see how many students are doing even most of their course relatedmaterial in these, these new technologies. New technologies, but we’ve had the i-phones for about a decade now, but, yeah, 40% of them are saying that, they do most of their coursework in these technologies. For undergrad, similar numbers for the graduate students. Let’s go to the next slide, though. We want to break that down a little bit and see, what are they doing? So, unsurprisingly, about half of them are digital readings on their cell phones. Now, that, when I think a lot of us know instinctively we understand that there are going to be flipping through, what’s surprising to me, seems all these other activities, these actual graded activities that a quarter of them are doing. 20% of them are doing research and that’s research in the program, not just looking for a degree, but obviously, in there, on their cell phones as well, you’re doing video alerting.
And all these things make me think about how 5 or 7 years ago, we were really proud to say we had a mobile-optimized website or website, maybe get a mobile version of our website or things along those lines. And really, it’s changed in the last few years, say, no, our design is mobile-first now, and a lot of our websites, like, we understand. That’s where the searches happening. For a lot of these students, we know that from Google data, we know that from looking at our own data. And I think more and more, we’re going to have to think about the learning environments being mobile-first, as well. Thinking about, how do we make engaging learning activities withhese folks using the technology.
So generally, start thinking about these mobile learning objects, right? Thinking about the tools and technologies, the place. like, are you using a video product that doesn’t load on a cell phone, right? Do you have some sort of submission process or something for files? And through cell device or tablet, are you using file formats that are readable on a tablet? For example, those are things that you can do to do an inventory of your learning platform and understand how are we addressing students in this way? So, let’s go to the last slide here. I think Carol is going to give us a little bit of a wrap up.
And we’ll just recap the five major pointswe’re making: You need a strategically developed, and I’ll define what we mean by that- portfolio of online programs. Strategically developed, is to be market sensitive. What is the market demand? That’s what is strategic. It’s not necessarily what the professors want to offer, OK? What is strategic is to find out what your area potential students within 100 to 200 miles want intheir online programs, how they want it, when they want it for how long, and so forth? That’s what I think is strategic, and No. 2, whatever you do, it’s speed at every stage. That is it’s speed at the time they inquire. I hopefully you’ll pick up the phone within five minutes, and you’re responding within 24 hours with information, and it’s getting those applications through the process. Not letting them sit on the desks of deans for 3 or 4 weeks.
No. 3, communicate your value. Remember, how important reputation is, where you are connected with the local employers, how your graduates do, what your alumni are doing, what your faculty has accomplished. No. 4, connect them to the campus. And I can’t emphasize enough how much career services are in demand, particularly now, so that, and others, what you’d find out, if strategically what these people want from you in terms of online programs. And, of course, we’ve made a great point about mobile learning options that are imperative. So I think those are the fivemajor points and Andrew, do you have some questions for us?
47:49 I think that the first one is either for you, Carol or David, if you want to chime in as well. But I know earlier on, Carol, you specifically made the point around the distance to the campus where students reside. And you made the point that if you do have what you call the boutique or niche program, could consider a wider market than just 100 miles. Can you say anything more about how distance impacts boutique programs?
Well, it gives you a wider geography.
I think it could be an arts program. It could be, like the one I was talking about, and from the state of Vermont, was sustainability. Programs at the volume is not quite what you need it to be if you stayed within 100 or 200 miles. But if you went to your region, be itnorth, east, south, west depending on how visible you are, or some, nationwide, because there are very few, a lot of our Christian colleges for examples. When we do our market analyses of demand, we go nationwide. Because of the religious affiliation of a group that is nationwide, a particular institution has the same religious orientation. They’re able to attract a much larger market. And that’s true of other institutions that have a special attribute.
And it’s not only the attribute of the college, but it’s the preciseness of the topic at hand being more limited than an MBA, for example.
I’ll add to that, just some color. You know, we looked at things like social work degree, for example, they were only about 8 to 10% online in 2015, now they’re like 20 to 30% online. Right. And so, as you think about that, when those programs were few and far between, we recruit students from larger and larger, … it as those, no more parents become available in the market that shrinks. But Carol brings up a really good point too. I think that that doesn’t mean necessarily go after a really nice program, because you’re going to be the only country that offers, that you have to think about.
Balancing would demand to what our students looking for it, because even if you’ve got, no, a program that’s really smart and really great for students to take. And if students are looking for it, they’re going to have trouble.
So David, thinking about this OCS 2020 survey that we’ve been talking about. How do you want to speak to any differences you may have seen in degree at the degree level or at the age of the students?
Yeah, yeah, this is a question. I’d probably throw back at you, Andrew.
I’m surprised how consistently remain across some of these foundational questions around, like cost and speed being important in some of these things. It’s really just interesting to see. You ask a different 1500 people every year, and you get really similar responses year over year. It really tells you that there’s something foundational here, but yeah. Is there anything you would add about how many business students feel different than engineering students, that kind of thing?
I wouldn’t necessarily go business versus engineering, but I was just thinking level of student, in terms of when we talk about that iron triangle, those undergraduate students are much more price sensitive. I think we find they are wanting to move a little bit more quicker through that enrollment funnel, compared to the graduate students. Specifically, the masters. And if even go up to that doctoral level, really taking their time to weigh those different schools against each other. Think about reputation of the institution. So, I think there are some differences there. And, I think age does play a little bit of a role in that, as well with younger students, maybe trying to act a little bit more quickly through the funnel, compared to an older student.
Think I’ve got this reputation, I just have a follow-up, David, you can weigh on us as well. When we talk about reputation, what do we really mean? This person is asking, do you mean U.S. News rankings, general word of mouth, or a combination of things that would be defined reputation with ours, right? Yeah, thanks for asking that question. I think that’s really helpful. You know, it’s in the eye of the student, right, and so We do some other work in this area, where we ask students more granular questions, like, what do you know, What did you look at? And largely, they do telescopic, you look at ranking sites and put a lot of thought behind those.
But to be, but they also tell us, they ask your employer, and they ask friends, and they ask expected, probably some things along those lines. And so, the reputation, yes, the rankings are really important for a lot of students, but I think a lot of them are also using that balanced. Kind of, think about, Do I know people who have gone through this program are the people that can vouch for it? I think that equally important.
As well, Carol, any other signals?
That sums it up really well. I like that response.
So, we have a question here around what are we seeing as the types of degrees and certifications that are most in demand? And I just want to add, another layer on top of that is, do we think any of these will change over time with the impact of COVID?
Yeah, well, I want to jump in there. I think definitely the medical fields and the social work field will jump.
And that will have technology will always technology and has risen strongly in recent years. And I think it will sustain itself. But I think that we’re going to, the one thing I was going to mention right before was that we may be seeing a population that is going to become a little bit more interested in certifications and licensure programs. Because they are changing their careers, their need for new skills. They may not be able to spend years developing those skills.
So one thing that we’re going to do in this next survey when we talk these students is to find out what these prospective students are looking for in terms of content. I think the speed-related items won’t very much. They want it as fast as they can, but I do think the topics in the social sciences, and medical fields, and IT will continue to grow even more than they are now.
What do you say, David?
Yeah, I echo all that. We did a study recently to look at the effects of the last few recessions on education and what’s happened generally, use things like computer science and engineering and technology. You’re sort of recession-proof there up into the right. No matter what, healthcare, like you said, is likely to continue to be a real, bright spot, and we’re expecting to see, we’ve recently seen some, some declines in the first round healthcare as the economy has gotten better. But I think that curve is going to kick back up and we are probably likely to see some increased interest there.
Some interesting ones for me are that we’re likely to see some short-term gains, and things like public administration and education, maybe even criminal justice. But a lot of those are really deeply impacted by the business cycle. So, when things are bad, those tend to go up, and then, as things get better, those tend to fall off again. So, it’ll be interesting to see if that remains true of this, this recession, which really says to our audience, you have to keep abreast of what that area community wants from you, and what they’re looking for.
And, it’s very, very important to have a strong connection with that 200-mile radius of population.
Just one last quick question for you, David. Someone was asking about any future surveys that we would look at, specifically at the views of employers and their valuing of online degrees or education in general, especially in this light of COVID. .
Yeah, that’s, that’s great. We actually do have plans to do some surveys. We’ve done some in the past around the skills gap in the market, and , really trying to find the right folks.
I think our, our mindset has pivoted a little bit, we’re about to enter into a market where unfortunately there’s a lot of unemployment and so for a lot of folks maybe it’s easier to find you on top tier talent in the near term. But I think one of the questions that will remain consistent throughout is just that one about what are kind of responses to online learning. Also.
When we’re companies plans around online learning? Carol mentioned this earlier, we partner with employers to kind of help them come to the universities to find synergies, where they can skin programs to kind of match case studies at their organizationwhere there’s opportunities to really find some new synergies between employers and educators, and we think there’s, there’s a lot of opportunity in that market moving forward.
That rings a little bell for me, David, in terms of this, this old terminally one tag called contract education. I think and then dip down and now we don’t see very much of it, but it seems to me that since most employers are going to conserve on price yet, they need to advance the skills of their workforce. Again, there may be an opportunity for colleges to put their foot through the door not only to bring those training and education services into the company’s site, but also to offer their programs there.
That was very popular, decades ago. It might be that the money is on a shortage now, it’s a great point, Carol, we’ve actually done a lot of investment, over the last few years, to build those links up, between employers and institutions. And so, we’ve got on the ground, that, that, develop those relationships. And you can imagine, in hospital systems, or telecom companies, or banks and things along those lines. And whether it’s a boot camp at The Software Guild or maybe even thinking about your educators and the continuing education units, they might be taking Advancement Courses. Try to meet those needs and kind of bring those things together.
Because candidly, that’s part of the affordability question to get a more affordable program through my employer, or through a relationship my employer has.
I’ll end my story with a funny note, I remember is prior to 2000, when I wrote a paper on contract education while I was at the College Board and the editor called me. She said, ‘I’ve never heard that term before. Should we hyphenate it? And maybe even more so because employers will need our training services, and they’re going to be more limited on resources.
Thank you very much for this really enlightening discussion and all of your insights. And thank you to everybody who has joined us today. We hope you found the strategies we shared valuable as you continue to grow and enhance your programs during this time. As a reminder for those still on, you will be receiving a recording of today’s presentation by the end of the week. We will also try to respond to any other questions we didn’t get to in the Q&A as there were several.
Additional questions you have can be sent to EdServices@Wiley.com. You can also download the full report at universityservices.wiley.com/OCS2020, or continue to ask questions on Twitter using hashtag #OCSReport2020. Today’s webinar was hosted by Wiley University Services. To learn more about our services and solutions, please visit edserviceswiley.com.