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Creating Value Through Continuing Education Certificates

We can’t wait to see the next wave of innovations higher education leaders will help craft and shape. The connection between and higher ed institutions is seamless. In fact, our company was born during a meeting of educators and technologists discussing how to best help, retain, and encourage students to thrive in college.

Even as the team is eager for the future, there are some challenges to be overcome in the here and now. Students need career-ready skills more than ever. No doubt, COVID-19 has impacted colleges and universities. Due to fiscal concerns, many students are considering delaying their higher education experience this year. However, university endowments are under pressure to support their learning communities. Additionally, population changes will continue to reshape learning communities and impact enrollment.

As a response to these challenges, flagship universities have reinvented the format of education. New, affordable, and highly modular programs provide continuing education opportunities for students. These programs create exceptional value for students. Badges, micro-credentials, and certificates can be earned in high-demand skill areas such as data science, project management, and conflict resolution. Programs can be offered in the following formats: on-ground, online and hybrid. Additionally, continuing education programs do not have the traditional geographic restrictions associated with participating in a four-year institution.

Skills boot camps such as General Assembly and Full Stack Academy provide a student-centric experience with information that is readily available, flexible and self-serve. Online boot camps grew by 171 percent in 2019, outpacing in-person courses. As exciting as this is for students, it also poses navigational challenges for students.

Institutions can attract more students into continuing education programs when the experience of enrolling is intuitive, fast, and simple. After viewing a variety of continuing education programs, here is where I see where can provide opportunities for improvement.

Think About the Student Journey

Remember that most of your students are accustomed to having a great buying experience combined with stellar customer service for almost any product imaginable. Yet many continuing education websites are a bit frustrating when it comes to choosing and enrolling in classes.

You want your information to be concise and easy to navigate. Otherwise, students will simply move on until they discover a program that offers the information they’re looking for.

Remember that most students use Google to find institutions that offer the certificate programs they’re seeking. To succeed in providing students with a well-informed experience, make sure your site is search-optimized and follows UX best practices.

On-Demand Webinar: Using AI to Improve the Student Experience

Don’t Hide the Ball

Universities offer little more than a long block of text as a course description, with no other information available. A student must then fill out a form in order to receive any information, such as a course syllabus, who’s teaching the course, or its structure, which will inevitably lead to a half-hour conversation with the admissions counselor.

These calls are a complete waste of time for your administrative staff and students. You should only reach out to students when they have complex questions that could be answered as easily on your website or explicitly require a call.

Your service team is likely overburdened, and you may want to reduce the number of inbound calls you receive every day. Provide information on landing pages about the admissions process, the time commitment required, your syllabus, and other pertinent information.

Through this process, you’ll undoubtedly see your leads decrease. That’s the point. Optimizing your website ensures admissions is only contacting qualified leads who are likely to enroll in your course.

Make Your Courses Flexible

When offering continuing education, provide as much flexibility as you can to meet student preferences. Be prepared to receive interest from students from a wide range of backgrounds, ages and circumstances.

Make the class available via remote and face-to-face options while also enabling students to watch on-demand.

Higher education certificate programs should think of creative methods for offering financial aid. This might include payment installments, income share agreements, or partnering with lenders who offer low-interest loans.

Students may be considering your program because they’re hoping to make a career pivot or re-skill to land a new job. Therefore, it’s crucial to offer flexible payment alternatives so students aren’t discouraged from applying for financial reasons.

Personalize Student Preferences

The ideal user experience would be one that allows students to answer questions that allow the sites to recommend courses for them. Ask questions such as what the student hopes to gain from their certification, how they plan to use their certificate, and what level of experience they have in the subject.

Asking these questions on the front end allows you to make personalized recommendations for each user and provides admissions with valuable data that can be leveraged for decisions such as scheduling or future hires.

In addition, you’ll have a better grasp of the student’s interest level, which will help determine how to best help the student in their decision-making process.

Allow Students to Choose a Live Chat Experience

Give students the option of chatting with a live agent for quick answers related to the application process or other prudent information related to enrollment. Most millennials prefer texting or chatting to speaking on the phone.

Yet most higher ed institutions don’t have live chat enabled on their website, and are lacking an opportunity to attract new students. Live chat adds convenience to the student experience and eliminates friction that comes with the back-and-forth of scheduling a call.

There are many predictions regarding the enrollment cliff indicating doom and gloom for higher education. But universities have a unique opportunity to meet that challenge by creating a bigger pool of students through continuing education certifications.

With the rise of asynchronous learning, there are limitless opportunities to add classes of all sizes while meeting the most pressing educational needs of the population. Instead of focusing solely on undergraduate and master’s programs, state universities must consider ways to widen the student population.