Growing Online Programs with Personalized Experiences
Going online is only step one. Next, your institution is challenged with growing online programs to attract new students. Learn how personalization can power the three critical steps in the student lifecycle: recruitment & enrollment, teaching & learning, and outcomes & retention.
My name is Christina Fleming and I am part of Blackboard’s Marketing and Enrollment Services team. Most of you will know Blackboard as an LMS company but you may not know that we also have an Educational Services team that helps institutions grow enrollments and enable student success. This is one of the fastest growing divisions in our company because we offer a flexible, DIY model that allows schools to get the help they need while maintaining full control. We do that through a combination of services such as market research, strategic planning, marketing, and enrollment.
Today we are talking about the importance of personalization in all aspects of Marketing and Enrollment. I’ll spend some time setting up this concept for you since on the surface it really seems self-evident. And then we’ll demonstrate how you can use the power of personalization throughout all the phases of the student life cycle from recruiting and enrollment to teaching and Learning to Outcomes and Retention.
We’ve left some time for Q/A at the end, but we really want this to be interactive so feel free to jump in with questions or comments throughout our time together.
As I work with Higher Ed institutions, and in particular the people responsible for Marketing and Enrollment, I hear some common challenges that I know everyone is familiar with. But, I do believe that for the Marketing and Enrollment departments, these pains are felt very viserally. You’re dealing with a tremendous amount of competition for the same students. Students today have many choices and online learners in particular, are making decisions between their jobs, family and education. The competition you feel isn’t just with other institutions. You’re competing with life choices and jobs and other commitments that people have in their lives. Meanwhile, everyone is seeing our student demographics shift to post-traditional learners. This is even more prevalent in Distance Education as adult learners see a path that offers flexibility and convenience along side that degree.
More so than ever, budget pressures weigh on you. No one is immune. Everyone is asked to do more with less. And, marketers know that sometimes you have to spend money to make growth happen but now you are faced with stagnent or reduced budgets while the demands for more enrollments keep coming.
And of course, student retention and outcomes are challenges faced by all. We’ll talk about how retention is something that is influenced by what happens way up in the process and how the marketing and enrollment function can play a big role in making some highly visible improvements.
So what’s the common thread behind these challenges? Ultimately, it is the person making the decision to attend or not to attend…the person you serve…the student. And, in this case, the Online Learner.
Whether the student is a 18 year old right out of High school or a working mother, or a returning veteran, Today students are the consumer
They are: Tech Savvy and Mobile – they look to there mobile device first to get content and information Seek Course and Degree Options – that are flexible and aligned with career goals Attentive to skills and competencies – that demonstrate progress toward these goals Focused on Value and Outcomes – to drive a return on their educational investment
Connecting with today’s learner requires a shift in perspective and in outreach tactics. It means moving away from messaging and branding that leans into the school’s legacy and moves towards a personalized approach.
The primary challenge facing institutions in this migration from an Institution-Centric to a Student-Centric Approach, from Broadcast vs. Targeted communication exchange Driving inquiries to a portal-based vs. mobile app-based entry points (students primary interaction method is through mobile devices) Generic vs. Personalized communications based on the unique interests of the student Single to recognizing students attend multiple institutions during their journey Not about degrees, but about employment Tuition vs. Return on educational investment
When you are using a Personalized Model you recognize some important attributes:
Attended multiple institutions Is focused on pursuing skills & competencies Listens to peers for insights and feedback on courses and institutions Engages collaboratively through mobile applications Connects with and follows employers And Consumes data & info that are relevant to their interests
If you want to reach and engage this new learner -- and sustain that engagement -- you need to understand how these attributes effect each individual’s preferences and needs.
Personalization needs to occur along every step of the student’s journey. We’ve all gotten pretty good at setting up recruitment messages by audience. But once leads and inquiries come in, the subsequent milestones should become more and more personalized. Lead nurturing Advising and coaching Learning experience Competencies and outcomes And Retention
Then, we conduct a deep audience segmentation and profiling strategy for the target programs
We use sophisticated analytics with a proprietary, national database to locate pockets of people with similar demographics and psychographics to current (or desired) enrollees We identify “buyer personas” and provide targeted marketing and messaging to those groups, choosing WHEN and HOW to reach them based on these personas
4 Step Process to ensure that market fits within the university brand and is sizeable enough to investment 1. Define the current successful student profile - Use existing student data as well as reports and/or surveys 2. Seek new pockets of opportunity - Utilizing student data reports to identify any underserved student populations that are signaling growth 3. Define potential new audiences - This includes an outline of needs, motivations, influencers and behaviors for each segment 4. Confirm and size by persona - Using predictive marketing analytics software, extract student personas from existing student data and/or our key attributes. Each persona includes geographic, psychographic and media preferences information
Once we’ve identified the target audience segment and understand their specific demographic profiles, this is where art meets science
Using geo-targeting software, we identify potential target student populations who share similar profiles but live in different locations, locally, regionally, and nationally. These targets are represented by size and location in the form of heat maps.
This enables you identify and target student populations at zip code level and provides an addressable market size to inform your media-planning and lead generation forecasting process with real data.
You want to be able to successfully guide students through the full process
But this can sometimes be a resourcing issue if you don’t have the staff to contact students or if the best times to reach the is after hours. That’s often the case with online learners. They may not be available until after the kids are in bed.
Proactively contacting students will pull more through the door and onto enrollment.
ASK: How many of you are also responsible for Retention outreach and activities?
It makes sense, right? If you recruit the right students based on their needs and profiles, you can expect them to stay longer and complete their goals. All the work we discussed earlier in Recruitment, Enrollment and Teach and Learning all culminate here. But, there will always be some gaps…some ways in which you can help your online learners stay engaged and enrolled. Again, it comes down to personalization of those communications so that what you’re saying to them about their education journey is relevant to their specific challenges. To do this well, you need to leverage data and proactive outreach. You want to understand your risk factors by student profile…so going back to our target audiences. Now that these folks are enrolled, what will their specific pitfalls be by group? Next, using effective communications to reach them based on those needs. Again, avoiding a “one size fits all” type of outreach. If possible, tapping into some pretty cool advanced data techniques to identify at-risk attributes specific to your institution and students. And, using proactive outreach to get out in front of possible problem areas.
Going back to our Career Climber example…the communication plans that need to happen after enrollment are very similar in methodology to pre-enrollment. Here we map this person’s needs around flexibility, affordability, and scheduling to retention messaging and suggested activities. For example, since we know that the Career Climber is going to be concerned about juggling the demands of their full time or part time job, we create an outreach campaign that invites them to an Orientation Session with content in it specific to the challenge of balancing work, family and coursework.
Again, we use the CRM to set up these communications and ideally have the ability to leverage email outreach and other modalities such as outbound calling or texting to reach students about these opportunities. Each communication is built by target segment in the CRM so that each student is getting the messaging most relevant to them.
Taking things a step further, there are some advanced data techniques that you can leverage to pinpoint potential at-risk students. So, here were aren’t just generalizing challenges by target audience group; we are flagging individual students that based on a combination of factors are more at risk than others.
We often partner with Maguire Associates to help with this type of work for our clients. We use predictive modeling to identify the at-risk red flags by institution. Here you can see a list of possibilities; they will be different by school. Then, we can take existing student data, run it through the model and flag students who fall into an at-risk bucket. We can score them based on the number of attributes they carry. With that data in hand, we create personalized communication plans specifically reaching out those students who may have challenges down the line. The campaigns and activities that you put in place can do things like introduce the student to an advisor, invite them to a special event, provide them with peer mentoring, etc.
Here is a list of potential outreach campaigns that you might deploy. Again, the important factors are that these campaigns be relevant by audience, timely based on their needs, and driven to a specific discrete action.
To recap, we know that personalization has the power to take the student experience to new heights. Students feel more connected. The communications they receive from you speak to their individual needs. Their learning experience is more dynamic and intimate while supported by strong internal processes. And their ultimate outcomes are improved because the guidance and help they are getting is more meaningful.
All of this starts at the beginning with identification of your best audiences and profiles. Knowing your audience has always been the secret sauce of any great marketing initiative. While our audiences in Higher Ed and online learning may be shifting, we have the ability to get to know these students and give them the personal attention they crave.
Growing Online Programs with Personalized Experiences
Growing Online with
Meet the experts
Darcy Hardy, Ph.D.
AVP, Enterprise Consulting
Sr. Director, Marketing & Enrollment Services
Recruitment and Enrollment
Teaching and Learning
Outcomes and Retention
Growing Online and Personalized Experiences
Marketing and Enrollment Challenges
Student Retention and Outcomes
Shifting student demographics
Increased budget pressures
Tremendous competition for same students
Online Learners today
WHERE, HOW, and
to get their education
Tech savvy & mobile
Seek many course &
Attentive to skills
Students as the Consumer
One-Size Fits All
Challenge – Making the Connection
Teaching and Learning
Retention and Outcomes
Personalizing the Student Journey
Understanding online student
Sounding unique and different
Getting prospective students to take
Finding cost-efficient marketing
Common Recruitment Challenges
About Target Audiences
WHO is our best target student?
WHAT are their needs and preferences?
WHERE will we find them?
HOW will we reach them?
< $40K Average
29 Average Age
Hold a Bachelor’s Degree
Live in a suburban
Online Learner Demographics
Identify both successful and underserved
Gain an understanding beyond demographics
Understand the triggers for enrollment
Obtain targeted, relevant messaging
Highly effective, geo-targeted media outreach by
Seek a degree or specific competency in order to fulfill requirements for
promotion or advancement in their career. Working full or part time.
Previously attended a 2 year or 4 year school but did not complete their
degree due to life events. Mostly likely work full-time and have families.
Individuals who have a degree and have been in the workforce. Now seeking
an advanced degree in order to pursue a new career in a different industry.
Sample Online Learner Profiles
29-45 29-45 years of age
Successful and extremely motivated
Employed full-time. Need to balance family, work and classes.
Degree is needed for career advancement
Have some college experience or a bachelor’s degree
I really need my Master’s
degree in this industry to
get ahead but I can’t quit
my job and afford school
too. I have a family so
I’m juggling a lot. I want
to take courses online
and I want to finish as
fast as I can.
Meet the Career Climbers
• Understand ROI of earning
• Clear degree path and plan to
• Flexibility with course
• Evidence of success
Making the Decision
Career Climbers: Most interested in hearing about program options,
career outcomes and salaries, employer partnerships, peer success
stories, cost and flexibility.
Plan to continue in the
workforce immediately after
graduates secure the
credentials they need to
advance in their careers.
Peer Student Stories Online Webinar
Need to complete education
as quickly as possible
Complete your Master’s degree in
less than 2 years while enjoying
the flexibility you need.
Stats on time to complete Website
Cost sensitive and seeking a
return on investment
Undergraduate student tuition is
offered at affordable rates,
regardless of residency status,
with no additional fees.
Comparison Rates Graphic
Seeking flexibility in order to
juggle job and family
With courses offered in the
evenings and weekends online,
you are sure to find the time for
Online Program dates/hours Video
Message Mapping by Segment
Reaching this Audience
Moving Prospects Through the Funnel
FINANCIAL AID ENROLLREGISTER
ACTIVE LEARNING POST-COURSEPRE-COURSE
3-6 Online students are long-term, impulse buyers. After they
decide to act, 85-95% enroll within 3-6 monthsMONTHS
Online Student Journey
Successfully guiding students through critical enrollment and
engagement steps requires proactive communication.
Moving Students Forward
Students often get stuck in the process, sometimes over steps that require
only a quick touch point.
Proactive personalized outreach helps bring more students through
the door and onto enrollment.
Target Segment Day 1 Day 4 Day 7 Day 11 Day 15 Day 20 Day 25
Career Climbers Segment
Student Success Story
- Job Outcomes and
Invite - Meet Your
Small Class Sizes and
Student Success Story
Link to Video
Student Success Story
Invite - Meet Your
Student Success Story
Earning Potential –
Post-inquiry communications continue well
beyond initial inquiry
Interactive elements like video and
social media resonate with prospects
• Communication calendar
• Messaging is crafted to the
• Proactive outreach can be
augmented by other
modalities such as calling
Proactive outreach with
specific messaging by
Email Communication Schematic
Bold, visual CTA located above
the fold with call to action.
visuals to capture audience
Secondary CTAs at throughout the
email such as Apply Now and phone
number to call.
Use responsive design for increased mobile-
Strong, compelling headline
Testimonials from enrolled or
graduated students from same
Getting Personal with Creative
Stores and tracks students through the
enrollment lifecycle: Lead Sources, Targets
Audiences, Enrollment Stages, and
Facilitates email communication and
targeted outreach based on lifecycle
When faculty are left on their own
True meaning of “support”
Institutional message – Go Big or Go Home
What does faculty support really mean?
Taking Personalization Even Further
Ensuring learners possess
and skills needed to
advance in the workplace.
Competencies clear to
Replacing grades with
demonstrated mastery of
a defined set of
Value clear to learners
Decoupling learning from
a time-bracketed system.
Lower costs for
Using technology to
attending synchronous or
Providing a better way to serve post-traditional learners.
Why Institutions Pursue CBE
Pace Toward Completion
Differences between Traditional Education and CBE
Shifting from synchronous to
more asynchronous delivery
Offering pay-as-you-go options rather than
billing by credit hours
Focusing on mastery of competencies rather
than grades and credits
Disaggregating instructional roles to customize
Regardless of time or place
Regardless of pace
Demonstration of mastery
CBE as Ultimate Personalized Experience
Understanding risk factors by student profile1
Effectively communicating based on targeted needs2
Leveraging advanced data techniques3
Using proactive outreach to nudge and guide4
Improving Retention through Personalization
Career Climbers: Worried about juggling school, family and work.
Distracted by outside influences, travel and commitments. Concerned
about success and ability to complete course work quickly.
Characteristics Risk Factor Message
Currently in the workforce while
also enrolled in courses.
Demands of the
Take advantage of online courses
that allow you to juggle work and
Need to complete education as
quickly as possible
Waylaid due to
Complete your Master’s degree in less
than 2 years while enjoying the flexibility
Advisor outreach on degree
requirements and pacing
Cost sensitive and seeking a return
Undergraduate student tuition is offered
at affordable rates, regardless of
residency status, with no additional fees.
Help with career placement and
Seeking flexibility in order to juggle
job and family
With courses offered in the evenings
and weekends online, you are sure to
find the time for your education.
Proactive outreach regarding
online course scheduling.
Risk Mapping by Segment
Advanced Techniques to Leveraging Data
Possible “Red Flags”
Unmet financial requirements
Part-time enrollment status
Low GPA and test scores
Enrolled in < 12 credits
Working full time
Withdrew from any courses
• Complete predictive modeling
• Identify at-risk attributes
• Run new student data through
• Flag, group and score
• Create personalized comm plans by
• Launch campaigns and activities
Students feel more connected to the learning experience
Communications are customized based on individual needs
Teaching and Learning becomes more dynamic
Outcomes are improved through meaningful guidance
Strategy Recruitment Enrollment
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and Enrollment Solutions: