Onboarding Adult Learners


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You have worked hard to move your leads and prospects through the enrollment funnel, but don't stop now! Helping new students onboard early and successfully demonstrates your brand commitment, helps them understand how to do business with you, and confirms their enrollment decision. Student orientation is critical.

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  • Geographically distributed campuses similar to ours are already familiar with the shift in their learner population
    If you are on a traditional campus, you may not be as familiar with ‘tending’ to the adult learner population, you may now need to
    “up your game” – used to traditional student campus onboarding experience; how do you offer onboarding that is specifically directed to adult learners (adults will rarely come to something in person; they don’t want to play games; or need ice-breaker activities)
  • Adult learner recruiting cycle is closer to 90 days, so the relationship we establish and the value we have to offer must be clear and made quickly
    Adults are often informed consumers and therefore have high service level expectations
    Adult learners degree experience is often interrupted by personal and professional commitments, so it is important, early on, to establish some expectations they can come to depend on from you
  • Where does the pass off happen between when the learner is admitted, enrolled, and a student?
    Similar to a relay race – pass the baton; what does that look like?
    Who has primary responsibility?
    We are an end-to-end system (responsible for identify learner as a prospect thru to graduation)
    Some admissions offices structured differently; different unit that picks up the enrollment piece; different approaches for different institutions; no one approach is right/wrong; Who is focusing on adult learners?
  • Are you seeing your learners complete their applications and be admitted, only to lose them before they enroll? If so, why?

    98% of our learners who applied were being admitted; we lost 20% of those learners between admission and enrollment; one of the reasons could be our failure to continue to engage with learners

    Your learner enrollment funnel could look different – this is ours; this is what prompted us
  • Make decisions that help them feel good; they made the right decision; this was right for them
  • Onboarding should help simplify the process; provide clarity about next steps, and in turn, increase yield (admits to enrollments)

    Once learners are admitted, you need to continue the momentum that moves them to enrollment

    Provide them with that experience that creates the connection for them

  • What else would you add as a reason to provide learners with an onboarding experience? What else might you think of, if you don’t, or what would be good reasons to develop an onboarding experience?

  • No traditional campus locations dedicated to our institution – commercial facilities, school districts, CC campuses

    28 staff each preparing and conducting a local orientation session (if they did anything at all) – 3 hrs. to prepare/present = 84 hrs. x 2 per yr. = 168 hrs. of staff time; this wasn’t an efficient use of our staff and their time

    Lean practices told us we needed to be more efficient in how we onboarded students in order to be scalable

    Online community that didn’t get onboarded at all
  • At one time, doing onboarding/orientation in person, made sense; Now, however, you can see that our online population is greater than our in-person population, 73% of who work full-time

    Approach needed to change ad-hoc process was not meeting the needs of our learners
  • We weren’t the first to do this. We didn’t want to re-invent the wheel.
  • We looked at other institutions similar to ours, public, private, for-profit; small, large; even our own institution – campus; Maybe we looked at your institution. Surprisingly we found more institutions that didn’t do anything, than did.
    Criteria we evaluated other programs on:
    For credit; not for credit
    In person or online
    Required or optional
    When could students attend/access it
    Looked at typical on campus orientation for new, freshmen students to get ideas and learn what they cover
    We even had the opportunity in a few instances, to “test drive” some online orientations
  • Good resources and opportunity to talk with others about their work in this area
  • Anyone have any experience learning about onboarding design or approaches from other outside groups or organizations? If so, what other groups of organizations?
  • Established goals we wanted our onboarding/orientation to accomplish

    Based on our research and review, we identified what essential information needed to be shared with a new student (collectively what we saw in the models and best practices); looked at what we shared with students in the past when onboarding was done at our various sites;

    We worked with our marketing team to develop the orientation to be certain that it represented our ‘brand’ promise to students

    We had some very specific and ambitious goals
  • So, through that review, it became increasingly clear that new student orientation programs run the gamut from institutions who do nothing or provide no student orientation, to the most inclusive or restrictive in which new student orientation is required, credit-based, in person, and/or has a fee associated with it.

    As you can see here, we went with a “middle of the road” approach to new student orientation:
    Required before a student can enroll in classes
    Available online with 24/7/365 access
    General enough to allow breathe and depth without being exclusionary to any particular entity within EC
  • Can’t say this enough times: requiring students to complete the general information session before they can enroll or seek enrollment assistance, helps to solidify their decision (all of this information is great, I know I made the right decision), and helps them understand how to do business with us

    Break it down into small manageable chunks

  • Students encouraged to complete shortly after being admitted – it was our chance to really ‘hook’ the student
  • Information needed to be applicable to all learners, regardless of program, location, mode of program delivery, age;
    Critical Information that every student needed to know in order to do business with us

    The following topics were covered in the General Information Module:
    Introduction to EC Academic AdvisingHow to EnrollPaying for CollegeStudent ResourcesOther Academic ToolsKeys to Success
    Keys to Success includes: Study SkillsTime ManagementTest-Taking SkillsNote-taking
  • short quizzes that needed to be completed and passed before moving on to the next module – also served as way to engage students in the process
  • Embedded orientation in our LMS so that students could become familiar with the system and maneuvering around in it – future online courses as well as in person courses (all courses have a course ‘shell’ in our LMS, so every student really needs to be familiar with it)
  • Share with staff – communicate across the organization; allowed them to review so that they know what students are seeing and doing
    Requested feedback - but made sure they understood, unless it is a content error or tech issues, feedback will be collected and used, if appropriate, when entire program is to be reviewed and updated at a later date
    Start out small - term prior to full implementation
    Optional but recommended – enrollment staff and advisors to share with students
    Review early results and feedback from students - correct tech errors, make adjustments if needed

    Requested feedback – but made sure they understood, unless it is a content error or tech issues, feedback will be collected and used, if appropriate, when entire program is to be reviewed and updated at a later date
  • So far, we are pleased with the results. Our staff have more time to assist students and respond to their questions or inquiries much quicker than in the past.
  • Always concerned with continuous improvement; while we look to Phase 2, we will review Phase 1 to identify areas of improvement or efficiency (for us as well as learners)

  • Onboarding Adult Learners

    1. 1. Onboarding Adult Learners Tuesday, July 22, 2014 2:00 pm *Evaluation Keyword: brsutton 2014 CALEM, All Rights Reserved.1 Brenda Sutton Director of Strategic Initiatives Northern Arizona University – Extended Campuses
    2. 2. 2014 CALEM, All Rights Reserved. 2 By the conclusion of today’s session, participants will: • Appreciate how onboarding is part of the enrollment management process • Understand the importance of maintaining momentum after the learner is admitted • See onboarding as the first step towards learner retention Onboarding Adult Learners
    3. 3. It’s not just about getting them admitted. Effectively onboarding adult learners allows you to maintain the learner’s motivation through to enrollment, and begins the retention process. 2014 CALEM, All Rights Reserved.3
    4. 4. Onboarding Adult Learners How many of you here today already have an onboarding process for newly admitted learners? • If so, when do learners participate in it? • How is it delivered?
    5. 5. Onboarding Adult Learners How many of you here today are thinking about implementing an onboarding process for newly admitted learners? If so, why?
    6. 6. It’s Not Just About Getting them Admitted
    7. 7. It’s Not Just About Getting Them Admitted  You are working your enrollment funnel  Prospects are applying  Prospects are getting admitted Your work is done, right?
    8. 8. WRONG!
    9. 9. Does this look familiar? Prospect Lead Applicant Complete Applicant Admit Enroll Source: DemandEngine 71% 50% 98% 78%
    10. 10. Enrollment is all about helping learners make decisions.
    11. 11. Maintain the Momentum • Need to help learners maintain positive emotions about their decision • Help them confirm/solidify their decision • Begin to understand how to do business with the institution • Live the ‘brand’ you shared with the learner; begin the retention process
    12. 12. Learner Onboarding Strengthens your Enrollment Success • Learners experience your ‘brand promise’ • Learners become excited about becoming a “Lumberjack” (or whatever your mascot is) • Reduce new learner anxiety early on, not days before the start of the semester • Learners appreciate your commitment to help them be successful early on; begins retention
    13. 13. Some Background • 35 geographically distributed locations around the state • Fulltime staff at 28 locations, each possibly conducting new learner orientation 1-2 X’s per yr. (hit or miss) • No consistent, standardized onboarding/orientation sessions; when we did do this, we did it just shortly before the start of the term – bad timing
    14. 14. Who We Serve • Median age of 32 • 75% female • 60% part-time • 73% work full- time
    15. 15. What to Do?
    16. 16. Research Current Best Practices
    17. 17. Outside Groups and Organizations WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies – Student Success Common Interest Group (CIG) National ACademic ADvising Association – Best practices in student onboarding and orientation
    18. 18. Outside Groups and Organizations continued (formerly the National Orientation Directors Association) “A successful orientation program minimizes anxiety about the college transition………. This is the institution’s opportunity to demonstrate how it will deliver on the promises that were made during the recruitment phase.” “Orientation is the bridge that connects recruitment and retention strategies together. Without an effective orientation program, efforts to bring the right students into the institution, as well as the ability to retain them, will be jeopardized.”
    19. 19. What We Did • Assembled a work group • Identified essential goals • Determined features of onboarding experience • Outlined deployment plan
    20. 20. Onboarding Models Continuum Wide Range of Options Required before enrollment Online Access 24/7 Standardized No Onboarding Required Credit Based Fee Charged In-Person
    21. 21. Onboarding – Phase I Features • Welcome Video • Interactive/Engaging • No more than 60 minutes in length • To include information that all students need to know • Narrated throughout • FAQ’s/Vocabulary
    22. 22. Goals of Onboarding 1. Available for learners to complete at their convenience 24/7
    23. 23. Goals of Onboarding 2. Standardized information that was applicable to all learners
    24. 24. Goals of Onboarding 3. Required of all learners
    25. 25. Goals of Onboarding 4. Provided information that helped a learner understand how to do business with us
    26. 26. Goals of Onboarding 5. Confirm that a learner completed the online orientation and attended to the information presented Completed
    27. 27. Goals of Onboarding 6. Provided for learner evaluation of program as part of our continuous improvement process
    28. 28. Goals of Onboarding 7. Embedded into our LMS 8. Provided immediate direction as to learner’s next step
    29. 29. Goals of Onboarding 9. Appealing to a cross-section of learners 10. Allows the learner to return at any time
    30. 30. Goals of Onboarding What other goals can you think of that we didn’t identify or are unique to your institution?
    31. 31. Deployment of Onboarding • Share with all of our staff • Start out small • Optional but recommended • Review early results and feedback from learners • Determine start date • Communicate ‘step’ to learners • Watch the process • Monitor the learner engagement/timeline
    32. 32. Results Based on over 400 learners who have completed the onboarding experience so far, the learner evaluation tells us: • • 91% of learners strongly agree/agree that the subject matter was relevant and useful to them as a new learner • 84% strongly agree/agree that the time spent completing the orientation was appropriate • 89% strongly agree/agree that the content was well explained
    33. 33. Learner Comments “I can’t wait to get started. I know I made the right decision to continue my studies with NAU.” “I think the orientation did a great job of addressing all the basic information. Since we are directed to speak with advisors next, they would cover any additional questions we have.”
    34. 34. Onboarding – Phase 2 Program/Learner Specific Modules • Online learners – LMS • Military learners • Career Development • In depth, success skills Features • Student Testimonials/Tips • Faculty Remarks/Tips • Possible “live chat” or webinar feature
    35. 35. Onboarding Adult Learners QUESTIONS?
    36. 36. Contact Information Brenda Sutton Director of Strategic Initiatives Brenda.Sutton@nau.edu 520-836-0183 (office) 520-705-8023 (cell) *Evaluation Keyword: brsutton