As the official journal of ACHE, the Journal of Continuing Higher Education features articles specifically for our members.
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Learn more about Editor Dr. Bruce Busby.
Factors Affecting Adult Student Dropout Rates in the Korean Cyber-University Degree Programs
Few empirical studies of adult distance learners’ decisions to drop out of degree programs have used large enough sample sizes to generalize the findings or data sets drawn from multiple online programs that address various subjects. Accordingly, in this study, we used a large administrative data set drawn from multiple online degree programs to investigate meaningful factors (derived from a conceptual model for adult dropout) affecting adult distance learners’ decisions to drop out of online degree programs in a cyber-university. The findings indicate that adult students who have a low level of basic scholastic aptitude, the studying motive to go on to graduate school, more physical constraints, less learner-content interaction, frequent learner-instructor interaction, low level of satisfaction, and low GPA are more likely to drop out of degree programs. Surprisingly, this study found that learner-instructor interaction has a significant, but negative, effect on student persistence.
Hee Jun Choi (Associate Professor) & Byoung Uk Kim (doctoral student)
Pages 1-12 | Published online: 28 Dec 2017
The Online Classroom: A Thorough Depiction of Distance Learning Spaces
This study investigated the online higher education learning space of a doctoral program offered at a distance. It explored the learning space, the stakeholders, utilization, and creators of the space. Developing a successful online classroom experience that incorporates an engaging environment and dynamic community setting conducive to learning is essential in maintaining distance-student enrollment and expanding online education. Students and faculty were surveyed and responses were coded for the emergence of themes. The expanse of distance education and progression of technology has supported instructors in developing classrooms that emphasize students and incorporate both online interactive spaces and the physical space learners inhabit. Both faculty and students contribute to this classroom, and it is utilized primarily as a space where learners engage.
Pages 13-21 | Published online: 20 Mar 2018
Reimagining Student Engagement: How Nontraditional Adult Learners Engage in Traditional Postsecondary Environments
Adult learners are a growing population in U.S. postsecondary education who experience distinct barriers to academic success. However, higher education institutions continue to create and adhere to policies that favor traditional college students. Thus, adult learner experiences must be better understood to ensure this population is supported. This study used data from the 2013 and 2014 administrations of the National Survey of Student Engagement to identify characteristics of adult learners and compare their engagement with traditional-aged students. Our regression analysis revealed that adult learners were more likely to take their classes online, begin their education at another institution, and enroll part-time. Adult learners also were more engaged academically and had positive perceptions of teaching practices and interactions with others, despite reporting fewer interactions with faculty and peers and less supportive campuses. These findings challenge institutions to continue to seek a deeper understanding of how adult learners engage with postsecondary education.
Karyn E. Rabourn, Allison BrckaLorenz & Rick Shoup
Pages 22-33 | Published online: 20 Mar 2018
A Private, Nonprofit University's Experiences Designing a Competency-Based Degree for Adult Learners
Competency-based higher education focuses on workplace competencies and often enables students to progress at their own pace. The university in this case study decided to pursue competency-based education (CBE) to offer working adults a convenient, self-paced way to earn a bachelor's degree. The mission of the university—to provide open access to career-oriented degrees for adults of all ages—drove many of the CBE decisions. However, after piloting the competency-based degree, the university found students were uninterested in an entirely self-paced program, so the institution incorporated self-paced mini courses into its traditional degree. This case study examines how external regulations, as well as internal economics and policies, influenced the CBE program's design. The purpose of this research was to understand the key design decisions, so others may learn from the findings. The innovative, self-paced approaches that evolved from this study may interest other institutions serving adult students.
Nancy A. McDonald
Pages 34-45 | Published online: 20 Mar 2018
Quest: A Hybrid Faculty Teaching and Learning Community
Faculty members often collaborate on research and service projects, but teaching remains a relatively solitary activity (Gizir & Simsek, 2005; Ramsden, 1998). While students attend classes taught by various faculty members, faculty members remain largely unaware of the innovative and pedagogical improvements in teaching made by their colleagues. Exceptions occur when colleagues present and share ideas through organized activities like teaching workshops, published articles, or through informal settings such as social events. Creating a culture where faculty members frequently interact formally and informally can result in fruitful discussion of issues related to undergraduate education (Massy, Wilgar, & Colbeck, 1994). Collaboration amongst faculty can be a powerful vehicle to promote faculty learning and professional development and an effective way to maximize the impact of institutional investments in faculty (Baldwin & Chang, 2007). Thus, collaborative faculty development is an essential tool to maintain a dynamic institutional climate that sustains productive faculty members and ultimately promotes a healthy learning environment for students.
Siny Joseph, Jung Oh & Patricia Ackerman
Pages 46-53 | Published online: 20 Mar 2018
One State's Use of Prior Learning Assessment to Augment Its Workforce Development Agenda
Long before Tennessee legislators demanded a focus on adult learners, the notion of helping adult students earn a degree was part of every postsecondary educational institution in the state. Some had robust adult degree completion programs, while other institutions treated adult learners the same as traditional-aged students. The complications increased as a number of institutions began to use some form of prior learning assessment (PLA) to help returning adults complete their degree. A substantial body of literature indicates that students who earn credit through PLA have better outcomes than those who do not participate in PLA. PLA has been shown to reduce time to graduation, increase graduation rates, and improve other academic outcomes (Rust & Ikard, 2016). However, because each institution created its own PLA policies and procedures, students often could not transfer their PLA credits to other institutions.
Mike Boyle, David Gotcher & David Otts
Pages 54-58 | Published online: 20 Mar 2018
Notes and Trends
Eighteen short notes and comments on trends from various articles and news stories comprise this entry.
Mary S. Bonhomme
Pages 59-61 | Published online: 20 Mar 2018
Adult Learning Degree and Career Pathways: Allusions to Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs
In a previous edition of JCHE's Distance Learning Exchange, several authors (including this one) wrote on the topic of career pathways. That article examined the career pathways landscape through the lens of institutional policy, associations, and organizations that individually dabble in this emerging field (Schulte et al., 2017). The distance and online learning space was emphasized in that article. Inspired by that more intricate discussion, this new discussion will embark on a lighter examination, with the intention to ease communication concerning what career pathways are and how they benefit the learner.
Pages 62-64 | Published online: 20 Mar 2018
A Review of Poison in the Ivy: Race Relations and the Reproduction of Inequality on Elite College Campuses By Byrd, W. C. (2017).
Byrd grounds the study in Poison in the Ivy on 28 of the most selective colleges and universities in the United States. The author uses intergroup contact theory to examine how students of the selected 28 institutions interrelate regarding inter- and intraracial social interactions, and how these interactions influence the students’ beliefs and attitudes on race. In addition, Byrd examines the effect of college courses, which expose students to different perspectives on race, and the long-term effect these courses of study have on student beliefs throughout and after college.
Keondria E. McClish
Pages 65-66 | Published online: 20 Mar 2018
ICCHE and ACHE Great Lakes Region Learn to Change
at the ICCHE/ACHE Great Lakes Joint Conference
“Learning to Change” was the theme of the joint conference hosted by the Association for Continuing Higher Education (ACHE) Great Lakes Region and the Illinois Council on Continuing Higher Education (ICCHE) in February 2018. It proved to be an object lesson on that theme as well as an opportunity to gather wisdom and network with peers.
The conference began with a pre-conference workshop on February 7 and was originally scheduled to continue through February 9 with a day and a half of keynote speakers and breakout sessions. However, change was in the air as an approaching blizzard descended upon Chicago. The planning committee adapted to this change, and concluded the conference Thursday evening. In swift motion by experienced continuing education professionals, Friday’s speakers were rescheduled into additional breakout sessions on Thursday afternoon and the famous “basket raffles” that usually conclude the conference were drawn for during an extended break on Thursday afternoon. A headcount was taken of those who would be staying in the hotel on Thursday night so that Friday’s breakfast buffet catering order could be adjusted to serve them. Decisive change in response to a shifting environment was a lesson quickly mastered.
All types of more typical change were addressed in the conference sessions. Shannon Brown from the University of St. Francis set the stage with her pre-conference workshop, “Understanding Personal Change” and led attendees through the book: Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes by William Bridges.
Keynote speaker Carolyn Nordstrom of Kaplan University addressed the topic, “Why Change in Higher Education is So Hard and What to Do About It.” She drew on the work of Daniel Kahneman (Thinking Fast and Slow) to illustrate how the way we process new ideas can affect how we react to proposed change. She stressed the need for “patience, persistence, and perspective” for getting through any change. She outlined the distinction between conscious and unconscious competency (knowing or not knowing why/how you get good results). She has found that teaching those with “unconscious competence” how to be more conscious of their competence enables them to be more comfortable with change.
Breakout sessions addressed faculty development, program design, curriculum revision, institutional reorganization and more. Bonnie Covelli helped ICCHE/ACHE members in “Linking Together through LinkedIn.” Anne Rapp and Lesley Page showed the group how to keep both “The Market and the Mission” in mind when negotiating organizational change in adult and graduate education.
ICCHE’s 2018 Innovative Initiative Award went to the University of Illinois System for TransferREADY.org; Project Coordinator Dena Lawrence was on hand to accept the award and to provide an impromptu breakout session on her organization’s work. Charles V. Evans Research Grant recipient Layne Morsch was also on hand to present his research project. ICCHE’s 2018 Past Presidents’ Award for Outstanding Service was bestowed upon Vickie Cook in absentia.
Despite an early departure, the participants evidenced an appreciation for new insights and for the opportunity to connect with one another.
Hilary Ward Schnadt, PhD
ICCHE Communications Chair
Associate Dean for Academic Services & Programs
University Center of Lake County, Grayslake, IL
Let me state this again: The strategies institutions employ to attract and convert new students aren’t that different, and haven’t changed significantly over the past year. But the results among those institutions vary widely.
I can share, however how several small, tactical adjustments in marketing and recruitment seem to have the most impact.
1. Search: Students don’t search for you; they search for programs. Collegis Education reports prospective students are increasingly searching for preferred academic programs first, then the brand names of the colleges and universities offering the programs.
What does this mean for you? As you optimize both your web content and digital ads, the focus has moved toward the programs you offer. Your online ad and web content must follow suit. While the challenge to optimize and remain atop the search results continues to be great, those who don’t address the issue may fall dramatically in the results. If you aren’t among the top four to six search results, consider yourself ignored.
Institutions with strong marketing agency partners tend to excel more in accomplishing this simply because those partners know how to customize and optimize the ads and web content necessary to get to the top.
2. Web and Ad Content: Now that we know how students are searching, we need to think about content we deliver so that it is relevant to them. Companies like Hubspot do a lot of research into what types of content help convert prospects on a web page. And while the answer may seem simple enough to do, it is much more challenging than most consider it to be.
Most of the content I review on program web pages is focused on the program and not the prospective student. If you want to improve the effectiveness of the content, be sure that it answers the prospective student’s questions.
What are the top three initial questions a prospective student asks when they express interest in your programs? This is a simple but very important question to help you engage your prospective student. These questions and answers should drive your content.
If your site doesn’t provide the answers to those questions, what information does it provide, and is that more important than the answers to the prospect’s questions?
Remember if they can’t find what they are looking for on your site, they won’t necessarily search for it on your site – they may search for it on your competitor’s site.
3. Recruitment: After more than three years of stressing this point, I now find more programs and institutional leaders listening. Recruitment is a focal point that can typically provide a more significant opportunity to impact enrollment.
Most colleagues with whom I discuss this topic seem to understand the concept that not all prospects are equal, but few think of those differences among prospects, applying that to their recruitment strategies.
For example, there is a dramatic difference in how a prospect converts based on the source through which she connected with you. A prospective student that clicked on an online ad to submit a Request For Information (RFI) form on your site will convert at a significantly lower rate than a prospective student that was referred by another student or alumna.
The source type is just a single data point that can help you better engage prospects. Other points include where in your enrollment funnel, or enrollment process a prospective student is, or any special audience segment you particularly serve well, such as veterans.
If you build your recruitment strategy with a significantly more detailed level of personalization, you will should find a deeper, more enriched level of engagement with prospects in return.
If you read through each of these three points, you will find a common theme. That is the customization of content around each individual prospect.
Over the past five years, I have become equally focused on technology as well as enrollment strategy. That’s not because technology drives the prospective student’s experience, but because it enables you and your team to customize the experience. It is your team, the people involved in making the connection and engaging with prospects that drives your enrollment.
If you design your content and ads to engage prospects with the information they need and strategically build your recruitment around your team’s ability to engage and connect with prospects, you will have a more meaningful connection with your new students and a higher satisfaction with those responsible for making the connection.
March has arrived, and I recently attended the ACHE Great Lakes/ICCHE Conference in Chicago, as well as the ACHE West Conference in Salt Lake City. Both conferences offered wonderful opportunities for professional development, networking, recognition of achievement in our field and conversation on current trends in continuing education.
Visiting Brigham Young University’s Salt Lake Center brought to mind the rich history of United States higher education, and the integral nature of our colleges and universities as ground zero of new ideas and new industry throughout our country. How did this unique, diverse landscape of over 7,000 post-secondary institutions in the United States come about? A majority of our college and universities, like Brigham Young University, were established in the 19th century by religious denominations. As denominations continued to emerge, grow, and thrive in the U.S., higher education ensured the indoctrination of good church people, an educated congregation, and pragmatically, a socio-economically stable base. These denominational institutions grew into the top private U.S. universities, because the mission mattered. Both religious and laypeople contributed to the exponential growth of institutions of higher education from nine chartered colleges in the late 18th century to nine hundred at the close of the 19th century. Certainly, the sacrifice and a shared vision that contributed to the establishment of these universities attest to the higher purpose which they represent: a spiritual mission, as well as a charge to serve the betterment of society.
In today’s continuing education, adult education, and professional studies divisions, the mission matters now more than ever. The charge to provide affordable, accessible training, certificate, and degree programs still rings true for our programs, as we continue to innovate to broaden geographic and demographic reach, strive to offer in-demand degrees, and ensure student success and satisfaction. Through tireless reinvention and dynamic delivery of high-quality programming on behalf of our colleges and universities, the mission matters on a daily basis. We make lives better through the democratization of opportunity - all made possible through higher education.
With Warmest Regards,
Bill Boozang, Ed.D.
ACHE President, 2018
University of Oklahoma
2017 ACHE Memorial Staff Development Grant Recipient
ACHE's Memorial Staff Development Grant
In 2015, ACHE lost two champions of continuing higher education just prior to the Annual Conference and Meeting in St. Louis: Charlee Lanis of East Central University in Ada, Oklahoma, and Don Devilbiss of Widener University in Chester, Pennsylvania. But Charlee and Don were not just champions of the students they served. They were also champions of supporting their staff in obtaining key professional development needed to do the important work of serving adult and non-traditional students. In honor of the spirit and character of Charlee, Don, and other ACHE champions of continuing education who have passed away, the ACHE Board of Directors authorized establishment of the ACHE Memorial Staff Development Grant to assist with funding participation of continuing education unit staff in professional development activities.
Each year, ACHE will award one grant in an amount not to exceed $1500 for a continuing education staff member to attend an ACHE professional development event - to include the annual or a regional conference, leadership training, or other type of activity as seems appropriate to the needs of the selectee - to further their professional development growth and hone their skills.
The 2017 recipient was Kathie Nicoletti, a member of the Southwest Center for Human Relations Studies (SWCHRS) at the University of Oklahoma. SWCHRS is host and coordinator of the National Conference for Race and Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE®), and Kathie is the NCORE Logistics Coordinator. Here is her story!
Key Learnings and Applying New Knowledge
Attending the 79th Annual ACHE Conference as a Memorial Staff Development scholarship recipient was a tremendous honor. My two consistent goals in life are to find ways to continue my education and to share what I have learned with others when appropriate. I was so fortunate to be able to attend, and I tried to make the most of the opportunity.
I chose sessions of various topics during the conference to learn the latest trends, to open my mind to new ideas, and to take away bits of knowledge that are useful for myself and others. I took notes and have been sharing ideas at our staff meetings when it is my turn to facilitate. We are charged with providing an educational component in addition to run-of-the mill work updates; the content shared by presenters at ACHE has proven to be very effective in this area.
For example, wisdom and experience tells us that communication is a vital factor as we strive for success in our daily work and as we tackle common projects. This means crafting and tailoring your words when sending email, making phone calls, and speaking in person. Learning how to identify communication styles amongst team members is an important factor when determining successful communication. I learned one should pay attention to the communication style of individuals and try to match that style as closely as possible in order to be effective. For instance, if a person is particularly concise with their words but you speak in a more elaborate manner, you should go against your normal style and use fewer words. Doing so will meet that person where they are most comfortable and they will receive the message better.
Lifelong learning is a passion of mine and I enjoy sharing what I have learned with colleagues and friends. I believe we are only able to navigate through life by communicating with others and I was fortunate to learn this aspect of effective communication at ACHE.
Special thanks are in order for the generous support of ACHE members in establishing and maintaining the Memorial Staff Development Grant. Although I did not have the pleasure of knowing Charlee Lanis and Don Devilbiss, their commitment to helping staff acquire critical professional development is evident with this grant. While I learned many interesting concepts at the conference, I will also take with me Charlee and Don’s ideas to become a champion for those I work with to continue their own professional development.
Make an Impact in 2018
As your Newsletter Writer and Digital Content Manager, I have a unique perspective on trends in continuing higher education – your trends, that is – and I think your reading trends over the past year may even give me a little insight into where 2018 may take continuing higher education.
I get the privilege of reading the daily news, blogs, and reviews of scholarly articles in higher education. In doing so, I’ve noticed a few things about what seems to get “ink space” in the mainline higher education periodicals, and topics related to continuing higher education are definitely among them. Some of the topics of interest to continuing higher education professionals are even evident in general news sources from around the world.
But what makes a news story (or more likely, a news headline) one that interests the ACHE membership? As a mathematician, I’m fascinated by the analytics I get to see about how many clicks each link gets in the weekly ACHE News You Can Use, and as a researcher, I’m fascinated by the themes I’ve noticed emerging over time. Let’s explore a few trends!
The most clicked link in the last year, “The Twelve Most Innovative Colleges for Adult Learners,” hits two of the top topics during the same time frame: innovation and adult students. A similarly popular headline, “4 Ways Universities Can Better Engage Nontraditional Students,” hits another couple of hot topics: engagement and nontraditional students. But I noticed something else about these two very popular headlines, they both have lists (one identifies 12 colleges and the other identifies 4 methods). Therefore, I’m going to share with you my lists.
The 5 Most Clicked News Topics (of the last twelve months in ACHE News You Can Use newsletters):
Other frequently clicked topics are evident in this word cloud I created based on my qualitative analysis of news themes.
The Seven Most Clicked News Stories (of the last twelve months in ACHE News You Can Use newsletters):
I’ve also noticed some recent changes in these trends. For example, two of the most frequently clicked headlines recently relate to prior learning assessments/credit for prior learning, but several months ago, these types of stories were not grabbing the attention of many in our organization.
My Predictions from Your Trends
So what do I think I have learned by reviewing these analytics?
Several of the most popular stories over the last year have featured colleges, universities, and programs whose leaders and instructors are members of ACHE; therefore, I anticipate that ACHE members will lead the way in exploring new possibilities as well as scaling up promising practices in 2018.
I’ll continue to “study” your habits of reading while you continue to study the best ways to improve your practice in support of our students. Thank you for the opportunity to learn from you!
Kerri K. White, Ed.D.
ACHE Newsletter Writer and Digital Content Manager
University of Oklahoma Outreach
Join us at the 2018 ACHE West Annual Conference February 21-23 in Salt Lake City, Utah to hear from our dynamic Keynote Speakers.
Don't miss high-energy concurrent sessions presented by your peers, engaging speakers, and robust networking at the top conference for professional, continuing, and online education.
Greetings from Scottsdale, where I’m attending a conference of coding boot camp administrators. This summit was a rare opportunity for me to meet with continuing education deans, directors, and non-credit coordinators outside my usual ACHE crowd.
Aside from great programming over the last few days, this conference provided plenty of networking occasions, and shared insight related to our programming, challenges, and opportunities - truly great wisdom from seasoned continuing education administrators.
Yet there’s another sentiment to which many related in our conversations: the sense of isolation on campus when a majority of our colleagues are involved in the “day school” function, and simply don’t understand the work that we do to further the mission and purpose of the institution.
This isn’t necessarily an “us vs. them” dynamic, as increasingly more of the non-traditional students who we serve enroll in our programs, year after year - soon to be in the majority of post-secondary enrollments. Given that CE is characteristically enrollment-driven, entrepreneurial, and often competitive, we simply don’t take the time for community building within our institutions, as well as among other institutions on-region.
In thinking of the people that I’ve met over the last few days, several have moved across state or across the country recently, in pursuit of the next position. As such, they don’t have outlet or opportunities to readily foster relationships with counterparts and colleagues in the area.
This is why our ACHE regional conferences are so important, as well as the interactions, which take place in between our meetings. I look forward to seeing all of you at the regional events. As part of the spirit of our organization, we enthusiastically welcome newcomers at every event. Are you aware of someone new to town, or new to your division? Invite them to coffee or lunch next week, and offer a personal invitation to join us at the upcoming conference. Share the organization’s role in your personal and professional growth. Relate the value of the organization in meeting your goals as a higher education professional.
Over the upcoming weeks, I look forward to seeing old friends, meeting professionals new to the organization, and sharing best practices and emerging trends in professional and continuing education.
Laura ParkerUniversity of Oklahoma
2017 ACHE Graduate Student Conference Grant Recipient
Ms. Parker's recognition at the 79th Annual ACHE Conference and Meeting by 2017 ACHE President Clare Roby
ACHE's Graduate Student Conference Grant The purpose of the ACHE Graduate Student Conference Grant is to provide financial support to graduate students interested in attending the annual ACHE meeting. The Association members believe that their interest and future contributions to the field of continuing higher education will help maintain the vitality of the organization. The ACHE Graduate Student Conference Grant covers the awardee's conference registration fee, travel and lodging up to a maximum of $1500.
The 2017 recipient was Laura Parker, an instructor at the University of Oklahoma Center for English as a Second Language (CESL). Here is her story!
Introduction My name is Laura Parker, and I am an instructor at the University of Oklahoma Center for English as a Second Language (CESL). I have my master’s in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) through Emporia State University, Emporia, Kansas, and am currently working on my Doctorate of Education in Adult Education at Capella University. I heard of the ACHE Annual Conference in Portland, OR and was excited to apply for the ACHE Graduate Student Conference Grant for the opportunity to attend. I have never participated in the conference before, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised, made connections I wouldn’t have made and learned more in-depth what ACHE was all about.
Ms. Parker with Dr. Belinda Biscoe, ACHE Executive Vice President and Vice President for University Outreach, University of Oklahoma
A First Timer’s Perspective
As a first-timer, the annual ACHE conference was fantastic! Everyone was welcoming and friendly, and I felt like I was among friends that I have known for a long time. The ACHE annual conference gave me an opportunity to network with other professionals in the field of adult education and provided me with the tools and strategies to further develop my skills in teaching university-level English as a Second Language (ESL). It also allowed me to gain insight into leadership within the continuing higher education arena and helped with research ideas for the ESL classroom and with my doctorate studies in Adult Education. The atmosphere was laid back and comfortable, and the number of attendees was perfect.
Key Learnings and Applying New Knowledge The breakout sessions were engaging and informative. I was able to immediately make networking connections through Dr. Covelli and Ms. Hearn’s LinkedIn workshop.
As an instructor at the University of Oklahoma Center for English as a Second Language (CESL), I was able to take what I learned from Natasha Teetsov’s session on “Creating a Student Ambassador Community” and develop an ambassador program at CESL. I successfully piloted the ambassador program Fall 2017 session with three students and will have a total of eight students to start Spring 2018 session.
Ms. Parker with the Student Ambassadors at the CESL Graduation
As an instructor of international students, plagiarism is a big issue with some students, and teaching how not to can be a challenge. The workshop “Plagiarism: Helping the Adult Learner to Avoid it,” by Dr. Bonhomme, helped me to identify solutions and approaches to help students avoid plagiarism. Since the conference, I have been able to share the valuable information with my colleagues at CESL.
Finally, I recently presented at the annual Oklahoma TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) conference this past November, and the information gained from the workshop “Convert a Presentation to a Publication” by Royce Ann Collins, gave a step-by-step process on how I may be able to convert a presentation into a publication.
My Professional Next Steps My future professional plans are to present at the 80th Annual ACHE conference, continue to grow the CESL Student Ambassador Program, and continue my research on instructor professional development through my doctorate program in Adult Education.
We’ve had good success at Loyola University Chicago in the School for Continuing and Professional Studies (SCPS). A healthy upswing in the number of students (despite our limited marketing budget), rising persistence rates, increasing affordability through scholarship funds, growing student satisfaction, and a highly rated online program are markers of our success.
Our growth in SCPS has been substantial. The number of credits generated has risen 230% over the past 5 years. This success in admissions has come on a limited ad budget. We spend $300,000 each year, plus some resources from the broader university. This advertising campaign produces about 2900 inquiries per year. We’ve experienced a big jump in enrollment after admission. In the past we enrolled about 60% after admission, and we are now better than 80%. We’ve added resources in our admission office, and we are making progress toward the benchmark of 29% of inquiries starting an application and 80% of those matriculating.
Rising persistence rates
Our students used to have a persistence rate of around 50%, not uncommon among adult learning programs. Adults struggle with many distractions in their lives, not the least of which are work and family. This leads to lower persistence rates. However, with the changes we’ve made to support persistence, we now have 80% of our students persisting. How have we accomplished this?
Orientation, provided both online and in person, is required in advance of the fall and spring semesters and is taught by our Assistant Dean with support from the entire faculty and staff. Requiring completion of our Mastering Learning Tools mini-course has led to greater tech familiarity and better performance in the first course. The good on-boarding processes followed by our Admissions Advisor have resulted in nearly 80% enrollment by admitted students and also led to good persistence. We provide the required entry course (3-credit Introduction to Degree Completion) for free. In this course we require a plan for graduation and a financial plan for completion, and we refresh students’ writing skills, all of which enables greater persistence.
Systematic follow-up with non-enrolled students helps us prevent and recover from stop-outs. We email them, write to them, and call them. Our structured school requirements (an entry course, a career course early in the program, and a capstone at the end) provide a clear structure to the student experience, enhancing persistence.
SCPS distributes nearly $500,000 each year from funded scholarships contributed by our many donors. We’ve improved scholarship processes by making the awards annual and providing a web-based tool to help students gather their applications in one spot. Helping students use prior learning assessment and being transfer-friendly are other ways in which we bring down the cost of the degree.
The SCPS Ambassadors program has played a key role in our success. Ambassadors are current students and alumni who volunteer at information and orientation sessions and assist with Mastering Learning Tools. They testify to the value of the SCPS experience.
Satisfied students persist, and our scores in the Ruffalo Noel Levitz Adult Student Priorities Survey are outstanding. In this survey, this question predicts overall satisfaction: There is a commitment to academic excellence. SCPS scores very highly on this question.
Online program rated #14 in the nation: Why?
Our engagement with students was significant in this ranking of #14 in the country, but we are also pleased with the way in which the survey rates our work with faculty. Good faculty development, including new faculty orientation, regular development sessions, and twice-yearly interactive faculty meetings, is essential. We provide instructional design support for every faculty member. We mentor new faculty, engaging peers in the work of inducting new faculty. We meet at least twice a year with the Faculty Advisory board (composed of both part-time and full-time faculty), take serious questions to them, and follow their advice.
Student Demonstrates Benefits of Online Learning
"Once they introduced the online component to our program no one was more excited than I was," SCPS student Robin May-McMorris says. "It provides comfort, convenience, and flexibility."
Since 1914, Loyola University Chicago has fulfilled its mission of educational outreach and inclusiveness by offering a wide range of educational options to a diverse community of students and professionals. Our goal is for our students to lead, succeed, and create meaning in their lives. We continue in our mission of providing unwavering support for working adults who wish to advance their education.
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