Modernizing Higher Education Courses to Boost Enrollment
This article on student recruitment and retention is part of our Boosting Your University Marketing Efforts series.
Days Bygone and the Road Ahead: The Higher Education Dilemma
Gone are the days when going to university was a simple matter. When students sat in auditoriums passively absorbing information. Back when they would take and exchange hand-written notes, and lecturers would strictly grade them partially based on attendance and adherence to strict deadlines. If you happened to miss a lecture, you had to go out of your way to access even a reductive version of what was taught. Furthermore, going to university used to be considered an almost noble pursuit of knowledge and broadening of one’s horizons, far-removed from the real world. And, after obtaining their degrees, graduates would be thrown into the job market to land their frequently life-long position with a specific company. The flourishing of online learning, instigated in large part by the COVID-19 pandemic, has since begun to disrupt this archaic landscape in an irreversible manner.
Enter today’s world – where course flexibility, scheduling accessibility, and the increasingly intertwined relationship between education and business have brought several long-standing issues with higher education to light. Unprecedented spikes in tuition fees, the cost-of-living crisis, and a major shift in employers’ skill set wish list have added mounting pressure on universities to modernize and digitize – or face extinction.
The three focus areas of this article regarding what higher education institutions should do to modernize their offering will be:
- Online learning availability
- Curricula and instruction revision
- Job market preparedness
Online Learning: How Should Higher Education Institutions Adapt to the Increasing Demand?
Online courses first gained momentum between 2012 and 2014, when websites Coursera and edX were founded. The visionaries behind them heralded them as a solid step into a future where the internet would be used as a medium to access knowledge at little to no cost, from anywhere in the world. Initial receptions were mixed, with proponents echoing the ethics of free education for all. On the contrary, opponents saw the two websites as an attempt to devalue education and universities in particular. Fast-forward to 2019 and the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, we saw a significant acceleration of online learning offerings. More online courses were becoming available each day, as did the number of universities embracing digital platforms.
Surprisingly, we still see a large number of universities that have yet to pick up the digital-first pace in 2023. Those that have, have seen improvements in enrollment numbers and student satisfaction. So, how can you bring about the urgent need of digital transition to your own university? We advise you do the following:
1. Update your university’s online portal
Provide an online portal for students, faculty, and prospects that is easy to access, use, and refer to. The first step in your digital transformation efforts, a user-friendly online portal is the alpha and the omega of an organization’s online presence.
2. Record lectures and post them to your university’s portal
Treat all instances of knowledge transfer with a digital-first mindset. Record all lectures, events, and other on-campus activities and post them to your university’s portal. In this way, you give all students and faculty members the chance to feel connected to your university.
3. Make lecture notes available online
Together with lectures, lecture notes must be easily accessible to all. Working students in particular may lack the time resources necessary to sit through hours’ worth of lectures. In turn, this will negatively affect their experience, their engagement, and progress. Get ahead of this by providing succinct, informative notes of all key elements and concepts of each lecture.
4. Survey students and faculty on their outstanding digital needs
You can only fix what you know is broken. Hence, you should send out trimester surveys to students and faculty members alike. By having a quarterly pulse check with both groups, you will get an accurate picture of what you do well, and what you can do better.
5. Create an online student information and management system
You need to bring all your university student records online. This is a major undertaking, but one that will provide your institution with increased visibility into the pertinent information it needs. Use it to track student progress and satisfaction, together with enrollment and graduation numbers. It is time to put pen-and-paper record-keeping to rest.
6. Create a cloud-based human capital management system
Adapting such a tool will make managing your faculty members and their availability a breeze. Forget sick call-ins and email threads. With the right centralized human capital management system in place, you can respond to scheduling changes in a timely manner. This will help minimize the impact on your students’ experience as it will do away with the old system of students finding out about a lecturer’s absence when they are already on campus.
7. Synchronize #6 and #7 with your financial management system
And you will gain tremendous insights into your organization’s overall performance. By synchronizing these three systems together, you will have access to your institution’s pulse at any given moment.
Curricula and Instruction Methods: What Opportunities for Improvement Must Be Leveraged?
Next, you must perform a radical overhaul of how your institution approaches curricula and instruction methodologies. The first step in the process is to revisit your curricula. A modern approach to both will be all-inclusive and cater to learners with different learning styles and educational backgrounds. The same approach should provide students with the necessary skills and tools to succeed in the world when they graduate into the job market.
To help your curricula revision efforts, we offer the following research-backed checklists.
Checklist to aid with curricula revision and curricula development:
Will the new and improved curriculum help students to:
- Develop broad and transferable skills that will be valuable in their future employment?
- Have personal agency and self-knowledge to make informed choices about their aspirations?
- Choose and use the appropriate digital technologies?
- Communicate about various tasks with the appropriate degree of criticality?
- Gain experience in applying their knowledge to identify and address challenges?
- Have global awareness, cultural competence, and the ability to cross geographical boundaries?
- Be engaged with, and develop skills relating to, research, inquiry, and the production of knowledge?
Checklist to aid your instruction methodology reevaluation:
Did the instruction methodology employed by the instructor:
- Make use of active learning?
- Help guide students in the practical application of the theoretical concepts communicated?
- Provide a deeper insight into the topic in a meaningful way to students?
- Allow students enough time and pauses in between to ask all their questions?
- Encourage participation by students in an all-inclusive, non-judgmental manner?
- Leave students with a clear understanding of what next steps they need to take?
- Keep students engaged with the lecture, its materials, and the lecturers throughout its duration?
Once you have gathered all the necessary data, it is time to redesign the course contents and provide teaching faculty with feedback that will ensure the answer to all questions listed above is a resounding ‘yes‘.
Entering the Job Market of the Future: How Do You Prepare Recent University Graduates?
The final frontier of your higher education digital transformation efforts is the easiest to navigate. Simultaneously, it is the one area most frequently overlooked by universities, and the one that students struggle with the most. Despite efforts from both sides to improve the university-student-employer triangle, results remain lackluster, to say the least. “This is no surprise”, says Dilshad Seikh, Dean of the Faculty of Business at Arden University. “To remain relevant and employable, workers are faced with the need to re-evaluate and update their skillsets and educators face pressure to update the focus of their courses and offerings. Therefore, there is a pressing need for courses to relay the skills that individuals acquire throughout their life”, says Dilshad.
Considering the above, we have prepared a three-step guide to help you establish the right job-prep processes for your students:
1. Offer CV and interview preparation sessions
Hire dedicated career consultants that will work with your students to identify their strengths, weaknesses, and determine their employability. Next, the consultant should help students with setting up their first CV in a way that feels their own and highlights their best traits. Then comes interview preparation. There is still an outstanding number of professionals and professionals-to-be that lack the right skills and cannot either land a job or take jobs for which they are overqualified. Since your students have made a significant monetary and time investment in your institution, your consultants must help them get the best return on investment possible.
2. Leverage online learning platforms to close gaps in knowledge
A curriculum overhaul does not happen overnight. While you work tirelessly to present your students with the most relevant course materials possible, it may be a great idea to offer access to online learning platforms that will help bridge their job-related gaps in the meantime. Udemy Business, Skillshare, LinkedIn Learning, Coursera, and edX are popular choices.
3. Reconnect students to potential future employers
Now that your students have prepared adequately, armed with a professional CV in hand and the confidence to answer questions like “why should we hire you?”, it is time to reestablish your connections to potential employers. You will need to be strategic in your approach, though. Make sure to showcase the progress your university has made since you and the employer last interacted, and stress how you and the students wish to work with them so you can all achieve your goals.
Online Learning: Digital Transformation and Adaption Is a Must for Universities
The need for higher education institutions to join the digital age has become abundantly clear. Make no mistake – this is no longer a nice-to-have. A widely publicized McKinsey forecast has predicted an inevitable decline in student enrollment numbers starting in 2025, due to low birth rates. The same report goes on to highlight how the most digital-friendly institutions can use their tools to create an opportunity amidst the chaos. The key here is adult learners – working professionals looking to upskill, further their careers, or switch career paths altogether. With the right digital offering in place, you can help your institution attract this new audience of students. The future is digital, and the future is now. Which side of the digital future will 2025 find you in?
Lytho’s Mission Is to Support Your Online Learning Adaption Efforts in 2023
Are you ready to improve student satisfaction, boost your online offering, recruit, and retain more students, and prepare your university’s graduates for the real world? You’ve come to the right place, then. We at Lytho help you streamline your entire workflow and harmonize all brand collateral under a single, uniform platform. Our Creative Operations solution makes allocating and managing resources and stakeholders a breeze. Let us help you ramp up your modernization and digitization efforts!
Feel free to reach out to us by scheduling a demo and learning how our creative solutions can boost the effectiveness of your creative projects. We look forward to speaking with you!
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