What Makes Online Degree Programs Successful?

February 23, 2017 Gregg Scoresby

Knowlura Knows Online Degree Programs

CampusLogic CEO Gregg Scoresby recently spoke with Knowlura CEO Greg Baker about issues affecting enrollment and financial aid offices—and emerging trends that both departments on campus can use to improve the student experience and, ultimately, recruitment and retention. The companies’ mutual focus on changing lives through higher education also makes Knowlura a natural fit as a CampusLogic referral partner.

In this three-part blog series, Gregg and Greg (GS and GB, respectively) discuss data, mobile, online learning and all the reasons why enrollment and FinAid need to work together. Read on to learn what makes an online degree program successful.

By Gregg Scoresby

GS: A decade ago, online learning was so new that no one trusted it. Now, it seems every school wants it—and students expect it. How does Knowlura help colleges and universities?  

GB: Students pretty much expect schools to have an online component these days, but many institutions are still struggling to launch and manage their programs. Today more than one in four students take at least one online course. But to be successful, we rely on evidence-based science to give online degree programs lift and sustainability.

We believe there are three steps to ensuring success: Conducting a viability analysis, operationalizing the implementation, and ensuring a consistently positive student experience.

GS: A viability analysis is crucial to any new business launch. What does that look like for online degree programs? 

GB: Using a blend of multiple data sources, we offer a “macro-level view” of the competitive landscape.

It’s a detailed analysis of every institution that would serve the same demographic as our client. We look at each school that offers the program, compare modalities and cost per credit hour, determine the number of available students in that demographic, and then suggest—through scientific analysis—the prospective number of students a school could target for its new program.

That data also helps drive marketing and messaging best practices for student recruitment—if the school wants us to provide marketing strategies, too.

GS: What’s it take to successfully implement an online program?

GB: Our goal is to operationalize a school’s dream of going online and effectively grow that part of the campus. That means making sure the administration, staff, faculty, and students are comfortable with the processes, people, and Learning Management System (LMS); that the experience is engaging and that it sets students up for success.

Unfortunately, financial aid is often a big snag. Students who are predisposed to online learning expect to quickly and easily navigate an online enrollment process; they are far less willing to go through all the traditional hoops. We have data showing that in 90% of instances, a lag in the award process was the biggest obstacle to filling seats in those online classrooms—where financial aid students are often in the majority. If those students get stuck or frustrated, they walk.

We hear, first-hand, how frustrated students are with the financial aid process. It’s lengthy, confusing, and paper-heavy. So, there’s real value in simplifying financial aid, especially for schools that offer online programs and anticipate growing their student body because of it. We’ve seen that by streamlining the process—using technology such as CampusLogic and staffing appropriately—we can help make an online program launch just that much more successful.

Providing a consistently good experience year after year keeps students engaged and keeps them coming back. Getting award information back to students in a timely fashion, for instance, shows them that the school values them and wants them there. It’s a subtle message, but an important one that students want to hear.

GS: I’ve heard you say, “Our future is in helping schools prepare for the future.” What does that mean?

GB: With our heavy emphasis on data and analytics, we help colleges and universities focus on continuous improvement. Information about students, services, courses, assignments, assessments, delivery system, professors—and anything else a school wants to know—can be surveyed and packaged for recruitment as well as retention.

After all, a program’s sustainability is only as good as its returning students. We’re not looking for a long-term engagement, like some OPMs (Online Program Management firms).

We want schools to be as self-sufficient as possible. In fact, our overarching mantra is to ensure that students are enrolled, engaged, and staying in class. Helping schools do that for themselves is also helping them prepare for whatever the future may bring.

Read more about what Knowlura knows: 


About the Author

Gregg Scoresby

Gregg founded CampusLogic in 2011 to solve a very clear problem: “I believed that we could help colleges and universities change lives by simplifying the student financial success experience through awesome technology." Gregg actively champions the ABCs of student finance: increasing accessibility, driving informed student borrowing, and improving completion.

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