How Marketing Messages Can Promote Competency-Based Education

By: Emma Rose Aug 18, 2021

How Marketing Messages Can Promote Competency-Based Education

Competency-based education is growing in popularity, again. Because this style of education measures student progress by what they can do instead of how long they spend learning, many institutions have struggled to implement it in the past. From funding sources to class structures, traditional higher education just wasn’t set up for competency-based programs. So many colleges were slow to embrace it. 

But over the last 18-months, the pandemic has triggered a shift in online learning and disrupted the workforce. Workers and employees are both clamoring for ways to quickly upskill and reskill workforces. As a result, many institutions are looking at competency-based education with renewed interest. The right messaging can help attract students to these new and evolving programs.

Overcoming Fears About Competency-Based Education

Yet those colleges that want to introduce CBE face some challenges. Students may not immediately think of degree-granting institutions when they think about CBE. Meanwhile, both students and institutions may feel more comfortable with the traditional credit-hour structure. CBE might seem difficult to track and manage by comparison. 

Of course, students have access to many on-demand education options that may be less expensive than earning a degree or certificate from a college or university. And some may fear that CBE credentials won’t be taken seriously by employers. 

So the goal for higher-ed marketers is not just to promote competency-based education programs. You also need to convince students that the program you have to offer is the right choice for them. 

Focus on student needs to market CBE

Like any marketing, messages around competency-based education work best when they focus on student needs and concerns. When crafting your messaging, you might start by identifying different groups of students who might be interested in your program. These could include: 

  • Experienced professionals looking to reskill for a new industry or role
  • Working adults with some college who want to complete their degree
  • High school graduates returning to school after some time in the workforce
  • Mid-career learners who are seeking opportunities for advancement

Obviously, there’s room for overlap here. You can envision each group as a circle on a Venn diagram rather than a unique set. But thinking about each one with their primary needs in mind can help you create more effective marketing messages.

Targeted Messaging for Each Student Group

Learners in all of these groups are busy. Most aren’t able to pause their careers for years to earn a credential. That means they’re probably still working full- or part-time while studying. They might also be managing the care of children or aging parents, pets, and households. Flexibility is a major concern for all groups. It’s something your marketing messages should address clearly. 

You can complement that core message with more focused messaging targeting specific groups. Here’s a breakdown of the messages most likely to appeal to students within each group.

Experienced professionals

These students bring useful experience but may be seeking ways to prove or certify their ability for employers. They want to learn new skills and expand their knowledge base without wasting a lot of time reviewing what they already understand.

Targeted messages: 

  • Earn credit for what you already know so you can complete the program more quickly
  • Build instantly marketable skills that can help you start a new career.

Working adults with some college

In a survey of online college students, 87% reported that they’d already earned some college credit prior to enrolling. These students don’t want to spend time or money to cover the same ground over again. At the same time, some may worry that whatever stopped them from completing last time will get in the way again. Your messaging should reassure them on both counts.

Targeted messages: 

  • We’ll help you transfer the credits you’ve already learned, so you can focus on new material.
  • Get the support you need to succeed with academic coaches and student support services. 

High school graduates

Although experienced in the workforce, these students may be seeking a career far removed from the work they’ve been doing up to this point. They’re looking for support to help them start a new career and are especially focused on the marketability of their skills. 

Targeted messages: 

  • It’s never too late to start the career you’ve always wanted. Our academic coaches are here to help.
  • Build useful skills that make employers sit up and take notice.                                            

Mid-career learners

These students are already established in their careers but are looking for education that will make them more attractive prospects for promotion or advancement. They want to build on their existing skills without disrupting the work they’re already doing.

Targeted messages: 

  • Learn on your schedule with flexible degrees and certificates that help you uplevel your career. 

Tailor Your Message to Match Your Institution

The messages listed above will be most effective if you tailor them to match the voice and style of your brand. Use them as starting points and customize as needed to best highlight the competency-based education programs your institution offers. For help creating messaging that drives enrollments, contact EducationDynamics’ higher education marketing experts.