Creating Programs That are Both Online & Convenient
By: Emma Rose Jul 29, 2019
Ask representatives from any online program to explain why students should choose their school and the word “convenient” is certain to be mentioned. Many administrators equate online learning with convenience. They’ve saved students the trouble of driving to campus – Job Done! Turns out, there is a little more to being convenient than simply being online.
The idea that an online college is convenient just because classes are available online isn’t necessarily wrong. Many students choose to study online specifically because the structure is less restrictive than in-person classes. But there are many ways that online colleges can adjust their programs to better fit the lives of their students. Addressing these areas makes the school more convenient and more attractive to busy online students. The result? More enrollments and more completions.
Why Convenience Matters
The majority of online college students, choose online learning because it fits their current work/life responsibilities. These responsibilities are numerous and time consuming. According to the Online College Students Report 2019 from Aslanian Market Research, 71% of online college students attend school full time. This is despite the fact that 59% of students already work full time.
That means that many, if not most, of your students are both working full time and studying full time. According to U.S. Department of Education guidelines, a typical full-time student must spend about 30 hours per week to meet the demands of their studies. Added together, many students spend 70 hours or more per week on work and school.
Somewhere in all this, they also need to manage their personal lives. According to the study, 41% of students have at least one child under the age of 18. About 44% are married or partnered.
Convenience is clearly a major consideration for these prospective students. In fact, one-third of students said they were willing to pay higher tuition for a program that was more convenient.
What True Convenience Looks Like
Offering online classes is just the beginning when it comes to creating convenient programs. To be truly convenient, a program must be flexible enough to fit around the student’s existing responsibilities.
When evaluating the convenience of your online college, consider two areas in no particular order.
Is your enrollment process convenient for potential students?
Are your classes convenient for students?
Both are vital. Introducing convenience in both areas will attract more students to your online college and help more of them achieve completion.
A More Convenient Enrollment Process
Here are three ways you can make enrolling at your college more convenient for students.
Take transfer credits – Most online students have at least a few transfer credits when they begin their studies. Accepting transfer credits, and simplifying the process for transferring those credits, will save time for students.
Streamline enrollment – Improving your enrollment process can maximize pre-start retention. You might consider acquiring transcripts on behalf of students, slimming down your application forms, or simply increasing touchpoints to give students more support with every step.
Help with forms – Assign a liaison or advisor to help students navigate complicated forms and essential documents. Students may not have seen these forms before and may be uncomfortable filling them out. One-on-one support, can help minimize time spent on forms to get students enrolled more quickly. It also builds trust with prospective students and communicates that you are there to help them complete their education.
When you address all of these factors, you create a program that is truly convenient for online learners. The more convenient your program is, the more attractive it becomes for students balancing the demands of family, work and school.
Making classes more convenient
Here are four ways you can make your online classes more convenient for the students enrolled in your programs:
Flexible class schedules – Rolling enrollment is one one way to make classes more flexible. Students are able to sign up whenever they’re ready and may start classes within days or weeks. Students should be able to work on their schedule, without having to be online at a set time. That’s not to say that assignments and tests shouldn’t have deadlines, but students should know what they are well in advance and be able to work on them in their own time.
Opportunities for in-person classes – Most online students live close to campus. Although studying online is often convenient. There are cases when in-person classes could be better for the student. Maybe they struggle with the material and believe that being physically in class will help them focus. Maybe they just want to create personal connections with other students. Allowing online students the ability to enroll in on-campus courses lets students engage on their terms.
Audio versions of lectures/readings – Reading and lectures can be time consuming for students who are balancing other responsibilities. Help them fit their studies into their schedule by offering audio downloads of lectures and audio versions of any readings. With audio files loaded on a mobile device, students can listen on their commute or while making dinner for their family.
Mobile Access – The majority of students would like to use mobile devices to do at least some of their school work. But there is a gap between those who would like mobile access and those who have it. Use a learning management system that enables mobile access so students can contribute to class discussions and work on assignments wherever they are.
Get More Insight
For more insight into the needs of online college students, download the Online College Students 2019 Report from Aslanian Market Research, a Division of EducationDynamics. This yearly study explores what, why, and how online students study and measures impacts and trends in online learning.