Scott Jeffe: Hello! I’m Scott Jeffe. I’m senior director of Aslanian market research here at EducationDynamics. I’d like to thank you for joining me for another spotlight session, where I introduce you to speakers from our Conference on Adult Learner Enrollment Management – CALEM 2017. Joining me today I have Dr. Susan Aldridge, who’s president of Drexel University Online. Susan’s presentation at CALEM entitled “From Stealth Application to Proud Graduate: Data-Driven Solutions for Enhancing the Virtual Experience” will showcase some of the evidence-based tools and techniques she and her team are using to grow enrollments and increase retention, including interactive virtual events, engaging social media campaigns, and self-service virtual content. She will also discuss how Drexel University Online not only measures their impact, but also employs the data they generate for continuous improvement. Thank you so much for taking some time to talk with me today, Susan. How are you?
Dr. Susan Aldridge: I’m doing very well, thank you, Scott.
Scott Jeffe: Well, very good. Well, I’m sure our viewers would like to learn more about your session, so let’s jump right in. My first question: Why do you feel this topic is so important for higher education administrators?
Dr. Susan Aldridge: Well, our contemporary students today are smart, they’re sophisticated, they’re impatient like we are, they’re looking for information, they’re looking for ways to enhance their careers, and… So, oftentimes the very first time we see them is when they submit an application. So, with these stealth applicants, maybe they’ve not talked to us by phone, maybe they haven’t emailed us or asked for information, they are likely to have searched our websites in a self-service format, and the question then is: how do we obtain the information that we need to ensure that we’re creating opportunities for them to obtain the information? That’s going to impact our successful enrollment cycle.
Scott Jeffe: Very good. Can you discuss in a little more detail? Of course, not giving everything away for your session, but some of the tools and techniques that you’re using at Drexel to grow enrollment and, of course, increase retention?
Dr. Susan Aldridge: Sure, I’d love to. And I’m so excited about this session and the opportunity to work with all of you. We’ve taken a data-driven approach, so we really study the behaviors of our students and study their actions, and as a result of that, we have designed a free test drive for our students, where we’re able to ask questions of prospective students and build out opportunities as a result of the input that we get. So, we build in a lot of… It’s a free course that they take, but we’re able to insert a lot of qualtrics surveys, small surveys, we’re able to ask them a lot of questions, and it’s amazing the information that they provide to us. So, that’s one we’ll talk about at the session. Second of all, we have a robust orientation specifically designed for online students. We have also done a lot with social media, measuring different campaigns in social media. We have virtual open houses. These are just a small number of virtual events that we’ll talk about at the session.
Scott Jeffe: Oh, that’s excellent. You know, I can’t tell you the number of institutions that approach us that are just looking for good models of just those two things, let alone everything else. Well, that’s excellent. So, which of these tools do you feel has been most effective for Drexel and why?
Dr. Susan Aldridge: Each tool is effective at a different point in time in the student’s career with us here, so, for example, the test drive impacts prospective students and their ability to apply, the orientation helps to onboard them, to make sure that they actually enroll after they’ve been accepted as a student. So, each tool, whether it’s a virtual open house, whether they’re small video vignettes or infographics, has a different impact at a different point in time in the pipeline for these students. Some of these projects that we’ve done are very sophisticated, some are not very sophisticated, so I think it’s important for the audience to know that the more they research their students and main points for their unique student population, the easier it is to think through the types of tools that will have the greatest impact. So, I really look forward to having that discussion with the participants, and hearing what they’re most interested in because none of our institutions have enough money to do everything, so it’s important to really do the one or two things that are really going to have the greatest impact where the students are needing them.
Scott Jeffe: Boy, that is a great message, and I will say that in both cases, I like that point about sophisticated and not so sophisticated. I think a lot of the people that Carol and I talk with kind of get… The inertia sets in because they’re worried that everything will be extremely hard to do. And some things are sophisticated. All of it has a level of sophistication, but sometimes not as difficult as you think it is if you sit down and plan it, etc. Okay, so my last question for you: What are some of the ways that you are measuring the impact of the tools and how you do you use that information to improve processes?
Dr. Susan Aldridge: Well, we certainly have metrics around every campaign, every event that we do, so we’re able to track not only the number of students, but the lifetime value of the students, the return on investment for every activity that we do. Second of all, we are able to watch the students’ behavior. So, one of the things that we’ve done—its’ not very sophisticated—but we’ve done some very cute, short clips, animations if you will, in certain areas of the pipeline where we’ve had difficulty for the students to progress. They may submit an application, but they’re missing a transcript or missing an essay, or they’re… Institutions are always chasing the students for certain types of documents, and so we’ve tried to chunk those out and give them little, short, 30-second animations around how to get letters of reference. When a university requires two letters of reference or recommendation, they should ask for three or four to make sure they at least get the two on top. And so, they’re these little tidbits that prospective students really appreciate, and we can measure the extent to which these little vignettes help these individuals get over that barrier and submit these documents in a more timely fashion. So, at this session, we’re going to talk about a lot of small things and large things that institutions might do.
Scott Jeffe: I love it, I love it. And, you know, the other thing we hear a lot is: “What are the steps that we can take so that we get the right students?” And it sounds like these are things that they’re going to learn in this session. That’s just excellent. Well, I want to thank you for taking the time to answer some questions with me today, and I certainly am looking forward to hearing the whole session at CALEM next month. For everyone that is watching this, remember that CALEM will take place in Denver, Colorado, on April 5th through 7th. If you’d like more information on the program, please visit the website, which is www.calemconference.org, where you will find a list of all 28 speakers and information on all of those sessions set, Susan’s included. So, Susan, thank you very much for joining us today.
Dr. Susan Aldridge: Scott, thank you so much. I’m excited to see all of you at CALEM in a few weeks.