Andrea Carroll-Glover has built online programs from the ground up at each of the institutions she has worked at. Since joining the Capella University team more than 15 years ago and then leading online development efforts at St. Mary’s University of Minnesota, Andrea brings her business experience in sales, marketing, operations and product development to the process of helping her institutions meet. growing demand for online study.
Andrea suggested that her background in tech startups has more applicability in higher education than we might think. About six months ago, Andrea joined the RNL team where she is now a Senior Consultant working specifically with a growing list of RNL institutions looking for help growing their “online footprint” through strategic partnerships in marketing, curriculum design, recruitment and enrollment.
I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Andrea to discuss what she believes are the essential ingredients any institution looking to grow and scale online programs must have access to in order to be successful. While our conversation explored many areas (see below), it was clear that the most important things we needed included:
- AND FRAMEWORK on the basis of which the viability of program concepts can be assessed
- Established and consistent ROADMAP for the implementation of each new program
- Detailed understanding COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGES which institution has – for each program it runs.
Below are the highlights of our interview: one question answered by the video of our interview, the rest transcribed from our interview (and edited for readability).
What are the things beyond the ability of a modest institution to do alone?
What innovations have you brought to online growth over the past 15 years?
Andrea: There are a few things that I believe have led to success:
- Developing a strong and consistent framework to generate new ideas for online programs and evaluate the strength of those ideas. Institutions are full of ideas, but often lack a process to evaluate these ideas and ensure they are linked to market needs. They often have a gap in understanding how to meet the unique needs of adults and online learners.
- Always remember that every institution is different – in terms of program types, degree levels, majors and the number of programs an institution can offer at any one time. Much depends on institutional bandwidth, but everything must rest on a balance between the importance of academic quality and program design that meets the needs of today’s students (and the employers they work for).
- Program differentiation is also critical, and at the institutions I’ve served, I’ve done several things to offer real differentiation that goes far beyond a unique program name:
- I built a competence model of education which helped students gain recognition for what they know and helped the institution directly address student issues over time for a degree and the cost of higher education.
- I also worked on digital badge which allows students to compose credentials, obtain digital credentials, and help students demonstrate the skills and knowledge they have learned. I’ve had students actually land jobs in their chosen profession before graduating because they have these meanings.
What are the critical elements of successfully scaling online program development?
Andrea: There are a few essential things that provide a blueprint for success:
- Quality program design: Nothing is more important than a quality academic program design – which must be the entire ecosystem of online support. Especially after COVID, it can’t just be about putting a classroom course into an LMS.
- Provide a quality student experience: Begins with a comprehensive overview of the student experience from the time they first learn about the institution, to the time they enroll in a course, and then as they progress from course to course to graduation. You must have an infrastructure that supports student (and faculty) success. From the beginning, you have to think about how you would scale these things. Developing systems that are so customized that they are not scalable is not a path to success.
- A deep understanding of what online learners need to even consider your program. Online students juggle multiple responsibilities, have limited time, are highly sensitive to costs, and are “allergic” to policies they perceive as a waste of time and money.
- In line with the institutional mission and strategic plan: The best way to get buy-in from your institution’s leadership is to make sure your online strategy is aligned with your institution’s mission and strategic plan. Institutional leadership will help advance those initiatives that are clearly aligned with the mission and plan. They will also be able to get more support for other resources due to this alignment.
- Consistent use of data statistics and analysis. All proposed courses and programs should be supported by data to demonstrate that there is an opportunity for success. This helps in selecting programs from areas in which the university has strong programming and capabilities. It also helps to overcome problems of inner abilities, capacities and limitations.
How many programs should a typical school take at once?
Andrea: There is no one size fits all. It depends on the possibilities and capacities of the institution. Institutions with all the above pillars can run more programs than institutions without them. Most institutions do not and are either learning to do so or are somewhere on the way to these ideal conditions. In these cases, two to four programs per year is a more feasible number. They have to stay away
For these institutions, moving forward means a lot of change management as you challenge conventional approaches to program delivery. This may include different academic calendars, more frequent start dates, new marketing practices (which are much more digital) and different approaches to teaching. These four things include changes that affect the registrar, the marketing department, the enrollment/admissions office, and the academic institution. You can’t get more complex than that.
More insights from Andrea to come
Next month, Andrea and I will talk about how institutions looking to scale their online offering should think about the elements they need to take on themselves and the elements they might be better off looking for a strategic partner.
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