The landscape of education is rapidly evolving, and alternative and non-degree credentials are gaining traction as viable options for students and professionals seeking to enhance their knowledge and skills. Learning Stream, an online training and course registration system, recently hosted a webinar featuring a panel of experts from various universities discussing the trends in alternative education. In this blog post, we will explore the top five trends in alternative education.
A shift in student preference and employers waiving degree requirements is driving demand for alternative education.
- Growing demand: Seeing an increase in demand with both students and employers for alternative education. Most notably, an increase in employers seeking University partners to build custom education.
- Alternative pathways: As we look ahead this will be an increasingly important strategy for Higher Ed to embrace because alternative education is yet another opportunity for students to interact with our brands. Students can “kick the tires” before committing to a full degree program. Alternative education is also a way to grow access for students who do not consider themselves college-bound.
- Partnerships with employers: Partners outside the university are key to successful deployment of alternative education. Employers and industry involvement, especially aligning to regional industries, will be key to sustained growth. Also, the importance of embedding industry-recognized credentials in existing academic and continuing education programs. These employer-driven credentials can support career pathways and credential attainment.
- Stackable credentials: Alternative credentials can supplement the degree they may be earning simultaneously, making the student more attractive to potential employers.
Alternative education will help drive new revenue streams that make up for some of the losses in traditional students (aka. the enrollment cliff).
- Alternative education can contribute both revenue & cost-savings:
- Reducing cost of student acquisition by attracting a broader audience then channeling students into traditional degree programs (pathways).
- Growing revenue by maintaining relationships with former students (graduates, stopouts, prospects) that we have already paid to acquire.
- Growing access and our addressable market by offering programming for students who do not identify as college-bound.
- While it is not likely to replace degree program revenue it may help fill the gap in revenue driven by the upcoming enrollment cliff:
- Example cited: large east coast University who projected a loss of -$50M due to enrollment cliff has also projected a gain of $66M due to strategic investment and centrally managed alternative education initiative.
- Also, consider the opportunity cost of NOT offering alternative and non-degree programs which is one of the few top growth areas projected in higher ed.
- Non-credit/alternative education is a less costly investment to test market demand for full-format programs. Example cited: Continuing & professional education can serve as the “investment bank” for the university, piloting new degree and non degree education programs. We are also the test kitchen of the university, all driven by net revenue my college generates.
- Tip: Build a revenue model to forecast revenue potential. Begin with a ”best guess” and refine over time: How many students would register? What revenue would they pay? How much would it cost to run?
When building or expanding alternative education programs what are the top considerations for long-term sustainability and success?
- Centralizing Dispersed Leadership — often spanning multiple divisions, programs and schools
- Aligning to a Specific Market Need — industry + employer + student need = WIN
- Competing in this Financial Market – consider multiple sources including students, federal grants, & employers
- Delivering on the Student Experience — Amazon shopping experience and breaking down silos
Examples of ways institutions are providing alternative education:
- Education School is pioneering implicit & unconscious bias training in response to a market need
- Partnering with industry (law enforcement & athletics departments) to address need
- Read more about Drake University’s course registration system offered by Learning Stream
Kansas State University
- Kansas State University’s Salina Aerospace and Technology Campus is focused on a specific industry building programming around needs of employers Ex: Aerospace, telecom, petroleum processing etc.
- Aligning with a specific industry creates credibility in minds of employers by meeting needs of highly specialized industry
- Taking existing content build for aerospace leadership and expanding programming to new markets like healthcare
North Carolina Central University
- Identifying niche programs with very few competitors
- Establishing relationships with relevant organizations for built-in audience and international following
Resources for Getting Started
Panelist provided recommendations for anyone looking to get started or expand their alternative education offerings:
- Assess Market
- Consult your local chamber of commerce or hire a research firm to identify the areas of growth in your region.
- Take stock of what you have available and repurpose what you can.
- Build Partnerships & Get Support
- Host an advisory council with industry leaders in your community and ask what is needed.
- Find built-in audiences from organizations or businesses
- In spirit of mutual collaboration, ask industry partners to assist with upfront financial commitments.
- Leverage tools like Learning Stream’s course registration and payment management system.
- Network & Industry Organizations: LERN, UPCEA, USDLA
- Further Exploration
- Badging: Digital Credentials and Talent Acquisition Tech: Closing the Data Gap Between Learning and Hiring
- AI & Alt Ed: EAS offering bias-aware approach to PLA & CPL
- To get a copy of the webinar recording or presentation, click here.
- If you’d like to learn more about Learning Stream’s course registration and payment portal, please email email@example.com
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