Trends in Online and Adult Education

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1 Trends in Online and Adult Education August 2012 In the following report, Hanover Research examines literature related to trends in online courses and degrees at institutions of higher education both in New Jersey and nationwide. The report further reviews past research in adult undergraduate education and strategies for marketing to this demographic.

2 TABLE OF CONTENTS Executive Summary and Key Findings... 3 Introduction... 3 Key Findings... 3 Section I: Online Education... 5 Popular Online Degrees... 6 New Jersey... 7 Trends Over Time Section II: Adult Education Principles for Serving Adults Effectively Attracting Adult Students Enrollment Factors Attracting Adult Students Previous Learning Assessment Advising Penn State Survey Appendix Hanover Research Academy Administration Practice 2

3 EXECUTIVE SUMMARY AND KEY FINDINGS INTRODUCTION The higher education market has seen an increase in nontraditional types of student enrollments, as it is widely recognized that increasing degree completion at America s public colleges and universities is pivotal for the nation s economic competitiveness and long-term economic growth. 1 As enrollments by all student groups in online learning increase, colleges and universities are focusing initiatives on enhancing distance education programs to meet this need. Further, many institutions have realized the profitable market of adult undergraduate students, who may be returning to college for a number of reasons. Marketing to these diverse student groups and offering the appropriate programs and supports may allow an institution to significantly increase enrollment numbers and revenue. Our member has requested the assistance of Hanover Research in identifying trends in online degree programs, as well as strategies for marketing to adult learners. The following report is comprised of two sections. In the first, Hanover examines data from the National Center for Education Statistics, the Sloan Consortium, and other national organizations in order to develop a broad understanding of trends in online degrees. This section also includes an examination of currently offered online degrees at the bachelor s and master s levels in New Jersey and New York. The second section of the report then addresses the desires of adult students, and the expectations they hold when returning to college. Past research from national organizations such as CAEL, as well as institutional studies, provide a comprehensive review of the factors that influence adult learners enrollment decisions and the communication mediums that are most effective in reaching these potential students. KEY FINDINGS Over the past decade, enrollment in online courses at U.S. colleges and universities has grown at a greater rate than overall enrollment in higher education. According to the US News & World Report, the most popular online undergraduate degrees include Criminal Justice, Business degrees, Nursing, and Allied Health. In fact, the field of Criminal Justice accounts for over one fourth of all online-only bachelor s degree programs at U.S. institutions. In New Jersey, online bachelor s degree programs were most common in Criminal Justice, Business Administration, Psychology, Accounting, Health Services Management, Management, Marketing, and Nursing. 1 Higher Education Key to Economic Competitiveness. National Governors Association. July 15, Hanover Research Academy Administration Practice 3

4 At the master s level, more New Jersey institutions offered online programs but with less consistency in academic areas. The only four areas with at least two degree programs in the state included Educational Administration or Leadership, Engineering Management, Management, and Nursing. A 2010 report from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce predicted that by 2018, approximately 63 percent of jobs in the United States will require some form of postsecondary training. Nearly 22 million jobs will require a college degree; however, there is predicted to be a shortage of nearly 8 million qualified individuals to fill these positions. As adults return to undergraduate education, institutions must be aware that these learners have unique needs that differentiate them from traditional undergraduate students. The most important factors an adult student considers when choosing a college or university include the availability of their desired program, convenient time and location of courses, and flexible pacing options for completing the program. The cost of the program and the availability of financial aid were also influential factors. There are numerous strategies for adapting traditional undergraduate curricula to meet the needs of adult learners. For example, the institution may gauge student demand for classes during certain times of day to accommodate adults, or may reduce the length of certain courses to eight, 10, or 14 weeks. The institution may also add more class sections to ensure that all students are able to enroll in required courses, or it may offer online or blended courses that are more convenient for adult learners with work and family obligations. Research has found that, overall, adult students prefer to find information on programs through search engines, and then be contacted via during the inquiry and application stages. This finding suggests that strategies of search engine optimization may facilitate the advertisement of an institution s programs to a larger audience. Institutions may also advertise support services that will help adult learners complete their degrees quickly. Research from the Association for Continuing Higher Education found that academic and career advising were consistently listed as one of the most important contributors to the success of adult learners; their research revealed that having clear requirements for the completion of the academic program and having a knowledgeable advisor in relation to these requirements were the two most important factors to adult learners. Institutions may also attract adult learners with Prior Learning Assessment, or offering course credits for relevant past work or life experiences Hanover Research Academy Administration Practice 4

5 SECTION I: ONLINE EDUCATION Over the past decade, enrollment in online courses at U.S. colleges and universities has grown at a greater rate than overall enrollment in higher education. In the one academic year from fall 2008 to fall 2009, online course enrollments increased by 21 percent while total higher education enrollment increased by only 1.2 percent. More than 75 percent of U.S. institutions offer some form of online classes, with approximately 60 percent of private four-year colleges and universities offering this feature. 2 Further, 60 percent of private colleges and universities reported that online learning was a critical part of their institutions long term strategies in A 2011 study conducted by the Pew Research Center found that 11 percent of college and university presidents of private, four-year institutions reported that half of their undergraduate students had taken an online course. When asked to predict what this percentage would be in 10 years, 37 percent of presidents estimated that more than half of their students will take an online class. Figure 1.1 includes these data, but also demonstrates that the percentage of undergraduate students enrolled in online courses is the lowest at private, four-year colleges and universities. Figure 1.1: Percent of Presidents Saying More than Half of Students Have Taken and Will Take an Online Course 70% 65% 60% 54% 50% 45% 40% 30% 20% 10% 11% 37% 14% 16% 20% % 4-year Private 4-year Public 2-year For profit Source: Pew Research Center 4 2 Parker, Kim, et. al. The Digital Revolution and Higher Education. Pew Research Center. Aug. 28, Seaman, J. Online Learning Trends in Private-Sector Colleges and Universities. Babson Survey Research Group. March P Parker, Kim. Op. cit Hanover Research Academy Administration Practice 5

6 POPULAR ONLINE DEGREES In the academic year, 20 percent of all undergraduate students were enrolled in a distance education course, and 4 percent of these students were enrolled in a distance education degree program. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the most popular fields for online courses included Computer and Information Sciences, Business, General Studies, Education, and Health care. When examining the popularity of online degree programs, these five fields were again the most commonly reported at the undergraduate level. The following figure demonstrates the percentage of undergraduate students enrolled in distance education courses and degree programs that year. Figure 1.2: Percentage of Undergraduates Enrolled in Distance Education, % 27% Distance Education Course Distance Education Degree Program 25% 24% 23% 22% 22% 20% 15% 17% 16% 14% 14% 10% 5% 8% 6% 3% 3% 4% 2% 2% 1% 2% 0% Computer & information sciences Business General studies and other Education Health care fields Social sciences Engineering Natural sciences, math, agriculture Humanities Source: NCES 5 According to the US News & World Report, four of the most popular areas of online degree programs at the bachelor s level are: Criminal Justice Business Degrees Nursing Programs Allied Health Programs 6 5 Learning at a Distance. NCES. Oct Top Online Bachelor s Programs. US News & World Report Hanover Research Academy Administration Practice 6

7 Specifically, criminal justice degrees can include such fields as homeland security, forensics, and public safety. Business degrees may include accounting, communications, human resources, management, marketing, or other fields. The U.S. News & World Report notes that business schools have reported popularity in a Bachelor s of Science in Accounting and an MBA in Health Care Management. 7 The category of allied health is also broad, and includes numerous healthcare fields such as dentistry, nutrition, radiology, pharmacy, and physical therapy. Findings from The Chronicle of Higher Education reflect these trends. A 2009 survey of enrollments in online-only bachelor s degree programs found that 10 academic fields accounted for 81 percent of all online enrollments. The following figure displays the percentage of all enrollments in online-only programs by area. As demonstrated, the field of Criminal Justice accounts for over one fourth of all online-only bachelor s degree programs at U.S. institutions. Computer and Information Technology, which was not included in the U.S. News & World Report list, is responsible for nearly 20 percent of these degrees. Health Care, Business, and Nursing are also popular areas, as well as Public Administration. Figure 1.3: Percentage of Enrollments in Online-Only Bachelor s Degree Programs ACADEMIC AREA PERCENTAGE Criminal Justice 27% Computer and Information Technology 19% Health Care 16% Business 14% Nursing 13% Public Administration 12% Liberal Arts 9% Communication 8% Education 6% Psychology 6% Source: The Chronicle of Higher Education 8 NEW JERSEY Hanover examined information provided by the New Jersey Department of Higher Education related to the number and field of bachelor s and master s level online degree programs offered in the state. 9 According to this listing, seven colleges and universities offer online programs at the bachelor s level and nine offer online programs at the master s level. 7 Top Online Business Degree Programs. US News & World Report. 8 Online Learning: By the Numbers. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Oct. 31, Online Degrees at NJ Colleges & Universities by Degree Level. State of New Jersey Higher Education Hanover Research Academy Administration Practice 7

8 Figure 1.4: Number of Online Degrees Offered by New Jersey Institutions INSTITUTION BACHELOR S DEGREES MASTER S DEGREES Berkeley College 9 - Caldwell College 3 1 Fairleigh Dickinson University 1 4 Felician College - 2 Georgian Court University - 1 Monmouth University - 1 NJ Institute of Technology - 7 Rider University 1 - Rowan University 1 4 Thomas Edison State College 25 5 University of Medicine and Dentistry of NJ 5 7 Total Similar to the listing above, bachelor s degree programs were most common in Criminal Justice, Business Administration, Psychology, Accounting, Health Services Management, Management, Marketing, and Nursing. This directly relates to the four popular areas of online degrees identified by U.S. News & World Report, which highlighted Criminal Justice, Business degrees, Nursing programs, and Allied Health programs. Figure 1.5: Number of Popular Online Bachelor s Programs in New Jersey At the master s level, more institutions offered online programs but with less consistency in academic areas. The only four areas with at least two degree programs in the state included 2012 Hanover Research Academy Administration Practice 8

9 Educational Administration or Leadership, Management, Nursing, and Engineering Management. Fields related to technology design and management were also popular, although the programs were difficult to categorize and not included in the figures. In order to gain a broader understanding of the demand and popularity of online degree programs, Hanover further examined the number of Figure 1.6: Number of Common Online Master s Programs in New Jersey Source: New Jersey Department of Higher Education bachelor s and master s level programs in New York. Program information was drawn from the New York State Education Department, and included significantly more information than New Jersey. The increased number of programs is a reflection of the large number of colleges and universities throughout the state. When a degree program was offered at two branches of the same institution (i.e., the State University of New York), the program was only counted once. Unlike the information provided by the New Jersey Department of Higher Education, which only included online programs, the listings in New York included all distance education programs. Some of the programs may be instructed in a classroom for 50 percent of the course and through online webinars or assignments for the other half. Similar to national trends and the previously examined programs in New Jersey, the three most common online degree programs at the bachelor s level were Nursing, Business Administration, and Criminal Justice. The following figure contains all programs that are offered at least three institutions. A number of programs were offered at two institutions, including: Fashion Marketing and Management, Finance, Information Systems, Marketing, Elementary Education, and Psychology. 3 Educational Admin Engineering Mgmt Management Nursing 2012 Hanover Research Academy Administration Practice 9

10 Figure 1.7: Number of Popular Distance Education Bachelor s Programs in New York At the master s level, an MBA was the most commonly offered program through distance or online education. The popular programs reflect different trends than in New Jersey, as demonstrated below. The only academic field to be included in reviews of both New Jersey and New York was Management. Popular areas were Human Resources Development, the DPT degree, Nursing, Computer Science, Criminal Justice, and Health Services Management. Figure 1.8: Number of Popular Distance Education Master s Programs in New York Hanover Research Academy Administration Practice 10

11 TRENDS OVER TIME A 2007 report from the Sloan Consortium identified the percentage of courses in various subject areas that were offered in online and blended formats. The Sloan Consortium defines blended courses as those that have between percent of course content delivered online, which online courses have at least 80 percent of content delivered through online formats. The data included in the following table indicate the rate at which online and blended courses have been successfully implemented in a number of academic areas. Although the data were gathered from 2003 to 2006, the findings demonstrate the continued prevalence of business programs. However, the fields of education and psychology were not common programs for online or blended instruction. These fields, which were acknowledged by the US News & World Report as popular areas, have increased over time. Health professions and sciences was not a commonly found online program, but was significantly more common in a blended format. In fact, all academic fields had more instances of blended learning courses or programs than fully online options. Figure 1.9: Online and Blended Program Implementation Rates ACADEMIC AREA ONLINE BLENDED Business 42.7% 47.9% Computer and Information Sciences 35.1% 41.5% Education 24.9% 36.5% Health Professions and Related Sciences 31.4% 43.5% Liberal Arts and Sciences, General Studies, Humanities 40.2% 47.8% Psychology 23.6% 27.1% Social Studies and History 28.4% 31.6% All Other Programs 36.2% 40.1% Source: Sloan Consortium Allen, I. Elaine, et. al. Blending In: The Extent and Promise of Blended Education in the United States. The Sloan Consortium. March P Hanover Research Academy Administration Practice 11

12 SECTION II: ADULT EDUCATION This section discusses a variety of factors that lead adult learners back to undergraduate education programs. The information is designed to provide an overview of the strategies that may be developed for identifying the desires of adult learners and designing program marketing to address the wants and needs of this target population. A 2010 report from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce predicted that by 2018, approximately 63 percent of jobs in the United States will require some form of postsecondary training. Nearly 22 million jobs will require a college degree; however, there is predicted to be a shortage of nearly 8 million qualified individuals to fill these positions. 11 The Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL) has reported that jobs that are expected to support the economy in the coming years will depend on a skilled workforce that is able to learn and adapt quickly to new challenges. 12 This increased focus on educating adults to increase the percentage of the U.S. population with a bachelor s degree is also driven by the need for knowledge and professional skills that allow American citizens to succeed in a globally competitive workforce. CAEL notes that adult students have unique needs that differentiate them from traditional undergraduate students. These needs typically include: Different kinds of information about their educational options; Institutional flexibility in curricular and support services; Academic and motivational advising supportive of their life and career goals; and Recognition of experience and work-based learning already obtained. 13 PRINCIPLES FOR SERVING ADULTS EFFECTIVELY Through extensive research, CAEL identified and published the Principles of Effectiveness for Serving Adult Learners. These principles are included in the table below, and then examined in depth following the figure. 11 Adult Learning Focused Institution of Higher Education. CAEL Annual Conference ww.cael.org%2fpdfs%2fconference-powerpoints%2fwedpm_alfi_wertheimbryant.ppt&ei=qggeuk7skows6whf6kjxbg&usg=afqjcnefm6sskdg0ra1sdvgvc7oduj0cmg 12 Ibid. 13 Bulleted points taken verbatim from: Serving Adult Learners in Higher Education: Principles of Effectiveness: Executive Summary. CAEL P Hanover Research Academy Administration Practice 12

13 PRINCIPLE Outreach Life and Career Planning Financing Assessment of Learning Outcomes Teaching Learning Process Student Support Systems Technology Strategic Partnerships Transitions Source: CAEL 14 Figure 2.1: Principles for Serving Adult Learners Effectively DESCRIPTION Conducts its outreach to adult learners by overcoming barriers in time, place, and tradition in order to create lifelong access to educational opportunities. Addresses adult learners life and career goals before or at the onset of enrollment in order to assess and align its capacities to help learners reach their goals. Promotes choice using an array of payment options for adult learners in order to expand equity and financial flexibility. Defines and assesses the knowledge, skills, and competencies acquired by adult learners both from the curriculum and from life and work experience in order to assign credit and confer degrees with rigor. Faculty uses multiple methods of instruction (including experiential and problem-based methods) for adult learners in order to connect curricular concepts to useful knowledge and skills. Assists adult learners using comprehensive academic and student support systems in order to enhance students capacities to become self-directed, lifelong learners. Uses technology to provide relevant and timely information and to enhance the learning experience. Engages in strategic relationships, partnerships, and collaborations with employers and other organizations in order to develop and improve educational opportunities for adult learners. Supports guided pathways that lead into and from the institution's programs and services in order to ensure that students' learning will apply usefully to achieving their educational and career goals. The 2011 National Adult Learners Satisfaction-Priorities Report included the responses to the Adult Learner Inventory, which surveyed 29,679 students from 61 four-year private and public institutions and 4,749 students from 18 two-year community and technical colleges. The results include adult learner responses over a three-year time period, from fall of 2008 through spring of In the Inventory, 47 items of expectation are analyzed statistically and conceptually to provide eight composite scales. These scales follow eight of the nine Principles of Effectiveness for Serving Adult Learners examined above, excluding Partnerships. The following figure demonstrates the importance mean, satisfaction mean, and performance mean gap for each of the eight scales included in the assessment. As indicated, Outreach was considered the most important category by adult students, while Assessment of Learning Outcomes was least important. These data also reveal that the largest gap between student expectations and satisfaction is found in Life and Career Planning, while the smallest performance gap is in Technology. Adult students were asked to rate the importance and satisfaction of each scale by choosing a number from one to seven, with one representing not important/not satisfied at all and seven representing 14 ALFI Assessment Tools. CAEL Hanover Research Academy Administration Practice 13

14 very important/very satisfied. The data included below only represent the responses of adult students at four year colleges and universities. Figure 2.2: Importance, Satisfaction, and Performance Gap of Adult Education Components SCALE IMPORTANCE MEAN SATISFACTION MEAN PERFORMANCE GAP MEAN Outreach Life and Career Planning Financing Teaching-Learning Process Technology Transitions Student Support Systems Assessment of Learning Outcomes Source: Noel-Levitz, Inc. 15 The CAEL report further lists those statements from the survey that demonstrate the strengths and challenges of higher education. The strengths, or those factors that had an average of both high importance and high satisfaction, include: This institution explains what is needed for me to complete my program here. I have a clear understanding of what I m expected to learn in my courses. My studies are closely related to my life and work goals. I am able to obtain information I need by phone, fax, , or online. The learning experiences within my program of study challenge me to reach beyond what I know already. Processes and procedures for enrolling here are convenient. My instructors respect student opinions and ideas that differ from their own. Technology enables me to get the services I need when I need them. I am encouraged to apply the classes I ve taken toward a degree or certificate. The frequency of interactions with my instructors is adequate. The challenges then represent those factors which adult students noted were of high importance but received low satisfaction ratings. These statements include: My program allows me to pace my studies to fit my life and work schedules. My instructors provide timely feedback about my academic progress. Sufficient course offerings within my program of study are available each term. 15 National Adult Learners Satisfaction-Priorities Report. Noel-Levitz and CAEL https://www.noellevitz.com/documents/shared/papers_and_research/2011/ali_report% pdf 2012 Hanover Research Academy Administration Practice 14

15 I am able to choose course delivery that fits my life circumstances. Billing for tuition and fees is tailored to meet my specific needs. 16 ATTRACTING ADULT STUDENTS ENROLLMENT FACTORS The CAEL study examined the importance of various factors related to enrollment decisions in four year institutions. The following figure includes the 20 more important factors in influencing enrollment decisions among adult learners, with the same seven-point response scale as above. As demonstrated, the most important factors an adult student considers when choosing a college or university include the availability of their desired program, convenient time and location of courses, and flexible pacing options for completing the program. The cost of the program and the availability of financial aid were also influential factors. Figure 2.3: Enrollment Factors by Importance, Four-Year Institutions RANK ITEM IMPORTANCE RANK ITEM IMPORTANCE 1 Availability of program I Program accreditation by (tie) wanted professional organization Convenient time and place for classes (tie) High rate of job placement Flexible pacing for completing Credit for learning gained from a program life and work experiences Time required to complete program Distance from campus Availability of financial Tuition reimbursement from assistance employer Cost Ability to design my own program Requirement for current or future job Employer endorsement (tie) Ability to transfer credits Courses held at employment site (tie) Reputation of institution Labor union support Availability of online courses Availability of child care 3.83 Source: Noel-Levitz, Inc. 17 The study of South Dakota public universities conducted by the Aslanian Group noted the importance of the top four items. Their recommendations to address course availability and convenience included: Adding more course sections to allow all students to enroll in the necessary classes for their major without having to wait one or two semesters. 16 Bulleted points taken verbatim from: Ibid., p Ibid., p Hanover Research Academy Administration Practice 15

16 Gauging student demand for morning, afternoon, or night courses to ensure all students are able to complete their required courses at a convenient time. Sixty percent of examined undergraduate adult students preferred courses during the day, with 35 percent of respondents preferring weekday mornings. Reducing the length of certain courses to eight, 10, or 14 weeks instead of the traditional full semester: Adult students prefer fast-track, accelerated courses so that they can complete their studies on a timely basis. During summer terms, adult undergraduate students preferred courses lasting four to six weeks. Expanding program options for adult students to include occupational or career diplomas and certificates, as well as licensures. Adult learners may also be attracted by associate s degree programs. Offering online or blended courses to attract adult students, as these courses are more convenient and allow the student to continue work or family obligations. 19 Nearly 50 percent of surveyed students preferred courses that had partly online and party classroom-based instruction. The analysis of why certain adult learners chose not to enroll in the institution revealed that the availability of desired courses or programs was again their dominant factor in the decision making process. While desired courses will vary by institution and region, the study found that adult learners frequently enrolled in undergraduate degree programs in business, health professions, and education. Individual courses were more often completed in business, computer and information science, education, and health professions. 20 Specifically, one third of students pursued business degrees, 16 percent pursued health professions, and 10 percent pursued education. ATTRACTING ADULT STUDENTS Figure 2.4: Preference of Course Delivery Adult learners surveyed in the South Dakota study primarily learned about the undergraduate programs for adults through television and radio advertisements. Forty five percent of adults used the Internet to search for programs, primarily using Google. Such data may suggest that television and radio advertisements are effective marketing 21% 30% Source: Aslanian Group 18 49% Partly online, partly classroombased Entirely classroom-based Entirely online 18 Undergraduate Adult Student and Graduate Student Market Analysis. Nov. 12, Aslanian Group. P Ibid., p Ibid., p Hanover Research Academy Administration Practice 16

17 strategies, and that strategies of search engine optimization may allow the institution s programs to be advertised to a larger audience. A 2012 study by DemandEngine also examined adult learner s preferences for methods of communication. 21 The study examined the communication preferences of adult students at each stage of the application process: preinquiry, inquiry, and the application and registration stage. The three figures including the preferences of adult learners at these three stages can be found in the Appendix. The data demonstrates that when they are not aware of Figure 2.5: Sources of Information PRIMARY SOURCE OF INFORMATION PERCENT Television ads 41% Radio announcements 31% Current or former students 30% Newspaper ads 27% Friends and relatives 26% Website 19% Direct mail from institution 14% Employer/ coworkers 12% None of the above 14% a certain institution or program, these students prefer to find information through search engines, messages, and direct mail, while informal communication strategies such as text messages and tweets are unfavorable. Overall, students prefer to find information on programs through search engines, and then be contacted via during the inquiry and application stages. Once the student has initiated contact with the institution, messages are the most preferred method of communication. Slightly less than half of the surveyed adult learners also preferred direct mail, such as brochures and letters. Once again, information communication such as Facebook groups, text messages, and tweets were not preferred. Finally, 72 percent of students preferred messages after they have applied or registered for their chosen program. Again, direct mail was preferred by slightly less than half of respondents, with phone calls and information found through search engines each preferred by approximately one fourth of students. Facebook groups, text messages, and tweets were definitely not preferred by over half of responding students. The DemandEngine report outlines five steps for developing marketing strategies for attracting adult students, as demonstrated in the following figure. 21 The Interactive Marketing Preferences of Adult Learners DemandEngine. March source.bm23.com/8292/public/downloads/2012-interactive-marketing-preferences-adult-learners- DemandEngine.pdf 2012 Hanover Research Academy Administration Practice 17

18 Source: DemandEngine 22 Figure 2.6: Marketing Approach for Adult Learners Choose objectives "Instead of starting with the tool or technology, start by asking first, what do [adult learners] need from [the institution] to accomplish their educational goals? What information do they need at different stages of their decision process?" Investigate participation Learn the preferences of the desired student population, and then choose marketing strategies based on this knowledge. Validate strategies Use strategies that meet theidentified student needs, and keep a continued focus on the goals of these students. Identify metrics "Define clear metrics to measure success," in order to evaluate the effectiveness of marketing strategies. Use both "right brain" creative approaches and "left brain" analytical realities. Leverage channels and technology Once objectives, strategies, and evaluation metrics have been determined, then the channels and technologies that will be used to support the plan can be determined. These strategies stress the importance of identifying the needs of adult learners, and addressing and advertising how the institution will meet those needs. Finally, the South Dakota study found that approximately 85 percent of undergraduate adult students were motivated to attend college due to career motivations, including entering a first career, advancing in their current career, changing careers, or staying updated in the requirements of their current career. The following figure demonstrates the motivations of examined students. 22 Ibid., pp Hanover Research Academy Administration Practice 18

19 Figure 2.7: Primary Motivation for Attending College, Adult Undergraduate Students 40% 35% 30% 25% 20% 15% 10% 5% 0% 36% Enter a first career Source: Aslanian Group 23 21% Advance in current career 16% Personal enrichment 12% Change careers 10% Stay updated in current career 4% Required by employer 1% Other PREVIOUS LEARNING ASSESSMENT While gaining credit for previous work and life experiences was not listed as one of the 10 most important factors in influencing adult enrollment decisions, much research demonstrates the importance of Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) in improving retention and completion rates. PLA is defined by CAEL as the process by which many colleges evaluate for academic credit the college-level knowledge and skills an individual has gained outside of the classroom, including employment, military training/service, travel, hobbies, civic activities, and volunteer service. 24 While an in-depth review of best practices in PLA administration would require additional time and space, Hanover has briefly outlined many of the common strategies for evaluating past student learning and awarding the appropriate course credit. According to CAEL, strategies may include: Individualized student portfolios or Portfolio Assessments. Evaluation of corporate and military training by the American Council on Education. Program evaluations done by individual colleges of non-collegiate instructional programs that award credit for those who achieve recognized proficiencies. Customized exams offered by some colleges to verify learning achievement; these may be current course final exams or other tests developed at the departmental level for assessing general disciplinary knowledge and skill. Standardized exams such as: o Advanced Placement Exams o College Level Examination Program Exams 23 Undergraduate Adult Student and Graduate Student Market Analysis. Op. cit., p P Hanover Research Academy Administration Practice 19

20 o Excelsior College Exams o The DANTES Subject Standardized Tests 25 As students are allowed to earn course credit or are exempt from certain introductory courses based on their previous work experiences, adult learners are able to complete their degree in a shorter timeframe. Offering PLA credits should be advertised to potential students as one strategy for ensuring adult learners are able to use their previous skills in earning their desired degree at a fast rate. ADVISING A survey conducted by the Association for Continuing Higher Education (ACHE) found that academic and career advising were consistently listed as one of the most important contributors to the success of adult learners. Strong academic advising and career counseling offices are not included in Figure 2.8 regarding factors that led adult students to enroll, but may be advertised to demonstrate the institution s commitment to the success of adult learners. The following figure includes the importance and the satisfaction of adult students in relation to a number of academic advising factors. These questions were asked to be rated on the same seven point scale as the previous figure. As demonstrated, having clear requirements for the completion of the academic program and having a knowledgeable advisor in relation to these requirements were the two most important factors. A career map, which explicitly outlines the courses required for a certain major, may be a helpful tool in assisting students. Adult learners had the greatest dissatisfaction with how their advisor helped apply their academic major to their career goals. Figure 2.8: Importance of Advising Factors ADVISING QUESTION IMPORTANCE SATISFACTION GAP Major requirements are clear and reasonable My academic advisor is knowledgeable about requirements in my major When students enroll at this institution, they develop a plan to complete their degree My academic advisor is accessible by telephone and My academic advisor is concerned about my success as an individual My advisor helps me apply my academic major to specific career goals My academic advisor is available at times that are convenient for me Source: Association for Continuing Higher Education Bulleted points taken verbatim from: Ibid., p What Matters to Adult Learners: Best Practices in Advising. ACHE Annual Conference. Oct. 14, P Hanover Research Academy Administration Practice 20

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