The Cinderella Story of Online Learning in Higher Education

by: Gates Bryant and Trace Urdan | Tools and Infographics |Apr 11th, 2018

The Bottom Line

In the fading glow of March Madness, we turn our attention to another kind of Cinderella story: the untold impact of online courses (versus online programs) on enrollment growth and more importantly completion rates for colleges and universities.  There are now more than three million students enrolled in at least one online course, surpassing the number of students in a 100% online program by nearly one million.  The much-heralded discussion of online enrollment as the one bright spot in an otherwise flat or declining enrollment environment is really about this middle “blended” space between “online” and “on-campus” programs.

TYT065_HEBizDev_Snap_Rd5[2]

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With proprietary online institutions converting to and merging with non-profits and as the online program management (OPM) space continues to evolve, institutions of all types need to consider how this middle space can serve growth and completion goals.  At Tyton Partners, we call this middle space digital learning. The message of our snapshot is clear: scaling an institutions’ digital learning supports enrollment growth and improved completion rates at lower overall costs.  The big question is what can leaders do to make this a reality at their own school?

If the glass slipper fits…

For many institutions digital learning initiatives are scattered and decentralized and designed as controlled experiments.  While experimentation has its place, institutions that report a strong fit between their digital learning initiatives and their top strategic imperatives are more likely to have made real progress (Time for Class, 2017 pg 8-11) in leveraging online courses and programs for healthier growth and improved outcomes.  Specifically, institutions need to begin with three core questions when designing their digital learning initiatives for scale and impact on enrollment and completion:

1. Teaching & Learning: How does our model need to evolve to accommodate the new reality of online and how do we lead that effort with faculty?

2. Resource Allocation: How and where do we need to invest to optimize the effect of online learning and how and where can we leverage outside partners to accomplish this?

3. Outcomes: What do we want to accomplish and how will we know when we get there?

We are working with institutions to answer these questions and to support their decision-making.  With increasing pressure to deliver better outcomes at lower overall cost, there is a lot at stake for institutions who have not yet scaled digital learning.  If you would like to learn more about how to navigate this middle space between on-campus and online, we would welcome the opportunity to meet you.

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