Focus on the Important Things
I spend a lot of time thinking about what matters most to students in my research with universities. Today I read two articles, both posted by higher education industry colleagues on LinkedIn. The first is a marketing piece that uses IPEDS data to demonstrate the growth of online program adoption by highly ranked universities, and the other is an opinion piece that highlights the findings from Gallup’s groundbreaking research with students.
The stark contrast in how these articles defined what’s most important to students is worth noting.
The first article, which highlights IPEDS distance education data, is an advertising essay for a marketing firm disguised as an independent resource for students. It has all the right key word terms, some interesting data, links to the key industry research pieces, and looks nice and pretty. The piece is designed around methods that boost the SEO metrics to drive the marketing firm’s organic search results up. So according to them, universities with higher US News & World Report rankings are getting in the online degree game. But, one of the underlying assumptions of this article (and of the rankings the marketing firm offers to students on its website) is that higher rankings equates with better returns on education for students. But, there’s absolutely no evidence to support this assertion. Higher rankings have never been shown to produce better returns for students.
The second article starts with the line, “Americans have lost track of the fundamentals of higher education.” It raises the question, “Are we measuring all of the things that we value?” The research conducted by Gallup shines a bright light on program features that actually do return value to students, and these things have nothing to do with university rankings. I highly recommend taking a few minutes to listen to Brandon Busteed’s keynote address found at this link. Gallup is asking students great questions, getting answers that are actionable, and challenging the education industry to do better for students.
Empowering Students Ensures Better Returns
What really matters most to students? Empowering them, rather than trying to sell them, is a good start, especially when they begin the process of researching online programs. The Online Degree Database is a unique and comprehensive source of online program details built with the student in mind.
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