Non-traditional students shop for education online.
Gone are the days when you could attract and recruit these non-traditional students by asking them to come and attend information sessions on campuses. Today, students devote a lot of their time to researching programs that meet their criteria. They visit online forums, look for program reviews and ratings, and try and reach out to both current and past students to gather as much information as possible. Only once they have collected and analyzed all this information, do these students make a choice.
According to Bhupesh Shah, a marketing expert and Coordinator of the Social Media Program at Seneca College, colleges must adapt to students behaving more like shoppers in the higher education marketplace.
“Shoppers tend to do a lot of “homework” online before purchasing bigger-ticket items, and unless they are advised or guided by a salesperson at the retail floor (or online via chat), they will stick to their initial purchase decision,” he wrote in his article on The EvoLLLution.
“Higher education institutions must provide potential enrollees with the information they need much earlier in the purchasing process. Higher education institutions must adapt their online presence to be student-centered, not built around existing hierarchical categories or structures that are simply duplicated online.”
Getting Them Through the Door Is Only Half the Battle
The online shopping experience for your non-traditional students doesn’t end once they have shortlisted your college program. It continues up until they enroll and even beyond. Given that non-traditional students value their time, they like to manage most of the college administrative tasks, including enrollment, themselves and at their convenience. They only ask for help if it is absolutely necessary.
This is a crucial juncture for most community and technical colleges, because if the student experience is lacking during the enrollment process, they will likely abandon their registration.
There are many reasons that can cause students to drop their registration, including:
- Lengthy checkout
- Lack of transparency around cost
- Complicated registration forms
- Delay in getting access to the course content
So, how can you overcome these problems and give your students the confidence of enrolling with your college?
A High-Quality Website Experience to Improve Conversions
Your website plays a crucial role in student acquisition. It is your first and main point of contact with prospective students, and if it isn’t easy to navigate, you will struggle to grow your enrollments.
Here are three critical aspects you must address to ensure your website is optimized for a modern online enrollment process:
1. Simple and a clean shopping cart
As your prospective students start with their registration process, your website must be able to offer them a simple and clean shopping cart experience—one that lets them easily see what they’ve selected and the associated costs. Students should not be required to memorize and rely on confusing program codes. The website should make it easy for the prospective students to add courses to their shopping carts and apply discount coupons. It should also offer them the ability to save programs for later, so that they can decide whether to purchase at a later date. A visually appealing and clean looking shopping cart lets students understand their total costs and provides them with a professional and trustworthy shopping experience that they’ve come to expect while making online purchases, elsewhere.
2. Rapid registration
In your endeavour to serve the underserved communities, you, like many other community colleges, may be offering courses or community workshops for free. These courses add immense value to your community and attendees can even convert into enrollees in paid offerings over time. While these are free offerings, you still need to think about the registration experience and make it easy for your students to enroll. They shouldn’t have to fill out 20 form fields to register for a free offering, and are unlikely to persist through that kind of experience. You can tackle this situation by introducing a rapid registration functionality that lets your prospective students provide simple details such as their name and email, and register in a few simple clicks. This way, students can quickly register for free offerings and gain access to the critical information offered by the college.
3. Instant access to courses and programs
As customers, non-traditional students have become used to the expectation of immediacy. The moment they register and pay for a course or a program, they expect to be able to access all the course materials instantly. Your website can fulfill this demand by automating online course provisioning. As soon as a student enrolls in a course, they can be given immediate access to the learning management system so that they can start reviewing course materials right away.
These elements are typical of an online shopping experience. Applying these elements to your college website will simplify the registration process for your prospective students, reduce barriers to completing a transaction, and help you grow enrollments while meeting student expectations.