90% of Higher Education Institutions Deliver Subpar Digital Engagement, Impacting Student Enrollment and Retention, According to Modern Campus Survey


Survey Highlights Emergence of the Modern Learner Engagement Gap in Higher Education


TORONTO March 9, 2021 – Seventy-three percent of North American higher education leaders agree that their website is the number one marketing tool when it comes to student engagement and facilitating registration. Yet only 10% rate their site as “very effective”, according to the “State of Continuing Education 2021: Exposing the Modern Learner Engagement Gap” survey from Modern Campus, the industry’s leading “student first” modern learner engagement platform.

The survey looked at the effects of the pandemic on continuing education (CE) providers while examining whether current institutions and technologies were meeting student needs. The research identifies specific areas where institutions suffer from a modern learner engagement gap. Further, it highlights areas where schools of CE are innovating to address this gap as well as identifies emerging opportunities.

“Modern colleges and universities address their engagement gap by making it unbelievably easy to not just enroll but also provide students with clear, personalized career pathways. The data from this year’s State of Continuing Education report spells out the risk of not meeting the needs of modern learners,” said Brian Kibby, chief executive officer of Modern Campus. “Those that do will thrive. We know this because we see it in our customers every day—on average they grow annual revenue by 19%.” 

While there’s little wide-ranging research available on the CE market, these units tend to be at the forefront of transformation and innovation in the higher education industry. Understanding the trends in CE provides a high-level view into where the rest of the postsecondary industry is moving.

Additional Key Findings

  • 76% of respondents have senior leadership buy-in to scale and expand non-degree course and programs, however:
    • 58% of respondents say they can deliver the experience non-degree students want but only with significant staff effort.
    • 39% say their current non-degree student registration system is not meeting their needs.
    • 31% of respondents struggle to access non-degree student data – 11% have no access at all.
  • The biggest challenges to adding or scaling programs includes concerns about market demand, administrative burdens, cost to launch and time to market.
  • About 45% of respondents said buy-in from faculty, staff and leadership are the biggest obstacles to creating pathways from non-degree to degree programming at their institution.
    • 80% of respondents said their institution intends to pursue the development of pathways from non-degree to degree education.
  • 35% of responses were positive, 49.8% were neutral, while only 15.6% skewed negative when asked how continuing education has changed since the pandemic.
  • The biggest areas for growth identified in the survey are stackable credentials, microcredentials and customized corporate training.

“Traditional approaches of delivering traditional credentials to traditional students aren’t working, and that’s clear from this year’s State of CE report,” said Amrit Ahluwalia, editor-in-chief of The EvoLLLution, an online publication founded by Modern Campus that focuses exclusively on higher education innovation. “While it appears the modern learner engagement gap is widening, results from the survey also highlight the opportunities for colleges and universities to address their respective engagement challenges. It’s encouraging to see that models of modern learning exist and are paying off.”

For recommendations on closing the modern learner engagement gap and access to the complete report, visit: https://moderncampus.com/research-paper/state-of-continuing-education-2021.html.

Report Methodology/Respondent Profile

Modern Campus and The EvoLLLution surveyed over 200 U.S. and Canadian higher education leaders and managers in November and December 2020.

This report summarizes data from 213 respondents from higher education institutions in the United States (85%) and Canada (15%). They represent people working primarily at universities (60.1%), along with those serving at community colleges (29.6%), regional or state college community college and university systems (7.5%), plus 2.8% from specialty education providers (among them an alternative medicine school, a polytechnic institute, an adult education career and technology center and a not-for-profit international graduate school).

Most survey participants are management-level employees (40%) or executives on the academic or administrative side (18.3% and 11.8% respectively). The majority work at institutions with less than 5,000 (32.4%) students and between 5,000 and 25,000 students (32.4%).

About Modern Campus
Modern Campus, the innovator driving Omni CMS and Destiny One, empowers higher education institutions to thrive when radical change is required to successfully respond to lower student enrollments and revenue, rising costs, crushing student debt and even school closures.

Powered by the industry’s leading “student first” modern learner engagement platform, presidents and provosts can create pathways for lifelong learning, while marketing and IT leaders can deliver Amazon-like personalization and instant fulfillment.

Award-winning products and average annual revenue growth of 19% for its 550+ higher education customers have earned Modern Campus a 98% retention rate and a reputation for customer obsession.

Learn how Modern Campus is leading the modern learner engagement movement at moderncampus.com and follow us on LinkedIn.

Last updated: March 9, 2021

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