How Tri-C Fixed the 3 Most Common Challenges for Workforce Education Units
The goal of the Workforce Development unit is to serve its community by providing high-ROI education for learner populations that might normally go underserved.
Your average student can no longer be stereotyped as a tech-savvy 20-year-old looking for a one-and-done education experience. Students are everyone and everywhere; from a mid-40s parent of two, to an early-60s retiree, to middle-school students, back to that fresh-faced twenty something.
All of these learners hold the same expectation for their prospective institutions: seamlessness and simplicity.
It’s disheartening, then, that many institutions fail to deliver on this requirement with registration processes and user experiences that frustrate learners and send them back to the search bar.
If Workforce Development units want to serve diverse learner markets, filing down points of friction has to be top of the list.
Tri-C’s Past: Poor Student Experiences Hindered Workforce Development
Cuyahoga Community College’s (Tri-C) Workforce, Community & Economic Development Division (Workforce Division) is a go-to for non-credit education in Northeast Ohio. But not long ago, that their administrative infrastructure left a lot of room for improvement.
Difficult Administration Processes
Chris Moir, Executive Director of College Hospitality Services & Retail Operations at Tri-C, said students would face needless difficulties trying to register for a course.
“Our past processes didn't allow students to navigate the registration process in a few clicks. A cumbersome registration process, we believe, will lead to lost students,” Moir said.
If you don't have a system that's very user friendly and delivers a seamless experience, chances are that they're going to become really frustrated.
“If you don't have a system that's very user friendly and delivers a seamless experience, chances are that they're going to become really frustrated,” he said.
Self-service is the cornerstone of good eCommerce. Suzanne Ortiz, Program Manager of Community Education and Encore at Tri-C, said the student number (S-number) is key to a student’s engagement with the college. And yet, unintuitive user design in their front-facing pages made it hard to obtain this critical piece of information.
“That student number is key to every process at Tri-C,” Ortiz said. “And a lot of our non-credit students, though they were students, had no idea they had an S-number or student status here.”
Tri-C’s seniors’ program, Encore, was also difficult for students to sign up for. Ortiz said staff intervention was often a necessity when engaging with older learners, and a massive strain on their small team.
“In the past, Encore students would literally sit on the phone for two or three hours listening to our classical music, waiting for an enrollment center representative to come to them,” Ortiz said.
Processes that Lower Learner Retention
It’s not only important to make sure that the user experience allows students access to Tri-C’s offerings, but Moir said it’s equally necessary to retain students who have already moved through the registration process. This requires a level of personalization that wasn’t possible through Tri-C’s systems.
“You can eliminate all the barriers to come in, but we also need to focus on persistence and attainment,” Moir said.
Tri-C’s Present and Future: Leveraging Technology to Improve Student Engagement and Operational Effectiveness
Tri-C’s inefficiencies stemmed from their technology. As a result, they hurt the college’s ability to provide their community with high-value non-degree offerings. Recognizing this, the school implemented Destiny One, a next-generation SIS developed specifically for non-credit education units.
Seamless Registration Drives Enrollment Growth
Students today expect to move quickly and smoothly through their online interactions. This informs what they expect from their prospective institution as well, which is why registration systems need to reflect this in their design.
Destiny One resolved the college’s longstanding registration barriers with simple, user-friendly interfaces that make every step of the learner’s interaction with the institution seamless—making them more likely to enroll, as Tri-C found out.
“I looked back at the numbers from when we first had our original system,” Moir said. “Over two years, we have had a 64% increase in people registering online since we've implemented.”
With Destiny One, Moir said students can find and register for courses and programs quickly and easily.
“We're freeing up time for the enrollment center, and those enrollment center individuals can actually advise students and have deep conversations.”
Over two years, we have had a 64% increase in people registering online since we've implemented.
Student-Managed Administration Simplifies Learner Engagement
Since including the next-gen SIS in their tech stack, Tri-C’s student number woes disappeared. With Destiny One’s integration into Tri-C’s main campus system means students are students, no matter whether they register through the non-degree division or through the main campus.
"With Destiny One, instead of those 1500 people waiting on the phone, they're now able to register themselves online."
Students register online and get an S-number, which allows them access to services across the college. This simplifies their sign-in process to re-enroll or engage with the college, and they don't have to wait for someone to call them back.
Ortiz said Tri-C’s senior learners now have little difficulty navigating the institution digitally, thanks to front-facing pages that allow them to quickly understand and administer their own registrations.
“With Destiny One, instead of those 1500 people waiting on the phone, they're now able to register themselves online,” Ortiz said. “Almost half of those individuals—if not a little bit more—are using the online registration system for the Encore program.”
Systems that Foster Student Retention
Moir said Tri-C’s use of Destiny has makes it easy for the college to market relevant offerings to existing students.
“Say we have a certificate that’s composed of 10 courses. If someone takes one or two courses, we can see in the system that they haven't taken the other eight,” Moir proposed. “We can contact those students and let them know there’s more offerings on the horizon that can help them meet their goals.”
Empower Workforce Development by Empowering Learners
For all non-credit offerings at Tri-C, Moir said the school saw a 33% increase in enrollments as soon as the next-generation SIS was introduced, and the growth has continued year-over-year ever since.
“We're now three years in, and we've seen a 34% enrollment increase,” Moir said, adding that the system enables staff to dedicate more time and energy to serving what they consider their mission: workforce education.
Last updated: February 1, 2021