Self-Service and Superior Branding as Revenue Drivers at Rhode Island School of Design

How one prestigious art school is leveraging Destiny One to captivate learners and generate enrollments

Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) was one of the first art and design schools in the United States and is frequently counted among the best art and design institutions in the world. Though their Continuing Education (CE) division delivers superior design programming to learners of all ages, outdated systems and practices were complicating the student and staff experiences—hindering CE’s ability to innovate and expand. 

A reliance on legacy systems was making it difficult for RISD’s non-credit division to offer student-centric experiences. Blair Schiffer, Director of CE Business Enrollment Operations, said this was a problem given the school's commitment to developing revenue-generating opportunities in the Continuing Education sector. 

“We are mentioned throughout RISD’s institutional strategic plan a lot—as an area of growth and as an area of alternative revenue for the institution,” Schiffer said. 

Sarah Caggiano, Executive Director of RISD Continuing & Expanded Education, said RISD’s non-credit digital experience wasn’t reflecting the innovation and student-centricity the school is otherwise known for. 

"As one of the leading art and design schools in the world, we needed to reflect that in our systems with something that looked better and worked more efficiently," she said. 

For this, RISD enlisted Modern Campus Destiny One, a student management system tailored to Continuing Education. The results were immediate. Within less than a year of implementing Destiny One, RISD CE achieved a 15% increase in total enrollment across its Adult Extension, Young Artist and Advanced Programs for High School Students, along with various summer programs.  

Need: Improved Student Experiences

Caggiano said RISD had come to rely on legacy systems that weren’t offering users the self-directed experiences they needed to effectively engage with and manage the institution.  

“Continuing Education had a homegrown system using FileMaker Pro for 20-plus years,” Caggiano said. “It required a lot of customization, but it wasn't student-centered or instructor-centered, and it had no self-service capabilities.”  

According to Schiffer, matriculated students were often unable to complete simple tasks without help from administrators. 

“For something as simple as withdrawing from a class, a student had to email us,” he recalled. Given the number of classes RISD runs, Schiffer said managing withdrawals or notifying students of open spaces required enormous amounts of time and energy. “It would have been so manual and laborious,” he said. 

Solution: Self-Service Moves Learners Through Enrollment

With Destiny One, RISD applied the ingenuity and student-centricity the institution has long been known for to its digital engagements with students. Schiffer said Destiny One gave learners’ the power to get what they needed from the school immediately without requiring staff assistance. 

“Obviously, students gained a lot of self-service capabilities, like with drawing, dropping, transferring, looking at a certificate audit, all that kind of stuff,” he said, paying mind to the necessity of self-service for revenue generation. “With more self-service, we could increase our enrollments.” 

Schiffer said Destiny One allowed RISD to provide greater course detail to prospective students, eliminating the need to reach out before enrolling. 

“To learn about a course in detail prior to registering is a big gain in functionality,” Schiffer said. “We were limited before Destiny One because we were basically just putting up a big block of text.” 

With Destiny One’s self-service features, staff have bought back time to grow the institution while learners seamlessly direct their administration.  

Need: Enhanced Marketing to Prospective Learners

Given RISD’s status as an influential, forward-thinking institution, its non-credit unit’s inconsistent and inelegant branding was problematic. John Murphy, Director of CE Marketing and Communications, said the division’s branding prior to Destiny One was confusing for learners; there was little visual alignment between non-credit and for-credit units online. 

“With our old system, it wouldn’t be clear if I was even on the RISD website,” Murphy said, giving voice to student concerns. “Is this really RISD? There’s no branding whatsoever.” 

Solution: Consistent Branding and Long-Term SEO Generate Engagement

Murphy said the school’s use of Destiny One has turned RISD’s digital experience on its heel, and branding plays a critical role. Key to their success in this area is the ability to make uniform design changes across all front-facing aspects of the CE’s online presence—maintaining systematic consistency while allowing a high degree of aesthetic customization.  

From a marketing standpoint, Murphy said this is invaluable. 

“If you look at screenshots of the old system compared to what we have now, from a user experience point of view, it’s night and day,” Murphy said, going on to list several of Destiny One’s public-facing eCommerce functions as integral to reflecting professionalism. “The deadlines, the info button that you see, the shopping cart—it's all nicely RISD-branded, so we're tied in more.” 

Tying the institution’s visual identity together has been a game changer for RISD, and according to Murphy: “We're only scratching the surface.” 

On the back end, Murphy said Destiny One is boosting RISD’s online traffic through careful SEO tailored to each program. 

“We have long-term SEO. It's mapped by Google and it's indexed properly, and then the sections are either closed or open,” he said. “Just having that functionality compared to our old system is huge.” 

Positioning for the Future: Self-Service and Streamlined Administration Drive Enrollment

Tiffany Bowman, Database and Enrollment Analyst at RISD, noted a striking increase in Continuing Ed enrollments after implementing Destiny One; the adult education program was particularly energized. 

“The most marked increase in enrollment is in our Adult Extension program with a 54% enrollment increase,” Bowman said, accounting partially for enrollment fluctuations throughout Spring 2020. “But if you substitute in Spring 2019 Adult Extension numbers, you still get a 31% increase in enrollment.” 

Caggiano attributed much of this performance to an improved user experience across the board. Now, learners can engage with, understand and enroll in RISD’s world-class programming. On top of this, managing non-credit education has never been simpler for staff. 

“Destiny One was more sophisticated for all kinds of reasons, not just in terms of how it appeared to the world, but also in terms of how we could utilize this system internally,” she said. “Now we're in such a better, more competitive position in this global art and design online presence.


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