What Is a Non-Degree Student Management System?

A non-degree student management system is an online platform that allows non-degree units to manage their learners’ experiences. A good SIS is higher education software that supports registration processes, stores course and program information, credential histories, and all kinds of other information that drives program management and student engagement. However, most SIS technologies were designed for main campus programs, which are semester-based and designed for full-time, traditional-age, degree-seeking students.

In this guide, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about non-degree student information systems, which are the cornerstone of continuing education management software. This includes:

What is a Student Management System? 

Student management systems are digital repositories for student information. Though different systems have different functionalities, most will store and track data such as grades, transaction records and more. A student management system (sometimes referred to as a student information system or SIS) is an online source for learner and school information—data provided by the learner to the school, and vice versa.

These student management systems have become integral to smooth learner-to-institution communication. Learners use it to gain access to crucial information regarding programs, pay for courses and connect with the institution. Administrators and select faculty use them to access all relevant information pertaining to the learner's academic experience.

The Student Management System acts as a channel for communication and a source of key information for learners and staff.

What is a Non-Degree Student Management System? 

A non-degree student information system is higher education software built specifically for non-degree units. Any program or offering that doesn’t end with a student receiving a traditional credit is considered “non-degree” (other terms include “continuing education”, “non-credit education”, “workforce development”). Workforce development technology serves an institution’s workforce education efforts, encompassing certificates, certifications and more.

Non-credit offerings require more flexible administration practices than their credit-bearing counterparts. As 71% of higher ed students are non-traditional students, the non-credit experience is now more important than ever. Non-degree student management systems meet these needs with technologies that serve the unique needs of the units that host them and the learners that use them; using practices that align with the model of lifelong learning that characterizes the modern learner.

While a good non-degree SIS will allow institutions to develop, launch and manage credit-bearing courses and programs aimed at credit-seeking students, a traditional SIS does not allow institutions to manage non-degree programming or serve non-degree students.

A non-degree Student Management System allows Continuing Education and Workforce Development units to manage every aspect of their non-traditional learner’s experience while promoting efficiency throughout the unit.

What is a Traditional Student Management System? 

A traditional student information system is built to manage the administration of credit-bearing offerings, and are used primarily by main campus units. They are frequently used in the administration of non-credit education, which often leads to inefficiencies in how the needs of non-traditional learners and Continuing Education staff manage the academic experience.

Why is a Non-Degree Student Management System Important?

Continuing Education management software is critical for engaging, enrolling and retaining the modern learner. It’s also key to streamlining the management of non-credit programs and students, as traditional student information systems don’t allow CE units the agility needed to manage the experience without considerable time and effort.

Today’s student has an increasing number of resources for their professional development. As veteran consumers, they have also come to expect seamlessness in their digital interactions. At a time when alternatives to traditional education are exploding, a Continuing Education platform is a non-negotiable for success.

Modernized, CE-specific administration is the best way to align a non-credit unit with the modern learner’s needs.


How is a Non-Degree Student Management System Different from a Traditional One?

Though many institutions prioritize a one-size-fits-all approach to managing their respective units, there are major differences between what a traditional SIS and a non-degree SIS can offer.


Non-Degree Student Management System Traditional Student Management System
Tailored to non-traditional learner needs, serving students throughout their entire lifecycle Built to serve the needs of young adults in credit-bearing programs (“one-and-done” education)
Serves the alternative credential market with digital microcredentials (badges) and stackable outcomes (bundling)  Serves degree-oriented programs alone, limiting market reach
Gets offerings to market quickly with fast-tracked approval and launch processes, outpacing market demand Frequently slow turnaround for new courses and programs, falling short of market demand
Dedicated portals for students, corporate partners, families, international agents, and other key stakeholders; increasing scope of access outside traditional learner base  Limited use of dedicated portals, often only differentiating between student and staff; tight scope of user access
Offers corporate engagement platform to ease workforce training enrollment and management for partners Offers management of for-credit programs only
Class registration software that modernizes shopping experiences, so they’re accessible to all learners with shopping cart, self-service and reminder functionality Complicates learner’s shopping experience through outdated and/or ineffective online shopping practices, resulting in lost conversions or reliance on administrative support


Who Needs a Non-Degree Student Management System? 

Continuing Education and Workforce Development units require continuing education management software that addresses the unique needs of their staff, as well as those of their learners. Without a dedicated continuing education platform, many will fail to meet the needs of today’s learner—and will see engagement, enrollments and revenue drop as prospective students look elsewhere to have their needs met.

While all non-degree units benefit from an SIS built for non-credit education, those experiencing a Modern Learner Engagement Gap are most in need of modernized administration.

What is a Modern Learner Engagement Gap? 

The Modern Learner Engagement Gap is the increasing disconnect between the expectations of modern learners, and the outdated, status quo experience offered by many institutions. Surveys have shown that today’s students are widely dissatisfied with the management of their academic experience, and that ineffective administration is often to blame.

Read more to see what a Modern Learner Engagement Gap looks like.


What Problems Can a Non-Degree Student Management System Solve? 

A non-degree higher education software can be the remedy for many issues that Continuing Education and Workforce Development units experience.

Here are a few of the administrative issues that continuing education management software can resolve.

Inefficient Non-Credit Administration

When non-credit units use main campus systems to manage their offerings and engage their learners, inefficiencies arise. CE units often wind up overly reliant on their colleagues on main campus for support in completing the simplest of tasks, from registration and enrollment to gathering metrics. Similar problems are present in units using an offshoot of a main campus system, or any SIS that isn’t built for non-degree education’s needs.

Continuing Education is expected to be responsive, customer-centric and innovative, but building a CE unit on the back of a system designed for traditional higher education can create significant headaches for staff whose time could be better spent elsewhere.

A non-degree SIS can eliminate or reduce the inefficiencies that slow workflows, and take staff away from division-growing work.

Poor Student Experience

Modern learners expect a seamless registration and enrollment experience that puts them in the driver’s seat. They want to manage as much of their engagement with the institution as possible, and perform tasks like registration, payment and course drops) online at their own pace.

Most higher education software is not designed with the non-traditional student in mind, and replicates the tedious process of on-campus administration in a digital environment. For non-traditional students, this doesn’t align with the seamless consumer experiences they have with most eCommerce retailers. The best college and university websites allow learners to direct their own administration.

The convoluted and confusing experience provided by outdated systems can be addressed with modernized non-credit systems.

Inability to Innovate

If a non-credit unit runs on systems designed for a main campus, it can be difficult or even impossible to innovate. The time and resources are lost to a patchwork of antiquated systems that demand valuable time from staff.

Administrators have to repeat work, re-enter information from one system to another, and switch between multiple tools to complete a single task—slowing the unit and wasting money in the process. Continuing Education and Workforce Development units can’t foster the creativity and innovation expected of them when so much of their time is sunk into covering for poor higher education website design and management.

An SIS made for non-credit units automates tedious tasks associated with non-degree management, so staff can focus on producing the ingenuity your unit needs to remain competitive.


Learn how to choose a modernized SIS for your non-credit unit.

Download Guide

How to Choose a Next-Generation Registration System for Your Continuing Education or Workforce Development Organization

What Are the Benefits of a Non-Degree Student Management System? 

Non-degree software for higher education feeds non-credit units everything they need to engage, enroll and retain non-traditional learners. Using technologies specific to Continuing Education boasts many benefits that aren’t available to those using traditional student information systems. 

Amazon-Like Digital Experience 

A non-degree student management system makes the learner’s digital experience seamless. It uses advanced search functions that allow students to quickly find the exact information they’re looking for without multiple clicks, as well as fast checkout practices and personalized information to provide an experience that keeps them engaged and drives them to enrollment. 

Multiple Conversion Points 

A non-degree SIS seizes every point of contact with a learner as an opportunity to convert. It optimizes pages for maximum findability through search engines, and engage learners with an elegant and clear interface. It moves learners through your unit’s enrollment funnel with website personalization and pathways software to help learners navigate your offerings.

Learner Personalization

Non-degree higher education software gives learners relevant information that helps them understand what programs and courses they should take to meet their goals. It offers critical labor market information like salary expectations and job growth forecasts so learners can clearly see their return on investment.  

Automated Workflows 

Non-credit student management software automates many of CE staff’s more tedious workflows. With repetitive tasks automated and business processes streamlined, administrators can direct their hours towards meaningfully serving non-traditional learners and growing the institution.

Automated Course & Prerequisite Management 

Continuing Education management software collects any information a learner might need to enroll in your offerings, and automatically connects it to the institutional website, LMS and course calendar to ensure learners receive the right information at the right times.

The SIS also automates course approval and publishing processes to notify the people every time administrators need their sign-off—getting your programs to market more quickly.

Flexibility & Customization 

A Continuing Education platform is designed with your own needs for customization in mind, allowing you to pivot at a moment’s notice to modify offerings, improve your institution’s website, incorporate new software and more.

Non-credit SIS partners can also dedicate support staff to more complex operational customizations with low turnaround, so administrators are never left waiting.

A non-degree SIS turns your unit’s digital experience into an enrollment-generating machine that attracts, enrolls and retains learners throughout the entire student lifecycle.


Is Your Unit Ready for a Non-Degree Student Management System? 

If your unit is relying on for-credit systems to manage non-credit learners, it may benefit greatly from non-credit higher education software. The overwhelming majority of Continuing Education units who implement non-degree administration software realize new efficiencies and increase enrollments and revenue within months of going live.

If your unit is suffering from one-time/transactional student relationships, dips in enrollment/revenue or a digital experience that doesn’t match modern customer standards, it’s important to consider more effective administration methods. These issues and more can be remedied by prioritizing a system that enables seamless digital experiences for both learner and staff.

A non-degree SIS transforms a non-credit unit’s digital experience to attract, engage and retain learners while automating time-consuming aspects of administration for staff. If you serve non-traditional learners, a non-degree SIS may be the right choice for you.


Learn how a non-degree student management system can drive enrollments, engagement and efficiency within your non-credit unit. Request a demo today.



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