Highlights from Webinar: December 8, 2022

JT Allen, CEO of myFootpath, and Laurie Pulido, CEO of Ease Learning, teamed up in this webinar to address the everyday barriers adult students face when completing college degrees. The shared goal of engaging these non-traditional adult students has become more challenging as the number of stop outs (students who stop attending university with no earned credential) has increased and more and more adult students re-enroll online. The big question: how can higher education institutions address these barriers and engage students in a practical way? The answer lies in tying education to a students’ goal, structured conversations, and brilliant online course design. Time and time again myFootpath and Ease Learning have found that these elements win the day. This webinar explored these topics. 

With barriers such as cost of attendance, course availability, disengagement, etc. becoming more difficult to overcome, the number of adult students who pursue a degree but never graduate continues to rise. According to the National Student Clearinghouse, 39 million Americans went to college but didn’t earn a degree. Minority students in particular have struggled to persist to a degree –  black undergraduate student enrollment fell by 14.8% and Latino undergraduate student enrollment fell by 10.3% from 2019-2021.

What is the common theme that keeps these underserved students from graduating? A lack of engagement. The responsibility to engage students falls on higher education institutions to take action in a number of ways. In order to engage these students through structured conversation, it is important for universities to address the “why”: why are they completing this degree? To better him or herself? To get that job promotion? To obtain or maximize those soft skills? To what extent can universities support students to help them acquire the degree that makes them ready for their next career move? By reminding students of “why” they are pursuing a degree, in combination with taking a practical approach to helping students overcome barriers, universities can drive enrollment, retention, and DEI efforts.

When many of these stop-out students return, they choose to do their coursework online because of the flexibility this modality offers. Universities that embrace guided pathways that offer students the opportunity to choose engaging coursework, relevant degree programs, and to develop an academic roadmap will see more students complete degrees. And, when the roadmap includes a credential that leads to a job, the end goal often pulls the student through towards degree completion.   Engagement at each step of the student funnel and while students are completing coursework helps more adult students graduate and thrive. 

myFootpath shared several case studies of adult students and the barriers they had to overcome, such as homelessness, addiction, finances, and lack of mentorship. Actively making efforts to keep these students engaged by understanding each life barrier and then developing specific plans to overcome each barrier is ultimately how myFootpath helped these students succeed. Engagement – in the coursework, in the degree program, in the process – drove success. And, we are so proud of these students!

Understanding a student’s life barriers isn’t the only key to engaging students–the answer also lies in excellent online course design. Ease Learning’s online learning framework is learner-centered, and focused on the student’s outcome. Courses are designed with the learner at the forefront, and with all styles of learning in consideration in an effort to keep students engaged from the beginning. These engaged learners become top performers. Through these applied efforts and continued attention to the issue, universities can effectively keep adult students engaged through graduation.

This webinar highlighted the overlap between the work myFootpath and Ease Learning both do with adult, non-traditional students. There is a link below to the full webinar. In the slides and discussion, university professionals will get practical tips, suggestions, and know-how for how to bring these concepts to their campuses. And, of course, if you need a helping hand, both myFootpath and Ease Learning are here to help. Cheers to all those dedicated professionals helping adult students succeed. We are proud to call you colleagues and work with you to transform lives together. 

To watch the webinar recording, click here.