Student success doesn’t mean what it used to. More than a passing grade or a strong essay score, the modern higher education experience has been transformed by technology. Today, a student’s online education experience is just as important as their experience in the classroom.
Each year, the Online Student Success Symposium (OS3), sponsored by Strada Education Network, brings teachers and educational leaders together to discuss trends in online postsecondary education, and best practices success stories about online student support.
Five Key Focus Areas for Your Online Education Strategy
This year, OS3 attendees focused on five key focus areas. Below, we break them down to provide a bit of fodder as you begin planning your strategy for the upcoming academic year.
1. Understand current and future student populations
The most important factor in every education strategy is students. Understanding both current and future student populations—their curricular interests, educational and career goals, and potential risk factors—will help you cater your online courses to meet their needs.
Today, the average online learner is 32, but this population is predicted to change dramatically. Online learning is quickly becoming the new norm, and students ages 18-24 make up a growing piece of the puzzle. Whatever their age or interests, online learners need ongoing support and a curriculum that adapts with their needs to successfully progress through their studies.
2. Design online programs and courses to deliver personalized learning
Students’ learning needs are as individual as their personalities. Instead of trying to accommodate everyone at the same time, modern educators can rely on real-time data to deliver insights about their students’ needs, so they can update their curriculum to meet them.
More than that, teachers can use student data to inform and deliver personalized learning experiences for online learners. Research finds that in order for students to reach their goals in a timely and cost-effective manner, online course curriculum must evolve with them.
3. Leverage new technologies to optimize the impact of human coaching and mentoring
Don’t let your online course become a substitute for a flesh-and-blood instructor. You shouldn’t expect technology to do all the work for your educators; instead, use student experience data to inform your person-to-person engagements moving forward.
According to Strada, using student experience data to deliver the right focus at the right time in the right place “can be a powerful differentiator for online learning.” Perhaps more importantly, OS3 attendees also found that striking a balance between online instruction and in-person coaching and mentoring keeps students more engaged and focused on their progress.
4. Explore models for building community
Everyone approaches community-building differently, but whatever your vision, there’s one goal we all share—and that’s the success of individual students. Regardless of approach, educators can improve their community-building efforts tremendously by exploring outside interests and integrating elements from other successful programs into their strategy.
5. Build a data-driven culture of innovation and accountability
In the fast-paced world of online learning, embracing innovation means encouraging an experimentation mindset among institutions and individuals alike. To be successful in the online learning space, educators must adopt an agile mindset and be able to learn from failures and successes, as well as adjust curriculum in real-time to improve the online learning experience.
Some efforts will fail, of course, but by setting strategic goals, experimenting, and regularly measuring progress, you’ll be able to pivot quickly to recover from failures. Use hard data to cater to individual needs, and put student success at the forefront of curriculum development.
The Path Toward Innovative Online Education Made Clear
Online education is still evolving, and we’ve got a long way to go, but thanks to insights from gatherings like OS3, the path is beginning to be made clear. Student success depends on educators’ commitment to understanding student populations, customizing online programs, building community, and leveraging hard data to improve the online education experience.
With the above insights in mind, you can start to think of ways to improve your online education strategy. But before you get started, find out what to look for when partnering with a third-party curriculum vendor. Or, contact us to learn more about our online health sciences curriculum.