Dr. Charles Bird

Distance Strategies

Institutions can no longer count on location to bring in students
Programs for Adult Learners

Dr. Bird's distance learning perspective...

Despite self-interested arguments to the contrary, it is clear that well-designed, sophisticated online courses yield learning outcomes that are comparable to the outcomes from traditional face-to-face courses. Moreover, several studies have shown that adult learners, especially those who are not currently enrolled, prefer online or hybrid programs to campus-based programs. 

Given the preferences of adult learners, the aggressive rollout of online programs by all types of institutions, and the importance most institutions place on enrolling more adult students, distance learning options are critical. Your location no longer protects you from competitors, but it also no longer limits your own reach.

My experience with the development of online baccalaureate completion and graduate programs, as well as adapting more traditional programs for delivery at a distance from the main campus, has brought heightened awareness of the importance of staying focused on the right programs, the services expected and valued by these audiences, and the marketing strategies that target the right prospects.

This work also has further increased my appreciation of engaged partnerships, whether with employers, community colleges, or businesses to which you might outsource certain services. Twenty-five years of creating revenue sharing programs has helped me to understand how financial decisions can motivate collaboration or destroy potential success.

In my previous position, we developed a unique approach to community college partnerships that allowed our online baccalaureate completion programs to grow from zero to more than 2,000 course enrollments, within less than two years. We launched successful, nationally marketed online graduate programs, and dramatically expanded what we referred to as our graduate cohort programs (off-campus and part-time, but delivered through face-to-face or interactive television courses).  It was the most challenging, yet energizing experience of my career.

I strongly believe that the next few years will tell the story of winners and losers among higher-education institutions, and the key will lie in how well they identify and serve niche markets that attract adult learners and those younger students who are no longer interested in, or able to afford, years of residential education. It is about having a strong, focused strategy that respects the mission and values of your institution, but also accepts the emerging environment that requires a new level of flexibility and student orientation. 

I bring a positive, strengths-based approach to designing solutions that can help an institution respond to a competitive environment that is undermining the ability of more traditional programs to attract their traditional audiences, not to mention new audiences who never before would have considered its programs.


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