3 Keys to Better Serve the Needs of Nontraditional Students

3 Keys to Better Serve the Needs of Nontraditional Students

By Marcia Daniel on Monday, November 10, 2014

The makeup of the traditional student body continues to change. Colleges and universities still enroll plenty of eager high school graduates in pursuit of two- and four-year degrees. But, increasingly, institutions also enroll older students, many of whom return to college to upgrade their skills in pursuit of a second or third career. 

These nontraditional students arrive on campus with different needs, and often with different aspirations. Many of them have children. Some of them have full-time jobs. Increasingly, these students have recent military service. In almost every case, they struggle to balance a full slate of prior commitments and obligations with the rigors of college-level work. For example, baby boomers recently affected by the economic recession find themselves attempting to sandwich a return to college between caring for children, grandchildren and aging parents.

Effectively serving the needs of these nontraditional learners is far from easy. But it can be done — and the right technology solution can help. But first, colleges have to commit to changing how they operate. Looking for a resource to help your college better manage the needs of nontraditional students? Here are three considerations you should make when evaluating your next solution. 

Operational Efficiency

Efficiency is key. Make sure that the platform or software you choose integrates with your current student-information system. This will ensure different internal departments are not overrun with duplicative data and redundant reports, and that precious resources aren't wasted on programing interfaces that produce redundant work.

Resources that reduce costs and allow employees to better use their time in the service of students are important and ensure that educators can spend their time where it’s likely to have the biggest impact: in the classroom (be it online or on campus).

Student Experiences

The more students come to rely on technology, the more they expect of the tools and resources they interact with while enrolled at the college.

Make sure that the technology you choose is user-friendly; reduces the time it takes to complete key functions, such as registration and bill payment; and provides a mechanism for reaching out to and interacting with students at every phase of their education, from recruitment to enrollment to workforce placement.

These touch points are especially critical for nontraditional students, many of whom are easily distracted and prone to falling off course. Older adults often find it easier to give up the dream of higher education, and that shouldn’t be the case.

Improved Management and Decision-Making

Make sure the technology provides tools for tracking student performance and access to data that can be used to gauge your financial position in key educational programs.

The best systems feature a simple dashboard that’s easy enough for faculty and staff to use, but sophisticated enough to effectively track complex fiscal reporting, such as grants and other resources needed to underwrite important programs and fund necessary improvements.

Looking for more ideas about how technology can be used to meet the needs of nontraditional students? Check out our white paper Meeting the growing demand for non-traditional education.

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