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Driving Enrollment Growth With Nontraditional Programs - Transcript

Learn How CMU Developed a Strategic Enrollment Management Plan

Marnie: This is Marnie with CMU Online. Recruiting and retaining students has become increasingly complex and competitive. Once students have joined your school, what are ways we can optimize engagement with them to keep them? Lisa and I are going to share with you some of the ways that we utilize technology to expand and deepen our retention efforts with nontraditional students.

"Our main campus has a little over 19,000 students, traditional students pursuing programs there."

Before we get too far into this, though, I wanted to share a little bit about who Central Michigan University is. We were established in 1892. Our main campus has a little over 19,000 students, traditional students pursuing programs there. We established our Global Campus unit in 1971 to take our main campus program offerings off campus and deliver them initially on military bases. We have 35 locations nationwide, plus our online component. We add almost another 9,000 students to our main campus population, and we offer everything from bachelor’s degrees up to doctoral programs. For Global Campus, our student population is still the traditional student. We have a lot of our main campus students supplementing their main campus schedule with online courses. We have the nontraditional students as well, and we also have a very strong military population.

Lisa’s going to talk about how we initially adopted our CRM through our Global Campus.

"We started with our recruitment processes and we expanded the usage of the CRM across the full student life cycle"

Lisa: Thanks, Marnie. Just a brief overview of how we got where we are with CRM here at Global Campus and at CMU. Our Global Campus was the first division to implement a CRM, and we did that in 2008. We started with our recruitment processes and we expanded the usage of the CRM across the full student life cycle, or what we call our enrollment funnel, using a series of phased implementations. Our CRM system is the primary means of communication with our student. Email, phone and face-to-face interactions are all logged in our CRM system, and they become part of the permanent student communication record that’s visible to all Global Campus staff. We bring in key data from our student information system, Web forms and our application database, so that we can support effective communication with our constituents. And, finally, all staff within Global Campus, including our recruiters, our admission staff, advisors, financial aid staff, distributed and online staff, and our other units, all use the CRM system at CMU for their day to day communications with students. All of our staff then have access to the full communication history for each student, which results in a better understanding of a specific student’s needs and more effective service to that student.

"Use of a common CRM system across CMU opened up the communication records to even more staff, allowing for even better student service."

In 2014, our main campus undergraduate admissions office implemented CRM here at CMU. We implemented in the same environment that we had already been using for Global Campus, so we were able to leverage much of what we were already doing. And, since many students attend both on-ground, face-to-face classes and online classes, use of a common CRM system across CMU opened up the communication records to even more staff, allowing for even better student service. We’re currently working to bring main campus advisors and student success coaches into CRM for case management and retention purposes. Additional departments across CMU are actually queuing up to use the CRM system, including our financial aid and scholarship departments, graduate admissions, international admissions, even our med school and charter schools.

Before we go much further, there’s a couple of terms that we’re going to be using throughout our presentation. So, we thought a couple of quick definitions would be helpful here. So, first of all workspaces, CRM users are divided into teams that use team-based workspaces. These workspaces, which vary by team or department, limit the user’s view to that data most relevant to their day-to-day operations, and they provide task lists to assist in prioritizing work. Incoming and outgoing emails displayed in the workspace, along with schedule tasks like status checks and outgoing phone calls. These workspaces are designed with pre-built filters to help users quickly identify groups of students based on specified criteria like students in a particular course or program. Users can also easily access key data points for each student from the workspace, like their contact information, enrollment and course details.

The second term is campaigns. Many of our departments have defined campaigns within the CRM that perform a number of automated functions. They can send automated emails to define groups of contacts. They can print letters at specific points in the life cycle, like admissions letters or scholarship offers. We can dump address data for both postal mailings and we can schedule phone calls or other one-on-one follow-up from staff. The campaigns are typically designed to provide information or workflow based on a timeline for a student’s position in the life cycle.

"Automated outreach and retention activities are carried out via campaigns, which help us to connect and share information with students."

Marnie: So, Global Campus uses their CRM system to help us identify indicators of either student success or potential failures in three key areas. Automated outreach and retention activities are carried out via campaigns, which help us to connect and share information with students. Staff workflow generates task lists for day-to-day operations and shares communication with individuals, and reporting mechanisms deliver either on-demand or scheduled reports that provide data analysis and sharing.

Campaigns consist of emails to students, phone calls placed to students by staff or a combination of the two. They can be a quick one-step campaign that only sends out one email, or a complex combination of emails, phone calls, staff checks, spanning a 6-to-12-month timeframe. Campaigns have replaced the manual processes with automated workflow, in which the work simply appears in a workspace for staff to perform. Staff records the outcomes of their efforts in the CRM system, so success rate and the number of interactions generated can be calculated. Campaigns also allows for the identification of risk factors, ideally when they are still solvable. It allows for conversations to take place earlier with students, rather than after the fact. Ideally, it targets what the issue is, involves staff who can help, in order for the issue to be resolved. And, the graph here highlights some of the proactive initiatives that we’re going to talk about further today.

"...we provide pre-defined or one-click filters to allow staff to pull data instantly without having to write their own queries."

Lisa: So, in terms of staff workflow, within our user workspaces, we provide pre-defined or one-click filters to allow staff to pull data instantly without having to write their own queries. Using these filters, staff can quickly identify student populations for analysis or communication purposes, and access frequently used data. For instance, a course might be cancelled due to inclement weather, like the storms we’re experiencing Michigan right now, or even instructor illness. A staff member simply runs the course filter, selects the list of students enrolled in a course, and sends an email to all of them, informing them of the cancellation. In addition to creating these efficiencies, workspace filters also ensure that data is pulled consistently by all team members based on an agreed-upon data dictionary and clear terminology definitions across units. Workspaces also function to provide at-a-glance data we need to make decisions. As an example, a one-click filter by course will show the number of enrollments in an upcoming course versus the number of enrollments needed for the course to run effectively. Courses with low enrollments can be identified and reviewed, compared with courses from previous semesters and analyze for viability. And, finally, filters allow us to easily segment students by various criteria, such as students enrolled into a specific program or course, those that might need a proctor for online exams, or those that have recently become admitted. Staff can then target communications to these groups at the appropriate point in time.

"...our CRM system provides a robust reporting tool that can provide canned reports, ad hoc reports, or scheduled email reports."

Okay. Our third component that we touched on earlier was reporting. So, our CRM system provides a robust reporting tool that can provide canned reports, ad hoc reports, or scheduled email reports. So, canned reports are pre-built reports that can be run on demand by the users. They’re either displayed in the user workspace, or as an Excel report within our analytics tools in the system. Some staff members are power users who have a deeper understanding of the data and filters in the system, have the ability to create their ad hoc filters and reports. Allowing our staff to generate reports based on those data points of most importance to them is empowering, and can provide early indicators of possible issues. If a staff member identifies an area of concern, like low enrollment in a program or a specific course, he or she can run a quick report, analyze the findings and escalate the concern as needed by sharing the report. Staff can also create automated reports and schedule them for distribution to identified stakeholders. Sending emailed reports to stakeholders on a regular basis we found to be an effective way to draw attention to critical data so that appropriate measures can be taken immediately if there’s an issue. These reports provide the same data at the same time to all units involved, including external stakeholders who do not have access to the CRM system itself.

"This system has allowed us to create a much deeper and broader retention program and initiatives for student success."

Marnie: Now that we’ve shared kind of an overview of what our CRM capabilities are, we want to move to the primary focus for today’s session, which is the outreach and retention efforts that we use our CRM system for. This system has allowed us to create a much deeper and broader retention program and initiatives for student success. Through the use of our CRM system, we’ve been able to expand our reach to students, because the system does much of the work for us, such as automatically sending out an email at a targeted point in time, and scheduling to-do items for us. This has allowed us to add additional retention efforts for our teams to perform. The non-enrollee outreach, first-time student support and early warning systems are a few of these efforts that we’re going to highlight and explain how our CRM system allows us to carry these functions out.

The non-enrollee campaign was created because we wanted to reach out to students who have not yet enrolled in the upcoming term, to see if we could register them in courses. The campaign automatically sends out an email to an unenrolled student so many days prior to the start of classes, informing them that registration is ongoing. If the student still doesn’t enroll, then a staff member is triggered to place a phone call to the student. Overall, the campaign is designed to ensure consistency in enrollments from one term to the next, and ideally help to identify a student in need of assistance in resolving an issue like a hold that’s preventing their registration that should be removed. Each month, we average over 2600 outreach contacts with this campaign. And, this graph that’s showing here is a monthly number of tasks associated with the campaign that are performed.

Lisa: So, in order to optimize the success and accuracy of this campaign, we use an algorithm to determine a student’s overall retainability or enrollability, if that’s a word. This can be based on financial or academic holds, possible enrollment in a capstone class, number of credit hours completed. We even take into account those students taking a break from classes for personal reasons. In addition, we evaluate course level statuses, registered, dropped, withdrawn or graded, to refine the intended audience so we can then use all of these statuses combined to customize the communication training and method.

"With this campaign, we’re averaging almost 2400 outreach contacts each month."

Marnie:The first-time student support is centered on two groups, new students in face-to-face classes, and new students in online courses. Regardless of where the student is taking classes, whether it’s in a physical classroom or the virtual ones, they’re provided with who their CMU team is and how to reach them. This would consist of people such as their academic advisor, and people at the, the staff at their center. It also provides new students with a list of resources that are available to them, such as our Global Campus library, resource center or tutoring services. It also highlights some of the key systems they will use, such as a student portal, our LMS system and CMU email account. Specifically for online students, we inform them what the online environment is like and the skillset they will need to be successful online learners. Links to resources such as a sample online course, and e-learning expectations documents, and a computer systems check are some of the things we direct students to explore further in order to be prepared for the online learning environment. With this campaign, we’re averaging almost 2400 outreach contacts each month.

Lisa: So, the success of this campaign really depends on tracking the first time a student enrolls in each delivery type, meaning face-to-face, hybrid or online. And, also to track the level of the course they’re enrolled in, graduate, undergraduate or doctoral. If a student’s first class is also their first online class, they have different needs and receive a different outreach message than a student whose first class is face-to-face, as an example.

Marnie: Prior to the start of online courses, students receive next-step information from CMU regarding what they need to complete in order to be prepared for the first day of class. The graphic shown here is embedded directly into an email the CRM system sends out. What you can’t tell from this picture is that there are links within the graphic that are clickable. So, underneath item number one, which says “Review syllabus,” if students click on that, they are taken to a webpage where they can locate their course syllabus. One of the cool features that our CRM allows for is that we can provide such an engaging and interactive message to our students.

"Automated campaign messages and individual one-on-one email messages can be HTML formatted with graphics and links"

Lisa: That’s right. Our automated campaign messages and individual one-on-one email messages can be HTML formatted with graphics and links like the one shown here. Links are also able to be tracked, so you can report on click rates and open and read rates. These all assist with determining the effectiveness of a communication and they help us refine messaging and timing.

Marnie: Next, we’ll move into our early warning systems we have in place to proactively identify at-risk students for early intervention. The high load campaign is an outreach specifically for students enrolled in online courses. This report identifies students enrolled in three or more online courses at the same time. What we typically find with this outreach is two types of students. We find a seasoned online student who fully understands the fast pace our online courses move and the high volume of work that each course will require. They are fully prepared to take on this volume of work, and they’re ready to go. A new student who is uncertain of the number of courses is the second group of population of students. So, they may be enrolled in a higher number of courses, and they simply think that that’s what they need to be enrolled in, or that’s what they need to take in order to receive federal financial aid. This outreach effort is designed to find the second group of students. We are able to help them understand that taking this many online courses at one time will more than likely be overwhelming, and we provide them with the assurance that doing one, possibly two courses at one time is the norm. And, we work with them to adjust their schedules so that it is manageable. The end goal here is to ensure that the student has set themselves up for a successful start by taking a course load that does allow for success. On average, 32 students a month are identified with this initiative, and while this is a small number, it is still 32 students who otherwise would have not been contacted by CMU. These are students who could’ve easily faltered in their academic performance by taking on too much at once, become discouraged by their resulting grades, and simply gone away after struggling in their first semester. By reaching out to them, we ensure the student has an academic load that’s manageable, helps to build their confidence in their ability to go back to school and be successful.

"Insuring students get the right start to their classes and are successful, again, helps them build that confidence"

Another early warning that we do is similar to the high load outreach. It’s a relatively new initiative we’ve undertaken, and it’s reviewing the course schedules of students in their first semester with us. This looks not only at the number of courses a brand new student is enrolled in, not just online, but also including face-to-face. But, also the types of courses the student has placed themselves into. All schools have courses that are of a particular challenge. For most people, myself included, those courses would tend to center around maybe math or statistics or something of an equally complex nature. This schedule review looks to see if a new student is enrolled in a high number of courses, as well as any of those challenging courses, or any combination of the two. We would much prefer a new student who’s returning to college for their first semester to focus on acclimating themselves to the rigor and demands of completing college level work in addition to raising families and holding down jobs. That’s a big adjustment for anyone to make, and insuring students get the right start to their classes and are successful, again, helps them build that confidence and hone the skills needed to achieve good grades. Once students have been identified as being at-risk by not having the right mix of classes, they are passed on to their academic advisor, who discusses with the student their schedule and makes needed adjustments. Ideally, the end result is a student who has a much more manageable course schedule, which gives them a stronger likelihood of academic success. Prior to the start of a term, we’re identifying 24 students on average as being at-risk with this initiative. Again, it’s a small population that’s being worked, but the impact of providing these students with a better mix of courses to start their studies really does have big implications. A student who is not successful in their first semester could face academic probation or possibly even immediate dismissal. They could incur financial aid bill-back or eventually collections. Being able to prevent all of this from occurring not only allows CMU to retain a valued student, but prevents labor hours being spent on these tasks when they are not, when a student isn’t successful.

Lisa: So, our early warning efforts, like the ones Marnie just described, depend on staff’s ability to easily identify students that are brand new to the university, along with quick access to their course schedule, their enrollment status, and their academic advisor. Data from our student information system and other external sources is made available in the CRM in order to facilitate and track these communications.

Marnie: The LMS early warning campaign is only for online courses. It identifies students who have not yet logged into their online course, and it sends out a series of emails and schedules phone calls in the first few weeks of the term to get students to begin participating. The goal is to get the student to immediately log into their course and get themselves caught up on what they’ve missed. About 110 students each month are identified by the LMS early warning campaign for further follow-up.

Lisa: The LMS early warning campaign is really dependent on a data interface that we’ve, that we’ve designed within our learning management system and our CRM. Course login information is stored in our LMS. We then extract that data and load it to the CRM by student and course in order to flag those students who haven’t logged in or aren’t logging in regularly.

"By bringing this process into CRM, we were able to make this a much more robust effort"

Marnie: The next initiative is for all courses and is one that can stand throughout the entire term. Our instructors have the ability to submit what’s called an early alert, which is a standardized form they complete for students they have concerns over. Those concerns could be lack of participation, poor performance, or missing assignments. The early alert notification has recently been brought into our CRM system where a flag is set on student’s record, which triggers the campaign to send out an email to the student. The student’s academic advisor is then scheduled to place a phone call to the student to address the instructor’s concerns, identify causes for these concerns or why the student’s performing poorly, share resources with the students that are available and create an action plan for the student to turn things around and finish the course successfully. Upon completion of this phone call, the advisor summarizes the conversation in a follow-up email to the student and they cc in the professor so that they’re aware of the outcome of their submission. The early alert initiative was moved into our CRM system just this past May in 2015. Since then, a dramatic increase has been seen in the number of submissions made by faculty. In the past eight months alone, there have been 144 early alert notifications submitted. In comparison, for fiscal year 2012 there was only a total of 74 submissions made for the entire year. By bringing this process into CRM, we were able to make this a much more robust effort by adding in an automated email, having a phone conversation, and then closing the communication loop by sharing with the instructor the outcome achieved from their submission. By informing the instructor of the efforts made, it encourages them to make, continue making early alert submissions on other students, resulting in the increase in numbers that we have experienced. The graph shown here highlights the dramatic increase of alerts received in the months of September/October/November. The reason for this spike is that these months are at the heart of our Fall One and Fall Two terms when most faculty are doing those submissions.

Lisa: So, our CRM system interfaces closely with our public and internal websites, and data from many different web forms like the early alert submission form is loaded to the CRM system throughout the day. That way early action can be taken on key student or faculty activities as soon as possible. By identifying students with potential issues before they occur, we are able to steer them in the right direction and provide valuable feedback to their instructors.

Marnie: So, we have many benefits that we have experienced from having our CRM system. Overall, it’s made us a much more nimble and proactive university. We are able to easily identify various student populations to tailor communications and outreach efforts to. The automation of tasks and workflow has given us much greater efficiency and freed staff time to take on new retention efforts. And, it’s also allowed us to give consistent messaging to students. Instead of staff drafting individual messages to students, the CRM system allows us to create a single message, shared instantly, with everyone at a point in time identified.

"Catching potential risk factors early increases the likelihood of helping a student to success"

Lisa: Along the way, we have gathered some important lessons as we’ve refined our student success and enrollment initiatives. And, that list of lessons continues to grow. A few of them here, first, our early detection is key. Catching potential risk factors early increases the likelihood of helping a student to success before they fall further behind. Second, online learners aren’t necessarily independent learners. They still need real, non-virtual support and practices to succeed. In fact, they also need more and different support than face-to-face learners, especially if they’re experiencing an online class for the first time. Third, consistent data definitions and a single source of the truth are critical to success. It’s worth the investment to define and maintain a data dictionary to ensure that all offices understand data and terminology across the university system. In addition, reporting should be done from the appropriate system. Because the CRM’s primary purpose is communications, its reporting should largely cover communication effort, while the student information system and data warehouse should be the reporting systems for student-related data. Fourth, campaigns and communication plans are never done. We have to continually look for new ways to identify and reach out to students in order to address issues that arise. It’s important to establish owners and a planned timeline to review and refresh existing campaigns and update the messaging and touchpoints. You can’t just build it and walk away. And, finally, ongoing training and documentation are critical to ongoing success. CMU facilitates both train the trainer and one-on-one training within user departments on both technical and business processes in CRM. As training can have a tendency to become diluted over time with staff turnover, it’s important to invest the time and effort into developing and maintaining documentation and training guides. Training documents can include tips and tricks, desk manuals and quick-guides. It is also important to provide campaign flows, timing and messaging documentation to user offices so they can easily identify overlaps and gaps in the communication plan.

Marnie: This is our contact information. If anybody should have questions after this webcast, we welcome you to give us a call or shoot us an email. We’d be more than happy to do our best to see what we can do to assist you.