The Pulse of Higher Ed

Perspectives on Online and Professional Education
from UPCEA’s Research and Consulting Experts

Looking at the New Learner

Recent Center for Research and Strategy studies have explored different facets of today’s new learner. Explore these studies for details on how your institution can best meet new learners’ needs. 

The Six Personas of the New Learner: Changing Motivations and Situations of the New Learner Landscape (with Thinking Cap)

As we move into the future, the adult learner will become more and more important. However, there are many faces to the adult learner. UPCEA collaborated with the Thinking Cap Agency to unmask some of these segments. While there are certainly older learners, professional learners and others, we focused on the Generation Z and Millennial segment of adult students. The analysis revealed that six personas that tended to fall on gender and age cohort lines. The study shows that the six personas rely on social media differently, as well as have different preferences and motivations, all of which are critical for institutions of higher education to reach and communicate more efficiently with them in the future.

Supporting & Retaining the New Professional Learner (with

Today’s new adult and professional learner is very different from past generations. However, our systems and processes to respond to students and especially inquirers have been built to previous generations. UPCEA partnered with Salesforce to better understand the intersection of people, processes and technology as it pertained to the adult learner of today and of the future. The research that we jointly conducted identified that today’s adult learner demands greater accessibility to the resources of the college or university, as well as expects immediacy and flexibility to their needs. As a result, colleges and universities need to leverage the tools of technology and automation and weave in the human element at critical junctures. This requires deliberate planning, creating a student-centered process and having a strategy for engagement.

Today’s Disengaged Learner is Tomorrow’s Adult Learner (with StraighterLine)

Over the past decade, higher education enrollments were steadily declining, but at a slow and almost unnoticeable rate, with the likely reason being increasing tuition, lower disposable household income and not necessarily a significantly improved product to justify the cost increase. Students today expect greater value and a higher return on investment. The pandemic accentuated this problem with the value equation thus forcing many students to the sidelines, primarily 18 to 22 year-olds. With over 37 million Americans with some college but no degree, higher education has an opportunity to re-capture their lost students. However, value, messaging and relationship management will have to improve. UPCEA and StraighterLine embarked on a research initiative to better understand this disengaged student to help institutions reconnect with them to help fuel a new economy and contribute in new ways to society.

Learn more about UPCEA's expert consultants

Do you need help with your PCO unit or campus? We can help. Contact UPCEA Research and Consulting for a brief consult. Email [email protected] or call us at 202-659-3130.

Trusted by the nation's top colleges and universities, UPCEA Research and Consulting provides the best value in the industry today. UPCEA's industry experts have years of experience in Online and Professional Continuing education - put them to work for you!

UPCEA Research and Consulting offers a variety of custom research and consulting options through an outcomes-focused pricing model. Find the option(s) that best suit your institution.

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The UPCEA Difference

Unmatched Experience: For more than 100 years, UPCEA consultants have exclusively served the needs of online and professional continuing education programs. UPCEA consultants leverage their extensive industry expertise to expedite solutions, anticipate upcoming shifts, and offer distinct best practices, effectively aiding clients in achieving their goals.

Cost Effectiveness: As a nonprofit, member-serving organization, we provide unmatched value, allowing you to maximize limited research and consulting budgets.

Action in Motion: Our cadre of experienced, skilled authorities and expert practitioners propels you forward, translating research and consulting into impactful implementation, a distinctive hallmark of UPCEA. Our team of current and former institutional leaders will support you, turning research and consulting into action.

Mission Alignment: Like you, our mission is to enhance and expand educational opportunities and outcomes for adult and other non-traditional learners. We share your values and work in partnership with you to advance access and excellence in education.

Other UPCEA Updates + Blogs

Majority of Grads Wish They’d Been Taught AI in College (Inside Higher Ed)

A majority of college graduates believe generative artificial intelligence tools should be incorporated into college classrooms, with more than half saying they felt unprepared for the workforce, according to a new survey from Cengage Group, an education-technology company. The survey, released today, found that 70 percent of graduates believe basic generative AI training should be integrated…

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“What? Like It’s Hard?” The Legal Profession’s Great Makeover

When Elle Woods strutted into Harvard Law School, clad head to toe in pink, she broke the mold for what an aspiring law student should look like. And, if market data is to be believed, the legal profession itself may be headed for a similarly unexpected makeover. The 2023 Future Ready Lawyer Survey revealed that…

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Your marketing team knows AI is the new jackpot. What hinders its growth? (University Business)

Many higher education marketing and enrollment management teams are on board with integrating AI into their everyday job functions, but timid leadership and a lack of resources are inhibiting widespread adoption and experimentation, a new report from UPCEA and EducationDynamics declares. The organizations surveyed over 120 professionals, finding respondents were optimistic about integrating emerging technologies, with 80% citing…

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Four Steps to Help Enrollment Managers Lead in a Challenging Environment

Many institutions are facing significant financial hurdles and enrollment managers are called upon now more than ever to solve the multiple challenges related to enrollment issues including low numbers, diversification of learners to include the growing number and importance of adult learners, international enrollments, and tension between undergraduate and graduate program enrollments.  Changing our current…

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How will the rise of AI in the workplace impact liberal arts education? (Higher Ed Dive)

Demand for liberal arts education has declined in recent years as students increasingly eye college programs that directly prepare them for jobs. But according to many tech and college experts, as businesses launch advanced AI tools or integrate such technology into their operations, liberal arts majors will become more coveted.  That’s because employers will need…

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An Online Pivot That Continues to Pay Off (Inside Higher Ed)

Unity Environmental University has celebrated explosive enrollment growth since it transitioned to a predominantly online institution beginning in 2016. And at a time when many small colleges are struggling with stagnant enrollment and financial challenges, Unity’s strategic pivot to digital learning continues to pay off. […] Online higher education experts applaud the choices Unity administrators have…

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