Benchmark This!

Latest Trends Impacting Marketing and Higher Education
from Director of UPCEA's Center for Research and Strategy, Jim Fong

UPCEA 2022 Research Wrap-Up | Top 10 Must-See Research Reports from the Last Year

For 2022, many saw and felt it to be a year of uncertainty. It was the first real full-year of return to campus-based operations after the start of the COVID pandemic, with most staff and students going back to in-person work and learning. However, like many industries, higher education retirements increased and given inflationary factors, job hopping and career changes also occurred. With a less predictable economy, some students opted to leave higher education. College leaders were faced with new financial pressures with fewer students. The UPCEA community prepared and was poised to support the other areas of the institution during the pandemic, based on their expertise in distance education, and serving the needs of a wide range of learners.

UPCEA’s Center for Research and Strategy was hard at work in 2022 to meet the needs of our members and provide a lens for how to best engage with students and advance the work of units and institutions. Along with our own research, corporate partners sponsored many UPCEA research efforts, anticipating the community’s need to migrate new waters regarding portfolio relevancy, shifting consumer preferences toward education, changing employer needs centered around a more educated and trained workforce, and the increase of bootcamps and other alternatives to a college degree. In case you missed it, presenting the best of 2022 UPCEA research:

 

  • UPCEA Snap Polls – snap polls were an important tool to gather data and distribute real-time updates with our members through the pandemic and immediately after. These polls were often member-driven where one institution had an issue where many members could benefit. Some of the topics included quality of alternative credential programming, targeting alumni for education, portfolio readiness and other topics. The results of all can be found in the 2022 Snap Poll Results folder of the UPCEA CORe library.

 

  • We engaged chief online learning officers’ (COLOs) to find their decision-making factors when considering online program managers in our collaboration with University of Louisville in our report In-House or Outsource?. We found that many COLOs turned to OPMs for marketing and recruiting, while far fewer sought academic and student support services. Read more and access the report.

 

  • UPCEA and StraighterLine partnered to develop a survey that identified students’ lived experiences and perceptions regarding transferring institutions. When asked what the most important factor is when making the decision to transfer, 42% said tuition or cost of the degree, 26% said the number of credits that transfer, and 11% said the speed at which they could complete their degree. Read more and access the report.

 

  • We took part in the 2022 State of Continuing Education whitepaper in partnership with Modern Campus. This study showed an anticipated greater dependency on continuing education units by their campuses, and 56% of respondents said the role of continuing education has expanded through the COVID-19 pandemic. Read more and access the report.

 

  • In partnership with InsideTrack, UPCEA was able to interview over a thousand employers on the value of colleges and universities toward the future training and education. Our findings showed that 88% of respondents strongly agree (42%) or agree (46%) that their organization has the desire to create relevant programs for employees in partnership with institutions of higher education. Read more and access the report.

 

  • While much of the focus was on adults reskilling or the emergence of young Millennials or Generation Z, Mindedge sponsored research on the mature adult to identify what their education needs are. Among different credentials and course offerings, mature adults have the greatest interest in short courses or modules (84% interested or extremely interested), followed by a single-day seminar (78%), and professional certifications (58%). Read more and access the report.

 

  • In partnership with Blackboard (now part of Anthology), UPCEA also conducted research on both the impact of alternative credentials in a transformed economy and the impact of COVID-19 on the educational decision making process. Flexibility and convenience are no longer a luxury but rather a requirement for many higher education programs. Respondents to the UPCEA/Blackboard study indicated that they were most often interested in a fully online delivery format (64%). Our impact of COVID report also found that of respondents that were extremely interested in personal advancement, 44% said they were much more likely to consider continuing their education, additional training, or additional skills, as a result of the pandemic. Read more and access the reports.

 

  • Automation and efficient processes are going to become more important as we engage the future adult learner. UPCEA and Salesforce surveyed over 500 students and interviewed a dozen educational leaders to better understand student needs and expectations and identify the role that automation plays in the engagement process. One of the key findings included opportunities for institutions to better personalize communications and adapt to learners across different ages. The younger learner has different preferences than what current systems are designed for. Staff members echoed these sentiments and felt institutional systems limited customizable or personalized approaches. Read more and access the report.

 

  • Non-degree credentials are uniquely positioned to increase and diversify revenue streams, attract new and retain existing audiences, increase collaboration and partnerships with employers, and improve employment outcomes for students we found in our recent report with Coursera. These credentials are seen as complementary offerings to traditional academic curricula that have a number of associated benefits and challenges. Ninety-one percent of respondents said their institution currently offers non-degree credentials, which are seen as an important part of higher education in the near future (95% strongly agree or agree). Read more and access the report.

 

  • We also collaborated on a report on the perceptions of third-party providers as a result of the pandemic alongside ed2go. We found that 65% of institutions’ professional and continuing education units used third-party providers. When asked what the single most important factor is in considering third-party providers for their PCO unit, reliability/quality and ability to collaborate toward institution needs were cited by 28% of respondents and 13% said ease of use. Read more and access the report


We hope you dive into these reports and find value in our outcomes and research! Here’s to a new year and new data!

Jim Fong, UPCEA

Lead consultant Jim Fong, the founding director of UPCEA’s Center for Research and Strategy, has extensive background in marketing at Penn State, as well as experience in private industry. Jim brings a rich understanding of the dynamics driving today’s higher education leaders, providing research-driven strategy and positioning. Jim often presents at UPCEA’s conferences, sharing vital information with attendees.

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

Whether you need benchmarking studies, or market research for a new program, UPCEA Consulting is the right choice.

We know you. We know the challenges you face and we have the solutions you need. We speak your language and have been serving leaders like you for more than 100 years. UPCEA consultants are current or former continuing and online higher education professionals who are experts in the industry—put our expertise to work for you.


Data that tells your story.

Whether you need to assess the viability of a new program, find out how you stack up with the competition or would like a program portfolio review, we can assist with research and data that will help move your unit forward. Your decisions impact the quality of your operation, as well as the bottom line. We’ll provide data that does more than sit on a page—it’s data that tells the story.

The UPCEA Center for Research and Strategy offers a variety of custom research options through a variable pricing model.


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For 2022, many saw and felt it to be a year of uncertainty. It was the first real full-year of return to campus-based operations after the start of the COVID pandemic, with most staff and students going back to in-person work and learning. However, like many industries, higher education retirements increased and given inflationary factors,…

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