Why Universities Go Online
Online learning enables universities to grow their enrollment and revenue, and to extend the reach of their brand beyond their traditional service area. Serving primarily non-traditional students who comprise 71 percent of America’s post-secondary market today, online delivery of instruction allows universities to capture this growing population of qualified students and impact their lives through interaction with the best professors and access to high-quality programs.
Online learning has also become a component of many public universities’ sustainability model as they have come under pressure from reduced funding and an inability to increase tuition sufficiently to offset these subsidy reductions.
AP’s proven track record of growing enrollment and revenue for its partner universities and its commitment to student success has positioned AP as a leader in the delivery of high-quality, university- and student-centric online services.
Why Students Choose Online
More than 70 percent of all students in post-secondary education today are working adults with family, a job and other obligations that make attending on-campus programs impractical. For most of these non-traditional students, online learning is the only realistic option for obtaining a higher-level degree, which helps them advance in their lives and accommodates their busy schedules.
Students choose online learning because it erases the barriers of time, geography and economics to attaining a sought after post-secondary credential. But in today’s highly competitive online environment, working adults have more choices than in any other consumer category and can easily dismiss one option in favor of another with better terms with just a click. Online students are shoppers and look at more than 10 universities’ online offerings before applying. AP provides its partner institutions a competitive model for all high-demand online degree programs to distinguish them from the competition. The model includes recommendations on competitive admissions standards, program structure, program duration and pricing, and has proven effective time and time again.
AP Case Study
In 2008, UTA’s College of Nursing and Health Innovation (CONHI) was looking to redesign its Bachelor of Science in Nursing completion program to help more registered nurses obtain a higher lever credential and, as a result, address the much publicized 22,000-nurse shortage in Texas. The new program was going to be based on the following tenets: high-quality, innovation, accessibility, affordability and scalability.
University administrators were persuaded that once implemented, the program could serve far more than the approximately 175 RN-BSN students enrolled in 2008. Fortuitously, the university’s focus on rapid expansion coincided with the Institute of Medicine calling for 80 percent of all registered nurses to obtain a bachelor’s degree by 2020, further affirming the growth opportunity for UTA’s CONHI.
The university considered a variety of approaches to meeting its objectives, including development of distance learning sites, which were ultimately deemed an ineffective strategy. After an exhaustive review, it became clear that delivery of an online degree program would be the most cost-effective and impactful way to expand the reach of the RN-BSN, and UTA enlisted AP’s help.
The collaboration between CONHI and AP led to a development of an innovative and rigorous program that would meet the needs of working nurses by eliminating the obstacles that would traditionally prevent them from continuing their education and obtaining a BSN.
The flexible learning model imported by AP from its South American sister company, Whitney University System, accommodated the busy lives of working nurses and included multiple start dates during the year to facilitate ease of enrollment, delivered accelerated nursing courses and all pre-requisites online and utilized a “carousel model” that allowed students to step off and on the “carousel” sequence of courses based on their needs and life circumstances. Additionally, the model provided students dedicated Student Success Coordinators who stayed with the same student from the beginning of the program through its completion, leading to high student success rates in terms of course-to-course persistence, retention and graduation.
To make the program scalable, CONHI also implemented another feature of the South American model, namely coaching, which allowed for the fixed costs of adding additional students to be kept low. The coaching model expanded the bandwidth of faculty of record by having masters-qualified virtual teaching assistants grade papers, monitor discussion threads and interact with students on non-academic matters.
Lastly, true to its commitment to affordability, the CONHI-AP model provided for a competitively-priced tuition, allowing UTA to rapidly acquire a major percentage of the RN-BSN market share in Texas.
In seven years, thanks to AP’s very effective integrated marketing that combined digital and traditional marketing with robust field sales activity, the CONHI’s RN-to-BSN program has grown from about 175 students on campus to approximately 12,000 nationally in the 2014-2015 academic year, making it the largest and one of the fastest-growing state university nursing programs in the United States. The success of the online RN-to-BSN program has led to increased demand from partner hospitals and healthcare systems around the country, and today the CONHI is enrolling nurses from more than 335 hospital systems nationwide, including Baylor, Texas Health Resources HCA, M.D. Anderson, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and the University of California-Irvine Medical Center. Excitingly, UTA CONHI is also the number one public university provider of an RN-BSN program in multiple states.
Persistence rates remain high, with approximately 90 percent of students who started the program graduating or actively progressing through their coursework. Quality remains high as well, with the college continuing to control all aspects of curriculum and instruction, while AP focuses on marketing, student recruitment and retention.
In recognition of its innovative public-private partnership with AP, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) awarded CONHI’s RN-to-BSN program the Texas Higher Education Star Award in recognition of “exceptional contributions toward … student participation, student success, academic excellence, and research.” The CONHI has also received several additional accolades for its innovation, which include:
• One of only 12 schools in the U.S. to be designated a 2015 Center of Excellence by the National League for Nursing
• Ranked No. 6 on Value Colleges’ Top 50 Best Value Online RN to BSN list
• Designated by THECB as a “high performing school” based on first-time NCLEX pass rates and pre-licensure graduation rates of 85 percent or higher.
• Both online and on-campus CONHI graduates consistently top state and national test averages.
The success of the RN-BSN program led the CONHI to expand its partnership with AP to several other nursing degree programs at the undergraduate and graduate level. In the 2014-2015 academic year, CONHI served almost 18,000 nursing students across all programs, compared to approximately 2,275 nursing students in 2007-2008. The college continues to enjoy continued success in leadership and innovation in nursing, having become an aspirational example of success and sustainability for colleges of nursing nationally.