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Evaluating service encounters: The effects of physical surroundings and employee responses. Journal of Marketing , 54 , 69— Crisp, G. First year student expectations: Results from a university-wide student survey. Google Scholar. Davies, S. Marketing in higher education: Matching promises and reality to expectations. Coaldrake Ed. Paris: OECD. Emanuel, R. Assessing college student perceptions of instructor customer service via the quality of instructor service to students QISS questionnaire. Faganel, A. Quality perception gap inside the higher education institution.

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What do graduates think? An analysis of intention to repeat the same studies and university. Journal of Marketing for Higher Education , 23 , 62— Mavondo, F. International and local student satisfaction: Resources and capabilities perspective. Journal of Marketing for Higher Education , 14 , 41— Mizikaci, F. A systems approach to program evaluation model for quality in higher education. Quality Assurance in Education , 14 , 37— Parahoo, S. Factors influencing student satisfaction in universities in the Gulf region: Does gender of students matter? This, in turn, is prompting innovators to develop new credentialing infrastructure to support lifelong learning.

As alternative models proliferate, businesses will need ways to compare the relative merits of various credentials.

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New services such as Balloon, Degreed, and Parchment are all trying to fill this void by making clear connections between skills, courses, and jobs for students and employers. Acting as an online marketplace of alternative education options, Balloon, from Apollo Education Group, is an online career skills and learning platform that connects students to nearly 15, courses provided by leading technology companies and education providers.

Another firm, Degreed, assigns scores to the full range of educational opportunities available, from MOOCs and immersives to college degrees and corporate training. This score, in turn, allows employers to make quick apples-to-apples comparisons of educational achievement across different domains. Parchment is overhauling the outdated process of requesting and mailing transcripts by creating an online exchange that connects students and employers with transcript information.

In the same way that electronic medical records can follow us, regardless of where we receive treatment, our educational records should follow us to accurately capture the total sum of our credentials. Since , the cost of college tuition has risen by percent. The consumer price index, by contrast, increased just percent over the same time period. The rising cost of college is, in turn, putting downward pressure on enrollments. Across the country, college enrollments have dropped from According to the American Freshman Survey, 76 percent of students were admitted to their first-choice college, but only 57 percent actually enrolled in their top-choice school, primarily due to cost.

The federal government, too, has increased its focus on college affordability. With the recent introduction of the College Scorecard, a ratings system that evaluates affordability, access, and student outcomes, colleges and universities are subject to greater transparency. These ratings may eventually be linked to federal student aid, providing an incentive for colleges and universities to address the challenges of cost and to improve outcomes.

Eighty-six percent of incoming freshmen say that getting a better job is a very important motivator in their decision to go to college. America has more than 4, colleges and universities. But, as more studies show that a significant percentage of students are failing to learn how to think critically and reason analytically, among other higher-level skills students are supposed to acquire through a liberal arts education, improving learning outcomes and connecting these higher-level competencies back to real-world applications will be critical.

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According to a Collegiate Learning Assessment, 36 percent of students do not demonstrate any significant improvement in learning over four years of college, primarily due to limited academic rigor. For colleges to succeed in this new era, they will have to find ways to connect their students with the people and institutions on the front lines of new knowledge and to instill in students an ability to learn how to learn, unlearn, and relearn.

There are strong arguments that universities need to become more focused in what they offer, more connected to a broader ecosystem, and more open to experimenting with new models of learning that improve student learning outcomes. Rather than trying to be all things to all people, some universities are beginning to carve out unique niches in the market for higher education, shedding unnecessary costs and better differentiating themselves from their peers.

Its curriculum allows students to apply classroom knowledge to real-world settings through partnerships with leading research institutions and other universities. Georgia Institute of Technology, by contrast, has focused on providing the lowest-cost options in fields undergoing a rapid growth in demand. Instead, it allows universities to clearly articulate their unique value proposition for students.

For example, a university could define itself as an international policy school. It could still provide all the essentials of a liberal arts education, with degrees in everything from journalism to business. Its differentiator would be an international policy emphasis in all courses and services, giving it a central role within the broader international affairs community that allows it to connect students with employers and other leading institutions.

In a globally competitive industry—one adding new alternatives on a daily basis—a niche focus allows students to better understand the unique value of their education that sets them apart from their peers and gives them access to the relevant knowledge flows in their chosen field. Once a niche is identified, colleges and universities can work backward to redesign their business models to align with the particular market they are serving.

Eighty percent of all Americans believe that the typical college education is not worth its cost. The grants it provides reward colleges and universities for testing these models. NLGC has tested a range of models and found that no one is best, but rather that multiple models allow students to self-select the one that best meets their needs. Southern New Hampshire University, for instance, used this grant funding to create the aforementioned College for America, which offers an online competency-based degree at a low cost that can be completed in as little as a year.

Still other ongoing experiments across the country test everything from dynamic tuition pricing to new paths for obtaining credentials.

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In California, a new law allows Long Beach University to pilot dynamic pricing per credit, which increases the cost per credit for high-demand courses. The University System of Georgia, departing from all-or-nothing credentialing schemes, offers a Bachelor of Arts degree in communications with intermediary markers of achievement that is targeted for students who may not be able to complete a four-year degree. By staging credentials, students are encouraged to progress, but should they opt to pause their education, they have employer marketability and can easily return to complete their degree down the road.


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A newcomer to higher education, Minerva is reinventing the college experience through its global immersion undergraduate degree program. Students complete introductory courses through MOOCs and more advanced coursework through live, online video seminars, with professors using advanced software that tracks student learning. Also emerging are partnerships that help students graduate with a clear career path. Thirteen universities have partnered with Koru, a startup focused on reinventing the internship experience by connecting universities with leading employers to provide students with immersive learning experiences that emphasize skills development, coaching, and mentorship.

A first step for institutions of higher education is to go beyond accreditation criteria and do an honest assessment of the value they provide to students. Institutions that do not clearly articulate and deliver value to students will likely, in time, be displaced by newcomers who do. Given the changing landscape of higher education, successful colleges and universities will redevelop their business models based on what they can uniquely provide to students, and deliver that value in ways that decrease price premiums.

The outcome of these strategic choices will lead to greater recognition—from students and donors to employers—of the distinct value the college is able to provide. Just as TERI University and others are creating successful niches focused on value to students—through career focus, low cost, and personalization—so too must others carve out their own spaces. Until recently, most yardsticks for measuring success in higher education have been output-focused—the number of credit hours completed, the percentage of students who graduate in four years, and so on.

As open government data is combined with private sector career and salary data, the focus is shifting to student outcomes student debt ratios, job placements, career preparedness, and satisfaction ratings. While many colleges and universities have perfected the art and science of the admissions process, they have not applied the same analytical rigor to the business of educating students, or to tracking their success after graduation.

Yet the benefits of effective student outcome tracking can be significant. This is especially important for at-risk students who, without support, may flunk courses or drop out before completing their degree. And monitoring student progress throughout college can help faculty and staff better position students for career success. If a student excels in economics but struggles in the biology courses needed for his or her major, for instance, it could be cause for a career discussion.

Such interventions will help to create a sense of shared accountability for outcomes on the part of both students and institutions. An outcome focus will benefit colleges and universities over the long run. According to a recent Pew survey, the Millennial generation defined by Pew as Americans aged 18 to 33 has higher levels of student loan debt, poverty, and unemployment, and lower levels of wealth and personal income, than the two preceding generations had at the same age.

More than a quarter of us still live with our parents, and only 30 percent think of our current jobs as careers. And yet, we are the best-educated generation in American history. By shifting the focus from outputs to outcomes, and applying the analytical rigor of the admissions process to the entire student lifecycle—from the time students step foot on campus through their post-graduation careers—universities can better position students for success after college. One way to do this is by comparing traditional success measures think number and quantity with emerging success measures think degree and quality —many of which are also tracked by major, not just for the college as a whole see figure 8.

With a flurry of new educational technologies and models under development, colleges and universities are ideally positioned to experiment with and adopt solutions that facilitate better student-focused outcomes. The hackathon resulted in the creation of the Georgetown Experimental Learning Lab, which creates immersive experiences for students to role play realistic business scenarios like a client meeting, for example. This idea will be piloted at the university to test its merits.

To foster innovation, the Harvard Innovation Lab i-lab serves as a community space for bringing students and faculty together with the wider Boston community to explore new ideas. The i-lab applies a unique pedagogy which combines entrepreneurial coursework with hands-on experience, allowing students to develop critical thinking and problem solving skills that are desired by employers, but often lacking in recent graduates. The lab is an incubator, staffed by academic and technology experts, that works with students to develop and pilot new models of education that use competency-based approaches and leverage technology, community support, social networking, and a strong assessment component.

Creating opportunities for exploration, engagement, and experimentation allows a wide swath to have a say in the inevitable changes facing higher education and provides insights from the people most affected. To combat institutional inertia, these colleges and universities are adopting a lean startup mentality, quickly testing solutions on a small scale before making a decision on whether to drop, modify, or scale them for wider use.

DePaul University did exactly this when it began using CourseSignals, a predictive analytics software package, in a few classes to determine the impact analytics would have on student learning outcomes. Recognizing its success, the university subsequently rolled it out to additional courses the next semester. About 10 million Americans are unemployed, while 4 million jobs go unfilled. According to a recent survey by ManpowerGrowth, 39 percent of US employers are in this position.

To close the skills gap, businesses must shift their hiring practices to accept both traditional and alternative credentials in order to expand the pool of talent. They must also rethink corporate training in the wake of an accelerating cycle of obsolescence that depreciates the knowledge and skills acquired in school. The ability to rapidly retrain employees will provide an important competitive edge. Recognizing the far shorter duration of many alternatives often measured in weeks rather than years , and the nature of the in-demand skills they provide, an increasing number of employers are viewing them as a suitable prerequisite for entry-level jobs.

Businesses can reap the benefits of just-in-time learning by recognizing the badges and certificates awarded by alternative education options that provide students rapid acquisition of much needed web programing and design skills. As the number of educational providers proliferates, and with it the variety of possible certificates, badges, and other credentials, employers will need to revisit their talent acquisition processes.

Simply put, digital-age resumes, which may include incredibly diverse portfolios of credentials, professional experience, and work-relevant projects, will call for an overhaul of traditional talent screening processes. One student may have specialized in data science at a prestigious four-year university, while another may present an online certificate in data science and a robust portfolio of work; yet another may have completed a week immersive course in data science and have five years of work experience in statistical analysis.

Which is best for the job? While the average student pursuing alternative education paths today has already obtained a four-year degree, it is likely that alternatives will become a first stop for many students seeking career options in a shorter timeframe and with less of a financial commitment. As low- or no-cost educational alternatives become a viable option for just-in-time learning, employers will have greater access to a growing talent pool that possesses the skills they seek. By clearly defining competencies and using normalized educational data to assess them, employers will be better positioned to fulfill their talent needs.

The days when student life ended with a college degree are all but gone. By , the knowledge college students acquire will have an expected shelf life of less than five years. To keep up with this pace of change, lifelong learning will become a permanent fixture of professional life. The shift to lifelong learning in turn will prompt employers to rethink their training and professional development strategies, in order to allow their employees to upgrade their knowledge and skills continuously. Currently, fewer than 45 percent of businesses have a written plan for learning. Companies such as Yahoo reimburse employees for the cost of verified course-completion certificates from Coursera.

By defining the specific competencies they are looking for, employers will expand their talent pool since both alternative and traditional higher education providers will know what skills they need to provide while giving students more clearly defined pathways to the careers they want. From career fairs and mock interviews to networking events, many organizations rely on campus recruiting as their primary source for entry-level talent.

As multiple alternative paths emerge, however, organizations can expand their recruiting strategies beyond college campuses to better reflect the changing marketplace for higher education and, in turn, to ensure a constant supply of the best talent. By continually monitoring, assessing, and even sponsoring emerging education options, employers can develop customized recruiting plans to create the best pipeline for their particular needs.

Furthermore, recruiting efforts could be targeted further upstream, to reach high school students just as they begin to consider career paths. Businesses can capitalize on the growing educational technology movement as a way of lowering the costs associated with talent acquisition and training. Partnerships with educational technology firms can take a variety of forms.

University Education: U.S. vs. Europe

Organizations can partner with professional social networking sites such as LinkedIn to better understand where they should recruit, startups like Koru to arrange for apprenticeships to ease the transition from college to the working world, MOOCs for access to training and online learning platforms, and with boot camps to provide just-in-time skills development. Alternative education providers have already reached out to businesses, but we will see a cultural shift when businesses return the favor. Business-approved alternative education through some new type of accreditation could become the new norm.

Across America, the cost of pursuing a college degree has never been higher. As costs increase, more students are borrowing to pay for their education than previous generations. While the percentage of degree holders in other developed countries continues to rise with each successive generation, the percentage of Americans with college degrees has plateaued see figure 9.

The question facing government officials and policymakers is how to make quality higher education more accessible and affordable for all Americans. This means increasing the return that students realize on their investment without further exacerbating crippling levels of debt that delay younger generations from attaining financial independence. This will require rethinking how the Department of Education uses the levers it has at its disposal in order to advance its goals of increasing affordability, access, and attainment.

The plan proposes initiatives which include paying for performance, promoting innovation and competition, and ensuring student debt remains affordable. But the department can and should go further by building on the success of recent open government data initiatives, evolving transparency of outcomes associated with colleges and universities, and rigorously evaluating promising alternative education options and funding what works. The initiative, which combined the efforts of the White House, the Department of Education, the Department of the Treasury, the General Services Administration, and hundreds of enlisted entrepreneurs who had earlier participated in a series of higher education-focused data jams, resulted in a range of new private sector tools and services underpinned by open government data.

To build upon the momentum generated by the Education Datapalooza, the Department of Education is exploring the use of application program interfaces APIs to make higher education data more widely available to the public. The open government data strategy should evolve to include new tools and services that go beyond college decision-making to support student success throughout the entirety of the college experience and beyond, as well as to include the variety of alternative education options such as MOOCs and immersives that exist to support students who opt to pursue a nontraditional route.

For alternative education providers, making their student outcomes data available could serve as a means of promoting their offerings to a broader audience. To support this evolution, a variety of stakeholders should be included in the process of identifying and releasing open data. With a better understanding of what information is needed, the department can evolve its open government strategy to provide even more value to the higher education community. A successful example of this is LearnDC, a website that hosts information and resources on all the public and charter K schools in Washington DC.

By providing side-by-side comparisons of schools and information on how DC schools compare to national standards, parents can make informed decisions on where to send their children to school. As a collaborative effort led by the Office of the State Superintendent of Education OSSE , LearnDC is the product of partnerships with several local agencies and organizations dedicated to providing transparent and easily assessable information on education. Furthermore, all the data on LearnDC will be available in an API format for others to analyze, add to, and develop more advanced applications.

But, as the focus shifts from rankings to outcomes and the return students can reasonably expect from ever steeper investments in higher education, government can assume a role in promoting greater transparency for students seeking more insight into the outcomes associated with different educational pathways. The Department of Education is already moving in this direction with the introduction of the College Scorecard, which allows students to assess college value in terms of access, affordability, and outcomes, including average tuition costs, loan debt, graduation rates and graduate earnings.

Such rating systems serve as a useful starting point for beginning to unpack outcomes.

But just what constitutes a meaningful outcome from higher education is the subject of much debate. The answer to that question will depend on who you ask and will necessarily reflect different consumer preferences and values. Just think about our car purchasing behavior. Some want a luxury sedan with all the attendant bells and whistles. For others, safety or environmental considerations drive purchasing decisions. Some want the best value, while others just want in at the lowest possible price point.

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There is no single right answer to the question. Just as Consumer Reports takes account of different consumer preferences in their rating system, so too must any kind of meaningful outcomes scorecard for higher education. As Andrew P. Moreover, government has yet to grapple with a wealth of alternative paths that, in terms of access, affordability, and outcomes, may prove superior to a traditional degree for some students.

Currently, the federal focus lies primarily on traditional higher education degree programs, with federal aid available for just a few competency-based degree programs. But, if higher education is to evolve to meet the needs of the growing nontraditional majority that will consume higher education in some form or another throughout their professional lives, then all options should be on the table and scrutinized in terms of the outcomes they generate for students. This scrutiny could be done by a Consumer Reports-like third party with the capacity for rigorous, independent evaluation.

By taking a more holistic perspective of the growing spectrum of education opportunities available, the Department of Education can begin to develop appropriate outcome measures that provide greater transparency for different customer segments.

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Most of the immersive programs agree that a certain level of regulation is beneficial to mitigate fraud and protect students, and are attempting to comply. But regulation treating these 8- to week immersives as traditional degree programs may hinder their ability to adapt quickly to market demand. Given the clear economic need for innovation in the area of just-in-time learning to help close the skills gap and an accreditation system that has been slow to evolve, state and federal education authorities should identify ways to work with new providers to carve out space for experimentation with new models, while at the same time protecting consumers from potentially fraudulent actors.


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Insights often come from the mash-up of open government data with private sector and other data, as with LinkedIn for Higher Education, College Abacus, FindTomorrow, and others featured at the Education Datapalooza. The Department of Education could use its role as a convening body to prompt further exploration and development of new solutions undergirded by the mash-up of different data sources to better understand, for example, the increasingly specific skills needed for various jobs and promote new models or experimental sites geared at provided these skills.

The mash-up of data sources could also help inform the development of new outcome-focused metrics. Convenings like the recent Datapalooza provide an opportunity for the department to enhance its collaboration with different stakeholder groups including higher education institutions, businesses, alternative education providers, and, of course, students through co-design efforts and regular communication.

If we are to reap the full benefits of the revolution in higher education, policies concerning financial aid and accreditation will need to be reexamined. In the meantime, the Department of Education can focus on helping institutions adapt to the changing landscape by rigorously evaluating the relative effectiveness of new education models.

According to Philip Regier, executive vice provost of Arizona State University Online, there is a need for more research on the many solutions attempting to improve retention, graduation rates, and student engagement. The goal of these initiatives is to provide students with higher-value, lower-cost education through the increased use of technology, data analysis, and assessment of competencies. With NGLC having already piloted more than a dozen different associate and bachelor degree models, the department can assess which are most effective in lowering costs and increasing student success, and encourage more schools to adopt them.

Doing so would help prevent higher education institutions from making investments in models that have already proven unsuccessful in earlier pilots. The funding could also be used to identify alternative education options that succeed in preparing students for the marketplace. The agencies could, for example, encourage higher education institutions to partner with alternative education providers such as General Assembly to develop customized courses on programming, data science, and product management. Some courses lend themselves well to more nimble, alternative education providers because they require regular adaptation to keep pace with new knowledge creation and technological progress.

Finally, the call for experimentation sites which waive certain requirements on the provision of financial aid could be expanded. The current efforts are aimed at providing Pell grants to high school students taking college-level coursework and providing financial aid for competency-based courses and for students seeking credit for prior learning. But these experimentation sites could more fully embrace the wealth of alternative higher education options available.

Many new education providers charge fees for workshops, immersive courses, and certificates, and allowing federal financial aid, perhaps in the form of micro-loans, for alternatives with a demonstrated track record of success would help them extend their reach. By recognizing the ongoing evolution of the entire college experience, understanding the potential of new solutions and alternative options, and providing students with greater transparency in terms of outcomes, the Department of Education will be well-positioned to make effective policy changes as needed.

What is most striking about the education world these days is not that people are being forced to change their behavior, but that the enticements to change are growing exponentially. New possibilities and opportunities are transforming the landscape for higher education.