Self-Service – the Battle to Serve Students

More and more students want to go online, get the information they want, take action and get on with their lives.

Increasingly, education providers are building robust websites and mobile apps that further facilitate self-service so that students can access information when they want, from wherever they are, and without ever having to interact with a human being. This has many benefits, including the reduction of cost-to-serve as human intervention is relatively expensive.

The challenge?  So often, the pure information is not enough to help a student clear the hurdles they are encountering in their personal and academic lives. Students are increasingly afraid to ask for help, or even reticent to admit they need it.

Furthermore, new CRM / SIS platforms give us a false sense of being in touch with our students because they provide predictive analytics that show us who our at-risk students are, and some institutions even proactively reach out to those students that are showing signs of risk.  Perhaps they’ve missed classes, or failed assignments – and those triggers send up a digital “white flag” indicating that they need intervention.

While more at risk students drop out as a percent of total population, schools still lose too many students that show no signs of weakness or stress, but disappear at term end, or fail to return after a summer break.

Innovations in data will begin to parse the pages that students visit, even if they take no action on that page, and marry them with the typical risk assessment algorithms to begin to paint a more complete picture of student risk – so that someone who is a straight-A student, but who visits a page about school withdrawal, even if they don’t fill out a form, for example, would receive outreach.

These new methods will also look for trigger activities that should be changed in student portals so that a student cannot find the information they need online and must contact the school for additional support – requiring the human intervention that could put them back on a successful course and/or connect them with the resources to help them overcome the challenges and/or perceptions that may prevent them from returning, even if they are having great success in school already.

Additional changes are being made in the methods of information delivery. For sensitive questions, some sites now require test delivery of critical information. The scenario, for example? Student wants to withdraw. They visit the website and find a page that explains the withdrawal process, but instead of delivering a link to the form, the page has a form the student must complete that will then text them a link to the withdrawal documents.  This process requires the student to provide contact information, and grant permission for text messages, which then opens the door for a human to interact with the student before the student can complete the withdrawal process.

The extra hoop seems counterintuitive to the “all access, all the time” philosophy of student self-service, but the extra step could make the difference between a student slipping away with high debt and no degree, or accessing needed resources that will enable them to complete their program and successfully transition to their post-college career.

A Jack of All Trades- Master of None

Not that long ago we were hired to “fix” a career services department for a college school system that was struggling to meet bench in almost all programs. As part of our initial assessment of the department we asked the team what they felt was the root cause of the problem?

One person reported that the problem was poor quality resume’s another felt the problem was the preparedness of the grads for interviews, one person felt they just didn’t have enough hiring employers and another told us that the real problem was they were all overworked, didn’t have enough resources to do their jobs and needed at least three more people in the department. Read more

Innovative Idea — Admissions and Placement

In the work we do, we are lucky to work with innovative companies.  One of our clients is currently exploring new products in the Career Services space for higher education.

While conducting market feasibility studies for this new product line, we encountered an innovative new idea that solves several challenges…

The Challenges:

a) Students want to attend programs that offer promising career outcomes

b) Admissions is very limited on what it can say about career outcomes

Out of these facts, came an exciting idea to combine three powerful tools into one interface…

1) which provide job seekers with insight into career markets (salaries, job openings within a geographic region, sample job titles, career paths, etc…)

2) Pearson interest assessment tools, which give prospective students an opportunity to assess their skills and interests and match them to potential college degree programs; and

3) a college database that could then suggest colleges within the prospect’s geographic region and make suggestions for best-fit

The leads that would be generated from this interface would come to the school with career interest data attached, and the prospect would already have career market data, from an independent third party resource.

Such an interesting idea to take the interest inventory a step further… and then to marry all of the above with college suggestions.  My client and I are excited to be working on something that could transform the college-to-career lifecycle.

Welcome to the Knowledge Age.  If you have ideas about how to improve this concept, or other career services concepts, email me at:

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

I’ve been invited to speak at the annual California Association of Private Post-secondary School Conference in Pasadena, CA this week and as I meet with new and old friends one recurring theme keeps striking up; “we’ve got to get these students working”.  This reminds me of the old expression that the definition of insanity is repeating the same act over and over expecting a different outcome.

Here’s what I mean; year in and year out we all spend the latter part of our summer and early fall trying to get every last placement for our reporting year.  It literally is an “all hands on deck” attitude and approach at every school, which of course is the right thing to do, but is typcially at the expense of our new year’s cohort.  What feels different of late is that it used to be we were trying to reach institutional goals that were typically much higher than what our accreditors set.  Now, it seems that more and more schools are working into the fall to meet the minimum standards set to remain compliant.

So, that’s a bummer.  Here’s the reason to be optimistic!  This shift in outcomes and the amount of effort and difficulty around that, has also caused a paradigm shift in our thinking!  Gone are the days of waiting until the end of a students tenure to start preparing them for the job search, externship and interview processes.  More of our clients are saying to Martha and I are gaining new clients monthly and all of them have the same need- we must get to our students earlier if we want to get higher employment outcomes.

With that in mind, Martha and I are committed to continue to provide all of you with practical, usable, implementable tools that will help you do just that- get in front of the student early and often to prepare them for a postive end result.  If you haven’t yet looked into our Passport Series, you should.  As we receive more feedback from schools who are implementing them we become more convinced that it should be a part of every career colleges curriculum.

Stay-tuned people!


It’s that time of year again!

About a month ago Martha and I were discussing how the end of summer is full of deadlines, to-do lists and the beginning of the process of wrapping things up for the year.  It seems funny to think about — that 2012 is nearing an end already — but it is, and with it comes the challenges of doing more with less time to accomplish “it”.

It was through that discussion, along with calls from clients who were looking for last-minute ideas to maximize their placement efforts, that we decided to put together a webinar.  We designed it to help schools with accreditation deadlines looming, to get across the finish line with respect to reporting placement statistics.

We know that historically the toughest challenges this time of year have to do with finding all the grads who have gone MIA, turning over every leaf to find a job for that hard to place grad and to make a call for “All Hands On Deck” to get everyone successfully placed.  This of course requires team-work from every department.

These are just some of the topics we’ll be covering tomorrow along with some creative, dare I say ” brilliant” ideas we’ve picked up to help you get placements immediately!  We call them our “Game Changers” and we are really excited to share them.

So, tune-in tomorrow September 5th, at 2pm EST.  To access the web-based portion of the webinar, go to and follow the prompts for entering your name, company, email, and the pass code 68257640. For the audio portion, call 1-877-366-0711 (In Canada, use 1-866-627-1651) and, when prompted, enter the pass code 68257640# (the “#” must be included for the audio portion). The webinar will last approximately one hour, including time for a question and answer session. This is a free APSCU member benefit and no pre-registration is required.