Higher education has been forced to evolve quicker than ever before. With new technologies, availability of information and choices for students for alternative learning, colleges and universities have had to adapt quickly to stay competitive and draw the desired enrollments. Maybe the most radical change is the evolution of online universities and the increased availability of education to non-traditional and non-resident students across the globe. But how do these online-only schools compete with the traditional brick-and-mortar institutions to provide the same experience?
We recently chatted with Maria Jump, Assistant Vice President of Student Services at Colorado State University – Global Campus. CSUG is a 100% online university that was founded about 10 years ago and focuses on non-traditional students. Offering Bachelors, Masters, and Certificate programs, the average age of its students is 35 and most are working part of full time in addition to studying for their education.
As an online only school, they prioritize student service above all else since they miss the face-to-face interactions. As such they have implemented mystery shopper programs across various services to monitor and evaluate how they are doing internally, as well as how vendor partners are servicing their student body.
CSUG has always surveyed students to get first-hand feedback on services and interactions. However, they found survey data was only telling part of the story. It was ideal for garnering sentiment toward a vendor, or the student’s perception of a service, but it didn’t allow for them to know the areas of improvement to optimize processes and offerings to continuously improve. They need to constantly evaluate processes and identify gaps to provide the level of service the CSUG brand promises.
Mystery shopping allows them to control actions to monitor and evaluation specific actions and services. For example, student feedback was overwhelming positive regarding a vendor partner that provided tutoring services. However, mystery shopper data provided insight into specific touch points and interactions that allowed for process improvements and better service. This allowed them to take their good service to great.
CSUG is looking forward to expanding their mystery shopper program across all their services – enrollment, advising, website, library, etc. As Jump states, “Everything starts with the student. Increased enrollments, higher revenue, everything starts with the students having the best experience possible.”